Directed by: Joe Chappelle
Story by: Ed Burns & George Pelecanos
Teleplay by: George Pelecanos
"That all there is to it?" -- Bubbles
Michael Lee runs down a back alley, looking over his shoulder, stumbling and regaining himself as he searches for an open door, somewhere to hide. Two shadowy figures chase him, pistols drawn, as he turns a corner, grabbing a rag so he can break a window, open a derelict warehouse door. The figures gain on him, and closer up they become clear - Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson and Chris Partlow. Inside the vacant and trashed warehouse, Michael tries to look for an exit on the other side. Trapped, he tries for a hiding spot instead. Chris and Snoop find the warehouse and catch up to him. Realizing there's only one place he can be, they corner him and take aim - firing several shots at the first sound. Michael ducks out and fires back, as Chris falls against a wall, holding his abdomen, red seeping out from his hand. Snoop screams a banshee wail as she drops to the ground next, also seemingly shot.
Michael steps over to Chris, who's drenched in sweat and bleeding red. "What's next?" Chris asks, breathing heavy. "One to the head. I keep it quick," his protege responds. "Not yet, motherf**ker," Snoop says, back up and smiling. "You shoot live rounds like paint, boy, you gon' be the shit," she tells him. Michael smiles back - he's earned his stripes.
In one of Marlo Stanfield's mausoleums, Det. Lester Freamon stares at a badly decomposed body of Lex as crime lab technicians work the scene. He steps outside and motions to Det. William "Bunk" Moreland to examine the plywood of the house next door, then starts pulling at it, explaining his detective work to the arriving Sgt. Jay Landsman: the nails on the mausoleum came from a nail gun; every other house on the block has the ordinary screws that Baltimore's housing department uses. They keep looking for the unique nails and they'll find more bodies. Landsman gets sarcastic. "Do you see a tool belt on me?... Three weeks left in the year, our unit clearance rate is under 50 percent. We do not go looking for bodies, especially moldering John Does. We donā¬"t put red up on the board voluntarily." Freamon explains the bodies are Marlo's. "Then they belong to him," Landsman responds, before pulling rank and giving him an order: "You will not pull down any more f**king wood." Landsman stalks off and Freamon shows his frustration.
At an informal budget meeting, Mayor Thomas "Tommy" Carcetti goes ballistic over the $54 million school deficit. City Council President Nerese Campbell shifts the blame to the school board, while the Mayor's new chief of staff reminds her that the Council has oversight. As they argue over who is to blame for the disaster, and whether the cause is waste or fraud or embezzlement, the School Superintendent steps in, conceding that her system's accounting practices are a problem, but "we're gonna find that most of the money was properly spent on programming." They debate their next move -- raising property taxes, cutting services, scaling back budgets, denying pay hikes to police and firefighters. "How?" Carcetti asks, his voice rising. "I just ran a clean-up-the-streets campaign...and I just got done promising the world to every cop in the city." Campbell has the inevitable answer: "Annapolis," she says, referring to the Governor's office and the possibility of a state bailout. "You go beg his Republican ass."
Omar Little and Renaldo are now following Cheese, one of Proposition Joe Stewart's lieutenants, having gotten onto him after the earlier confrontation at Prop Joe's second-hand electronics store. Cheese has led them to a meet with Marlo and Marlo's lieutenants at their outdoor lair. Renaldo wonders if this is their big drug drop. Omar hopes not, because they haven't called him yet with the tip-off -- as promised -- "and that would make me feel bad toward Prop Joe."
Marlo and his lieutenants greet Cheese as a runner hands him a book bag full of cash: 25 back to Joe for what they were short before - their claim to payment for their hired killings of the New York Boys having been denied -- and 150 to up their order to six, Marlo tells him. Cheese doesn't know if they'll have extra coming off the boat for six. "Short someone else then," Marlo says bluntly. Cheese throws him a disposable cellphone. Marlo affirms he no longer uses cellphones. Cheese tells him they don't either and that he should merely look for a call from an eastside exchange, toss the phone and go for the meet. Watching the transaction from the row house, Omar decides to continue to follow Cheese.
