Story by David Simon & William F. Zorzi
Teleplay by William F. Zorzi
Walon conducts a Narcotics Anonymous meeting at a church, where an addict named Dee-Dee shares with the group. When she finishes with time left in the meeting, Walon calls on Bubbles to speak. He starts by cracking jokes but when he searches for something more meaningful to say, remains silent.
At the detail office on Clinton St., Detectives Leandor Sydnor and Lester Freamon review documents from the investigation of State Senator R. Clayton "Clay" Davis. The records show donations to daycare centers and basketball programs — but no community services appear to have taken place. Sydnor points out the obvious — Davis is stealing from his own non-profits — but Lester alludes to the bigger picture: the money on record hints at cash that's never even shown up on paper. The drug war is lost, Freamon adds; no amount of seized dope will make any difference. But to follow the profits and prove how they flow through Baltimore, making the entire city complicit — that would be a career case.
Beside two S.U.V.s in a vacant lot, Marlo Stanfield, Chris Partlow and Felicia "Snoop" Pearson discuss business. Chris has felt police surveillance slip away — no tails, helicopters or cameras. With Snoop eager to get back to work, Marlo gives his orders: Hit Webster Franklin's corners to force him onto their package, take out June Bug for mouthing off and find Omar. Chris, after assuring Marlo they'll handle everything, warns that Omar will come right back at them. Marlo brushes off the warning and asks if Chris has set up a meeting for him at Jessup Correctional Institution. Chris hands his boss a photo of the Russian, Sergei "Serge" Malatov, and assures him he's on the visiting list.
After Bubbles' N.A. meeting, Walon approaches him outside the church and asks why he clammed up in front of the group. Bubbles answers with a shrug, and Walon gently lectures him that while everyone laughs at their mistakes, a lot of substance exists between the jokes. "I thought you might stand up and talk about Sherrod," Walon says. Bubbles turns to escape, but Walon grabs his arm, telling his friend he needs to let the boy's death go. Bubbles shoots back that he hasn't missed a meeting, but Walon isn't talking about showing up at a church — Bubbles needs to reconcile the way he feels.
At the homicide unit detectives James "Jimmy" McNulty, Shakima "Kima" Greggs and William "Bunk" Moreland kick back while Det. Michael Crutchfield reads the Baltimore Sun, pointing out that Mayor Thomas "Tommy" Carcetti has lifted the cap on secondary employment as a peace offering for their unpaid overtime. Crutchfield says he's already rounded up a lucrative security job at a jewelry shop, and Greggs remarks that guarding trinkets has taken priority over solving murders. Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman steps into the conversation, noticing that homicide has had a quiet night. McNulty, eager for a punching bag, jumps in to add that the bodies should start piling up now that the Stanfield investigation has been shelved. He blames Pearlman's office for letting the investigation collapse and allowing gun charges against Snoop and Chris to languish in court. Pearlman walks away, pointedly saying goodbye to the others, and when dispatch calls with a body, McNulty snatches the slip and stalks out.
In the parking garage, McNulty searches level after level, unable to find his unmarked car. When he finally locates it — on the top floor — he punches the gas only to hear the flap of a flat tire. Past his limit, he jumps out of the car and kicks in the door panel.
Carcetti, Chief of Staff Michael Steintorf, Norman Wilson and State Delegate Odell Watkins meet at City Hall. The discussion centers on Carcetti's gubernatorial strategy, which Steintorf suggests propping up with a rise in test scores among the city's third-graders. With the police budget gutted, Carcetti can't run on the crime rate, and he wonders about postponing the campaign for five years. Steintorf cautions him that five years in Baltimore might swallow any chance he has. He adds that Council President Nerese Campbell's recent real estate scandal makes Carcetti vulnerable — if voting him into the state house means handing the city over to a corrupt mayor, he can't expect much support. As the meeting wraps up and the mayor leaves, Watkins asks Steintorf whether Carcetti's running for governor two years into his mayoral term feels a little thin, but Steintorf tells him "thin" is business as usual.
City Editor Augustus "Gus" Haynes finishes a cigarette outside the Baltimore Sun and runs into Scott Templeton as the reporter returns with a story: Single mother of four dies from blue-crab allergy. Haynes gives him an "attaboy" before turning back to his smoking buddies and pointing out that the single mother of four is always catching a tough break.
