Watching The Wire: Season Two: Episode Eight: - "Duck and Cover"

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“How come they don’t fly away?”
-- Ziggy

Teleplay by George P. Pelecanos Directed by Daniel Attias

Dominic West as Officer Jimmy McNulty, Lance Reddick as Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, Sonja Sohn as Kima Greggs, Deirdre Lovejoy as assistant state's attorney Rhonda Pearlman, Wood Harris as Avon Barksdale, Andre Royo as Bubbles, John Doman as Colonel William Rawls, Frankie Faison as Acting Commissioner Ervin Burrell, Clarke Peters as Cool Lester Smooth Freamon, Amy Ryan as Beadie "Bea/Beadie" Russell and Chris Bauer as Frank Sobotka.

Seth Gilliam as Detective Ellis Carver, Domenick Lombardozzi as Detective Thomas "Herc" Hauk, Jim True-Frost as Detective Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski, James Ransone as Ziggy Sobotka, Pablo Schreiber as Nick Sobotka, Robert Hogan as Louis Sobotka, Bill Raymond as The Greek, J.D. Williams as Preston "Boadie" Broadus, Chris Ashworth as Sergei "Serge" Malatov, Ted Feldman as George "Double G" Glekas, Jeffrey Fugitt as Officer Claude Diggins, Lance Irwin as Maui, Charley Scalies as Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa, Kelvin Davis as La La, Bus Howard as Vernon "Ott" Mottley, Richard Pelzman as Little Big Roy, Jeffrey Pratt Gordon as Johnny "Fifty" Spamanto, J. Valenteen Gregg as Chess, De'Rodd Hearns as Puddin, Tray Chaney as Malik "Poot" Carr, Luray Cooper as Nat Coxson, Bill Heneghan as Maryland Port Authority Commander, Kevin Jiggets as Frommers, and Billy Finnigan as Bernand AKA "Fuzzy Dunlop"

The Summary:

Read about a legen… wait for it, and I hope you’re not lactose intolerant because the second half is
da(i)ry drinking binge, the appearance of the wiretap and dockside fighting beyond the link.

The Recap:

(This is a George P. Peclecanos episode, so be ready for all kinds of amazing…)

McNulty, wasted out of his brain, phones Elena and mumbles down the phone at her, he then stumbles over to the bar for last call, putting his hand on a woman to steady himself before asking for another drink. The barman (Gus) is concerned but McNulty promises that he’s getting a cab home.

He isn’t. The drunken Irish f**kwit drives his car off the road and into a bridge support post. He gets out to survey the damage before looking around, replaying the action in his head and then repeating it – sideswiping the car into pillar intentionally.

He then goes to a diner and ends up sitting there barely conscious, he asks for a coffee and the cute waitress asks about his hand, it’s “just a scratch” so McNulty orders some eggs. Later on he takes the waitress home and nails her.

The following morning he wakes up on the sheets, blood staining the sheet where he lays.


Cue the credits…

Horse is talking with Ziggy about Maui who’s standing nearby, they’re trying to pump up Ziggy enough to convince him to punch Maui, a man who’s probably fifty percent bigger than Ziggy.

At the Detail’s offices Daniels is formally letting the Detail know that the fourteen murders are officially part of the investigation now. Either they bring in the case or Daniels sinks. Lester then moves on to inform Ronnie that they have a drug connect via White Mike, which means that they should be able to get a wiretap up. Additionally they have links with Prop Joe, Nicky and Sergei “Boris” Molatov. Sergei’s calls also link to disappearing containers and to Nicky. It looks like the case is larger than Frank Sobotka, at long last. Ronnie confirms that they should be able to get a wiretap from all this.

Ziggy watches as Maui gets a frappachino and the dock workers once again bait him into going at Maui. This time Ziggy does, kidney punching Maui before the bigger man handles him, taking him up on a forklift before dumping Ziggy on the top of a container. Ziggy is less than pleased with this situation and rages impotently at the others.

Bunk arrives at the Detail’s office with a box, Herc notes that Bunk’s wearing a Lacrosse t-shirt and comments on it. Bunk is immediately defensive about this, asking why it’s odd that he played Lacrosse, mentioning Jim Brown as evidence. Lester baits him over this, asking if Bunk is really comparing himself to Jim Brown. Bunk blusters but is interrupted/saved by Daniels, for a moment, but then the Lieutenant dog piles on top of Bunk’s appearance – this time making fun of the fact that Bunk normally wears Pinstriped suits and that’s it.