Freamon and his new unit, including Sgt. Thomas R. "Herc" Hauk, Det. Leander Sydnor, and Det. Kenneth Dozerman, watch smugly as Lt. Charles F. Marimow packs his things - a victim of the same petty and political machinations that Marimow so often employed. The second the door shuts behind him, they bust out laughing. "Sometimes," Freamon says, "life gives you a moment." "He's gonna do me and instead he gets done," Herc adds. "I'm dipped in s**t here. I'm the luckiest motherf**ker you know." Freamon gets down to business and delivers the plan: Marlo is still the target. The bosses might not let Freamon go after the murders but they can't stop him from chasing the drugs. He assigns the team their orders - Sydnor on surveillance, Dozerman on the paper trail, Herc on the paper work to get the wiretap back up. As for Freamon, he's off to the missing persons unit downtown. Herc pulls Freamon aside and asks that he give the orders; Herc, after all, is the sergeant. Freamon stares at him for a moment before walking off.
Namond Brice is getting his hair braided on a corner - his ponytail replaced by less conspicuous cornrows - when little Kenard pays a visit to tell him their package was taken from Kenard's basement when the police kicked in his door. Namond wants to know how they knew where his stash was. "Some snitch-ass bitch," Kenard tells him, claiming he's gonna find the informant.
Howard "Bunny" Colvin and the Deacon share a Polish sausage at one of Baltimore's last remaining Polack Johnny's restaurants, as Colvin unloads about the pilot program being denied approval to continue. They went all the way to the School Superintendent, who's too scared - given all the budget problems - to take any fresh complication to the Mayor. The Deacon mentions State Del. Odell Watkins. "I was hoping you'd say that name," Colvin says, acknowledging that Watkins, having supported Carcetti in the election, has the new mayor's ear.
Bubbles meets with some old-time street sages at an A-rabbers' stable on the westside and gets a few tips on ridding Fiend from his life. One of them eventually recommends he lace his drugs with sodium cyanide, easy enough to get hold of if you know where to look. They caution him not to go overboard - one vial could kill every horse in the stable. "That all there is to it?" Bubbles asks. "Ain't no thing to kill a nigger if he's already 'bout the business of killin' hisself," one of the men tells him. "Police, they ain't gonna pay no never mind. You're the one that's got to live with it, is all."
In the Missing Person Unit, Freamon sifts through photos, mug shots and family shots of all the young black males - more than he expected. He pulls out Lex's photo and Little Kevin's mugshot as well, as the M.P.U. detective explains why he hasn't done any street work on any of them: They cut his department down to one detective five years ago. "I barely keep up the paperwork." Freamon leaves with the photos and reports.
When Michael hears that Kenard's stash is gone, and asks a few follow-up questions, he realizes the scam and tells Namond the kid took it himself. "And now you gotta step to him, put somethin' real behind them words."
Omar pays a visit to Blind Butchie's bar, explaining that he's rounding up soldiers, and Butchie offers up his own confederates - the very players who saved Omar when he was alone in the city detention center on his murder charge. Omar acknowledges Big Donnie, remarking that his 2255 federal post-conviction appeal must have worked out. Donnie affirms that this is so. Omar says, however, that he's planning to go "subtle" in his approach, and as if on cue, he gets a visit from an old friend, Kimmy, who he has called back into town for a chance at a big score.
Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski stops by Randy Wagstaff's house to drop off his homework assignments - Randy is still not attending class for fear of being targeted and beaten as a snitch - and Miss Anna tells him she's thinking of moving the boy to another school for the next semester. Prez hopes it's not necessary. He leaves, but as he does, spots the plainclothes surveillance car on the way out, and realizes that if he can spot the protection detail, it's likely that the neighborhood can as well.
