Watching The Wire: Season Two: Episode Three - Hot Shots

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“What They Need is a Union”
-- Officer Beatrice "Beadie" Russell

Teleplay by David Simon
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),Charley Scalies (Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa), Jill Redding (Delores), Jeffrey Pratt Gordon (Johnny "Fifty" Spamanato), Michael Willis (Andy Krawczyk), Jeremy Nichols (Atlantic Light First Mate), Nat Benchley (Detective Augustus Polk), Ernest Waddell (Dante), Shamyl Brown (Donette), Michael Mack (Special Agent Marcus Lemmel), Kevin Murray (Special Agent Cleary), Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (Senator Clay Davis), Antonio Charity (CO Dwight Tilghman), Erik Todd Dellums (Dr. Randall Frazier), Antonio Cordova (Michael McNulty), Eric Ryan (Sean McNulty), Richard Burton (Shaun "Shamrock" McGinty), S. Robert Morgan (Butchie), Kristin Proctor (Aimee), Callie Thorne (Elena McNulty) and Michael K. Williams (Omar Little)

The Summary:

Read about digital cameras, "posion pills" and more reasons why you don't mess with Valchek beyond the link...

The Recap:

Omar has returned to the streets of Baltimore and he’s back to old habits, casing and working over the stashes belonging to dealers. He’s out in the streets talking with his newest boyfriend Dante about their next job and scoping it out, when the very stash house he planned to take is hit in broad daylight by two broads (Kimmy and Tosha).

As Omar himself says “That’s somethin’ you don’t see every day.”

Cue the credits.

After the credits we’re treated to a montage of interviews conducted by Bunk and Freamon, the common thread in each of them is the complete inability or unwillingness of any man to speak English. It’s the crew from the Atlantic Light who are being interviewed here and it is serious slow going, not surprising considering what went onboard that ship. None of the crew has anything to gain from talking, eventually they’ll move on – it’s not like they have to live in Baltimore. Needless to say Bunk and Freamon lose patience and express their impatience and annoyance in classic fashion, ranting gibberish, quoting Samuel L. Jackson and growing angrier as time passes.

The only things which are clear are that two crew members are missing and the can which contained the women came from this ship. The missing members are called Osman and Choksey, we know one of them was the handler and is now deceased (at Vondro’s hands) and the other one is the one who most likely killed both the floating Jane Doe and the others. At this point there is a high chance that the Greek and his men have either found the second one or are closing in on him, you don’t cross the Greek and get away with it.

The skipper (I think) when asked by Freamon notes that an unusual amount of crew members were asking for advances while on ship. The assumption was they were gambling, but Freamon thinks otherwise. The skipper then goes on to tell them that they’re unlikely to get any more information out of the crew than they have already, even with interpreters.

Nicky is at his girlfriend Aimee’s work with his daughter (Ashely), Aimee’s a hairdresser and Ashley is in pre-school, apparently Nick and Aimee have a few problems living a normal family life, most notable is the lack of money – which means they can’t afford a home. Nicky’s every bit as proud as his uncle Frank though, both with regards to his hair and his job. He ends up offending her and she walks away.

McNulty is down in evidence control where he meet Daniels, he muses on the Lieutenant’s misfortune about this posting. Cedric Daniels landed in a very similar kettle of hot fish at the end of the last season, he was influenced by McNulty significantly in the end, chasing after the case instead of following the brass’s orders – as such he got shit canned in almost exactly the way Lester Freamon was over thirteen years ago (Freamon got pawnshop unit but the job is similar). Things in The Wire tend to happen in cyclic natures, it’s because The Wire is modelled after Greek tradgedies and the Greeks believed in a cyclic nature of time – things just keep happening the same as before, only the players are different. But I’ll write more about this as time progresses, because it’s a theme which we will return to.

Daniels and McNulty share a little small talk about the fortunes of the other members of their original Detail. They then talk about the Gant case and Omar while McNulty returns some evidence. Then McNulty mentions how he reckons Daniels will be back out of Evidence control in a couple of years and Daniels responds that he’s put in his papers and will be leaving soon enough.

In west Baltimore the two girls who pulled the stick up job; Kimmy and Tosha, are celebrating while we see the menacing silhouette of a man with a large pistol. The two women are so busy celebrating that they’re caught by surprise as Dante and then Omar himself walk in. "Omar's Back".