Frank is with Horse who’s talking about Ziggy and the next shipment for the Greek. They discuss boob jobs a little, Horse can’t decide if he likes them or not.

Ronnie pours through the affidavit while Bea marvels at the quantity of paperwork involved in cases like this. While the spelling is awful, it’s all correct and they’re good to take it before a judge.

Ronnie, Lester and Kima meet with the Judge, while Herc and Carver get to perform chores for him. Will the humiliation for these two ever end?

Horseface continues to stare at the porn magazine while Frank calls about his phone, he finds out that his phone has been flagged. He then hangs up and wonders why they haven’t disconnected him. It’s because of the pending wiretap, but he doesn’t know that – yet.

Boadie and Poot are down in the pit, Pud tells them things are seriously slow. It’s hardly surprising business is so slow, they have no decent product to sell. They’re moved on by a rent-a-cop.

Bunk and McNulty are back down the railroad tracks talking and drinking. McNulty’s told Bunk about his epic bender and Bunk isn’t surprised. He moves over between the lines and urinates while they talk about the Detail. McNulty admits how desperate he is for a decent case, how being on the boat is killing him inside. Bunk tells McNulty to talk to Rawls, McNulty asks what the point is – Rawls has no reason to help out McNulty.

Frank is at home with his brother Lous (Nicky’s dad). He’s here to show Lou about a union space for him. Frank’s greased some wheels and gotten Lou a position which pays some money and gives him some authority. But Lou’s not happy taking it, he smells dirt on this position and he’s not comfortable with taking it. Lou prefers to remain clean and on the straight, he disapproves of Frank’s life decisions, but they’re family.

Ziggy catches up with a bird breeder Mr Diz and asks the title quote “Why don’t they fly away?” To which he’s replied “Their wings are clipped.” The man picks up a duck and Ziggy asks how much for it before buying it.

Bunk and Lester talk to Daniels about McNulty, Bunk admits how bad McNulty is, how much of a screw up he is without something to drive him. Without a case to run McNulty just self destructs, but with something to focus on he’s up there with the best of policemen.

Herc and Carver are busy creating the CI they claim has supplied them with the information, unable to use a real person they create a street lad named ‘Fuzzy Dunlop’, who is (as I mentioned last week) one of my favourite throwaway characters in The Wire. The lad is actually Herc’s cousin Bernard, but he’s not getting a penny for this and he wants ten percent, which eventually Herc agrees to.

Nicky hands over Ziggy’s cut in Nicky’s new car, Nicky suggests that Ziggy should get a new car and then they talk a little about Maui before Nicky’s phone rings. It’s one of the Greek’s men, Ziggy’s keen to meet him and go into business for himself. Ziggy doesn’t want Nicky’s handouts (which is how he perceives the money right now).

The wiretap is up and the old team (Lester and Prez) are back on the job, Prez notes that the dock workers aren’t as careful as the Barksdales were, Lester extrapolates that it’s because the dockers and the dealers don’t expect anyone to be wiretapping them.

Daniels is talking with Rawls about McNulty, Rawls isn’t willing to budge on this subject but Daniels is persistent about this, repeating his demand from when he took on the fourteen homicides - “What I need from you I get, no bullshit, no arguments.” Rawls baulks at this and is unwilling to shift, but a final push from Daniels makes the man crack and McNulty is back in the Detail.

Poot and Boadie are stood watching some new dealers who’ve moved in on their corners. They’re not sure where these new guys have come from, but it’s bad news as these guys are serving the Barksdale’s customers.

The phone rings for McNulty, it’s the lifeline he’s been waiting for. Daniels tells him he’s back in and the relief McNulty displays is so palpable he almost sinks to the ground. Daniels hangs up and looks at Criminal Informant #236 aka “Fuzzy Dunlop”. He’s a little incredulous about the name, and even more flabbergasted by the amount ($150). But he’s willing to trust Carver, who’d never pull another stunt would he? Would he? Of course he would!

Outside the office a jubilant Carver walks past Herc while Ronnie, Bunk and Kima talk about the girls and the potential links between prostitution and the docks. Beyond the stereotypical John using their services I mean.

Diggsy says his farewells to McNulty, while the nice weather might bring enjoyable encounters on the high seas McNulty is just thrilled to be back doing ‘proper policework’.

Boadie rolls in to talk with some of the Young ‘Uns. It seems that even the drug business can suffer from recessions and honest to goodness firings because Boadie has to give these two lads ‘the talk’ and leaves them with their “walking papers” – no separation pay.