Carcetti and Wilson pay a visit to the State House, where they're made to wait an hour to meet with the Governor. An aide surfaces to say it will be longer, as the Mayor - humiliated - explains he has appointments. Wilson reads his boss a quote from the Washington Post, from the governor himself, about Baltimore's "latest fiscal emergency" calling into question not only the school system but "local oversight of the system." "Motherf**ker," Carcetti says. "He's playing to the D.C. suburbs. The governor sees Tommy running against him in two years and is going to use any school bailout to damage Carcetti politically with voters statewide. Wilson agrees with Carcetti's assessment, saying of the governor: "He ain't no fool."
At the Major Crimes Unit off-site office on Clinton Street, a confused Lieutenant Asher returns with his things, interrupting Herc and Freamon at work. The Lieutenant asks Freamon what the hell's going on, given that he's been transferred from Major Crimes to the Telephone Reporting Unit and back again - all in a few months time. Freamon just smiles and asks, "How's the beach house?" as the lieutenant heads to his office. Herc inquires as to Asher's identity and Freamon identifies the passive, do-nothing lieuenant as one of the department's most effective supervisors.
Prez makes an appeal to Assistant Principal Marcia Donnelly on behalf of Duquan "Dukie" Weems. Dukie's mid-year promotion to the ninth-grade may be helping the school system juke its matriculation rates, but it is disruptive to the child. Dukie is finally thriving where he is. Donnelly acknowledges that she is aware of all the extra attention Prez has given the boy. She guesses that Prez and his wife don't have kids. "Have them," she advises him. "For better or worse, they'll be yours for life." There's plenty of other kids coming up behind Dukie who will also need his help, she adds knowingly.
In the project classroom, the teacher, Ms. Duquette, tries to get the kids to focus on the upcoming statewide tests - as the system demands of all classes, but they don't see the point. "You need to take the test so you can move on to the next level," Ms. Duquette explains. "I ain't movin' nowhere but out this motherf**ker," Darnell Tyson responds. Namond thinks they got schemed, because now their class is just like the ones down the hall. Colvin leans into Parenti and concedes that the boy is right. "The test material doesn't exactly speak to their world," Parenti affirms. "Don't speak too loud to mine, either," says Colvin.
As Prez tries to teach math and percentages, the kids press him about why he got married. "To build a life together," he says, "family...to have intimacy." They razz him about "getting some," and he gets flustered. "Not just that. Intimacy can be a quiet conversation. Or fun. Like when you tickle your partner." "Yo, tickle my nuts," one boy responds. Prez turns to face the blackboard and manages to suppress a laugh. Even in their effrontery, these kids have charmed him.
Ignoring Landsman's order, Det. Freamon pays a visit to Col. Cedric Daniels and Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman, the respective chiefs of the department's Criminal Investigation Division and the Violent Crimes Unit of the prosecutor's office. They are shocked to hear about the bodies - Freamon learns that Landsman has made no mention of the matter - and Daniels and Pearlman express further dismay at Freamon's estimate of how many they might find: a couple dozen, perhaps. Daniels questions whether they're likely to deploy half of Public Works to open thousands of vacant houses, only to raise the city's murder rate by 10 percent. Pearlman asks any direct links between these presumed bodies in vacant rowhouses and Marlo, and Freamon points to Lex as a known victim whose murder can be linked to the drug trafficker. Moreover, two missing persons can also be tied to Stanfield's organization through the earlier wiretaps that Freamon had up. Pearlman says the decision to begin opening up vacant houses is not for her office to make; prosecutors won't care until they see case files. Daniels agrees to run it upstairs and see what comes.
After an inordinate amount of time, Carcetti tells the Governor's aide he gets the point and leaves. "I'm the mayor of a major American city for chrissakes," he says to Wilson on the way out. "How much s**t do I have to eat from this guy?" He scoffs as he re-reads a Washington Post quote the man delivered, "'because those are my children in Baltimore too.' He's gonna bleed me for that money." On their way out of the State House, Carcetti gets the word from a state trooper at the security checkpoint - portrayed, notably, by Maryland's actual governor, Robert Ehrlich - that the governor is now ready to see him. Wilson takes a line from the Christmas carol playing through the halls to nudge Carcetti back up the stairs to the governor's suite: "We won't go until we get some..."
