Watching the Wire: Episode Nine: Game Day

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“Maybe we won.” - Herc

Teleplay by David H. Melnick & Shamit Chocksey
Story by David Simon & Ed Burns
Directed by Milcho Manchevski

Wendell Pierce (Det. William "Bunk" Moreland), Deirdre Lovejoy (Asst. States Attorney Rhonda Pearlman), Wood Harris (Avon Barksdale), John Doman (Maj. William A. Rawls), Lance Reddick (Lt. Cedric Daniels), Andre Royo (Bubbles), Idris Elba (Russell "Stringer" Bell), Frankie Faison (Deputy Comm. Ervin H. Burrell), Larry Gilliard Jr. (D'Angelo Barksdale), Dominic West (Det. James "Jimmy" McNulty) and Sonja Sohn (Det. Shakima "Kima" Greggs)

Wendy Grantham (Shardene Innes), Tray Chaney (Malik "Poot" Carr), Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar Little), Corey Parker Robinson (Det. Leander Sydnor), Hassan Johnson (Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice), J.D. Williams (Preston "Bodie" Broadus), Leo Fitzpatrick (Johnny), Jim True-Frost (Off. Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski), Clarke Peters (Det. Lester Freamon), Domenick Lombardozzi (Off. Thomas R. "Herc" Hauk), Seth Gilliam (Det. Ellis Carver), Michael B. Jordan (Wallace), Clayton LeBouef (Wendell "Orlando" Blocker), Robert F. Chew (Joseph "Proposition Joe" Stewart), Michael Salconi (Det. Michael Santangelo), Steve Earle (Walon), Jefferson Breland (Basketball Coach), Micaiah Jones (Wintell "Little Man" Royce), Perry Blackmon (Perry), Maurice Blanding (Basketball Player) and Christopher J. Clanton (Savino)

The Summary:

Freamon gets Sydnor and Prez started on Barksdale’s money trail. They discover the usual ties to dummy companies, but they also find large sums of political contributions. Herc and Carver bust Wee-Bey holding $22,000, but only $15,000 is reported. Lieutenant Daniels discovers the discrepancy and orders them to find the money before morning roll call. Omar’s mission takes him to Proposition Joe where he promptly offers another recently stolen Barksdale stash to Joe in exchange for Barksdale’s pager number.

Read about money trails, East/West basketball matches and creative fishing beyond the link...

The Recap:

Avon and Stringer are at a local basketball court watching a prospective player perform. The young lad is talented and quite a few places have shown an interest, Avon indicates his own interest in the boy’s talents and then enquires about Omar. Stringer informs him that they can’t find Omar right now and even worse Omar’s been making friends by ripping off stashes and handing the product out for free. So no matter what they do someone will give Omar a heads up first. Stringer again suggests the truce and eventual hit he proposed last episode but Avon disagrees, he’s concerned about his reputation out on the streets. If they leave Omar out there for too long other people will start to get ideas and start attacking the Barksdales as well. They’re interrupted from talking further when the basketball player and his coach walk in, Avon is paying him ten thousand for the lad’s services and the coach manages to get five for the team. After the player leaves the coach gets himself a piece of the action with another five for himself for making it happen. Cue credits…

In the Pit Dee and Wallace are talking about what happened to Brandon. Dee tries to explain that what happened to Brandon isn’t on him, it’s not on either of them, it was going to happen regardless. But Wallace is tired of the life and the guilt, he wants out and is planning to return to school, all the way back to the ninth grade despite his age (sixteen). The conversation progresses on briefly to Stinkum’s demise at Omar’s hands before Dee hands Wallace some money to help him out.

In the basement Prez is working the phones with McNulty when Kima calls to let them know there’s a pertinent call coming in. It turns out that Wee-Bey is coming into the towers to make a pick up and this means game time for the Detail.

