Directed by: Leslie Libman
Story by: David Simon & Rafael Alvarez
Teleplay by: Rafael Alvarez
"Just a gangster, I suppose." - Avon Barksdale
Major Colvin along with Mello, Carver and the other cops observe the so-called free zone they've created on Vincent Street in West Baltimore. They're encouraged but not satisfied with what they see: a modestly busy open-air drug market in a deserted neighborhood, a neighborhood the dealers refer to as Hamsterdam. When Carver informs Colvin that some dealers are resistant to the free zones, Colvin urges his cops to "bang them senseless. Anything you need to do, you do. Up to a body that can't walk itself out of an emergency room, I will back you and your men."
So instructed, the cops fan out across the West Side and, amidst howls of protest from the dealers, begin knocking heads, throwing their sneakers in the sewers, towing their cars, driving them outside of town and dumping them.
Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell discover that real estate development has its own pitfalls. The price of steel has doubled, and changes they've requested trigger the need for new permits, which means higher costs. Later they learn that it's going to be weeks — not days — before the new permits are issued. Unless of course Bell is prepared to bribe the contractor's "consultant," a politically connected employee who fixes things. "He goes downtown and does for us what we can't do for ourselves," the contractor explains. "Democracy in action, Mr. Bell." Bell takes the bait and visits the consultant, who turns out to be Senator Clay Davis. The cost to speed up the permits: $25,000. "Twenty gets you the permits," explains Davis. "Five is to me for bribin' these downtown motherfuckers. I mean, I'm the one got to risk walkin' up to these thieving' bitches with cash in hand, right?"
McNulty and Greggs appeal once more to Daniels to let them dog Bell and Barksdale, arguing that if they don't get them now, the pair will soon be so insulated from the drug trade that they'll be untouchable behind the façade of their legitimate businesses. "It's now or never, Lieutenant," says Greggs. Daniels, however is unmoved. "Stringer Bell is quiet," he says. "And if he's quiet, I don't give a fuck if we come back a year from now and find out he's on the Greater Baltimore Committee. This unit is about the bodies."
Barksdale, unaware that Bell has made a peace offering to Marlo and invited him into his New Day Co-op, is unhappy over Marlo's prime drug-dealing real estate. Bell hesitates to tell Barksdale of his peace overtures.
Bunk Moreland, trying to flush Omar out, calls on Tosha's family to inform them she was not an innocent bystander when she was killed. In fact, he says, she may have been killed by Omar's gang, albeit accidentally. Bunk wants to talk with Omar and tells the family: "Y'all need to get word to the right people." His plan works: Omar learns of Bunk's visit through Kimmy. Omar's response: "You tell 'em she caught one from the boys she tried to take off. Tell 'em there ain't no need to involve no police in any of it."
McNulty and Greggs try to persuade a State's Attorney to change D'Angelo's cause of death from suicide to homicide. She's having none of it, especially when she learns the cops don't even have a suspect. "Look," she says, "I don't know how you city guys do it. But down here in Annapolis, we try to duck a punch or two. Not lean into every last one."
Cedric Daniels attends a cocktail party for his estranged wife, Marla, decked out in his dress blues and putting on a convincing show of marital solidarity. After the party, a grateful Marla seems to suggest that she and Daniels have another go at their relationship. But Cedric, now involved with Rhonda Pearlman, is noncommittal.
Barksdale and Bell have a serious conversation about the future of their partnership. Barksdale, upset that Marlo has gone unchallenged on his prime street corners, is not consoled by Bell's argument that they're making so much money they don't need any more turf wars. "How many corners do we need?" he asks. "More than a nigger can spend," replies Barksdale. "And we ain't gonna be around to spend what we don't got," points out Bell. He tells Barksdale that they can take the cash they have, invest in more real estate "and we in a money game where nary a motherfucker goes to jail. We could be past the run-and-gun, Avon. We could finance the packages and never touch nothing but cash. No corners, no territory, nothing but making like a got-damn bank. We let the younguns worry about how to wholesale, where to retail. I mean, who give a fuck who standing on what corner, when we pulling our cut off the top and putting that money to good use?" "We businessmen, huh?" Barksdale says. Bell asks Barksdale to give him time to reason with Marlo. "I think I can talk some sense in his head." But Barksdale, still not getting it, is unmoved: "Ain't no shirt-wearin' suit like you. Just a gangster, I suppose. And I want my corners."
