Corner Boys
The Wire | Season 4 | Episode 8

Corner Boys

TV-MA | 59 MIN

Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Story by Ed Burns & Richard Price
Teleplay by Richard Price

"We got our thing, but it's just part of the big thing." -Zenobia

Coming off his seeming breakthrough teaching gambling probabilities, Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski is once again attempting a word problem in his math class at Tilghman Middle School, as the class largely ignores him. One boy, Taye, is telling Randy Wagstaff a joke, so Prez puts him on the spot for the answer. Taye illustrates his test smarts by calling out the correct response, then offers to demonstrate how he knew as he strides to the blackboard. "Easy...five got the dinks," pointing out how Prez left multiple "dinks" of his chalk beside the right answer when he did the problem for the earlier class. Prez is dumbfounded as Taye returns to his seat, triumphant.

Sgt. Jay Landsman briefs his Homicide Unit shift that Mayor-nominee Thomas "Tommy" Carcetti will be "fact-finding" in the department. He also gives an impromptu eulogy for C.I.D. commander Raymond Foerster, who has lost his bout with cancer: "The man served 39 years, obtaining the rank of colonel without leaving a trail of bitterness or betrayal. In this department, that's not a career - it's a miracle." Later, when detectives Shakima "Kima" Greggs and Michael Crutchfield observe Carcetti pouring himself the last of the coffee, Greggs - still smarting at having her rookie status mocked in the mayoral debate -- takes it upon herself to reprimand him. "F**k that, you finish a pot, you make the next one." Carcetti sheepishly obliges.

As Dets. Thomas "Herc" Hauk and his boon companion Dozerman peruse an electronics catalogue, contemplating the high costs of most surveillance cameras, Lt. Charlie Marimow - the Major Crimes Unit commander -- confronts Herc for the bad train station roust of Marlo Stanfield and the innocent woman, who's now filing a harassment claim. Herc defends himself, saying the information was from a reliable informant. Marimow wants a name and when Herc balks, Marimow insists. "Fuzzy Dunlop' Herc blurts, assuring Marimow that the guy's never been off. Marimow isn't pleased with Herc involving another agency and bringing discredit to his unit through the complaint, and threatens to bury him with his own report if anything comes of the gaffe. Marimow wonders if the newly-minted sergeant followed the election results: "Your rabbi has left the building."

In Howard "Bunny' Colvin and Professor David Parenti's project class, the students have settled down, finally realizing their tantrums won't get them suspended. The teacher asks if they feel like winners, since the word around school is that they've beat the system by having themselves removed from regular classes. Namond Brice responds they're "players." "Kingpins?' she asks. They tell her that's two or three years away; now, they're corner boys. She asks their dreams -where do they see themselves in 10 years? Several give the rote answer of the NBA; one says pediatric neurosurgeon, like that guy at Hopkins - a reference to noted African-American surgeon Ben Carson, whose name resounds throughout the city school system. When she asks how many wrote "dead," Namond and three others raise their hands. Namond laughs, caught in another inner-city cliché: "You saw that coming, huh?" She chastises him for reading a magazine and he denies it's his, claiming someone left it in front of him. Colvin busts out laughing, suddenly seeing things clearly: The school's the system and the teachers are the cops, the corner boys just use school to practice getting over. He asks the kids to help them understand how they can teach them something useful, then gets them talking about what makes a good corner boy. Suddenly, the group comes alive with opinions: This is the world, after all, that they are learning for.

Staring up at the The Board at the homicide unit, Det. William "Bunk" Moreland points to the name of the dead delivery woman at Andre's store, trying to talk fellow detectives Crutchfield and Vernon Holley into revisiting Omar Little as the killer -- or at least revisiting the crime scene. When Carcetti approaches, trying to make small talk about the number of names on the board, Bunk steers the detectives off to an interrogation room to talk privately. Crutchfield angrily argues that even if Omar didn't do this one, his name pops up on lots of other cases, that an eyeball witness has identified Omar as the shooter - and further, that Bunk is out of line interposing in their casework. But once his partner's out of the room, Holley is pressed by Bunk to at least take another look.

Meanwhile, Carcetti continues to put a damper on the day's activities, despite assurances that he's "not the hall monitor or anything." When he urges the detectives to do what they normally do, Greggs snipes: "I wouldn't know what we normally do around her. I'm new and inexperienced." This prompts Carcetti to realize she's the rookie who was assigned to the Braddock case and who he mocked in the debate. He swallos that and tells them to do as they normally would. So Greggs reclines, Lester Freamon goes back to working his dollhouse miniatures, and Landsman flips open his skin magazine. "This is your day?" asks Carcetti. "When we catch a body, it's different," explains Freamon.