In the Pit Dee meets with Bodie and Poot, they want to know about Wallace and Dee tells them everything is good. They’re to leave the boy alone now. Dee’s pager goes off after complaining about the distance he has to walk to use a phone he heads off. It turns out the call is from Herc and Carver who have pranked him for the purpose of taking some photographs. In the basement Freamon dumps some files on Prez and Sydnor, it’s time for those two to follow the money. On the rooftops near the Pit Kima chats with Carver, she informs Herc and him that they might be making a pick up soon.

Bubbles is with Johnny and they see both Walon (played by musician Steve Earle) from the rehab meetings and Bodie. Johnny is naturally a littler nervous at this because Bodie was one of the lads who hospitalised him. Bodie throws the vials to give everyone a sample taste and a scramble breaks out. Afterwards Bubbles heads up to talk with Walon and offers him a vial if he wants it. But it turns out that Bubble’s assumption was wrong, the guy isn’t there for the drugs, he’s here to try and get his nephew straight. The pair of them share introductions.

Wee-Bey has arrived to make the pick up and McNulty asks Carver to pick the man up at a fair distance away. The plan is to avoid picking him up to early on in order to try and conceal any indication that there is a wire up on the Barksdales.

In the basement Freamon starts explaining how Sydnor and Prez are to follow up on the flow of drug money. He explains the entire process to both them and the viewer so we’re clear just what is involved and how it goes down. The main thing they’re looking for are names, specifically the name of the lawyer involved in these deals, while the Barksdales may be cautious, they’re likely to use the same lawyer for most things. A lawyer they trust, specifically Maurice Levy. From this they can follow other company filings that Levy has made and identify the other dummy companies. Additionally they are to chase up any land or properties owned by dummy companies. In essence, once they start following this money they have no idea where it’s going to end up. They could be looking at almost anything. Freamon himself is also following up the money, but he’s going to be looking for campaign donations. Suffice to say this following of the money trail has the potential to upset some very important people in the city.

Herc and Carver pull over Wee-Bey and find a bag filled with money. Wee-Bey protests innocence, claiming that he didn’t know the money was there and additionally he asks if they have no charge on him. Herc admits they have no charge, just his money and he’s unlikely to get it back. Wee-Bey just smiles and tells them to have a nice day.

Bubbles has managed to follow some dealers to the location of their day stash, a small amount of drugs kept somewhere secure to peddle on the streets. He’s approached from the rooftops and uses a fishing wire plus hook to snag the drugs and pull them up. Unfortunately for him he’s spotted just as he pulls the bag over the edge of the roof top. But fortune favours him after that when the dealers mistakenly attack someone else for his theft. Back in the apartment Johnny and he celebrate their victory. But their celebrations are caught short when they find out the drugs are just baking soda.

In the police parking lot Carver tears the bag while removing the money from the boot of the car. Herc stars musing about tips, he’s suggesting that they take a percentage for themselves and turn the rest in for evidence. But Carver points out there’s a wiretap involved, it’s likely the full amount of cash will be disclosed and then they’ll get caught out.

Freamon is in the basement briefing Kima and McNulty on the money trail so far. They’ve followed it to a large amount of empty store fronts and vacants. Daniels walks in and suggests that following the money may be a little premature. He’s concerned about what will happen after Burrel’s reaction to his pick up of Price’s money previously. But Freamon makes it clear that they need to start right now when a jubilant Herc and Carver arrive with “20 or 30 thousand” in cash. Notice they’ve disclosed a decent estimate compared to the amount mentioned in the summary. There’s no attempt to skim here and it’s quite clear they haven’t. McNulty asks about the photographs and muses that they’ll need a wiretap up on that new phone. Daniels is less than pleased because this means another thirty days in a case that’s ruining his career. McNulty doesn’t understand but Freamon attempts to make it clear.

