Directed by Steve Shill
Story by David Simon & Ed Burns
Teleplay by Ed Burns
"They used to make steel there, no?" - Vondas
Jimmy McNulty has been demoted and reassigned to the Baltimore Police Harbor unit as Colonel Rawls' revenge. On this dread detail, the big excitement of the day is a yacht with a dead motor, adrift while a corporate party moves into high gear. McNulty is depressed about his new assignment, even as his new partner Diggins tells him: "In a couple of months, you're gonna realize the bosses did you a favor, McNulty. This is the sweetest detail in the whole damn department if you give it a chance."
Major Valchek listens with boredom as Prez, his son-in-law, speaks with enthusiasm of his desire to work in narcotics. Prez mentions the Barksdale case, and how he found it to be a fascinating investigation. Ignoring him, Valchek replies that Prez will take the sergeant's exam. "And because I have Tony LoBianco's ear... you will score high and be ranked exactly sixteenth on the list." But Prez has no interest in making rank and would prefer to work good cases. Irritated, Valchek tells him that he has managed to "take some of the stink" off himself, and that if he would just do as he is told he might actually have a career in the department.
At police headquarters, Bunk encounters Daniels, who's been reassigned as a clerk in the evidence room, his payment for defying Deputy Commissioner Burrell over the Barksdale investigation. "I heard they posted you down here, but, I mean, damn, these motherfuckers don't play, do they?" Bunk tries to pull evidence for the upcoming Bird murder trial, but it seems to have gone missing. Together, they take the room apart, searching for it.
Bodie, who's never been outside Baltimore, travels to Philadelphia to pick up fresh drugs with a new Barksdale lieutenant named Dragon. Unaware they're followed by Stringer Bell's soldiers, the pair sticks carefully to the plan and picks up a rental car in which the drugs are supposedly stashed. But when they take it to a chop shop to retrieve the drugs, the car is practically dismantled and the drugs still can't be found. Terrified, Bodie and Dragon go back to Baltimore and tell Stringer the bad news. He sweats them badly before revealing that it was a test: he knows they're being honest because he was watching them the whole time.
At Baltimore's Seagirt Marine Terminal cargo docks, Frank Sobotka, secretary-treasurer of the longshoreman's union of checkers — the men who oversee the loading and unloading of cargo ships — argues with colleagues Nathanial "Nat" Coxson, Horseface and La-La about the merits of dredging the Baltimore shipping canal. Business is down terribly at the terminal, the checkers are struggling to survive and Coxson is adamant that dredging the canal won't necessarily bring new business to the port. Instead, he says, they should throw their efforts into rebuilding the grain pier, threatening Sobotka. "You keep on with the canal shit and I'ma go to the district council. My people need somethin' real."
Sobotka's nephew Nick, a young checker with too little seniority to get regular work, arrives at the docks hoping in vain for his first day of work in two weeks. His uncle tells him to go see The Greek, who has "a number" for Sobotka. "He's got one on the way," Nick's uncle says, referring to an arriving cargo ship on which The Greek has contraband he needs help sliding by the authorities.
Bunk visits his former partner McNulty at the dock. With the Gant murder trial coming up, the ADA Ilene Nathan needs to review evidence. Omar, who agreed to testify in the case as an eye-witness against Barksdale's killing machine Bird, is no where to be found, and Bunk needs McNulty's help finding him.
Sobotka visits St. Casimir's Catholic Church in his neighborhood to see Father Jerome who shows off the stained-glass window Sobotka and his longshoremen recently donated to the church, a window depicting laborers in the port. The stained glass hangs in a prized spot, the nave, and the priest is grateful. Sobotka is there on business, however. Wearing his union hat, he tells Father Jerome that he needs "some face time with the Senator. We got nothing but problems, Father. We need to see something happen with the canal, and the granary pier has been down for a year now." Father Jerome tells him to come to Sunday's early mass and he'll introduce him to the Senator.
Nick and his cousin Ziggy, Frank Sobotka's son, visit The Greek in a shabby diner. Ziggy is a bit of a wild card, running his mouth off when he shouldn't. Nick, always watching after his cousin, lays down the law to Ziggy before the meeting: "You say a word Ziggy, I swear I'll kill ya."
Later that day, the pace picks up on the water when McNulty pulls the dead body of a pretty young girl from the frigid harbor.
Not long after Sobotka goes to the church to see Father Jerome, Major Valchek drops in, three cops in tow, carrying yet another stained-glass window that Valchek himself wants to donate to St. Casimir's. Nervously, Father Jerome shows Valchek Sobotka's stained glass already hanging and offers a different, less desirable spot to display Valchek's window. Valchek promises to match whatever donations the union has coughed up, but leaves furious when he realizes he's been outbid.
Avon, beginning his seven year prison sentence, receives Stringer Bell in the visitation room. Stringer is running the drug business in Avon's absence. Avon is hanging tough, telling Stringer: "You come in here, you get your mind right, you only do two days. The day you come in..." and, says Stringer, finishing his sentence: "the day you get out."
At the diner, Nick confers with Spiros Vondas, The Greeks' number two man, and his Russian colleague Sergei Malatov, a driver and muscleman. Vondas gives Nick a paper with the number for an incoming cargo container. The container — or can, as the longshoremen call it — is arriving that day on the ship Atlantic Light. Sobotka and his union pals can make the container "disappear" from the port's records and Vondas can get hold of it without running it through customs. "Same deal, same rate," Vondas says to Nick.
Visiting his old unit at police headquarters, McNulty learns that Rawls has conned Baltimore County law enforcement into handling the case of the dead girl he pulled from the harbor. Rawls convinced them it's theirs based on the location at which McNulty found it, McNulty learns. He also learns that the body was in fact dead before it hit the water. "Blunt trauma to the head," Detective Cole, who's been assigned to handle the case, tells him.
Stringer Bell spars with a new lawyer representing a now indicted drug supplier who had been the major source for Barksdale's drugs. Wary that Avon may have implicated the dealer to lighten his own sentence, Stringer learns the dealer is unwilling to do further business with the Barksdale operation. This is bad news, because drugs are in scarce supply, and Stringer must cut them heavily to extend the supply. The junkies have noticed, naturally, and are either complaining or taking their business elsewhere.
McNulty studies wind and tide charts of the day he found the dead body in the harbor and calculates that in fact the body was in Rawl's territory when it entered the water. No question, it should by rights be handled by Rawl's unit. Hoping to repay his boss for his current plight, McNulty faxes his calculations to the Baltimore County Police, who are only too glad to hand the case back to Rawls.
At the dock, Marine Police Officer Beatrice "Beadie" Russell is making her cursory rounds. The Atlantic Light has docked and is being unloaded, and the container Spiros wants is sitting on the dock, awaiting removal. Sobotka wants it gone quickly and is nervous because Serge, sent by The Greek to pick it up, is deep in conversation on his cell phone. When Serge suddenly leaves without the cargo container, Sobotka is incredulous — and not a little bit worried. In fact, it is Russell who notices the locks on the container are loose, opens it up and goes inside. When she encounters a false rear wall in the back, she investigates further and finds the bodies of 13 young women, apparently suffocated, inside a tiny compartment of the container.