“If I Hear the music, I’m gonna dance.”
Teleplay by Joy Lusco Kecken
Directed by Elodie Keene
Dominic West (Officer Jimmy McNulty), Lance Reddick (Lieutenant Cedric Daniels), Sonja Sohn (Sergeant Kima Greggs), Wood Harris (Avon Barksdale), Idris Elba (Stringer Bell), John Doman (Colonel William Rawls), Wendell Pierce (Bunk Moreland), Paul Ben Victor (Spiros "Vondas" Vondopoulos), Clarke Peters (Lester Fremon), Amy Ryan (Beatrice "Beadie" Russell) and Chris Bauer (Frank Sobotka) and J.D Williams (Bodie)
Jim True-Frost as (Detective Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski), James Ransone (Ziggy Sobotka), Pablo Schreiber (Nick Sobotka), Al Brown (Major Stan Valchek), Delaney Williams (Sergeant Jay Landsman), Luray Cooper (Nat Coxson), Ted Feldman (George "Double G" Glekas), Melanie Nicholls-King (Cheryl), Leo Fitzpatrick (Johnny), Robert Hogan (Louis Sobotka), Michael Kostroff (Maurice Levy), Elisabeth Noone (Joan Sobotka), Kelli R. Brown (Kimmy), Stanley "Scoogie" Boyd (Cherry), Leslie Elliard as (Officer Kevin Reynolds), Charley Scalies (Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa), Jill Redding (Delores), Jeffrey Pratt Gordon (Johnny "Fifty" Spamanato), Antonio Charity (CO Dwight Tilghman), Kristin Proctor (Aimee), Callie Thorne (Elena McNulty) and Michael K. Williams (Omar Little)
Frank Sobotka is sat out by the waterfront gazing out across the water, his nephew Nicky comes up and asks him what’s up. Apparently Frank phoned him up at seven and arranged to meet him here for some mysterious reason; Nicky is quite vocal in expressing his opinion about this. (Have I mentioned how much I like Nicky and Frank Sobotka by the way? Great characters). Frank’s concerned about getting shipments, there’s not a lot of reasons to use the Baltimore port, apart from good service with all goods being offloaded quickly and then being shipped to where they need to be fast and intact. Without being stolen. In short, he’s telling Nicky that those stolen cameras need to be returned, Nicky tells him they have already been flipped. Frank’s concerned about keeping work flowing through the port, Nicky’s concerned about making money as he’s not getting enough days to survive. Frank tells him if he needs money Nicky just needs to ask, and Nicky insinuates that Frank’s doing a bit too well for himself. Frank becomes very angry at this and tears a strip out of Nicky, explaining that the money he’s making isn’t for him – it’s for the docks. Nicky understands. Frank’s also angry that Ziggy was dragged into this. They leave and head in, Frank wants to know the details. Nicky admits how much, but doesn’t grass up Tommy for his part. Frank then tells him no-one should flash their cash around and Nicky agrees.
Cue the credits.
In the warden’s office at Baltimore County, the warden and his staff are discussing the hot shots which Avon had Butchie sell to Tilghman last episode. The opinion is that this might well be intentional, but there is a possibility it’s just bad junk. The warden wants this dealt with and he’s told he’ll need to get an informant to do that – if he’s willing to shave some years from their sentences.
A lift opens and McNulty arrives in Homicide, he walks past Rawls and salutes the man. Rawls can only watch in stunned silence as McNulty walks past. He passes Winona and is greeted by Landsman who calls him ‘Gilligan’ a reference to being stuck on the boat – if you recall it is Landsman who’s responsible for putting him there. McNulty attempts to chat a little, but gets the cold shoulder from Freamon and the Bunk, so he asks Beadie if they have any paperwork from the can where the girls were held. She tells him it’s down in evidence control and he retrieves the submission slips from Lester. Bunk then corrals him, telling him that he needs Omar. McNulty tells Bunk he’s got him covered. Needless to say Bunk and Freamon are a little incredulous that McNulty has Omar tracked down.
Burrell is meeting with Daniels about Valchek’s request. As far as Daniels is concerned he’s handed in his papers. But Burrell offers a clean slate and spins a story, claiming he needs “people he can trust” in the department, Daniels doesn’t by that, Burrell admits Daniels betrayed him before – but then goes on to say that Daniels seems to know his business and dangles a potential promotion in front of him. A good return on the harbour detail and Burrell will help angle Daniels in for position as a Major in the South East. Needless to say Daniels is a little suspicious, especially after the treatment he received after the Barksdale case. Burrell then moves on to tell him about the case and gets close to admitting that this is a political move and Valchek is involved. Daniels is sharp enough to realise the situation right there and then, he knows he has Burrell over a barrel here and makes a counter offer. If Daniels lands a case then the detail becomes a permanent unit in CID. Burrell agrees, but Daniels has one final condition – he gets to choose his own people. Burrell hesitates but agrees, Daniels is to give the list to Rawls.