In West Baltimore, McNulty finally arrives at his crime scene — via city bus. Ofc. Bobby Brown, waiting outside a row house, watches the detective step down to the curb and asks him why he didn't take a cab. McNulty replies that he'd never get reimbursed. Inside the house, Brown leads McNulty to the body: a 67-year-old woman who died in bed with a pillow over her face. It's probably natural, says Brown, stepping aside for McNulty, who guesses that she died in her sleep.
Back at the Sun offices, an editorial meeting is underway, and Executive Editor James C. Whiting III explains the education story he has in mind, telling the editors and reporters that he wants to illustrate how the school system has failed the city's children. Education reporter Scott Shane hesitates to defend the schools, but he notes that they're one of many institutions that have failed the kids. Haynes doesn't believe the story can be told without addressing parenting, drugs and economics, but Whiting worries about getting bogged down in details and prefers to boil the story down to something straightforward. Templeton sides with the boss, saying the story of one classroom doesn't need a lot of context. Haynes disagrees, but Whiting has made up his mind — and thinks Templeton might be the right reporter to lead the charge. After the meeting, Haynes and the rest of the newsroom clamp down on deadline, and reporter Suzanne Wooton walks by his desk. She says she forgot to add the numbers to a port story, so Haynes inputs the figures as she tells him: Overall cargo is down 12 percent, but roll-on, roll-off gained 6.4 percent. Wooton gives him the heads-up as Templeton and managing editor Thomas Klebanow sidle toward his desk. Klebanow says he wants Templeton to write the color copy for the next day's Orioles game, and Haynes responds with an unenthused, "You're the boss."
Freamon, camped out in his car near a vacant lot on McCulloh Street, finally gets what he's been waiting for when two S.U.V.s pull in. Marlo, Chris and Snoop step into the night to converse, and Freamon sees the sloppy habits he knew would eventually materialize.
Haynes wakes up in his bed experiencing a moment of dread, and his wife asks what's wrong. He tells her to go back to sleep and picks up the phone to call in to the Sun. Rewrite man Jay Spry answers, and Haynes says he's worried he mixed up the numbers from Wooten's port story. Spry pulls the article back from the copy desk and reads the stats back to Haynes, who relaxes after hearing the correct data.
The next morning at the morgue, McNulty waits to meet with the medical examiner about his old woman from the row house, when he hears an argument break out between an assistant M.E. and two Baltimore County detectives he knows: Kevin Infante and Nancy Porter. Refusing to take a body on as a murder, Infante storms out, and Porter gives McNulty the details. The body of a man who died doing speedballs in his bathroom fell between the toilet and bathtub, suffering post-mortem injuries when the paramedics pulled him out using his neck for leverage. It looks like strangulation, Porter says, even though it's not. The two detectives go to breakfast, and when they finish, McNulty finds Freamon waiting outside to tell him about Marlo's repeated meetings in the McCulloh lot. McNulty tallies the resources needed to bring the kingpin down — a few weeks and some surveillance gear — but knows the tools are out of reach. Freamon suggests searching for an alternative source of funding.
Marlo arrives at Jessup Correctional Institution to meet with Sergei but receives a nasty surprise when he finds Avon Barksdale waiting to cut a deal. The incarcerated gangster says that he's an authority figure in the prison, explaining how he figures that Marlo plans to bypass Prop Joe's Co-Op and get the same product by dealing directly with Sergei's boss, Spiros "Vondas" Vondopoulos. Avon has "nuthin' but love" for west-side crews, he says, but his fee for putting people together comes in at $100k.
Templeton sifts through the Orioles home-opener crowds, searching for the hook to his color story, but the fans aren't giving the quotes he needs. People on the street brush him off; a spectator complains that steroids have ruined baseball â€¦ It appears the super fan he wants to feature doesn't exist.
Freamon and McNulty find the back door to their continued investigation of Marlo in a downtown Baltimore parking lot. FBI Special Agent Terrance Fitzhugh drives up in his government-issue Crown Victoria and asks the two detectives why they can't meet in his office like normal people. McNulty says he'd rather keep his name off the front-desk register. Fitzhugh, not surprised at McNulty's sneaking around, asks for the details, and they tell him about the suspended investigation into the body-filled vacants, promising a big headline if the Feds can stitch up the last bit of casework. Fitzhugh promises to run it up the flagpole.