Ronnie, Kima, Bunk, Daniels, Herc and Carver talk about the pan of action, the assumptions are that the drugs and girls are connected by the same people running them (correct), that the apartment building Kima and Prez scouted out is where the girls are kept (correct). They’re going to need someone to go undercover – Herc volunteers (surely not!) but Daniels feels they need someone with a more subtle touch. Carver volunteers but he’s considered unsuitable because he doesn’t look like he’d need to pay for sex (the implication here is that Herc does), Kima can’t do it due to domestic issues with Cheryl, likewise Bunk and Nadine. So that leaves the newly arrived McNulty, “Takes a whore to catch a whore.” To which there is only one, classic McNulty response…

“What the fuck did I do?”

Ziggy is in Dolores’s bar with his duck on a lead; he’s carrying a cane, wearing eye shielding glasses and he introduces the duck as his attorney “Steven L Miles”. The bar finds this riotous, Ziggy orders a drink for himself and Steven, while the other dock workers comment incredulously on the diamond collar Steven’s wearing. Steven starts drinking from a shot glass.

Outside the apartment where it’s suspected that the call girls are being held Kima and McNulty are waiting, they see the SUV Kima and Prez followed previously – same driver, same place – and follow it.

At the computers in the Detail’s office Bea notes that a suspect container ship is arriving soon, it’s the right company and Horseface is the checker. It looks like they’re a go-go.

The SUV pulls into a parking lot tailed by Kima and McNulty. The passenger in the SUC gets out and climbs into a car. The guy waits in the car, clearly a punter as McNulty explains (showing his experience at lying to his wife in the process) and then pulls out. But Kima’s car cuts the guy off and the two detectives climb out calling “police”, the man (Robert Johnson) looks guilty as sin – McNulty uses this as a handle to try and get in with the girls. Bob gives him the relevant details and the detectives let him go home. They have a way in now.

The Detail watches the computers as one of the cans disappears, Kima’s got eyes on it as Gas & Electric and she can see Sergei as he dials, Sergei’s conversation is short but indicates that the container does indeed have illegal goods in it.

Frank walks out of his office while this is happening, he sees Sergei hook up the can and then notices Kima while he lights his cigarette. He walks over to her while she passes on the information about the canister to Herc and Carver. They take over the follow. Frank himself ends up talking with a couple of port guards about a broken seal on a canister filled with diapers. He begins to walk away from them, but then turns and asks about Bea (who’s down at Fairfield, or at least that’s what she told him). Unfortunately the two cops tell him that Bea isn’t down at Fairfield and that she’s detailed to the city police. Another hint for Frank that something’s up.

Sergei and the truck roll past Herc and Carver while Kima drives off in the opposite direction.

Frank is back in his office talking with Horseface about Bea and the phone thing. Apparently there’s a second delivery for “Boris” due to come. Frank tells Horseface to check the can through clean and lose the second one instead – passing that one on to Sergei instead. He’s planning to set things up and check if the can is being tracked or not.

The Detail see a second can disappear, the truck has already returned to pick this up but they have no eyes there. McNulty offers to get there and Bea sets up a delay for the truck so he’ll have time.

Frank heads out of his office while McNulty heads there at speed.

A MPA officer holds up the truck while McNulty and Frank head towards it. McNulty sets up to follow while Frank notices the MPA holding the truck and can. As Sergei drives past, McNulty takes up the follow.

Frank, back in his office phones out, unfortunately for the Detail they don’t have a tap on this phone so they have no idea what he’s calling about. In the office Frank tells Vondras about the can being wrong and starts to explain. Frank tells Vondras that it’s time he gets to meet The Greek himself.

Double G is working in his shop, he talks with the staff behind the counter before walking out back to the freshly arrived can. The doors are opened and it’s full of plastic rods, Bobbie Dolls and nothing else. GG is annoyed and takes Sergei’s phone, calling Vondras, complaining about the can. Vondras tells GG to lose the can and not worry about it. The Detail have heard Vondras talk for the first time and assume he’s the boss man. Which is sort of true, except we know that The Greek is above Vondras.

Boadie is talking with some more of his crew, the plan is to roll in at 7am with bats and rough house the competition out. Poot is distracted through this by some women, Boadie takes him to case over this.

McNulty calls Daniels about the second can, it doesn’t add up because it went to the store and now it’s being dumped. Daniels tells him that the can is clean and that McNulty might as well go home.

Steven is at Dolores’s bar, entertaining the stevedores while Frank and Nicky talk business. It’s clear Frank’s explained his concerns to Nicky and that he confides in his nephew. Frank asks what’s with the duck and Nicky’s single word sums it up “Ziggy”.