Herc and Dozerman pull over Marlo Stanfield, asking for the camera back. Marlo asks for Herc's card and peers at it: "City, huh?" Herc makes him an offer: "You do me one, I'll do you." Marlo says he'll keep an ear out for the camera, but you know how camera's are, like pigeons in the wind - a twist of knife knowing that Herc was probably staring at images of pigeons for a time after the camera disappeared and was dumped in a coop. Marlo drives off, leaving Herc to contemplate the moment. Dozerman then tries to convince Herc to come clean with Marimow about the camera, but Herc refuses. If he tells the truth now, he'll lose his stripes.

Walking home from school, Michael Lee quizzes Randy on how he got off so easy on the rape charge at school. The girl dropped it, Randy tells him, as Michael advises him that things go away if you keep your mouth shut. Randy complains Miss Anna has him on a short leash now. 'Shit, at least you got a leash," Michael laments.

At Kavanaugh's, Colonel Foerster's detectives wake is in full swing, pints poured as a packed crowd of police, prosecutors and law enforcement officials belts out the choruses of The Pogue's "Body of An American" while Foerster lays in repose on the pool table nearby. Already drunk, Bunk bolts outside to puke in the gutter, then nods acknowledgment to the waiting funeral home attendants. When he comes back, he finds McNulty drinking a club soda and lime. Bunk is disappointed that McNulty will not join him in his excesses.

In a homegoing of a different kind, late at night in East Baltimore, Chris and Snoop lay out some more New York boys in another row house mausoleum - chasing the out-of-towners off the Monument Street corners as Marlo agreed to do for Proposition Joe Stewart and the New Day Co-op. Snoop says a few words about the departed having wandered too far south.

In Prez's class the following day, he tries to enforce quiet during a quiz, but one of the girls blows up and storms out and Prez begins to sense that whatever advances he makes by teaching lessons informally don't necessarily translate to the regular curriculum. Meanwhile, Chris and Snoop lead some young soldiers through their own schooling on shooting -- when to take a head shot, and when to aim for the belly and below the belt to get around the vest. In these lessons for the world they know as real, the children of West Baltimore are adept, competent and confident.

At Prop Joe's second-hand appliance store, Marlo hands over Herc's card to Proposition Joe and Slim Charles. Proposition promises to check him out but in return, they ask Marlo to consider not losing the New York bodies in the vacants -- it defeats the purpose of sending a message if they just disappear. A little bit amused, Marlo tells them he'll get word to his people.

Suited up in a Kevlar vest, Carcetti spends his next day with the drug enforcement squads in the Eastern District, observing low-level buy-and-busts and other street-level arrests - up to and including an occasional entrapment or two.

In the project class, Colvin quizzes the kids about corner logic. They talk over each other, excited to explain and debate something they know about. When Colvin tries to quiet the din of voices, asking for one at a time, Namond tells Darnell to speak for them. Colvin and the teachers are impressed with the newfound focus and self-regulation.

Bunk and Holley visit Old Face Andre's store to review how the robbery-murder went down. As Andre warily recounts his story, once again implicating Omar, Bunk takes in the empty shelves, the steel reinforced rear door, the heavy-duty bullet proof glass cage, the fact that there is a high-end security camera at the store entrance pointed on the street outside, but the security camera inside the store is broken and defunct - a definite drug front. Andre tells his story and the Bunk finds the holes. He asks Andre to come downtown and clear a few things up and Andre refuses. After buying a bottle of Mylanta for his hangover, Bunk reiterates to an already converted Holley the holes in Andre's story.

After school, Namond brags about his new class to an incredulous Michael and Randy - it's like the kids are schooling the teachers, talking about "bidness." Namond blows off going to the gym with Michael; he has to vial up the rest of his package so he can sell it off and re-up.

Proposition Joe calls the police department from a payphone to track down Herc, entertaining himself by using fake voices and names as he follows the trail with increasing surprise: from narcotics to the Mayor's office, and then to Major Crimes, where he's told Sgt. Hauk is on the street.

Chris Partlow comes up with a way to suss out the New York boys on the street - ask them a Baltimore question about local Baltimore club music. "They don't know s**t 'bout that in New York," he explains. Turns out Felicia "Snoop" Pearson isn't much of a music person; she doesn't follow that "Ninety-Two-Q s**t" either, but she's willing to give it a try. She asks a corner kid who his favorite is on the local hip-hop station's Big Phat Morning show. When he says a name Chris hadn't mentioned, she puts a gun to his head. But Chris waves her back at the point of killing the man. The deejay mentioned is also on the show.