When Templeton returns to the Sun offices after the game, he promises Haynes he got "good stuff." A 13-year-old kid put in a wheelchair by a stray bullet couldn't afford a scalped ticket at the gate; unfortunately, no photographers were available to get art. Haynes starts asking questions to track the source down and get a shot, but the kid, afraid to get busted for skipping school, was sketchy about his background. Templeton gets to work writing the copy, and Haynes sends a rewritist to the clip file to see if she can track down an old story about the boy's injury.
At the detail office, Sydnor and Pearlman sit in front of a stack of subpoenas intended to establish financial accounts at Clay Davis's hearing. When Sydnor asks whether Davis sees the indictment coming, Pearlman replies that Clay Davis has been waiting for the other shoe to drop his whole life. In fact, across town at Police Commissioner Ervin H. Burrell's office, Davis has already shown up to call in a marker. But the commissioner can't help him — a Grand Jury is beyond his influence. Davis promises that he'll remember this lack of support. After he stomps out, Deputy Commissioner for Operations William A. Rawls enters with a stat report, its numbers massaged "as much as we dare."
McNulty meets back up with Fitzhugh at the parking lot downtown, but the FBI agent arrives bearing bad news: the U.S. attorney won't touch the case as a matter of personal vengeance against City Hall. Fitzhugh says he'll find out what happened, but he tells McNulty to give up on any federal backup for his investigation.
In the Sun newsroom, Haynes still can't track down Templeton's 13-year-old source, and when he tells the reporter that he needs more than a nickname and description to run the story, Templeton resents the implication. Just as Haynes tries to explain that he's not implying anything, Whiting walks up and pats Templeton on the back for a job well done. When Haynes tests the waters before protesting further, Whiting overrules him.
That night in West Baltimore, Snoop, Monk and O-Dog stake out Webster Franklin's corner crew, getting ready to send a message. "Let's get all West Coast wid it," O-Dog says, and as Snoop pulls up to the corner, he fires shots wildly out the window, hitting nothing. Snoop screeches to a halt, hops out of the truck and draws aim on a running silhouette, which she drops with one shot.
At a bar downtown, Bunk, McNulty and Freamon drink away the sting of their dismantled case and talk about how the "misdemeanor homicides" of dozens of young, black males catch less attention than one missing white girl in Aruba. Bunk turns to McNulty, "This ain't Aruba, bitch." Still, McNulty muses, there must be some way to sort out the mess. Then his attention shifts to a young woman at the end of the bar ...
The next day, Chris, Snoop and Michael Lee, set up outside a house to murder June Bug, and Michael asks why Marlo put the order out. Snoop tells him people on the street say June Bug disrespected Marlo, and when Michael questions that justification for the killing, Snoop warns him to watch his mouth. Chris sends Michael around back to catch anyone who escapes, and Snoop sets off down the street to disable a series of police cameras. Out back, Michael hears gunshots and screams, and when the back door flies open, takes aim with his 9mm, only to see a young boy escaping. Michael lowers the weapon as the boy runs away.
At the homicide unit, McNulty sweats out his hangover with a compress on his face while Greggs points out that he's wearing the same clothes as the night before. Sgt. Jay Landsman interrupts — then compounds — McNulty's misery with a homicide call and, out of pity, sends Bunk along for the ride.
Marlo arrives back at Jessup to meet Sergei, but the Russian makes it clear he has no use for Marlo or the money the gangster added to his canteen account. Sergei has seen worse prisons; this is nothing. Marlo responds that Vondas might want to accept his money a bit more readily — and Sergei could take the credit for setting his boss up with the income. Sergei nods, and as the meet ends, Avon flashes a west-side gang sign at Marlo from across the room.
Bunk and McNulty arrive at the homicide scene, where the first-responding officer waits for them, babysitting the corpse of a homeless man whose life of drugs and booze mark the likely suspect in this "homicide." But McNulty, still pickled in Jameson and carrying a pint in his pocket, has other plans. He sends the officer away, promising to wait for the crime lab, and once he's alone with Bunk, sets to constructing a murder scene. Bunk watches in horror as McNulty falsifies the signs of a struggle and then grabs the corpse by the neck, recreating the same postmortem strangulation marks he saw at the morgue. Bunk tells him repeatedly to stop, and once the job is done, refuses to take responsibility for any part of it. McNulty speaks for the first time as his friend leaves, "There's a serial killer in Baltimore, Bunk. He preys on the weakest among us. He needs to be caught."