The WireThe Wire

Moral Midgetry

Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Story by David Simon & Richard Price
Teleplay by Richard Price

"Pretty don't even come close to the problem." - The Deacon

The open-air drug market at Hamsterdam appears to be flourishing. Prostitution thrives, dealers sell, junkies overdose and coeds make buys as drug paraphernalia sellers ply their trade and common criminals are drawn to the action. One gang lures dealers into an abandoned rowhouse with the promise of gold jewelry at bargain-basement prices, only to rob them when they step inside to survey the wares.

Carver spots one of the dealers, bound and gagged, crawling on his belly down the stairs from the rowhouse, but by then, the thieves have fled and the dealers are outraged. "Can't you ever get a motherfucking police 'round here when you need one?" shouts one. Believing the cops have reneged on their word to keep the place safe, they are furious. "You say it's gonna be like the Valley of Eden up in here," says one.

Major Bunny Colvin proudly shows off a cleaned-up street corner in his district to the Deacon—the same church man who offered help to Cutty Wise—and the Deacon wants to know how Colvin has managed this miracle. So Colvin takes him to the free zone. There, he learns of the robbery and acknowledges that the dealers have a point about police protection. "We tell 'em they have to come down here without the guns, then we fall down on providing protection," he says to Carver. When Carver points out that an even bigger issue is the fifty to sixty kids who are hanging out in Hamsterdam, no longer employed by the dealers, Colvin suggests Carver hire them as perimeter patrols, to keep an eye out for predators. Taking it all in, the Deacon is as appalled as he is mystified: "What in God's name did you do here?"

At the Detail Office, Prez's latest investigation is an impressive bit of handiwork. He has tracked the disposable cell phone—the burner—the police took from Bodie and traced every step of its existence, from manufacturer through middlemen to the Mondo Mart in Falls Church, Va., where it was sold to a Barksdale soldier. Prez has also traced the numbers on the phone's speed dial to Bodie's grandmother and to six other disposable phones. He has discovered the location—all of them along Interstate 95—where each of the other Barksdale phones was purchased. Freamon, marveling at the care with which Barksdale's gang is operating, notes: "They're driving two hundred miles every couple weeks out of sheer caution. They're dumping phones every two weeks or so and still they're worried about catching a wiretap."

Avon Barksdale visits the West Baltimore funeral home where Rico, the soldier killed by Marlo, lies in a casket. "This motherfucker Marlo? Time to go deep on this nigger," Barksdale says.

As McNulty and Greggs hit I-95 in search of a surveillance tape at one of the convenience stores where the burners were purchased, McNulty gets a call from Brianna Barksdale who wants to talk with him about her son.

Stringer Bell is angry with State Sen. Clay Davis, because the construction documents Bell bribed Davis to provide have not yet come through. "Feels like ain't shit changed except for a growing lightness in my wallet," says Bell, but Davis reassures him that it will all happen in a few days. And, Davis adds, he's also hooked Bell up to be the minority light bulb contractor to the Baltimore Board of Education, which will involve no work and bring Bell $5,000 a month. Davis reassures Bell that he'll help induct him into the netherworld of governmental procurement, but that Bell must be patient. When Bell protests that he's ready now, Davis tells him he's still "showing a bit of the street mentality—buggin' about every dime you spend. Three years," counsels Davis. "Crawl, walk, then run."

The Deacon rips Colvin for creating Hamsterdam, calling it "a great village of pain," and insisting that Colvin also provide needle exchange, condom distribution and drug-treatment intake for the denizens of the free zone.

Cutty, revisting the Deacon in a different frame of mind, reaffirms his commitment to changing. "I just need to be in control of my life," Cutty says. The Deacon asks: "What would you say if I told you there's a certain liberation not in command or self control but in surrender?"

With Theresa D'Agostino looking on, Carcetti chairs a meeting of his Public Safety Subcommittee and questions Rawls and Burrell about why reduced crime in the Western District alone—Colvin's territory—accounts for half of the city's crime drop. Burrell explains it as a statistical aberration and says he'll scrutinize it next month if it's repeated. Then Carcetti rips the cops once again for their failure to provide adequate witness protection. As he reaches a peak of self-righteous posturing, he notices D'Agostino departing the hearing room. Later, he's crushed when she explains to him that politics is about more than winning arguments, that he needs to temper his ambition and sharp tongue and work on being more likeable.

Herc, Carver, Colicchio and other cops gather outside after work to share a beer and debate the merits both of Hamsterdam and of its creator—their boss—Bunny Colvin. "It's moral midgetry," says an outraged Colicchio. "Let's turn the fuckin' world upside down. Let's treat these braindead corner yo's like princelings." Carver defends his boss: "You see how clean the corners are? In every sector, the traffic is half what it was." Colicchio is unmoved: "He's gotta know what a heartbreaker it is to suit up every morning for this shit." Carver continues in Colvin's defense, "The man's trying something. It might be hard to stomach, but it's working. After 30 years, don't you think he's earned the right to some elbow room on this?"