Carcetti complains to Deputy Commissioner for Operations William A. Rawls and Carcetti aide Norman Wilson about what he saw on his ride-along - entrapment for twenty dollars worth of drugs, and lots of manpower for a haul of three vials of coke. Rawls agrees, but says his hands are tied. He blames affirmative action, explaining it's a numbers game - a 20-percent hike in black officers to match the city's demographic which, due to affirmative action, has to be matched up the chain. Inexperienced people get promoted and are put in charge, he tells him. "And he who owes his good fortune to the numbers? Abides in them." To show arrests are up, they have to make arrests - even those of a lesser quality. Implicitly, he is criticizing Burrell. Those are the orders currently, Rawls explains, but he suggests he'd be interested in having the opportunity to change things.

Walking in on Namond thinning out his remaining vials, stretching them for additional sales, De'Londa Brice lets him have it for bringing his work home. His father never brought it home; it's too dangerous if the cops come. "That's what you have a lieutenant for," she chastises him.

After their meeting, Carcetti and Wilson tells Carcetti remark on Rawls' naked appeal to racial solidarity and willingness to use affirmative action as a scapegoat for the department's problems. Carcetti asks about Major Daniels, but Wilson doesn't know much, only that Daniels is black and doesn't have any obvious political sponsors.

Michael comes home to find empty kitchen cupboards -- his mother has sold off their food. When she tells him she has to go out, he only gives her $10 to score. She tries to hold the "D.S.S. card" over his head, threatening to take it back, but he isn't swayed: "Next time, don't go selling the food outta our mouths," he shouts as she departs.

Back in the project class the following day, Namond is holding forth arrogantly, rationalizing the drug trade by noting societal disconnects. They are told not to hustle, lie, cheat, steal, he declares. But they're just doing the same thing as the government - "Amron," steroids, booze and cigarettes, the real killers. It's hypocritical, Namond insists, and Colvin doesn't argue back. An argument is not the point. The fact that these adolescents are now fully involved in discussing their life, their society and their place in it - this is what matters to Colvin, Parenti and the class teacher. Colvin asks them to sit down and write the laws to being a corner boy, challenging them to do it together, as a group.

In the teacher's lounge, Prez vents about having to stick to the dry, No-Child-Left-Behind, test-based curriculum -- the kids aren't learning it. The teachers insist he has to; if their students don't pass the test in April, the school gets taken over by the state. "Maybe they should," he replies. The teachers tell him to teach the test, not math: "North Avenue is all about the 'leave no child behind' stuff getting spoon-fed." Grace suggests a middle ground: some of the state stuff, and some of his own methods. An older teacher finally speaks up: "The first year isn't about the kids, it's about you surviving." Prez takes it all in and wonders how to proceed.

Herc, Dozerman and Western District D.E.U. plainclothesmen Tony Colicchio and "Truck" Carrick bust in on Marlo and his guys, who are just hanging out in Marlo's open-air lair. They toss the area as Marlo and his crew remain unfazed. "Every day," Herc warns, until his camera comes home.

Pearlman enters Daniels' office in the Western District at the tail end of a phone call from Carcetti, who wants to meet Daniels to have a conversation about what works and what doesn't in the police department. "You have the Mayor's ear now?" she says, proudly. He wonders how honest he should be. He doesn't know the incoming mayor at all. What if Daniels criticizes Burrell and Rawls and then is hung out to dry? Pearlman acknowledges the risk, but urges him to fire away, both barrels.

At night on the street, Chris and Snoop use their Baltimore music litmus test to I.D. a transplant from New York City. They shoot him in the head, leaving him where he falls.

Michael comes home to find an excited Bug: his dad came home. He glares at his mother, then turns away in disgust as his younger brother's father brushes his face. "Damn, You grew," his stepfather tells him. Later, Michael confronts his mother -- she promised he'd never come back. He was paroled early from his 12 years on a drug charge, she tells him, and he's changed. She tells Michael to give up the D.S.S. card. "He gonna take care of all that for us."

Bunk and Holley show up at Old Face Andre's store with a summons for the Grand Jury.