McNulty is down in evidence control sifting through the shelves while at the cafeteria in Baltimore County the inmates are discussing the hot shots while Dee listens. McNulty digs through the evidence and finds a jacket, and some other bits.
In Dolores’s bar Ziggy is playing with one of the cameras and flashes his cash a little. He decided to keep one of cameras for himself, Nicky tells him to be a little more discrete with the cash and they talk a little about the camera. Nicky then tells him that Frank knows what happened because Horse told him. Ziggy agrees to keep a low profile for a while and they go back to talking about the camera. Ziggy then cracks out a shot of his Johnson in the bar. Enjoy the back view, I shan't be sharing the front one.
McNulty is at home, drinking, listening to his phone messages and looking at the photo of the floating Jane Doe. The messages reveal just how out of control his life is, as does his sighing and flopping backwards into bed. He's a driven man with an empty life.
Nicky is awoken by the alarm clock in his basement room, his girlfriend spent the night with him. They talk a little about the plans for the day and then she changes clothes. Nicky makes a grab for one of her breasts “because they were staring right at him” and then heads off. A little something for the gentlemen to balance all the man flesh we’ve had so far this season.
Bunk, Freamon and Beadie are sat in a car at the docks, they’re discussing how the container got off the ship and off the dock. The checkers are pretty much key to this and they need to talk to one of them. Beadie informs them that they won’t get anyone to talk with them about this, when asked how she makes cases she tells them just how routine her job is. Noting damaged or open containers and making reports is the extent of it. She’s done this for two years now, but it’s better than her previous job serving tolls at the Fort McHenry tunnel. She didn’t become police because she wanted to, but because she needed the extra money the job brought in.
In the cells, Dee heads over to Avon’s cell to talk with him. He’s curious why Avon told him to stop using just before the hot shots hit the prisoners. Avon refuses to admit he had nothing to do with it, but Dee doesn’t believe him – Avon virtually runs the prison from inside his shelf. Dee wants him to stop pulling stuff like this, Avon continues to deny and switches on to talking about getting them out of the prison earlier. Avon knows who brought the goods in – of course he does, as he’s the one who had Tilghman followed and the stuff spiked – and tells Dee he can pass on the name to him and get them out faster. Dee refuses to have anything to do with it and asks to be left alone to do his time.
McNulty pulls up alongside the burnt out remains of Omar’s van (remember when that happened in season one?) and leaves a note for the man. He then asks a group of kids if they’ve seen Omar. They don’t respond.
Ott and Nicky are pleased as they drive around the port terminal, they’ve had a whole six ships arrive with goods, which is good news for them all. Then Zig steps up in front of the cart wearing an Italian leather coat – so much for keeping a low profile on the cash front Zig… He then goes on to boast about how much he spent on the jacket (two grand) so Nicky climbs out of the cart and has words with Zig once Ott drives off. Zig isn’t listening, Nicky then goes on to say that the Greeks want to talk with them (as they pulled off a good job) and tells him to try and keep things on a lower profile.
McNulty is drive around the streets of Baltimore trying to keep an eye out for Omar. He pulls up on a street corner to the cries of “five-oh, five-oh” and the one ‘holding’ drops the drugs onto the floor in the gutter. He climbs out of the car and they turn to assume the position against the wall. McNulty tells them he doesn’t care about the drugs and isn’t here to bust them, but that he does care about the littering so they should “Pick up that shit when I’m gone.” Classic McNulty (have I mentioned how much I like McNulty recently?) He’s looking for Omar and after describing him he asks them if they’ve seen him around. They reply in a somewhat derogatory fashion and depart.
Stringer’s got problems with the new line from Atlanta, it’s more expensive than the old connect and it isn’t as good. He tells them to cut the stuff further, it might already be weak but they need to make their money back somehow. He really needs a new supplier.
Lester and The Bunk (Wouldn’t that make for a great spin-off show?) are in Rawls’s office talking about the case so far and how difficult it’s proving to be. Rawls feels they should have held up the Atlantic Light, had the scene scoured for evidence and interrogated every single crew member until they broke. Freamon attempts to reason with him about it, but Rawls drops the bottom line – the red Jane Does on the board must go black or they’ll end up taking the fall. McNulty continues seeking Omar when he spots no other than Bubbles and Johnny dressed up and boarding a bus. He decides to follow it.
