Watching The Wire: Season Two - Episode Seven: "Backwash"

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“Don’t worry, kid. You’re still on the clock.”
-- Horseface

Teleplay by Rafael Alvarez
Directed by Thomas J. Wright

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, Callie Thorne as Elena McNulty, J.D. Williams as Preston "Boadie" Broadus, Hassan Johnson as Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice, Kristin Proctor as Aimee, Michael Hyatt as Brianna Barksdale, Robert F. Chew as Proposition Joe, Maria Broom as Marla Daniels, Lance Irwin as Maui, Delaney Williams as Sergeant Jay Landsman, Shamyl Brown as Donette, Keith Flippen as Bruce DiBiago, Gary "D.Reign" as Frog, Tray Chaney as Malik "Poot" Carr, Luray Cooper as Nat Coxson, Charley Scalies as Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa, Stan Stewart as New Charles, Richard Burton as Shaun "Shamrock" McGinty, Richard Pelzman as Little Big Roy, Kelvin Davis as La La, Chris Ashworth as Sergei "Serge" Molatov, Ted Feldman as George "Double G" Glekas, Jeffrey Pratt Gordon as Johnny "Fifty" Spamanto, Curtis L. McClarin as florist, Jacques Derosena as Leech and Randall Boffman as Bill Anderson

The Summary:

Read about funerals, falling boxes and Pyramids beyond the link...

The Recap:

Bodie is in a flower shop, looking to sort out a wreath for D’Angelo’s funeral, once he explains the nature of the desceased and his relationship the store owner shows him the line he has for people like Bodie. Specifically wreaths which feature guns and the like, after looking at them for a while he settles on a custom shaped wreath like one of the high-rises with 221 on it – a tribute to his former boss. He hands over the cash and leaves.

Cue the credits…

Landsman is less than impressed with Bea and Bunks decision to clone the dock computer and be through. But Bunk mentions he’s working with Daniels, Landsman first attempts to angle Bunk and see if Homicide can dump the fourteen girls onto Daniels, but that isn’t happening without Daniels agreeing – and right now he definitely (and wisely) doesn’t agree. Landsman leaves, so Bea and Bunk work on the next step in their operation, which involves pulling back a little to make the Stevedores believe that they’re not being investigated anymore. Bea asks “How are they going to think that?”

Frog is talking with Nicky about dealing the new stash, he’s angling to scam Nicky the same way he scammed Ziggy before – short changing him and essentially “effing up the package”. Nicky remains calm and tells him to come here, he then goes on to remind Frog that he’s a White Polish American, so he should drop the act and also that Frog owes Ziggy money and Nicky won’t be taking any excuses on that. Frog only gets to sling if he advances, Frog’s keen because the stuff was good and agrees to this deal.

Bell meets with his contact over Mugs’s job on D’Angelo, the guy pushes a little as he suspects that Avon wasn’t involved in the hit. Bell denies everything in his own way and the guy leaves.

Avon is in his cell with Wee-Bey, he’s pretty cut up about Dee’s suicide and angry about it as well. Avon talks a little about how well he feels he treated Dee but Wee is pragmatic about it, saying that Dee almost turned on Avon once and might have done it again. At least they don’t have to worry about that now.

“His name is Head, Dick Head.” Carver quips about Herc who is wearing shades while handling a pistol. They’re in a surveillance shop looking for a bug to use and the store owner shows them one for $1,500, $1,250 with a police discount. They’re offered a 48 hour test run as long as they leave credit card details, Herc immediately pushes Carver to do this – his own cards are (unsurprisingly) maxed out.

Rawls pushes Daniels again about the fourteen homicides, claiming that it would be good for Daniels and the department. He’s honest enough to admit it’s a win-win for Rawls and that he’s trying to spread the damage around as far as statistics go. But Daniels is having nothing to do with that, he’s not willing to budge because he just wants to run a simple case, close it down and get out from under Burrell.

Frank is out on the docks when he sees Bea roll by, back in her patrol car again. Frank is a little surprised to see her out in the black and yellow and asks after Bunk. She tells him that the case is closed and she’s out of it now. This is how they planned to get the Stevedores to settle down, by returning to ‘business as usual’. Bea additionally goes to explain that she’ll be down in Fairfield instead of out on the docks here – this covers her lack of presence on the docks coming up without making Frank suspicious.