Greggs and McNulty spend the night in a cheap motel room awaiting access to a convenience-store surveillance tape that they hope will enable them to track the Barksdale soldier who purchases the burners. McNulty learns that Greggs has moved back in with her lover, but can't resist making a pass anyway. "Hey, you know me," he says by way of explanation when he's rebuffed. Later, they meet FBI Special Agent Terrance Fitzhugh at the Detail Office and, thanks to a computer program he's brought along, bingo: they zoom in on the Barksdale soldier who buys the burners and manage to extract a license number.

At a meeting of police commanders at headquarters, Bunny Colvin struggles to justify the Western District's crime drop while holding on to his secret: "Through the effective use of resources, an increased police presence and an intensive reach out into the community we've been able to have a significant impact on those areas to the effect of a 12 percent decrease overall." Rawls is skeptical: "Seriously Bunny. I already got the City Council asking questions about the 8 percent. We want to please the mayor, not go to jail behind this shit." Colvin's reply: "Sometimes, the gods listen, sir."

D'Angelo Barksdale's mother Brianna presses McNulty for details of her son's death. "D'Angelo hung himself," she declares. "Not with the belt they found around his neck," McNulty tells her. "Not with that distance between the doorknob and the floor." "No," replies Brianna, disbelieving. "Nobody would have dared. My brother, his uncle... This is just you talking, right?" "Just me," McNulty responds. "No one else cares. Look, I'm sorry I brought you into the whole mess up to begin with because frankly nobody's gonna do shit about it anyhow. Whoever killed him wanted it to come off as a suicide, and the cops are only too happy to have one less murder to investigate. On top of that, the Anne Arundel State's Attorney doesn't give a fuck, I'm not supposed to give a fuck..." When Brianna asks why McNulty went to Donette and not to her with his suspicions, he plays the guilt card hard and fast: "Honestly? I was looking for someone who cared about the kid. I mean, like I said, you told him to take the years." Brianna, overcome with guilt, begins to weep.

Over a game of pool, the Deacon describes Hamsterdam as "a five-acre Petri dish" and again presses Colvin to recognize the unique opportunity he has and begin implementing public health and social programs. "All kinds of liberal-assed projects never got off the page they was written on," replies a skeptical Colvin. When Colvin resists further, Deacon plays his trump card, threatening to blow the whistle on Hamsterdam: "Move it or lose it, boss."

Carcetti consults a media trainer and watches a video of his performance at the last Council Subcommittee meeting. "Use open, warm phrases. Nothing sharp, nothing that bites," advises the consultant. "Where's the fun in that?" Carcetti wants to know.

Brianna calls on her brother Avon but Bell runs interference, telling her Avon is tied up. When she brings up McNulty and the message he is spreading, Bell warns her that McNulty is "just trying to drive a wedge up in here."

Barksdale activates a plot to track down Omar's family with the help of a social worker whom he figures must have provided welfare to Omar's family at some point. Greggs and McNulty visit the car rental office where they've traced the Barksdale soldier who buys the burners. Clayton Davis introduces Stringer Bell to the man who can make him even richer, a white executive who gives Bell a piece of the Board of Ed light bulb action.

Barksdale sends a girl, Devonne, to bait Marlo. Marlo picks her up in a club, and after enjoying her company, agrees to meet her later at a restaurant, the Lake Trout. When the Barksdale gang learns of the planned rendezvous, they stake out the Lake Trout prior to the meeting, but are observed by Marlo's scouts, who shoot into the Barksdale car, wounding Avon. Later, as he's sewn up by a veterinarian with Bell looking on, Avon is angry over Bell's apparent obsession with money. "You know the difference between me and you," Barksdale asks bitterly. "I'm bleedin' red and you bleedin' green. I look at you these days, String, you know what I see? I see a man without a country. Not hard enough for this right here and maybe, just maybe, not smart enough for them out there..."

Thus provoked, Bell reveals to Avon that it was he who had Avon's nephew D'Angelo killed. Avon is enraged by this news, and throws himself on Bell, wounded shoulder and all. After a brief struggle, Bell subdues Avon and tells him: "I took that shit off you and put it on me, because that motherfucker was out of pocket, with 20 years above his fucking head. He flips, they have you, me, Brianna. No fucking way." Knowing the truth of Bell's statement, Avon accepts in reluctantly. "Let me up," he says resignedly to Bell. "String, let me up."