Omar returns back to the place he’s calling home right now, a vacant house where he’s taking every precaution to ensure isn’t compromised while Herc and Carver goof off listening to a little phone sex on the wiretap. Prez reminds them that they should turn off any non-pertinent calls but the duo disagrees as they’re enjoying it too much. McNulty also comes in and reminds them they should switch off after ninety seconds of non-pertinent, but he doesn’t make them turn it off. I believe it is Bodie talking on the other end of the phone at this point, but I’m not certain. Regardless the phone call suddenly turns pertinent again when the callers talk about Wallace’s bugging out over Brandon’s death. Unfortunately it’ll be hard to explain the sex talk before as pertinent; it’s a stretch even to suggest it is code.

In the Pit Omar arrives in his own style, rolling into town like a cowboy in a western with his duster, shotgun and Kevlar. Everyone scatters and he steps outside the stash house, making it clear he’s going to keep coming back until they cave. They drop the stash and after checking it he leaves.

Kima and Freamon meet up with Shardene while Poot sees Wallace out on the street and decides to find out what he’s been buying. On the rooftops Herc and Carver are talking while wondering where everyone is. Carver notices that the streets are empty and decides to roll out.

In the basement Shardene meets with Freamon, she’s quite interested in his doll house miniatures, the small furniture he makes in his free time. She clearly loves them on sight and is saddened that he simply makes and sells them. The moment is interrupted by Kima who tells them they can use Daniels office.

Bubbles is next seen walking through a nice neighbourhood before ringing on the doorbell, the woman who answers tells him “no” and it rapidly becomes clear that her and her daughter are relatives. Bubbles mentions he’s going to try and get clean again and was thinking about asking her for a place to stay. He turns to leave and she offers him a key to the basement, he’s only allowed to crash there, nowhere else.

Herc and Carver continue to travel through the deserted streets of Baltimore before they spot a young lad walking across the street, this leads to a crowded area filled with people watching a basketball match. It’s West vs. East projects, a match for bragging rights.

In the lieutenants office Kima and Freamon hit Shardene hard with the facts and start pushing her. They tell her the truth about Orlando’s and mention Keisha. They figure that they can get her to tumble and use her as an informant inside the club.

In the project basketball match things are going well, but it turns out that Avon isn’t the only person who got a ringer in. Proposition Joe has also done so and the pair of them share some harsh banter. Herc and Carver are enthralled with the match when Bodie and Poot spot them. They talk a little about the match, all roles in the system forgotten for the moment.

In the morgue Freamon and Kima show Shardene Keisha’s body, dumped after she died at Stinkum’s party. Used and then left to rot. They push Shardene a little further and she breaks down.

In the match a careless word from Poot twigs Herc onto the fact that Avon’s here at the match. Unfortunately neither of them have ever seen Avon in person yet but they call in the information to Daniels back in the basement. Daniels decides they should follow Avon as that’s how it’s worked in narcotics before. McNulty doesn’t bother to go with them, he disagrees – feeling that Avon is far too careful to go anywhere near the drugs or money and the only way to catch the man is by voice or not at all.

The match is looking bad for Prop Joe when he steps up to speak with Avon and suggests they move the bet up to a clean six figures. Avon agrees and Joe nods to a player on his bench, its clear Joe has more than one ringer planned. Sydnor and the Lieutenant arrive, Sydnor being someone who can make a positive id of Avon and he does. He lets the others know what Avon’s wearing while Joe’s new ringer makes short work of the West side team.

In the basement a call comes in that gets the Detail up on the stash but there’s no-one to confirm it. So McNulty writes in Sydnor as being on the roof at that time despite Prez’s protests. The match is getting close when the ref makes a call that Avon disagrees with, and he rips into him. The Eastside have won the game.

In the basement Shardene has started talking to Freamon about Keisha, Freamon explains that they need her help to get the Barksdales, the people who killed Keisha and he gifts her one of his miniatures to make her smile and seal the deal.

Daniels and Santangleo (remember him? He sort of drops in and out of the story in these episodes) start following Avon with Sydnor picking him up in addition with Herc and Carver in front. Avon just stops and parks, sitting and waiting before doubling back, he jumps a light and then loses all the tails for a while before driving past Daniels wagging a finger at him. Avon’s made it clear he’s no fool (but we already know that); he knows who they are and what they’re trying to pull.