Nicky and Zig meet up with Double G at the Greek’s diner; apparently the Greeks need Nicky and Zig to get their hands on some supplies, chemicals in large supply. Five or ten tonnes of them and they are willing to pay well for this. Nicky leaves without saying a word.
Bubbles and Johnny walk out of a store when they are hailed by McNulty, they’ve been stealing and McNulty calls in the tax on the items. They need to either show him a receipt for the items they shoplifted or find Omar for him, Bubbles reluctantly agrees.
Levy and Avon are talking with the warden about the hot shots (confirmed as heroin), Avon is willing to give them the name in exchange for an early parole hearing with the support of the prison institution in favour of letting him out. Levy and Avon move around on this subject and handle things well, providing themselves with plenty of leverage.
Nicky’s mother is cooking in the kitchen when Nicky returns, she tells him to go fetch his father Leon who’s at the bar virtually gambling. He runs the betting without actually placing money and he’s seven grand up, but he’s never actually bet a penny. They talk a little then head home.
Rawls is in his office with Daniels, he has the list of the people Daniels wants on the detail and he’s willing to provide assistance in whatever shape possible. With one exception, McNulty who will have to stay on his boat until he either leaves the force or drowns overboard. Rawls is not going to forget those fourteen red names in a hurry.
Kima is stuck in her car with Cheryl behind a bunch of frats who are messing about, she wants to get out and confront them but Cheryl talks her down, at least until one of the frat boys stands up and drops his trousers. Kima tells the lad to get down and he responds in the vulgar negative. So she hauls him off the bonnet of the car and handcuffs him. Cheryl watches disapprovingly.
Daniels is at home watching a dog show on the television; his wife Marla comes in and tells him to come upstairs. He hasn’t told her about the new detail yet clearly.
The following day Zig arrives in checking to talk with Johnny but there are none of the chemicals on the Greek’s list in the port. They’re over at Fairfield, Ott’s brother-in-law works there but that’s about it as far as a contact goes. Johnny then asks what the Greeks want with these chemicals, Zig says he doesn’t know. On the way out, Y scoots his chair back and spills coffee across it “accidentally on purpose” and then confronts him.
Daniels talks with Kima about the fresh new detail, Kima isn’t convinced Cheryl will be happy about this and Daniels understands because Marla will also be angry when she finds out. Daniels offers her a spot on the inside, but Kima tells him if she’s in – she’s In and agrees.
In Stringer’s office he hands over a package to one of his men. Bubs is in his flop house with Johnny talking about Omar, Johnny is reluctant to get involved, Bubs is more resigned to getting involved. (Girl Robber) is talking with an older woman in the place about a new stash house when Bubs rolls in and asks Pops about Omar while Kimmy listens. As Bubs leaves, Kimmy watches him.
Levy and Avon have a second meeting with the warden, this time to discuss terms and give Tilghman’s name. As long as Tilghman is found with evidence on either his person, his locker or in his car then Avon’s deal will go through. After Avon leaves, the head guard speculates (correctly) that Avon is the one who spiked the packages – but the Attorney says that they’ll make the case they can make and leaves.
Valchek receives another letter, this time from New Orleans where the surveillance van has made its next stop (wouldn’t it be amazing if this van made a cameo in Treme?) It goes without saying that Valchek is less than pleased, but he’s all smiles when Daniels walks in. Valchek brings Daniels up to speed on the case he wants made and then asks him to come along and see the offices set aside.
McNulty is getting the letter translated in hope of identifying Jane Doe #14 (The floater), the letter mentions an Anya; but the letter isn’t addressed to anyone specifically. But it is signed Nadya, so McNulty has a name – even if he doesn’t have an address. The only place mentioned is a Saint Volodymyrs (St Vladmir) and a priest Father Vasyl. These are common names, but the woman he asked for the translation from will try to find something out.
Nicky is out walking with Aimee and his daughter, he’s thinking there’s enough to buy a place and for them to live together. Tilghman is heading to his car when the warden and his men head over towards him. They want to search the vehicle for goods. He refuses, claiming they have no warrant, but as the vehicle is on DOC property it can be subject to a search. Zig is sat at Y’s terminal while Johnny watches.
Meanwhile Tilghman’s car is seached and a familiar looking package is found. The very same package which Stringer handed over earlier on, Avon’s had Tilghman set up and he’s now done for.
