Watching The Wire - Season Two - Episode Two: Collateral Damage.

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“They can chew you up, but they gotta spit you back out.”
-- McNulty

Teleplay by David Simon
Directed by Ed Bianchi

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), Michael Hyatt (Brianna Barksdale), Al Brown (Major Stan Valchek), Delaney Williams (Sergeant Jay Landsman) Chris Ashworth (Sergei "Serge/Boris" Malatov), Luray Cooper (Nat Coxson), Jeffrey Fugitt (Claude Diggins), Hassan Johnson (Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice), Ted Feldman (George "Double G" Glekas),Charley Scalies (Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa), Jill Redding (Delores), Bus Howard (Ott), Robert F. Colesberry (Detective Ray Cole), Maria Broom (Marla Daniels), Gerard Ender (Sam), Jeffrey Fugitt (Claude Diggins), Brook Yeaton ("White" Mike McArdle), Kelvin Davis (La La), Jeffrey Pratt Gordon(Johnny "Fifty" Spamanato), Antonio Charity (CO Dwight Tilghman), Leslie Elliard (Officer Kevin Reynolds), Michael Willis (Andy Krawczyk), Jeremy Nichols (Atlantic Light First Mate), Nat Benchley (Detective Augustus Polk) and Bill Raymond (Old Man/The Greek)

The Summary:

Major Valchek gets back at Sobotka for the church gift fiasco, and a feud begins. Avon Barksdale continues to run his empire from a prison cell. On the waterfront, Port Police Office Beatrice Russell gets stuck investigating the contraband found in The Greek’s container. McNulty lends a hand with the investigation, though for vindictive reasons.

Read about passing the buck, why you don't mess with Valchek and the price of business beyond the link...

The Recap:

The bodies of the thirteen young women found in the container which The Greek's man Sergei refused to collect (in Ebb Tide) and Frank Sobotka had dumped in the pile are laid out on the floor of a warehouse in white body bags, it’s speculated they are from Eastern Europe and that the air pipe was accidentally crushed during off loading. Doctor Frazier confirms that he will start cutting the bodies for examination this afternoon and asks that any identification found should be passed onto him. He then asks who’s responsible for these bodies, there’s a hesitation and a discussion breaks out, no department or authority wants thirteen Jane Does dumped onto them, statistics and clearances are of huge importance to any Baltimore police department. Baltimore State agrees to ‘eat’ the charge, there is no evidence of foul play so they don’t plan to open a case folder or investigate. Beadie is the one left (figuratively) holding all the paperwork, surrounded by the bodies.

Cue the credits…

The old man is at Little Johnny’s restaurant reading a Turkish paper when Frank and Nicky arrive to talk with them about the dead girls. Frank is understandably upset about this and has harsh words to deliver at an exceptionally calm Vondos. He explains why they did not pick up the cargo and they try to placate him. Frank wanted to know why he wasn’t informed there were live women in there – Vondos enlightens him on a whole range of things which might be in the cans with a joke. Frank tells Vondos next time there are living things in the cans he needs to know and then leaves, Nicky apologises for Frank and leaves as well. Vondos gets up and goes over to talk with the old man.

Brianna Barksdale is talking with her brother Avon about the problems with supplies from New York, Roberto and his men are refusing to deal with the Barksdales because of what’s happened. It’s all over unless Avon knows of a new supply, he puts forward someone from Atlanta, one Vargus, who might be able to sort things out if Stringer talks to him. Brianna then asks about Dee, Avon hasn’t seen him and Dee’s girlfriend Donette is stepping out instead of bringing Dee’s boy to see him every week. Dee paid a high price for the Barksdales and Brianna is afraid he’s being left in the gutter like trash, she wants Dee cared for. Avon promises to do so, once Dee “adjusts” and stops giving him the cold shoulder. But he promises he’ll protect him no matter what.

Bunk is in interview room one eating crabs with McNulty, he moves to open the door and get some air in the room, but McNulty asks him to avoid doing so. If Rawls sees him here he’ll ream him for the stunt he pulled over the floater in the previous episode. Bunk asks him just how much effort it took to stick the body to Homicide and Rawls, McNulty admits to three hours of hard work, and shows no remorse – even though it’s Detective Cole who ends up taking the hit hardest as he’s the one stuck investigating. Bunk then moves onto the pressing need to find Omar for the Gant case, but McNulty is distracted by the news about the thirteen girls found down the port printed on the paper used to wrap the crabs up. Bunk presses about Omar, McNulty needs to deliver.

