Monday, October 02, 2006


The Wire No. 41: Refugees

BLOGGER'S NOTE: As always, know that spoilers lie below, so don't venture further unless you've seen the episode or don't care if you know what happens.

By Edward Copeland
If last night's episode of The Wire contained a specific metaphor that would be poker, both literally and in the metaphorical sense of knowing when someone is bluffing and when they've got the nuts. The literal game is set up in the opening sequence as Marlo indulges in a new passion for cards in a private game with high rollers, though Marlo certainly lacks skill at the game. However, on the streets, it's a much more dangerous idea to call Marlo's bluff as a grocery store security guard discovers when Marlo blatantly shoplifts some candy after he finishes the poker game and the guard confronts him about it. Alas, it's the last confrontation the guard will make as he will meet up with Chris and Snoop later in the episode.

Marlo also gives an audience to the convenience store owner/drug dealer that Omar robbed in the previous week's episode, asking Marlo for help. Marlo doesn't seem to have much interest beyond the shiny ring the man possesses and which he subtly demands as he tells him just to take Marlo's package and keep up payments — Omar's theft is his fault, not his. The man explains that the ring means a lot to him but Marlo declares, "I ain't much for sentiment." Marlo also scores a victory with Bodie who gives in and agrees to accept Marlo's package in exchange for keeping his corner. Proposition Joe also pays a visit to Marlo as he cares for his pigeons, trying to sell the young drug kingpin on the benefits of joining the drug co-op to help in the fight against the New York interlopers seizing territory in east Baltimore to which Marlo replies, "What the fuck do I care about east Baltimore?" before shaking Prop Joe's hand in some sort of apparent deal.

Bluffs are being called throughout the police department and officers are learning the hands they've been dealt. Unwilling to put up with the frightful Lt. Marimow's decimation of the Major Crimes Unit, Kima and Lester pile in a lifeboat for the homicide department, leaving poor Lt. Sydnor (Corey Parker Robinson) and Officer Massey (Joliet F. Harris) to watch sadly as the wires come down. In homicide, Kima is greeted by Sgt. Landsman who laughs at her encounter with Marimow, observing that Marimow, "doesn't cast away talent lightly — he heaves it away with great force." After informing Kima that she won't be a primary for several months until she gets the feel of things, Burrell steps in from above, ordering Col. Foerster (the late Richard De Angelis) to pull the veteran detective investigating the murder of a state's witness and give the assignment to the rookie in hopes of sparing Mayor Royce any more surprises late in the campaign. Despite Foerster and Landsman's objections (and Rawls' expression of misgivings, whether he means it or not), Kima gets handed the case. Meanwhile, Lester replaces one obsession with another. His inability to find any of Marlo's victims makes him particularly determined to find the presumed dead Lex. As he and Bunk go out for drinks, Lester can't drop the talk while a drunk and oblivious Bunk looks for some female companionship which Lester seems completely uninterested in pursuing, causing Bunk to long for the now-domesticated McNulty to be his wingman again. Herc, promoted after witnessing the mayor's blow job, learns of his new assignment — to the Major Crimes Unit where Marimow remarks after seeing he's been made a sergeant after a few months of driving the mayor around, "You must be a helluva driver."

Back in the campaign, Royce's chief of staff, Coleman Parker (Cleo Reginald Pizana), tries to rally his boss's base by designing campaign signs with African colors and telling the mayor he needs more "walking around money" which we learn Royce gets by holding his own poker games with deep pockets who lose on purpose so the cash can flow Royce's way. However, dissension is growing among the ranks of Royce's supporters as State Delegate Odell Watkins (Frederick Strother) discovers at a candidate's forum that Royce has printed campaign tickets dumping Lt. Daniels' estranged wife Marla (Maria Broom) in favor of the often-absent incumbent Eunetta Perkins.

At Tilghman Middle School, Prez still is adjusting to getting a handle on his rambunctious students, expressing concern about how they were affected by the previous week's violent incident, though Prez seems to have been scarred more deeply by the violence than the students were since they are much more interested in knowing if it's true Prez was a cop and if he ever shot anybody, which Prez wisely chooses not to answer. There is more activity at the school as Bunny starts setting up his class targeting problem students and surveys his new surroundings at the school. Bubbles also pays another visit to Assistant Principal Donnelly when he realizes that Sherrod has never shown up since he enrolled him. Bubbles, quite sensibly, asks Donnelly if Sherrod would be placed in sixth grade, since that's where he left off, but even the junkie snitch is shocked to learn of the practice of social promotion where they will toss Sherrod into eighth grade with others his age despite the fact his educational skills aren't up to that level. Another familiar face finds a role at the school when Deacon (Melvin Williams) informs Cutty that Donnelly has an opening for a custodian if he's interested. Cutty asks Deacon how he always knows where people ought to be to which Deacon replies, "A good church man is always up on everyone's shit." Once Cutty gets to the school, he realizes that it's not really custodial work for which he's being hired. Donnelly uses open custodian positions as a cover to employ truant officers, for which the schools no longer receive funding. However, it's another example of bureaucratic necessity in the crumbling schools as Cutty learns that his sole requirement is to round up a list of students to show up for one day of classes in September and then to repeat it for one day in October, otherwise the school loses funding, so Cutty and another "custodian" hits the streets asking wandering kids whether they've had their September day yet and then hauling them back.

Marlo isn't the only person that Prop Joe has reached out to — he sets up a meet with Omar through Butchie (S. Robert Morgan). Prop Joe wants to assure Omar that he had no part in the late Stringer Bell's setting up of Omar and Brother Mouzone a year ago, a long delayed apology that would seem suspect to me. Joe, in the name of making amends, tips Omar off to the poker game Marlo frequents, in exchange for a mere quarter of the take. Omar is suspicious and tells Joe that if he finds out he's setting him up, he'll come back on him, but Joe reiterates the question, "Have you ever known me to be a stupid man?" Sure enough, Omar moves on the game, much to Marlo's displeasure. When someone complains that he's taking their money, Omar comments, "Money ain't got no owners, just spenders." He also takes a liking to the ring that Marlo took from the store owner and takes that for himself as well. Prop Joe's long-delayed reassurance that he didn't help Stringer set Omar up raised another question in my mind. It's been a year since Stringer was killed and Bell's building contractor Andy Krawczyk (Michael Willis) can be seen playing in Royce's card game in this episode and he eyeballed Omar when he was killed Stringer's bodyguard. Did the police ever investigate Stringer's slaying? Is that a story hole that will ever be addressed, because it would seem that the police would have had substantial interesting in solving Stringer's murder and wouldn't just let his death stay up on the board in red.

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"...before shaking Prop Joe's hand in some sort of apparent deal."

Was the handshake a deal? I got the sense (realizing I haven't seen beyond this episode), due to the aggressiveness in Marlo's body language, that it was more of a "thank you for your time, but I'm not interested" sort of gesture.
That's why I qualified it -- because I felt Marlo wasn't clear and Prop Joe wasn't either.
I forgot to add -- that's partly why I think Prop Joe tipped Omar off to the poker game, to force Marlo's hand into joining the co-op.
I thought it was fairly obvious that Marlo was telling Prop Joe that he wasn't interested. Marlo thinks he has everything under control.
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