Bunk, Freamon and Beadie arrive at the docks, triggering a lot of whistling from the stevedores. They’ve been marked out as police and everyone has been warned. Bunk heads over to Horseface, he’s unhelpful and they tell him to come with them to talk about this. Horseface refuses to go with them unless they arrest him, at which point he will lawyer up. Zig is walking out of the checkers when Frank slaps him around the head. He then sees Bunk and Co. talking to Horse. Y gets back to his terminal and is greeted by a pleasant sight; Ziggy has transferred the shot of his wang onto his computer. Needless to say he’s not thrilled about this. I shall spare you the image from the screen this time; you’ve already enjoyed his backside in this recap.
Valchek has arrived with Daniels, Herc and Kima. Inside Prez is waiting as Polk and the other humps have been moved back to Burrell. The gang reunites and Valchek offers his support in any fashion possible. Herc then attempts to get Carver shifted into the team. Daniels then lays out the plan; they’re going to do what they can for a few weeks and see what happens.
Bubs and Johnny are walking along talking when they find some scrap metal. As you’ll recall from the first season (and The Corner if you’ve seen it) selling scrap metal is a common way for the less fortunate to make money, it’s only a few dollars here or there but to people with nothing that’s a fortune. As Bubs struggles with the radiator Omar looms out of the shadows behind him and calls his name. He’s armed with his signature shotgun which he cocks and aims with a quick “You be asking for me?”
There’s now one of those rare montages which are used in the Wire but only sparingly. In this case it’s a mix of the meals between Kima and Cheryl, and Daniels and Marla. Two different dinners with very much the same scenario playing out, there’s a very clever use of music here with some frenetic classical music being played out. It’s energetic and adds to the level of tension both scenes have. Cheryl and Marla are both exceptionally angry at their respective partners over these developments.
McNulty is at his wife Elena’s place, he’s gifted her the headphones and walkman stolen by Bubs - says a lot about McNulty there really. She wants to know if he’s had a lawyer look at the papers, apparently McNulty shouldn’t sign them because he’s giving away too much. But he signed them anyway, because he doesn’t care about the money. He wants to get back together with her and I can't blame him, because she's played by Callie Thorne.
In Stringer’s office the TV is turned on to show a news report about the arrest of Tilghman. Stringer remains as cool and collected as ever, simply remarking that he needs to get back to studying. But afterwards you can see he’s a little pleased.
Beadie, Lester and The Bunk arrive in Dolores’s place. Bunk walks up and eyes Horseface who gets up and walks over to the duke box. Horse puts some money in, but Bunk selects the song. Ott and Frank are elsewhere in the bar talking a little when Beadie, Freamon and Bunk surround him. He finishes his drink and looks at Bunk, he then asks after them. He’s never seen them before; normally he only gets involved with Port Police. Bunk informs him they are homicide, Frank asks who was killed, Bunk reminds him about the girls in the can, Frank claims it was an accident, Bunk disagrees. Frank makes his excuses and leaves. Nicky watches the whole thing. Frank heads to the bar’s bathroom and sticks his head in the sink for a drink of water. He then stares at himself in the mirror, regaining his composure before walking back out into the bar…
The episode title “Hard Cases” refers to not just the difficulties being faced by Prez, Bunk, Freamon and McNulty in their respective cases, but also too many of the individuals present in the episode. McNulty is of course an original hard case, but likewise Horseface also proves himself to be one as well.
This is also the first episode of the season in which the teleplay wasn't written by David Simon; but Joy's work is more than up to the task and I think if I'm honest the episode is a little better than Hot Shots which preceeded it. There's some good flow to the episode and plenty of nudity for both the genders to enjoy, then again - there has been a lot of nude backs and fronts in this season, something which is somewhat reflected in the title credits. I wouldn't go as far as to call the season 'steamy' but it's certainly not something for the kids (as if the first season was...) On the other hand, much of the nudity in The Wire exists either naturally (as in he/she is naked just because someone would be naked in that situation) or for laughs (mostly where Ziggy is concerned).
As I've mentioned Ziggy, I think it's worth talking a little about him here. He's certainly a lot less annoying for myself on this rewatch, I think the first time I saw the second season of The Wire my attitude towards Ziggy alternated between amusement and annoyance, but now I've come to appreciate just how good James Ransom's performance is as Ziggy (it helped seeing him play a different role in Generation Kill). While the character is little more than a clown a lot of the time he's actually quite tragic as well, a definate example of disillusioned young adulthood in action.
At this point I think it's more than possible to see the wheels in motion, while there isn't that much character conflict in Hard Cases, the plot progresses in a most agreeable fashion. Despite the on screen exposure to Ziggy's manhood I really enjoy this episode - it's solid and exciting build up towards later events.