Tommy “Horseface” is talking with Frank about a can, he claims that the customs seal was broken before the can arrived and the sailors got into it before the stevedores took a little. He’s not talking about The Greek’s can here, but different one. Then Ott walks in, apparently the police are ticketing all the stevedore’s cars.And sure enough, Sergeant Carver is one of the cops out there doing Valchek’s dirty work; all of the stevedores are being hit hard with parking fines for various minor and petty offences. Frank talks a little with him about this, and Carver confirms to Frank that this is all from Valchek and even goes a little further, warning Frank that twice a day this will be happening. Carver just wants to be left alone and cites the old ‘chain of command’.

Wee-Bey’s cell is being tossed over (fun side note, when the adult magazines are found under his mattress the subtitles actually put up ‘BLACK TAIL’ in big, bold, capital letters. I’m not sure why this is – maybe people who are hard of hearing are sometimes unable to read… except for subtitles I guess). Bey is on the prison guard’s shit list because of the charges he copped to previously. Even his tank of plastic fish are tipped onto the floor (remember how much Bey loves the fish from last season?)

The following day, Valchek arrives at the Union office; Horse walks into the office and indicates to Frank that he’s here. Frank heads out to talk with him and Valchek lays it out on the line for him. Vlachek wants the spot Frank got for the stained glass window, Valchek promised a lot of people that his window would be the one to go into that knave. Frank is not moved about this, Valchek mentions that there is another window space which can be used for one of the two windows, he then goes on to warn Frank that he should be the one to move to the less desirable spot. Frank isn’t impressed with threats, he’s known Valchek for a long time (they are both of Polish descent) and he tells him to sling his hook quite graphically. He’s not afraid of Valchek, but maybe he should be.

McNulty is tethering up the boat with Claude, badly I might add, before he heads over to the warehouse to talk with Beadie about the bodies. She’s trying to make sense of identities with he colleagues when he walks in, assuming there is a detective on the case. Beadie and her co-workers confirm that she’s the one dealing with them. He introduces himself and asks a little about the case. He’s curious, but as he’s also McNulty he has a second agenda, he’s interested in a connection between these girls and the Jane Doe floater. Beadie confirms there were fourteen bedrolls, but just thirteen bodies. McNulty then tells her that his was a murder and she was from a foreign country. They then head to have a look inside the can, McNulty is interested in the can and after looking inside he decides to take a look up top. Beadie fills him in on the ins and outs of human smuggling during this, McNulty notices something wrong with the air pipe at the same time as Beadie becomes curious why he’s involved.

Valchek is talking about Sobotka, as he’s looking to apply political pressure to get the window taken out. Valchek is going to lose a lot of face over this if it isn’t rectified. He’s also still curious about the amount of money which was donated, there’s a lot of money going around and Valchek repeats his suspicion that Frank’s into something dirty. He takes a look at the planned apartments for the Grain pier and they talk about Burrell’s possible promotion to Commissioner.

Beadie and McNulty are talking with Doctor Frazier about the bodies and the damage to the air pipe. McNulty feels that the pipe was pounded closed, Frazier wants to talk with the metallurgist to be sure, but it looks like these girls were murdered.

Valchek talks with Burrell in his office about his possible promotion to Commissioner, Valchek promises to help Burrell out with this promotion and in exchange he asks for a detail to be assigned; One which will investigate into a few stevedores, specifically Frank Sobotka. Burrell agrees to six men and six weeks, with Rawls picking who.

Daniels is walking home with his wife, she brought up his career position again, asking him to move out of the police force and consider a career in law. Daniels agrees with her and tells her he’ll put in his papers.

Nicky, Zig and the other stevedores are having breakfast at Delores’s place, if you can call alcohol breakfast anyway. Ziggy then takes Nicky aside and talks to him about a possible deal. White Mike has offered Ziggy a package to deal, Zig wants Nicky to come in on this, providing a little more cash in order to provide a bigger pay off. Nicky isn’t interested and heads out to work. But the stevedores are stopped by Carver and other policemen, they are to be breathalysed for driving under the influence.

In Rawl’s office a representative - Robbie from MSP - is talking to Rawls about the thirteen bodies which have now become homicides. He’s unwilling and unable to deal with this many bodies, but Rawls isn’t willing to eat them because it will drop his clearance rate from 51.6% to 39.4%. Statistics are king here in BPD and he’s unwilling to take anything which will hit him that hard. Also, as Rawls is able to roll that percentage drop off with great ease it shows that he’s already been considering this might happen, someone has warned him about the thirteen bodies in advance. Rawls heads out of his office, observed by Landsman, Lester, Bunk and Cole. Landsman heads over to and stands by Rawls while the rest all watch nervously. They’re all clearly concerned about receiving these thirteen homicides as it will bury their department. Rawls walks back to his door, pauses and pumps his fist to indicate that he’s got them out of this. The relief is palpable.

