McNulty: Hey Bunk, I’ll give you that burning trace evidence makes sense, but what the fuck did you plan to wear home?
Bunk: Huh? Aw, shit….Hey Jimmy, you know something? You’re no good for people, man. I mean, damn. Everybody around you…Christ.
One of The Wire’s most reliable sources of comedy is drunkenness, especially the champion barstool tag-team of McNulty and Bunk. They have many odd and hilarious drunken moments, but it is hard to get funnier than Bunk in a pink bathrobe (his second time wearing pink this episode), mumbling about “trace evidence” as McNulty tucks his barely-coherent partner into the same bunk bed he originally (and futilely) built for his sons.
“Melvin Mora, numbnuts.”–Sean McNulty
Episode 8, “Lessons” begins with McNulty finally enjoying some alone time with his sons, Sean and Michael. It starts out well, but in a flash, a nice weekend outing to the market becomes one of those edge-of-your-seat “is-this-really-happening?” moments. Of course, this really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise for the viewer. After all, there are so few scenes in The Wire involving the characters’ personal lives. The few scenes that do typically end up doing so to illustrate how consistently the game interferes with all aspects of the player’s life.
Pearlman: What’s the plan here? Drunken fuck on a Tuesday night? Is it Wednesday morning?
McNulty: I’m not drunk. It’s Rawls. He’s going after my badge.
McNulty: They’re gonna do me, Ronnie. They’re gonna do me and I love this fucking job. They’re gonna do me.
You gotta make your move soon–Bunk
There is a funny moment in the middle of “The Wire” that shows just how many characters are reaching key turning points with the Barksdale investigation. It is nine in the morning and there is already a lot of action in the detail office. Freamon briefs Kima and McNulty on the results of the first day of listening in on the phone calls, when Polk stumbles in, “lit” possibly from the night before, possibly from this morning. McNulty gets a page from Bunk. Daniels sees how drunk Polk is and calls him into his office.
Landsman: Hey, McNulty, there’s something here that needs kissing!
McNulty: Yeah, speak again, oh toothless one.
Landsman: I guess you know now why I wear the stripes in the family.
McNulty: Good call Jay.
Landsman has a lot to gloat about in “The Pager.” The lab results come back from the shell casing that McNulty and Bunk pulled from the scene of Diedre Kresson’s murder, and as it turns out, it matches the gun used in two other drug murders that link to the Barksdales. Landsman is the one who saw the connection in the first place. McNulty fought him, claiming that the link to the name “Dee” was weak, so now he has to kiss some ass. The Bawdy Landsman is thrilled to cash in this, literally. He drops his pants and mocks McNulty, asserting that it is this ability to connect cases that justifies his venerable position as Sergeant.
McNulty: (on phone) Yeah, I got that…I did…I know…you don’t know, what do you mean you don’t know?…For chrissakes, Elena, I’m their father. You think I’d let them sleep on the floor?…Yes, I got them…Sheets, pillows, comforters, pillowcases, I fuckin got them…Color? What the fuck do you care what color they are? Hello?…(hangs up)…lost her.
Kima: I bet.
While on the seemingly-endless stakeout of Omar’s van, Kima squirms with discomfort as she listens to McNulty angrily bicker with his ex-wife Elena over an upcoming visit from his children. Any such divorce negotiation must be uncomfortable for all involved, especially when they are a captive audience like Kima or, for that matter, the show’s viewers.
“And four months”–Freamon
There is a great moment of recognition near the end of “Old Cases,” right after the detail finally convinces Daniels to back McNulty’s pager clone plan. Daniels, who seems almost convinced, asks a simple question. “Do we have a pager number?” Freamon, who has finally entered into the general discussions of the detail, looks over at McNulty, who looks like a kid who just got busted without his homework. McNulty looks helplessly at Kima, realizing that he worked so hard to convince Daniels to commit to a clone, only to forget the crucial detail of getting an actual pager number. Freamon lets him squirm for just a second before offering the information he had the whole time: D’Angelo’s pager number.
Season One’s fourth episode is titled “Old Cases,” but I have never been sure why that is plural. There is one clear “old case” that runs through the episode–the six-month-old Dierdre Kresson murder. There are a few other cases that get mentioned, like the one that gets Freamon kicked out of Homicide or the stack of cases that seem to be linked to the Barksdale organization. But none of them loom as large as the Kresson case does through the entire episode.
Landsman: At this point, I got nothing to do but think about the problems of Jimmy McNulty. Because clearly, this guy and his fuckin’ problems are standing between me and all worldly pleasure.
Landsman: First of all, it’s not Jimmy’s fault… Jimmy is an addict, sir.
Rawls: What’s he addicted to?
Any savvy television viewer must have known from the beginning that it would come to this. All of the talk of buy-bust coming down from Burrell and Daniels had to amount to nothing, and Jimmy McNulty, who fancies himself the smartest guy in the room, had to be vindicated. After all, the season is 13 episodes long, so the audience sees any talk of finishing the case in “a few weeks” as nothing more than wishful thinking from bureaucrats who desperately hope to return to their comfortable status quo. But the show is called The Wire. Sooner or later, there was going to be some telephonic surveillance.