The Detail are thrilled about the results from the clean can, McNulty asks if anyone wants to go for a drink, Lester declines but Bea accepts in exchange for a lift home. They leave, Lester continues to work.

At the bar Bea and McNulty swap stories about their children and exes, the real question here for myself is Bea’s answers – everything she says here about her ex is signalled as being fabricated or lies. Her body language and eye movement indicates it clearly, but that could just be Amy Ryan’s acting here – I’m not sure. McNulty jokes that his ex is dead and then refuses another drink when Gus brings it over. McNulty heads over to make a phone call, dialling the number Robert Johnson gave him. He has a conversation with Eve, while watching Bea at the bar.

Boadie stands on the corner, watching the new dealers who’ve stepped on his turf.

At Bea’s house she gets McNulty a beer before going to see her kids. He roots around a little, noticing a police man shaped cookie jar “Stop! Move away from the cookie jar!”, books, notes and pictures of her kids. He gets a bit of a feel for the situation before coming to a conclusion, he’s going to leave rather than try anything. Bea returns and catches McNulty putting on his jacket “long day” he explains and thanks her for the beer before leaving.

On the corner Boadie and Poot are already on the corner with their boys when the new guys arrive. They face off, Poot shows that he’s packing, but the guy refuses to back down without at least posturing a bit. Poot says that they’re going to come back and Boadies admits that of course they will, that’s the point behind this.

At the diner Frank and Nicky arrive to talk with The Greek, but they’re met by just Vondras. Frank isn’t happy with this and turns to leave. But the old man stands up and reveals himself. Nicky recognises him, he’s seen him in the diner before, but he’s a little stunned that this old man is The Greek. The Greek tells them to both sit down and talks with them. Frank goes on to explain his concerns; about the wiretaps, the phone company, Bea’s absence, the switch on the cans, the MPA stopping the can and even the line into the docking computers. The Greek tells him that it’ll be time to ship some clean cans to the warehouse and look legitimate. Nicky asks if they’ll still get paid the same, The Greek asks who Nicky is and then explains that it’ll have to be cost free. Frank is very aggressive about this, he needs the money for the union and legislation. The Greek agrees to pay them still, because it keeps things running. The Greek then advises that Frank should spend the money on something enjoyable before letting them leave…

The Review:

Hard to think that it’s the eight episode of the season isn’t it? It seems like things have only just begun to get rolling, but we’ve only got four more episodes left until this season is over (and I get to take a break for a couple of weeks before hitting season three – which I want to get out quickly instead of tailing behind Alan Sepinwall’s own excellent Wire posts by two days) – For the record, I read and loved his first season stuff but I’m avoiding reading his second season posts until I’ve finished my own, I don’t want to have his opinions colouring my own.

First of all, I can’t go anywhere without writing about what I feel are the quintessential McNulty scenes in this episode. The binge he heads out on is simultaneously epic, hilarious, awesome, but it’s also pathetic and pitiable at the same time. This is McNulty at the lowest he’s been since the series started – and let’s face it, this is a man who saw no problems in using his kids to front and follow Stringer Bell (another act which was simultaneously brilliant and monumentally stupid at the same time). It seems McNulty can’t ever manage to do something which is simply good, he always screws things up at the same time.

Apart from McNulty finally being let in on the action the other main events of this episode are Frank's sharp realisation that the police are still around and investigating, additional inroads into the prostitution side of things and Ziggy's duck Steven. Frankly I love that duck, it's actually part of the pun in the title - "Duck" and Cover, get it? It references the duck and the cover work that many characters in the show are pulling - not just the police, but also Boadie - who's covering his turf, Frank - who's covering his backside and the Greeks - who have just layers and layers to cover up their operation.

Frank's insistence to meet with The Greek has finally paid off, both he and Nicky have now met with him in person. I know why Frank's so keen to meet with The Greek, it's a pain to constantly talk through middle men, but he has to realise that it also means an extra level of danger for himself and his nephew. They're two people who can id The Greek, there's just a handful of people who can do that, so it's a dangerous place to be if things go wrong. Which they might do if the police get far enough in their investigation.

Ziggy's quote is chosen as the header for this episode mostly for the reply, it's a veiled reference not just to the various clipped birds but also as a descriptive term which covers so many people in the show - people trapped by the circumstances of their life, their institution or their choices - people with 'clipped wings' - and of course The Wire is jam packed with clipped individuals unable to soar, that's one of it's riding themes.

Four episodes left and a lot of ground to cover. Things are going to start moving fast.


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