Bubbles is hard at work in his garage, a mad scientist dicing up powdery substances and loading three small vials, which he tucks in his coat's front pocket, same as always. When he catches up with Sherrod later, he sends the boy off into a different quadrant of the city with his own inventory for the first time, as he heads elsewhere to seek out the predatory dope fiend who has so tormented them.
Prez sits with a depressed Dukie by the computer, and tries to convince him he's ready for his promotion to Southwestern High School, adding that he can come back and use the computer and the showers and give him laundry any time. Dukie tries to show Prez how to use the computer, realizing he won't be back. After school, he catches up with Michael and Namond and tells them that Randy's foster mother is talking about taking their friend out of Tilghman, re-enrolling him elsewhere. When Dukie gets back to his own house, its contents are out on the street, an eviction notice on the door. Not again, Dukie says. Michael invites him to stay at his new home with Bug - the first suggestion that Michael and his brother are no longer living with their mother.
Daniels goes to Deputy Commissioner for Operations William A. Rawls with Freamon's theory about the bodies and the missing persons, and the suggestion that City Hall might look more kindly on the discovery if the bodies are brought in before the year's end - so that the bump in the murder rate will fall on Royce's watch, rather than in the first full year of Carcetti's new administration. "I see you've thought this through - politically, I mean," he says. "I'm learning as I go," Daniels responds. "I bet you f**king are..." says Rawls dryly, now conscious of Daniels' prospects for political advancement. Keep this conversation close, he orders Daniels. "That's a direct order."
When Namond tells his mother Kenard took the drug stash, De'Londa goes off on him, angry he didn't make the kid "feel pain." She belittles him for not measuring up to his father, and when Namond reminds her that the man is locked up, she smacks him. Shaken, he leaves the house, despite her protests.
Over beers, Freamon talks to Bunk and Off. James "Jimmy" McNulty about the bodies, how wrong it is to just let them lie there. McNulty suggests going over Landsman's head, and Bunk, not knowing Freamon already has, explains that his colleague "don't fancy boats," referring to McNulty's harbor re-assignment after he ignored the chain of command two years prior. With a few beers in him, Freamon eyes the nail he saved and bets them ten bucks they can go find bodies at any boarded-up rowhouse with a similar one. Bunk takes the bet, if only to play with Freamon.
Namond takes Michael along to confront Kenard on his lie - Kenard's front door showed no sign of having been kicked in by police, and Namond wants to know where the package is. "Package up my ass, Gump," the kid says. Namond hesitates a moment and Michael takes over, punching the little kid bloody with a fierceness Namond hadn't seen before. "Go 'head Namond, get your package off this bitch and let's go." Namond looks sickened by the site of the battered Kenard. "I ain't want it," he says, running off, leaving Michael with his victim.
In another vacant rowhouse, Freamon collects on his bet as he, Bunk and McNulty look over another decomposing body. They debate whether to call the crime lab, but Freamon says no bitterly; there are no bodies until the bosses say there are. There is talk that eventually, this will become a helluva case. McNulty warns that they should expect the inevitable: the brass will mess it up. "Maybe not this time," Freamon says. "Daniels is C.I.D. It's a new day downtown."
Having no luck scaring up his nemesis, the predatory fiend, Bubbles returns home to the garage. He sees Sherrod cocooned in his covers, and smiles proudly when he sees the cash the boy left for him.
When Sgt. Ellis Carver visits Randy Wagstaff at home, Miss Anna says they're going to wait a little longer before he returns to school. It'll blow over in a week or so, Carver assures them. Until then, he's got the plainclothes unit protecting the house, and Randy can call him any time. Randy now seems wary of Carver, but Miss Anna insists Carver stay for breakfast.
Bubbles awakes in the morning with a new idea - they made so much money hauling that felled aluminum lightpost two weeks ago that maybe they can go all Paul Bunyan and start knocking a few more streetlights down themselves - and he starts laying out a plan to Sherrod. When he gets no response, he finally looks around to see the boy's empty bedroll, then finds him lying on the floor, next to Bubbles' coat. Suddenly frantic, Bubbles kneels next to him and reaches for his hand, finding an empty vial. "No, no, no, what'd you do, Sherrod?" he pleads, shaking the boy and pumping his chest, tears pouring out of him.