Herc and Carver place the bug inside a tennis ball, that tennis ball is soon to become my favourite character in The Wire – seriously. While Lester and Bunk watch the cloned computer tracking cans. Bunk’s already bored by this, but Lester likes to see the system working without any dirt in it, it’ll allow him to spot and understand any “glitches” faster later on. Bea gets what he’s doing.

Frank, Ott and the Stevedores are being shown a presentation about the future of dock working as created by the Dutch. Herc sits listening to the tennis ball bug while Carver snaps the pictures of Frog and White Mike. The pitch about the dock upgrades continues but Frank is more concerned about the jobs and hours. The presenter confirms four thousand people, a number he feels is large – but Ott immediately jumps on this, that’s four thousand people moving three hundred and fifty million tons a year, which is not actually a lot.

Stringer arrives for Dee’s wake; he talks with Donette, sharing a brief moment of subtle intimacy before heading over to talk with Brianna in her bedroom. Naturally, like any parent who’s lost a child, Brianna is devastated.

In Dolores’s Bar Ziggy is pouring over some papers when Nicky arrives, he hasn’t had any days this week and the guys are a little surprised. Nicky nods and walks over to hand Ziggy his money. Ziggy is a little flat about receiving his money, mostly because he’s feeling emancipated over this, like he’s not good enough to look after himself and his money (frankly he’s not). Ziggy’s unhappy that Nicky is better at just about everything than he is. He then passes the papers to Nicky and it turns out that Ziggy’s being sued for paternity from Prissy (the town bike).

Kima is scoping out The Gentleman’s Gold Club with Prez, he walks out of the bar and heads down to sit in the car with her. Prez has noticed that there’s an older woman (40) involved some how, Kima then teases him a little about the strippers in there. He looks suitably mollified.

Daniels and his wife are talking about Daniels’s situation, once again his past is mentioned and she’s keen to have him walk out and pursue a career in law. But he highlights just how things are working and how the situation is to his advantage.

Frank’s talking in his office with one of his union members about the upcoming elections, Frank wants another year in office but it is Ott’s turn and no-one’s budging on this. It’s clear that the Union elections are in essence a formality and the winner is decided in advance. Frank wants another year to finish what he’s started, he’s not after the power of the position, he just wants to see his plan through. He then phones up Bruce to see what progress has been made.

Prez and Kima see the girls leave the Gentleman’s club and notice a lot of muscle for just a few girls.

In Dolores’s Bar Nicky has been thinking about the paternity suit, Ziggy confirms that the papers arrived by the mail and Nicky realises that’s not right – they have to be served by a sheriff. He notices Maui and the pieces fall into place – he then phones the number, Maui’s phone rings the man answering with “Shyster, Shyster and Shyster” and confirming that the entire thing was an elaborate prank – retaliation for Ziggy’s “hung wallpaper”. Ziggy is still oblivious until Nicky pretty much explains it to him, they all sing along with the jukebox which plays “Love Child”.

Prez and Kima follow the SUV containing the girls which pulls into a secure garage at what appears to be a residential block. Lester continues to monitor the cloned computer. Kima and Prez bluff the guard so Prez can see what floor the girls are being kept on. The sixth.

Lester, Bea and Bunk are sat talking about a break in the case, it looks like Horseface is on duty with a suitable ship. They’ll need additional bodies to keep an eye out on the docks and they’re having to keep things away from Daniels’s attention at the moment.

Nicky rolls up in his SUV to talk with Frog, he’s observed by Herc and Carver and recorded by the bug. Unfortunately for them Frog picks up the ball and starts throwing it around, ruining any chance the duo has at catching their conversation. Carver ends up scrambiling after the tennis ball once Frog throws it and after a few close moments it’s run over by a truck.

R.I.P. Fuzzy Dunlop!

Lester runs the team through the plan, they’re going to observe the offloading while tracking the computer.