Avon is approached by a Bey and a guard, is seems that despite Bey’s low status in the prison and lack of stock with the guards Avon has more than enough pull to overcome this. Avon is living in relative comfort compared to Bey’s situation, he’s also willing to keep sending stuff into Bey’s cell no matter what happens. Bey doesn’t mind most of the harassment; it’s what’s happening to the fish which gets to him and also it turns out that Bey’s pleading to the murder of Ladontay is what’s landed him in this situation. Avon promises to help him out over this.

McNulty, Frazier and Beadie are talking about the bodies now that Rawls has refused to take them. Frazier knows the score with regards to McNulty and Rawls and McNulty admits to it much to Beadie’s discomfort. So Frazier and a man from the State Bureau of Mines set to work with the numbers.

Back in prison Avon attempts to talk with Officer Tilghman about Ladonaty, Tilghman is unwilling to talk with him under any circumstances.

McNulty is in the office, he signs a set of papers with a grin on his face and it’s clear he’s found a way to stick Rawls with all thirteen bodies. He sticks the papers into the fax machine while Claude watches him.

Rawls meets again with Robbie over the bodies, it turns out that the women suffocated inside Baltimore City jurisdiction and this means that they will have to eat the homicides and take the loss of their statistics. Rawls attempts to fight this, trying to pass it onto any other department. But they are all united against him in this and so Bunk, Landsman, Cole and the other members of BPD Homicide have to stand and watch thirteen more Jane Does go up on the board in red.

Ziggy meets with White Mike about getting another package, but it turns out that Ziggy screwed up the previous two packages his was given and Mike isn’t willing to give him another chance.

Stringer meets with Avon in prison, he thinks it’s about the supply situation, which is now sorted, but it’s actually about Tilghman. Avon wants him sorted; he also wants Stringer to talk with Donnette about visiting Dee. Stringer wants to know how Dee is doing, Stringer inquires if Dee is still sticking to his plea and hasn’t wandered out of the Barksdale’s influence. Avon confirms he’s under control as he’s family.

Bunk is drinking with McNulty and Freamon. He’s to down fourteen shots, one for each of the homicides he landed on Cole. Freamon and Bunk can see the funny side of this because they haven’t been stuck in this little stunt. Rawls, Cole and Landsman on the other hand have stink all over them from McNulty’s stunt. Freamon tells him he’s buried himself for good for this one, McNulty isn’t worried because there’s nothing worse they could do to him and he’s going to ride the last eleven years on the shelf. McNulty finishes the fourteenth and final shot.

Frank and the other stevedores head out of the station, Frank has managed to bail them all out and admits that the problem is being caused by Stan Valchek. He’s told he needs to handle the situation and he tells them he will before walking off with Nicky.

Bunk and Freamon return to homicide in high spirits when they are met by Landsman, who has his “someone’s going to get shat on and it ain’t me” face on – grinning while he dumps the thirteen bodies on them and moves Cole off to an easier case. Landsman knows Cole won’t be able to clear these cases, so he wants his best two men on it. Cole is thrilled as he hands over the case to them both.

At Ronnie’s place we’re treated to a bit of McNulty side-arse (for the ladies and discerning gentlemen) while she pulls the sheets off a hung over Jimmy. Ronnie berates him a little and then warns him if he shows up at two in the morning ever again then she’ll have the cops haul him off. Ronnie asks McNulty what she means to him, and he replies that they’re good together. She presses for an answer and he tells her that his wide wants to get back together and he’s going to go for it. Ronnie slams the door on him, while all he does is ask for some aspirin.

Horse is at the police car park, he breaks into a surveillance van and hot wires it. Driving it away while a pair of unwitting police officers wave.

Bunk and Freamon walk up the stairs to meet with Beadie, she’s on hold while trying to get the ship held. Rawls has pretty much pissed everyone else off, so all they have to help with the case is Beadie. Freamon tells her to head on out, she asks if they know McNulty and Bunk replies “Yeah, he’s dead to us.”

The detail is assembled for the first time to meet with Valchek in their new offices. Prez is in charge and they are told that they will be heading after Frank. Amongst the people brought in is Detective Polk (remember him from the early part of the first season?) who repeats his line from the first season about overtime, Prez looks around and realises the men he has aren’t great workers – they’re even worse than the first detail appeared to be when Daniels was in charge...

Frank and the other stevedores are thrilled with Horse’s theft of the surveillance van, this is a great way for them to stick it to Valchek, they load the van onto a can and watch it head off for shipping.

Sergei arrives in the port of Philadelphia, the area he pulls into is restricted – but he flashes some i.d. and the guard lets him through with a “Sir”. On board the Atlantic Light the crew have realised the ship is being held. Which is of great concern for one crew member – the shepherd of the girls – he grabs some papers and heads off ship quickly, watched by Sergei. He attempts to run from the car load of men, but he has little chance and is quickly caught, beaten and loaded into the car. The guard watches dispassionately and allows them to leave with the man.