In the Major Crimes Unit, the team is reporting to Freamon on their Marlo findings - no more cellphones; even the Stanfield organization lieutenants who were using burners months ago are now taking only face-to-face meets. Two Internal Investigation Division detectives interrupt, looking for a Sergeant Hauk and citing a missing surveillance camera - as well as some paperwork on a couple of informants. They also want to see Sydnor and Dozerman. "Paperwork is all mine," Herc tells them. "On the camera. On the informants. Me alone." Herc stands up manfully to take the weight for his mistakes. He departs with the I.I.D. men.
Rawls breaks the news to Carcetti about the bodies and recommends they pull them out now, so they're not on his watch, but can be credited instead to the previous mayor. "Thoughtful," Carcetti says, before getting pissed. "I donā¬"t want any more stat games from your department...If there are bodies in there, they need to come out!" Rawls looks chastened, until Carcetti puts a hand to his shoulder. "But do it now. I don't wanna be finding more bodies come January." Clearly, Carcetti, while staking out some moral high ground, sees the political logic as well.
After his meeting with the Governor, the Mayor heads into another meeting with city officials where Wilson lays out their latest predicament: they can take state money for the school deficit crisis and avoid teacher layoffs and program cuts, but the state wants more control which will mean messing with teachers' contracts and tenure, and turning the powerful city teachers' union against Carcetti. If they don't take the money, they'll look like they're shorting the kids. Politically astute, Council President Campbell points out that the Governor is setting up the Mayor for a fight in two years - the D.C. suburbs aren't going to like that he used their money to bail out his city schools. As for what she'd do? Don't look at me, Campbell insists: "If you take it, you're selling out the teachers, and that's my base. If you don't take it, you're selling out the kids. Either way, I'll probably rip you, and half the council will, too." She pauses for a beat. "Just glad I'm not the mayor." Carcetti is almost amused.
Col. Daniels summons Freamon to tell him word from down the chain is to open up the houses. They discuss adding manpower to the unit, and he offers Freamon any two bodies he wants from C.I.D.. If he gets the wire back up, Freamon can have additional manpower beyond that. On his way out, Freamon stops by to visit Det. Shakima "Kima" Greggs, who's got her feet up on the desk, talking about a hot woman at a bar and clearly enjoying her new digs. "How're you liking homicide?" he asks. "Love it. Why?" Freamon shrugs and walks off, one of his choices already made.
At the appliance store, Slim Charles enters to tell Prop Joe the delivery is on its way. Joe picks up a cell phone to make his promised call to Omar. Watching from his cab, already well aware that Cheese is now on the move, Omar puts in a call to his own people.
Over at Dennis "Cutty" Wise's gym, Namond tries to talk to Michael, who is working a bag, but gets ignored. Aware of his lowered standing, he makes a show of his bravado, taunting Dukie by calling him names, using one of the same insults that Kenard hurled at him: "Gump...dogs**t smellin' ass nigga." This gets Michael's attention: he turns and grabs Namond, throws him against a wall and begins smacking him. Cutty throws Michael out. Namond is left in tears. When the gym clears, Carver shows and he and Cutty both try to talk to Namond. "I can't go home," he tells Carver. His mother expects him to be his father, and, he concedes now, "that ain't in me." As for Michael, Namond references the brutal beating of Kenard and notes: "He 'ain't Mike no more." Cutty tells Carver privately that Namond certainly can't stay at the gym. Moreover, he regrets shutting Michael out at the very point when that boy might need help the most. He goes looking for Michael, leaving Carver to contemplate Namond.
By a row of industrial buildings, Omar and Renaldo suit up in armor and load their guns, as Kimmy, the woman from Butchie's bar, arrives in a torn housedress and imitation fur coat ready for action. Omar is amused at her get-up, though Kimmy is less so. Not far away, Cheese and his driver walk towards a small warehouse, and watch as a two-ton truck pulls in slowly. Kimmy appears, walking unsteadily and waving to the driver of the truck. As two warehouse security guards step out, Cheese and the driver standing alongside, Kimmy walks boldly up to them, looking high and singing, and plying her trade. "I'll suck your dick for fifteen," she says to one of the guards. They are dismissive and begin haggling with her, demanding that she leave.