In the basement McNulty and Freamon are discussing the calls and Shardene. Bubbles is sat in the basement of his sister’s house trying to overcome his cravings and get clean. Daniels admits to McNulty that Avon lost them and McNulty admits that he’s both a smart criminal and he’s proud to be chasing after him. Freamon runs through the situations and mentions that the haul was twenty two thousand. The money is clearly resulting in a massive amount of profit and there’s little sign of it. But Avon is fronting up contributions to various political causes.

In Dee’s Shardene packs up to leave and Dee doesn’t understand why, Shardene asks him if she looks like trash that could be rolled up into a rug and dumped before leaving.

Daniels is in his office when Herc and Carver come in; he has them sit down and plays a recording from the wire. It’s the dealers talking about how much they were hit for, twenty two thousand. But only fifteen thousand was handed in, the takings for two of the towers are missing. Daniels tells them they are to find the money and bring it back in, Herc and Carver are genuinely innocent of this but Carver still throws a quizzical look at Herc.

Omar arrives at Proposition Joes’s place with the stash bag; he places it in front of Joe who checks it. Joe is amazed that Omar is still stealing Avon’s stuff despite the reward on his head and asks what he’s done it for. Omar gifts it to Joe in exchange for a way to contact Avon. Omar’s plan is win-win for Joe and he agrees.

Herc and Carver strip apart their car searching for the money; Carver finds it in the trunk wheel well where it had fallen after the bag ripped.

In Orlando’s Avon is sat with Orlando and Wee-Bey counting money. Wee-Bey heads on out to get a burger while Omar watches. He then pages Avon an emergency page with Wee-Bey’s code. Avon heads out to check but then heads back in. Omar pages him a second time and Avon – after refusing the offer of Orlando’s phone – heads out to a payphone. Avon calls the number and gets a hang up while Omar heads towards him. Wee-Bey suddenly returns with the burger when Omar opens up. He misses and is winged by Wee-Bey.

The payphone receiver hangs, swinging…

The Catchphrases:
What the f*&k did I do? x 4
I’ve got a proposition for you x 2

The Review:

By now you must be pretty familiar with the score, Game Day is a transitional episode which serves a few purposes, first of all it makes the viewer a little more familiar with the way paper trails are followed up by the police, a rare piece of exposition for the show but a nessacery one for most viewers. It also introduces the character of Proposition Joe, another major player in the Baltimore drug trade and one positioned in opposition to the Barksdales.

Daniels is left clearly in an awkward position by the change in empathsis of the investigation, he’s looking for simple and clean police work which will catch Avon ‘doing the deed’ and wrap up the arrest without ruffling too many higher up peacocks. But the people who he’s working with are not that way inclined. McNulty is after Avon with his method, he’s convinced that the wire is the method of choice; Freamon on the other hand is showing his natural instincts by heading after the money trail. This is a pursuit which has two major results, first of all property seizures are always good for a police department. They result in money which helps operating budgets. But as Freamon himself has mentioned, the money goes everywhere and as such there is a very real chance they’re going to follow after someone who’s important and powerful enough to cause some real problems.

It’s very difficult to review this episode because in all honesty it is an episode without any serious major events for the case. Omar’s attempt on Avon’s life at the end of the episode is exciting and a great example of just how far Omar will go when pushed, he’s not a man who’s interested in the underlings as such anymore. He’s going for the head of the organisation now. But his failure means any further attempts on Avon’s life are going to be impossible, the already cautious Avon will be even more careful now. It’s good news for the Detail that Omar failed as well, if Omar had killed Wee-Bey or Avon then they’d be left trying to sniff after Stringer, a man who’s possibly even more cautious than Avon.

There are four episodes left in this season so there’s plenty to come before the first part of our journey is over. But if you’ve made it this far congratulations are in order, all that watching, the learning of characters and deciphering of the Baltimore slang (Po-lice, Five-O!) and following the plot as it goes is going to pay off soon big time.


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