Avon meets with Dee in prison; Dee has turned to snorting coke on the inside. Avon asks after him and tells him that they need to talk. The alarm sounds for lock up and Avon leaves.

Beadie, Lester and Bunk arrive at the Atlantic Light to talk about the crew. It costs the hauling company massive amount each day the ship is held, but it’s a crime scene and Bunk doesn’t care about the costs to some company.

Sergei is beating on the man they captured, who is now sat on a chair naked. The man claims to know no English and know nothing about the girls. The door opens and another man walks in. As he reaches the top of the stairs we find out that it is the old man from the diner. He tells Sergei to get the man his clothes and then offers the man a cigarette. He talks with the man, asking about what happened to the girls. They converse a little in Turkish and then switch to English. The old man tells him that once he learns about what happened then they’re done.

The sailor proceeds to tell the story about what happened on the Atlantic Light. The girls were allowed out for a breath of fresh air and the sailors wanted to use their services. But one of the girls did not want to do this any more, so one of the other sailors got rough with her and killed her. The other girls saw what happened and he panicked, but apparently another man killed them all. The old man then tells them he gave him his word just as Vondros cuts the sailor’s throat. He dies slowly and The Greek (the old man) tells them to make sure the body has no fingerprints and no face. Vondros and The Greek leave Sergei to deal with the disposal.


The Review:

Much like Ebb Tide previously, Collateral Damage is another episode title with multiple indications and meanings. This time there are a lot of examples of collateral damage spread across the episode; Bunk directly refers to Cole as being it during the crab eating with McNulty. But there is also the girls in the can, Beadie, Bunk and Freamon – who’s stuck with the case, the stevedores themselves who are suffering collateral damage from many sources, not just the bodies, but the changes in the American work life, and from Frank’s feud with Valchek. Frank Sobotka himself has been hit hard with collateral damage from the dead girls and also in the fallout around the church windows – but that is at least in part something he brought on himself. Valchek is a small, petty man who doesn’t care who gets hurt when someone gets in his way and this, combined with the huge amount of power he wields, means he’s able and willing to trample a lot of people into the dirty in the pursuit of revenge. Frank is quite aware of this, but it seems he’s too proud to back down in the face of a ‘small minded punk’.

Much like Ebb tide previously Collateral Damage is an episode which continues to force the viewer to either sink or swim. It continues to follow the fresh new characters for a large amount of it's plot, while also bringing back characters from the previous season. Even with a large amount of viewings under the belt it can be difficult to recall who's who. I especially have difficulty with the names of the minor characters, there are just so many of them to keep a track of and it's rare that these characters refer to each other by name enough to allow the viewer to cement their names in their head. For example, I didn't recall Brianna's name until Avon used it, I knew exactly who she was and where she fit in with the Barksdales, but her name was beyond me. Same problem with Ott, I recognise him on sight but his name is always beyond reach until I go back and look at the cast list I have written up to remind me of who's who.

I actually do like this density to the show, yes it's hard work for most and sometimes you'll just end up giving up and following the flow until things stick, but it brings an additional level of realism and strength to the show.

The main things to note in this are the continued persistence of hubris for several characters. McNulty is the prime example of this, no matter how deep he is in the shit box he continues to dig himself in further. Previously he was driven by a desire to prove himself better than Stringer and the Barksdales, now he's doing it to screw with Rawls, partially for revenge but also almost certainly to prove to himself that he's better than Rawls. Fortunately while his motives are less than pure, the result is the right one. Once again, without McNulty's personal agenda another crime would go completely unnoticed. Yes he's a gigantic, egotistical, martyr complex driven arsehole - but he's also a cataylst for a lot of good. That's the position I see McNulty in for the most part, he's the primary catalyst for the events and the investigations, without his prescence all that would of happened is these girls would have been written up as accidental murders. Just like in the first season, without McNulty the Barksdales would still be in full operation almost unnoticed by the BPD.

Frank's another person with a major hubris, in his case it's pride, in himself and his union. If he had just backed down from Valchek and accepted that he should move his window, then Valchek wouldn't have bent Burrell's ear and got Prez assigned to a detail looking into Sobotka. Remember Prez has learnt a lot from Freamon and Daniels in the Barksdale investigation, it's unlikely he's going to want to do a half-arsed job, which is what he expressed to Valchek in Ebb Tide.

I would like to quickly acknowledge that this is another appearance for Eric Todd Dellums as Doctor Frazier, Eric also appeared in Homicide: Life on the Street as the major kingpin Luther Mahoney, he’s wonderfully underused in The Wire as Doctor Frazier, especially for an actor of his brilliance. He appeared in the first season when dealing with the William Gant case and it's great to see him return here. But David Simon likes to use some of the same actors from one series to the next, I guess it's because he's dealing with a known quantity then, while also rewarding people who've worked with him previously.


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