1.3: Testers

6. Weak Stomachs
Poot: Yo, he go for food?
Bodie: Yup
Poot: Why you ain’t tell me, my stomach growling like a motherfucker
Bodie: Starve, nigger

Daniels: Give me a 95 on why you are physically unable to participate in today’s action.
McNulty: What, I’m gonna lie so you can save face?
Daniels: Come on, write it up. “I can’t jump out with the rest of my unit because my tummy hurts.”

Poor Poot. He gets left out of a food run, and has to endure unsympathetic friends and the protests of his empty stomach. But a few minutes later, after Omar and his crew take off with two g-packs, we see that there was enough left in Poot’s stomach to throw up on the stash house floor. The twice-empty stomach shows Poot’s insignificance and his lack of power in the Pit. The next day, the stomach shows up once again in a power struggle between McNulty and Daniels. McNulty refuses to join the unit on the raids, so Daniels attacks him with paperwork. His use of the phrase “my tummy hurts” is an attempt to shame McNulty with his childish weakness. McNulty wins the battle by returning a more violent stomach image “I’m not going to help you gut this case.” By the time the raid is over, McNulty turns out to be right, as Daniels finds himself coming up more empty than Poot’s stomach.

 

5. D’Angelo Buys Something Special
D’Angelo: This here’s my uncle’s place
Shardine: You kin to Orlando?
D’Angelo: No. Orlando’s like the up-front man, you know? My uncle’s the money man.

Shardine: So, are you working with your uncle?
D’Angelo: I’m his right hand.

Stringer’s advises D’Angelo to use his bonus money to “buy something that you wouldn’t otherwise,” D’Angelo doesn’t waste any time obeying. He goes right downstairs and drops the whole stack on the bar to buy a drink for the stripper Shardine. She is bored, slumped over on the bar, but this rouses her and makes her take notice of her suitor, who is quick to tell her his story. Shardine shows her naivete when she thinks that Orlando is the man who runs the club, although in fairness to her, his name is on the awning. But she fails to make the distinction between the “up-front” aspect of the club and the behind-the scenes part taking place right next to her dressing room, where money is still being counted as they speak. While this innocence, along with her “country” background (D’Angelo says “where I come from, the county is the country”) is endearing, it is also a weakness that D’Angelo is quick to exploit, bragging that he is Avon’s right hand. But while D’Angelo seems to be running a game on Shardine, she is the one with the last laugh. After all, D’Angelo’s lies seem to elicit Shardine’s interest, but that too is an illusion. He already purchased her interest when he dropped the cash on the bar.

 

4. The Superfluous Detective

Santangelo: Major, I’m a fifth wheel on a car that’s going nowhere. Bring me home.
Rawls: Soon enough. Look, you’re my eyes and ears in this mess, right?

Poor, forgotten Santangelo. He is such an insignificant character that Daniels doesn’t even realize that he is absent half the time, and that McNulty is covering for him. Of course, McNulty would do no such thing if he were privy to this conversation between Santangelo and Rawls. Sanny begs to be taken off the detail, calling himself the fifth wheel. He has no place in the detail, and even if he did, he sees no clear direction. This is a problematic assessment, though. After all, Santangelo is too removed from the case to have any idea where it is going. Beyond that, he was probably sent to the detail for the same reason Polk, Mahone, and Prez were: he is a hump. Savvy, number-focused Rawls would only get rid of somebody who is a major pain in the ass (like McNulty) or who is useless as an investigator (like Santangelo). Rawls is able to get some use out of Santangelo, though, as his “eyes and ears” in the detail. From early on, this sets up the high command’s obsession with keeping informed about the progress of the investigation, and it sets up a dynamic similar to the investigation itself, where there is a need to gain information from a highly secretive group. This doesn’t speak too well of Santangelo, though. He is being reduced to a living, breathing surveillance device, like the human version of a Nagra.

 

3. Technology in a Cloud of Dust
Kima: This shit is prehistoric.
McNulty: What else have they got down there in property? Eight tracks, victrolas? Fucking department’s a joke.