Carcetti and Wilson meet with an emissary from the national Democratic Party and more transition team members. They discuss the future. It's acknowledged that they need to quickly produce something they can herald as a "Baltimore Miracle." The D.N.C. official suggests a double-digit percent drop in crime and a downtown building project - something tangible that Carcetti can put his name to. When education is brought up, Wilson is adamant they stay away from the schools: "Our last four administrations left us with an inner city system with inner city problems. We get involved, start talking s**t, It becomes our mess." Still, Carcetti is told, if he gets the crime down builds something nice, and keeps his boyish good looks, he may be running for governor in '08, taking back the statehouse from the Republican incumbent.

Prez tries to talk to a brooding Michael in class. When the boy won't open up, Prez offers to send him to see a school social worker and Michael pauses, thinking, but ultimately decides against it.

Colvin, Parenti and the project class teacher debate whether the kids' focus can be brought to bear on regular learning. The teacher points out they're not just dealing with corner issues, but problems like post-traumatic stress disorder, clinical depression, maybe even borderline psychosis in one case. These kids have suffered a lot of damage in life. They decide to let things play out for now, before forcing any other learning.

Namond applies some of the corner boy rules he and his classmates have been articulating to Kenard, the youngest kid in the Fayette Street crew. In the basement of Kenard's rowhouse, he hands over his remaining vials for his new lieutenant to store. Being under 13, Kenard is safe from a serious charge â€" safe from anyone but Namond or Marlo should he mess up, Namond says, falsely claiming Marlo as his patron. "All's I get is a extra ten dollars?" asks Kenard. Namond promises they can talk about that if Kenard performs well.

Bunk and Holley wait with Old Face Andre before his grand jury testimony, warning him about the time he can get for a perjury charge. Andre claims he was put on medication that made him groggy, and worked over by Holley when he was first interrogated - he didn't know what he was saying. As Andre shuffles off to the washroom - a witness who has now thoroughly impeached himself -- Holley angrily denounces Andre as a liar. Bunk dryly feigns surprise: "You think?"

Chris and Snoop are pulled over by Herc and Dozerman. They search the car, failing to discover the dashboard trap that holds their weapons, spotting only some lyme and the nail gun in the back of the truck. No weapon, no drugs. Nothing that they can use for a criminal charge. With the gangsters seated on a curb, Herc fires a nail from the gun into the asphalt near Snoop's leg. "I want my f**king camera," he threatens, before tossing the gun back and leaving them.

Daniels and Carcetti meet over lunch and Daniels, upon hearing about Carcetti's day with the Eastern drug squads, guesses Carcetti found the street -level busts a waste of time, money, energy and, sometimes, talent. Carcetti reveals that Rawls claims he'll change all that if he's in command. Daniels shows his surprise for a moment, but refuses to "go up the chain" with his opinions, but does tell the mayor-to be that there was one unit doing good work: Major Crimes. Carcetti asks what happened to that unit, and Daniels replies: "A good question." Carcetti asks if he'd object to replacing Foerster as C.I.D. commander under Rawls. When Daniels questions the "under Rawls" part of the formula, Carcetti affirms that he is not ready to do away with the current No. 2 in the department: "He is the Deputy Ops, is he not?" Daniels considers him, "How for real are you?" Carcetti tells the new Colonel they'll find that out together.

Dozerman tries to talk Herc into the two of them and Det. Leandor Sydnor kicking in for another camera, but Herc notes that a new camera would not have the same serial number as the one they lost. Desperate, Herc remembers that Randy told them a kid named Little Kevin was the one who told him to tell Lex to go up the alley, and then later told him that Lex had been killed. Maybe Little Kevin saw something.

De'Londa counts Namond's profits, and it comes up short in her opinion. When she finds out that Namond has been slinging on a weak strip, she storms out to set Bodie straight, over her son's embarrassed objections.

Police Commissioner Ervin I. Burrell comes to Rawls, unhappy with how Carcetti's running around, talking to people out of school within the department. He suggests to Rawls that they need to regroup. Rawls interrupts him to say that he's talked to Carcetti already. Burrell gets the picture: "You're making your move." Rawls cannot deny it.

Michael shows up to retrieve Bug at the after school rec-center, but is told by Miss Ella Thompson, the rec center director, that Bug went home with his father. Michael bolts in a panic.

Landsman is handed a report by Holley as Bunk looks on. He yells at them both for unsolving a murder.

Michael runs home to find Bug doing math homework with his father, and orders the boy to come to him right away. Bug obliges, confused, and Michael eyes his stepfather with rage.

Snoop and Chris toss their guns into the harbor below the Hanover Street Bridge. To be safe, as an afterthought to Herc's car stop, Chris tosses the nail gun into the water too. Snoop can barely watch. Telling Chris that he owes her eight hundred for the tool.