In homicide Bunk and Freamon walk in with Beadie in tow. Landsman calls Bunk over to show him an unwittingly funny typo of the word prostrate, missing the second “r” and spelling it as prostate instead. Bunk then brings Landsman up to speed on their success at the Atlantic Light in Philadelphia, or more accurately their lack of it. Landsman isn’t too happy with this, but there wasn’t much either of the detectives could have managed. Landsman wants to know what they plan to do next, they have no answers. Landsman then heads over to talk with Beadie, in his own immutable way he tells her that she should start wearing plain clothes while she’s working this case. As always his delivery of the two descriptions for Bunk (“pinstriped, lawyerly affectations) and Freamon (“brash, tweedy impertinence) is just fantastic and hilarious.

Valchek is talking with an officer in the car park about the surveillance van; it’s been noticed missing. The keys for the van are still around, but the van is not, it was stolen last episode by Horseface. And sure enough, in Wilmington the van has arrived, a port bumper sticker is attached to it and a photograph is taken.

In the new detail offices Prez sighs as he looks at a picture of Frank Sobotka, he’s surrounded by lazy and incompetent detectives who aren’t interested or capable of insight. Prez attempts to introduce some of the techniques he was introduced to in the Barksdale case, but is met with indifference.

Kimmy and Tosha walk up to another stash house, watched by Omar and Dante. Elsewhere Stringer is talking on the phone about mobile phones; as he’s seen Poot and noticed he has two phones. He calls this an example of market saturation, as Tilghman arrives. Back in the street the two lasses walk over to talk with Omar and pass on the information about the stash house.

Later that evening, in a back alley Butchie is gambling with Tilghman, the subject of their betting being a rat and a small dog named Junk. The betting ends when Junk kills the rat and Butchie walks off laughing hysterically.

Omar and his boyfriend are together in their room talking about the plan, Dante isn’t happy about working with the two girls, he wants to do things the way they’ve always done them before, but Omar can see the potential in working with these women. The pair then embrace and kiss; a little something for the ladies.

Back at Butchie’s bar Tilghman is settling his bet and buying some “stuff”, he’s watched by Stringer’s men as he collects outside and then drives off.

McNulty and his boys pull up at his wife’s house, they argue about Elves (the difference between Santa’s and the ones in Lord of the Rings – for the record, both kinds suck), before he and his wife talk about a “separation agreement”. She goes back in the house and we watch McNulty through the door’s small window. His face trapped and confined by the frame before he turns and walks away.

Nicky and Zig are at the port the following morning, they’re talking about the lack of work. Nicky is concerned about a lack of solid wages coming in, Ziggy is happy about a day off. Ziggy shows his usual sensitive concern by responding to Nicky’s worries with an enquiry about Aimee’s sister. He then attempts to push the idea of selling drugs again but Nicky isn’t interested.

Bunk and Beadie are driving around looking for the place where the can was supposed to be delivered, but it’s clear the address is fake and the one at the other end probably is too. As Bunk says himself “it’s a can of dead girls sent from nowhere to nowhere”, a seriously hard case to crack. Later that day McNulty stands by the port looking at a picture of the dead girl and her family.

Stringer is talking with Butchie about Tilghman; Stringer wants to use Butchie for the set up, Butchie’s concerned about the money – Stringer says he’ll make it right and that it’s for Avon. Butchie agrees to help as it’s for Avon. He then says Tilghman will probably call by tomorrow.

McNulty is back talking with Dr Frazier about the girls, it doesn’t make any sense to him why the girls were killed and the one girl was dumped first. All that can be confirmed at this stage is they’re eastern European at least three of the girls were in Hungry, Budapest recently as their fake breasts can be traced through serial numbers. Additionally a lot of them had had sex before dying, Frazier goes on to tell McNulty that Cole is no longer on the job, instead it’s now Bunk and Freamon – McNulty looks annoyed at himself. He didn’t care about the splash hitting Cole, but Bunk and Freamon are friends.

Outside the stash house Tosha is walking a Chantelle to the stash house where she calls for Mr Stump, Stump opens the door to find Omar, Dante and Tosha with guns pointed. He rabbits.