In Hamsterdam, meanwhile, Major Colvin pays a call on Mrs. Hazel, an elderly black woman who still lives in the free zone, and who has until now been overlooked by the cops. His attempts to convince her to move — he even shows her a photo of a house she can have — are met with skepticism. "Officer, this is the only home I know. All I have. You say you got a program to move me somewhere's else. But you ain't got no program for what's outside my door?" she asks.
Alerted by Bodie, Bell pays a visit to Hamsterdam and is amazed to find the scene just as Bodie described. Bell is impressed, but skeptical, too. "Tell you what. Put some of our people down here. Not too many. Just some of the younguns. Keep the package real small, in case this is a trap."
An impatient Barksdale orders his soldiers to "put a hurt to this Marlo. I want my corners." Cutty lays out the plan to take back corners from Marlo's crew, but trouble erupts when a Barksdale soldier Chipper ignores Cutty's orders. Rushing into the action, Chipper and another solider are shot and killed. Cutty corners Fruit with his gun, but as he stares Fruit in the face, Cutty finds he can't pull the trigger — and Fruit escapes.
On a handball court, the two Councilmen Carcetti and Gray go at it, pausing between games to gossip. Carcetti is surprised to learn that State Delegate Odell Watkins has been speaking ill of the Mayor in public. Unaware that Carcetti is entertaining the idea of replacing the Mayor, Gray harbors his own fantasies about giving it a run.
Bubbles tips off Greggs that Marlo and Barksdale are involved in a war, but Greggs, under orders to stop pursuing Barksdale, is uninterested. At least until she learns that Marlo's gang has just killed two Barksdale players. In the war that is sure to follow, Bubbles says, "Westside gonna be all Baghdad an' shit." Armed with this new evidence, Greggs and McNulty plead with Daniels yet again to let them pursue their old foes, especially now that Barksdale and Bell are dropping bodies. Daniels is infuriated by their continued refusal to take no for an answer, and suggesting they're being insubordinate, throws them out of his office. Later they conspire to get him to change his mind. "Maybe if the word came down from on high," suggests Greggs. "I mean, if your old friend Bunny Colvin's up to his ass in bodies, I'd bet he'd take all the help he can get. Not that you'd ever go behind anyone's back or anything like that, right?" But, in a familiar fashion, that's just what McNulty does, telling Colvin what's going on and asking him to "keep my name out of it."
When Bell and Barksdale learn that the assault on Marlo went bad, they again take opposite sides. Bell wants to lay back, wait till the streets cool down and the cops get back to business as usual. Barksdale wants action: "Ain't got no more motherfuckin' time now. When word of this get out that the boy, Marlo, punked me, what am I gonna look like?" Bell cautions that Barksdale needs to cool it, warning that if his name comes up around such a crime, he'll go back to jail in a minute. Barksdale tells Cutty and Slim Charles to take care of Marlo themselves.
Donette tells Brianna that McNulty paid her a visit and suggested that perhaps D'Angelo was murdered. Brianna, who had never considered that possibility, is all ears.
Omar arranges a sitdown with Bunk, but any hopes the detective harbors that Omar wants to cooperate are quickly dashed. "Ain't nobody gonna talk to you," Omar declares. "I just come down here to make that clear." When Bunk mentions that there's an eyewitness, Omar says he has that covered as well. "He had a change of heart to that story," Omar says of the witness. Bunk is enraged, and reminding Omar that they grew up together, tells him they once had neighbors who cared: "Rough as that neighborhood could be, we had us a community. Wasn't nobody, no victim, who didn't matter. Now all we got is bodies, and predatory motherfuckers like you."
Carcetti again leans on Therese D'Agostino, imploring her to handle his mayoral campaign." Crime is outta fucking control," he argues. She wants to know how he's going to fix it. "The great white father rides to the rescue against a black incumbent mayor, in a city that's sixty-five percent black?" she asks. Carcetti has a ready response: "Black, white, green — people are pissed off."
Mayor Royce is angry as the bodies pile up, and he and his Chief of Staff sweat Burrell: "You're at 280 and you promised me 275 or under," says Royce. "Three hundred before the new year and I'm not sure I can justify a full term for you."
Cutty, feeling badly that he allowed Fruit to escape, confesses the truth to Barksdale: that he couldn't pull the trigger. Why not, Barksdale demands. "Whatever it is in you that lets you flow like you flow, it ain't in me no more. Barksdale points out there are other things Cutty can do for him, but Cutty cuts him off: "I guess I ain't made myself clear. The game ain't in me no more. None of it."
Daniels is summoned to Burrell's office, and when he arrives, he finds Colvin, Burrell and Rawls waiting to read him the riot act. McNulty's backdoor approach has had its desired effect.