When Sydnor brings in Nagras, the bulky, dusty recorders that he is supposed to use when he goes out undercover, Kima’s description of them as prehistoric seems like hyperbole, but in way sh

e is dead on. Technology evolves constantly and exponentially. It is this type of evolution that fuels the cat-and-mouse nature of law enforcement throughout the series, as the criminals work to stay one step ahead of the police and their ability to track them. So any technology that is a step or two behind may as well be from an episode of The Flintstones. Here, for example, the Nagras are beyond useless. They are dangerous. As Sydnor complains, even a cursory search will reveal the wire and put his life at risk. Meanwhile, the pampered feds, with their homeland security priority, are sitting on mountains of the most up-to-date technology. The cloud of dust that McNulty blows up from the recorder is a perfect image for the failure of a department that, as McNulty later tells Fitz, “we’re just happy to be in the 20th century.”

 

2. Bunk Sells Out McNulty’s Crusade

McNulty: Aw, Bunk, shame on you lad.

Kima: What did you expect him to do?

McNulty: I don’t know. Grab the mike, shove Rawls to the ground, and declare that all of Baltimore should rise as one because they’re murdering witnesses in cold blood.

 

The Department faces a PR nightmare when the information leaks that Gant’s murder was retribution for testifying against D’Angelo. So, naturally, they throw a press conference. In front of live TV cameras and a few reporters, Bunk is trotted out like a hostage, forced to publicly spin the fantasy that Gant’s death might have been related to “a street dispute.” He knows that there is no evidence to support this, as indicated by the way he stammers at the start of his statement, but he is doing what he has to in order to avoid the wrath of Rawls. It is much easier for McNulty to judge him from the other side of the television screen, but Kima talks sense into him. In response, the ever-imaginative McNulty matches fantasy with fantasy. After hearing the bogus version of Gant’s death, McNulty imagines Bunk playing the rebel prophet, literally knocking down the chain of command and inciting a massive, citywide revolt. These are the moments, carefully disguised as light banter with a colleague, when McNulty reveals his true idealistic ambition. He sees himself as a modern Spartacus, leading the poor oppressed slaves of the projects (and of the police bureaucracy) in a revolution against the establishment.

 

1. The BPD’s Necessary Evils

Burrell: A necessary evil.
Daniels: What?
Burrell: Valchek

Daniels: Is it insubordinate if I ask what’s so necessary?

Daniels manages to resolve the unwinnable dilemma of the riot by falling on his sword and taking the blame for sending his men into the towers. It turns out to be exactly the right move, largely because it is so obvious to Burrell and Valchek that Daniels is lying to protect his men. This shows loyalty, a major virtue at this level of power, and Daniels makes Valchek explicitly bestow “suction” on him. Daniels simultaneously curries favor with Burrell, who later says “I owe you” for protecting the department from the wrath of the heavily-connected Valchek. It is win-win, except for the fact that Daniels is still stuck in a department that views somebody like Valchek as “a necessary evil.” In the quoted exchange, Burrell admits as much, acknowledging that Valchek is more of a political hurdle than anything else. Daniels’ possibly-insubordinate comeback is brilliant. On one hand, it momentarily puts him on the same footing as Burrell as men who are forced to deal with Valchek (it reminds me of the scene in Dazed and Confused when freshman Mitch risks breaking the social code by badmouthing the bully senior O’Banion to the fellow-senior Floyd, who ends up respecting the bold honesty). But it also suggests a true “evil” in the department–the very fact that somebody like Vlachek is considered so necessary in the first place.

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One thought on “1.3: Testers

  1. Ah, all hail the first appearance of the ultimate hack! of the Wire Universe, Valchek. What I’ve always loved about him is his utter stoogishness, and yet… what continues to make him somewhat fascinating is his instinctive mastery of the political game, someone to be feared, as Burrell knows. Who else would Herc goto when he stumbles upon the mayor’s Lewsinsky episode? This reminds me of today’s recent George Washington Bridge scandal with the closing of the lanes, and Governor Christie. If there was someone who would be so petty and cynical to close the lanes just to punish a particular political enemy? it would certainly be right out Valchek’s playbook! In some ways, the most corrupt characters of the show are the best ones … with Clay Davis certainly eagerly anticipated in that rogues gallery.

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