Omar and Renaldo prepare their own side-winding approach as Kimmy keeps on it, and a van pulls in and parks - blocking the two-ton truck. Two Hispanic men get out, wearing coveralls and claiming they're painters, as Cheese and his people scream at them to leave. They play dumb and fumble with things behind the rear doors of the van. As Kimmy hikes her dress for the warehouse guards, Omar surprises one guard with a shotgun, Kimmy surprises the other with a holstered automatic from her thigh, and the Mexican painters emerge from the back of the with guns drawn, and Renaldo whistles from the roof, covering all of them with his weapon. Outmaneuvered, Cheese drops his pistol. When no one responds to Omar's request to open the truck, Kimmy shoots a guard in the ass. The Russian driver, cursing his confederates as "amateurs," opens the rear of the truck.
Back downtown, the Deacon pays a visit to Odell Watkins, asking him if he remembers Bunny Colvin. "Rogue police commander, tried to legalize drugs," Watkins says, as Colvin listens outside. Though Watkins seems reluctant to help such a man, The Deacon brings Colvin in to talk about "another bright idea," as Colvin himself puts it.
Cutty goes looking for Michael and finds only his mother, who tells him Michael left and got his "own spot," took his little brother with him, too. "You find that boy, you let him know I need some help around here," she says bitterly as Cutty leaves.
Namond is back in Carver's office, waiting for Colvin to pick him up. Carver pulls the former cop aside to tell him what the boy's mother said when he called her about her son's status: "'Put that bitch in baby booking...let him learn something.' She hung up before I could tell her there was no charge."
Up the block from Randy's house, a young thug from Tilghman calls 911 from a payphone and reports a cop being beaten and shot at a store elsewhere in West Baltimore. As the plainclothes car races off in response, two boys run by Randy's house and throw Molotov cocktails through the windows. Within seconds, the house fills with flames.
Prop Joe gets a visit from Cheese, who tells him about Omar's raid, his "commando squads" and how they cleaned them out, the entire shipment. Incredulous, Prop Joe asks about why no one fought back. Cheese insists it happened too quickly, noting that one of Omar's people pulled a weapon from her genitals. "S*** was unseemly," he remarks. Prop Joe acknowledges that while he was willing to let Omar take off that portion of the shipment destined for Marlo, he didn't see Omar's larger play coming. The two worry what they're going to tell the CO-OP -- everyone's screwed out of this one. "I say we go find this faggot," Cheese says. "First thing they're gonna wonder about is us," Prop Joe tells him, worrying about how they'll prove to the co-op as a whole that they weren't in on it.
Cutty finds Michael on a corner hanging with Marlo's boys, including Monk. He tries to address the boy, but Michael brushes him off. "This here ain't you," Cutty tells him. Monk warns the coach to step away, and Cutty regards him dismissively. Monk pulls a gun and shoots Cutty in the thigh, dropping him, then points it at Cutty's head. Michael steps in and gently pushes Monk's arm away, until Monk and the others step off. Michael tells Cutty he'll wait for the ambulance, as a Korean storeowner comes out. "Go with your people," Cutty tells him, realizing that Michael has made his decision already. Michael pauses for a moment, then walks off into the night, leaving Cutty in the street bleeding.
Carver visits the University of Maryland hospital, where he checks in on the status of Miss Anna on a Burn Unit board: critical/stable condition, with second/third degree burns. He finds Randy in a family counseling room, tear tracks down his face, covered in cuts and minor burns. "I'm sorry, son," Carver says. "I'm gonna talk to social services. We'll get you some help." Randy refuses to look at him. When Carver turns to leave to begin making calls, Randy yells after him. "You gonna help, huh? You gonna look out for me?" He repeats himself, yelling louder, tears streaming, as a tormented Carver keeps walking.