Tilghman is loading powder (cocaine I believe) into cigarettes in preparation for smuggling them into the prison. This is how he makes a little money on the side, he buys the stuff from Butchie and then smuggles it in past the other guards, no-one thinks to check a packet of cigarettes and there are no sniffer dogs.

Back in homicide McNulty arrives and is immediately greeted by Bunk’s first “You happy now bitch?” of the season. McNulty is apologetic about what happened and has a few little bits of information for them. He has a theory about all of this, but Bunk and Freamon already know most of his theory and extrapolates it out in front of him. McNulty wants to help where he can as he’s a little bothered about the end fate for those girls if they’re not identified – medical cadavers followed by cremation and a mass grave. Beadie agrees with him on that one.

Father Lewandowski is hosting a meeting for many political types, giving Frank a chance to push his cause and try to win votes. Initially he talks to one guy, but he’s considered a safe vote already and Frank is told by DiBiago that he needs to talk to John Carney, Liz Tobin and Clay Davis (remember him?) to secure the hard to reach votes. Clay in particular is a difficult one; he’s already been brined with forty thousand and is still asking for more. Frank goes over to talk to Clay who makes it clear he expects more.

Bunk, Freamon and Beadie head over to talk with two special agents about the girls, they confirm that the lost earnings from that many prostitutes works into the millions. Bunk’s suspicions are confirmed as well, the address in LeHarve is also a dead end. As they sit there the magnitude of the business and revenue in human trafficking like this hits them.

Valchek and Prez are having dinner with their family while they talk about Prez’s detail. Valchek feels things should be progressing as people like Lieutenant Grayson came with Burrell’s recommendation. Prez tells him it’ll take a while and then admits not much is happening, he fills in everything which he thinks should be happening and isn’t. He then goes on to say how things should be done in full detail, how the Barksdale case could have been worth millions in real estate and even hit political candidates. He then goes on to explain how Burrell sank the case while Valchek listens.

Donette is at home when Stringer calls to visit, he’s checking up on the pair to make sure they’re OK. Or at least that’s what he claims. He goes on to ask if D’Angelo knows what he’s missing before sitting down. After a moment Donette comes out with a suit for Stringer, String isn’t happy about her trying to give away his clothes and tells her she should stop trying to forget about him and instead go visit him, because if Dee begins to crack then the Barksdales are in trouble. He then gets up and the pair kiss and begin to undress on the couch.

At the bar Bunk, McNulty and Beadie are having a few drinks. Beadie says she’ll have to leave now because she has kids at home. She attempts to pay but Bunk isn’t having any of it, so she leaves. McNulty then goes on to talk about the floater, he intends to find out who the girl was and who she is, give her a proper burial. Bunk theorises its McNulty’s Catholic upbringing making him feel guilty. McNulty responds with a “what do I have to feel guilt about?” Classic McNulty.

Next day Valchek arrives in his office and sits down to read his mail. One envelope in particular catches his eye, he finds inside a Polaroid of the surveillance van showing it in a can on the dock with some longshanks standing pointing to it. He’s not impressed.

Frank is in his office when Ring comes in to talk with him, Ring’s got a problem with his dues, he’s late on them and lacking hours. It’s a problem which is killing him and he needs to move on to a different area. Frank gives him a little cash and tells Ring to go to Delores’s bar and ask for a beer and a shot on him. One round and then go home and if Ring still feels like leaving the following day then it’s fine by Frank.

Up in the port can control Johnny is monitoring the cans; Ziggy comes in and asks for a winner. Nicky arrives with a truck cab and Johnny tells him where to go for the can, Ziggy heads over to talk with Horse, getting the can moved to K-122 for pick up by Nicky. The pair of them get it hitched onto the cab and Nicky rolls out, giving Horse a quick wink when he’s seen by him. Johnny watches Nick drive out of the port with the can as a ‘misdelivery’.

Tilghman is in Butchies paying for his goods. Junk starts barking at him and then he leaves. Butchie comments that Avon has “no flex”.

Dee is in the library putting books back on the shelves when Avon comes to talk with him. Avon asks how Dee’s finding working in the library and then hints that he sorted it out for him. Dee is still very angry with Avon, but Avon tries to convince him that it’ll all be sorted and that he’ll be out soon enough. Avon is unhappy with what Dee’s doing in here, talking drugs and so on. Avon isn’t happy with this, he believes in selling, not using drugs, and he asks Dee to stop. Dee agrees for a few days at least.