Nicky arrives and hands over a slip from the Greeks to Frank, concerned Horseface and Frank plan to check the cans, they do not want any more dead girls in the docks. Frank has lost all faith in the Greeks. Frank and Nicky then talk about how little they’ve been working and Frank tells Nicky not to do anything he wouldn’t do. It's close, but I think Nicky is almost doing what he believes Frank would do (Frank on the other hand would disagree).

At one of the Baltimore cemeteries D’Angelo Barksdale is being buried in front of friends, family and fellow bangers. Stringer watches coldly, the cause of all this misery and upset. Boadie and Poot are also present, even Prop Joe has turned up to show his respect. Brianna is devastated. Poot points to the wreath and asks Boadie about it – he’s impressed with it. Each of those present pays their respects before walking away. Shortly Prop Joe talks with Bell, initially to give his condolences but also to offer a proposition. He knows that the Barksdales are hurting on the product front, but have great locations. Stringer tells him to cut to the chase and Prop Joe lays down the level – he’s looking to expand and he’s willing to cut a deal with the Barksdales. Stringer agrees to talk with Avon.

Frank meets with Bruce, he’s not impressed that the dredging isn’t in the budget – he has received the grain pier but he’s not satisfied with that. Frank spins a few stories about his childhood, how hard and difficult things are for the stevedores and how people grow up to do the same as their fathers. Bruce gets angry at this and lets him know how hard his grandfather worked to change things. Frank isn’t going to back down at this, because the presentation about the automated docks has him rattled deeply. He throws a shoebox to Bruce filled with cash, he wants the canal and the pier – people need to be talking and making it happen.

Horse is out on the docks walking up to one of the cans, Bea watches the virtual version move on the cloned computer and sees it disappear. Lester passes on the information to Kima who has an eyeball on it, she also has an eyeball on Sergei/Boris. Bea informs them that if it goes straight through then it’s dirty, which it does. Kima stops following and Prez takes over the follow for a bit until it is Bunk’s turn. Bunk sees the truck travel through a gate and drive towards a warehouse - a part of Pyramid Incorporated.

Avon and Stringer are talking about Dee’s passing, Stringer lets Avon know they did the funeral properly, Avon’s more than a little cut up about what happened – he wishes he could have stopped it, he feels he could have. Stringer assures him that it’s not on Avon – which we know it isn’t Stringer is responsible. Next they talk about the supply issues and Stringer brings up Prop Joe’s offer. Avon isn’t willing to cut a deal with Prop Joe.

Kima rolls up alongside Bunk who’s been keeping an eye on the warehouse, nothing has changed and she takes over viewing.

The Detail bring in the lovely Rhonda Pearlman to talk about potential wiretaps – she’s unable to offer them a wiretap for human smuggling/prostitution. Incredibly the law does not allow people to wiretap those involved in human trafficking.

Nicky meets with Aimee about affording a new place, he claims to be working as a warehouse guy and now they can afford a two bedroom apartment. Things are looking up for the couple and she’s happy with that.

Carver is less than thrilled that the bug is now destroyed as they pull up outside Nicky’s place. Herc informs that he’s one Nicholas Andrew Sobotka but doesn’t make the connection in the surname. Carver on the other hand does realise and gradually makes Herc understand the significance. Herc notes that this means they can use the information from the bug “Fuzzy Dunlop” as a CI and earn some cash. (I like the name and character Fuzzy Dunlop so much that two members of my RockBand are named after it.) Carver is unwilling to do this, but Herc holds the lost money over Carver and tells him that Daniels would “trust him as he’s trustworthy” (Ironically Daniels trusts Carver because he proved to be untrustworthy in the past).

Bunk and Cool Lester Smooth are drinking in the bar, Bunk is trying to convince Lester to talk with Daniels and roll everything together.

Kima is still watching the gate when she sees a car pull up, sat in the back of it is Prop Joe. This means the detail have the drug connection they require for a wiretap if they play it right.

In Dolore’s Ziggy is complaining about Maui, the people he’s with talk him up a bit, trying to convince him to lay into the much larger Maui. They’re interrupted by a man down, New Charles has been injured. A box has landed on his leg, crushing it. They lift the box and move New Charles, his leg is a mess but the Ambulance has arrived. Frank lies and tells him that the leg looks OK – but it’s not, it’s doomed.

Lester talks with Daniels about the Detail; it’s time to be stepped up in Freamon’s opinion. While the start of it was a bit of a joke assignment and a tool to get him out of evidence control it’s looking like a serious and genuine case. Lester advices Daniels to take the murders onboard at this thing has legs – there’s a risk, Daniels might have to eat up those open murders but Lester asks him if he can live with himself over that.

Ott and Frank arrive at New Charles’s home to help his wife, Frank hands her a package containing money before leaving. Outside Ott talks about how New Charles got his name and confirms that the leg is a goner. Then he asks about the money, Frank remains silent and walks away.

In Rawls’s office Daniels agrees to eat the murders, as long as he gets exactly what he wants when he wants it. Rawls looks pleased with himself.

McNulty and Elena are sat together in the garden watching their two boys play in a tent. McNulty is still keen to get involved with her, but she’s unwilling, she doesn’t trust him anymore. Her boys call her over to help with a spider and she joins them in the fun while McNulty watches and broods.

Daniels is at home explaining the latest developments to Marla, he admits he loves the job and professes how much she means to him. She responds by asking where the ambitious man she married went…

The Review:

As always “Backwash” is an episode title with multiple meanings; it refers the dialog from D'Angelo Barksdale in the previous episode "All Prologue", but it also refers to "a condition, usually undesirable, that continues long after the event which caused it", the slang for human spit which goes back into a drink when being consumed (usually in a bottle) and it has vague references towards tides and water flow.

Frank's still deep in the dirt, but he's unaware just how deep because he doesn't realise that the Detail are still investigating him and they've uncovered a link between him and Proposition Joe - who's a drug Kingpin (even if it's not proven because Prop Joe is careful). He's also unaware that Nicky is suppling drugs and both of them are unaware that Herc and Carver are on the trail.

This episode is one of the first which really differentiates between Herc and Carver, originally they filled the role of comedy clowns in many scenes - a little bit dodgy, mostly harmless, often idiotic. While they still do provide their fair share of laughs you can see a gradual deepening between the two - Carver is learning, evolving and adapting, he's showing intelligence and sophisitcation as a police officer, Herc continues to be a half baked clown willing to bend the laws while also posturing as a great police officer in his own mind (Some people have refered to him as a 'lame' Vic Mackey, and the resemblence is there - more physically than personality-wise though, Vic is a far more dangerous animal than Herc).

I have to say that one of the things I most appreciate about The Wire is actually the slow nature of the case and the show. It just feels more natural to watch than an episode of Bones, CSI or even Homicide - who normally bang out their case and solve it within the space of forty odd minutes (Homicide to be fair sometimes paces a lot slower and runs some stories for multiple episodes). It's nice to see a case pan out over many hours with gradual progress and occasional setbacks. I do wish more shows worked like this, but I guess most viewers need quick gratification these days as that's what they're conditioned to expect. I can understand that, sometimes it's good to enjoy a light fast show. But I do prefer the style used here in The Wire - it's deep and tough to get into and if you miss an episode you can end up unable to catch up, which is why it's an ideal DVD show.

Trivia (Credit to Wikipedia here for the initial information) - the photo on the dartboard in Frank's office is Robert Irsay who took the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in 1984. As you can see Frank is still bitter about that and most likely feels betrayed. It's also a statement about how the good things are being gradually leeched away from Baltimore one at a time, a sentiment Frank certainly feels is true.

This is also the first episode after a starring credited character has been killed off, yeah Larry Gillard Jr.'s name is now gone the credits. Respect to the show for keeping him on the credits despite knowing that he was going to die. I know the first time I watched this season I wasn't expecting it to happen, which made his funeral more poignant and moving.

Very little McNulty in this episode but that's not really surprising as his 'story' (seeking the name of the dead floating girl) has run it's course. I do appreciate the way he's been somewhat sidelined in the middle part of this season, it keeps the show about the City of Baltimore rather than being "The McNulty Show". As much as I adore Jimmy McNulty I do appreciate he can often dominate the storylines a little too much.

Is the company Pyramid Inc a reference to the Illuminati? Probably not, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone like The Greek was involved in such an organisation.


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