Nicky and Ziggy arrive at an electrical outlet store, they’re out back when they are met by George "Double G" Alexander Glekas the manager, they have around four hundred digital cameras which should go four around five hundred. They’re looking at about two hundred thousand at retail, Nicky wants twenty percent of that, but is offered only eight percent for a total of sixteen thousand. Nicky pushes for twenty thousand and gets it. Ziggy takes a picture, George snatches the camera from him angrily and smashes it.

Polk and the others are playing cards when Valchek storms in; apparently Lieutenant Greyson is on the street. Valchek looks around and sees how little progress is made. Later on Burrell is talking with people when Valchek arrives, less than impressed with the humps that have been sent for his detail. Burrell wants to talk about this later, but Valchek wants to talk now, he threatens Burrell with various things. Valchek is a powerful political animal and could sink Burrell’s chances at becoming commissioner with just a few conversations. Burrell asks him what he wants and Valchek asks for a new detail, one headed up by Daniels. Burrell tells him that Daniels is out of the department and Valchek tells him to talk to Daniels otherwise there will be an ugly fight over Burrell’s promotion.

In prison Tilghman hands over the cigarettes to an inmate who re-cuts them and then hands them out elsewhere. Dee is on his usual route, but passes on it.

George talks with Vondros about the cameras, Vondros is interested in who delivered them, when he hears it’s Ziggy and Nicky he’s a little reticent, but they are both of the opinion Nicky is smart enough to make up for Ziggy’s shortcomings. So Vondos tells him to make the deal.

In Delores’s bar Ziggy is quiet, Delores wants to know what’s up with him and he says he made money today. Then Ring arrices, asking for a drink which Frank says he needs. She then hands him his change, a significant amount of money for Ring. Ziggy watches the whole thing unfold and then Delores turns to Ziggy and tells him Frank’s a good man.

Mcnulty arrives back at his house; he opens up the paperwork for the settlement, glances at it and throws it on the floor.

In prison Dee and the other inmates are awoken by several inmates falling ill. Dee watches through the frame in the door (similar image to the one which framed McNulty earlier) as people are carted away on dollies. Then the camera pans towards Avon’s cell, where we see through the window that he’s laying back, relaxed and reading. He already knows what’s happened, what will happen and where Tilghman is going to end up…

The Review:

The title of the episode refers not to the rather fun comedy movie starring Charlie Sheen, but instead to the package given to Tilghman. Hot shots are poisoned drugs, used to kill someone (or in this case make them very ill in order to bring Tilghman under suspicion.) But it also has connitations elsewhere in this season, the concept of a hot shot is not something which can be limited to just poisoned drugs. There are plenty of "good deals" with poison consequences abounding in The Wire. So it's a concept which you should keep an eye out for, in more subtle forms at least.

The second, more ironic element is Beadie's tag line about the prostitutes needing to form a union. It's quite a statement coming from a female officer, but it's also exceptionally ironic in the context of the second season which is showing a Union struggling to stay alive and protect it's members.

Hot Shots is probably the largest lull in the storyline of this season, the honest truth is very little actually happens. The story continues to provide development, character and a few more bits of progress here or there but the major events are few and far between. The most significant of which is probably Frank Sobotka's surviellance van hijinks, which goad Valchek into action. He has considerable pressure, and turns on Burrell, seeking a new and fresher detail filled with skilled people. Burrell isn't a man with enough power or spine to face down Valchek at this point and as such wheels have been put in motion. Most likely if Frank didn't provoke Valchek any further the detail assigned to him would waste time playing cards, Prez would whine a bit and then it would be shut down. A proper Polk operation.

Instead Burrell now has to take it seriously, and this could be bad news for Sobotka and the Stevedores.

While The Wire is always a visual treat, this episode in particular is filled with stunning scene after scene. So many of them are well shot and meaningful, I was very intrigued with the multiple "through the window" door shots, there's the one of Daniels in evidence control, one of McNulty at his home and then another pair at the end of the episode - one showing Dee and the other Avon. I'm sure there's meaning behind them, but right now I can't put my finger on it...

I suspect it's something to do with the characters positions, stuck on the wrong side and forced to look through a window at the world they want to be in. But I'm not sure. I'm open to suggestions here.


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