Moral Midgetry

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"Moral Midgetry"
The Wire episode
TheWire33.jpg
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 8
Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Teleplay by Richard Price
Story by David Simon
Richard Price
Original air date November 14, 2004 (2004-11-14)
Running time 58 minutes
Guest actors
Season 3 episodes
List of The Wire episodes

"Moral Midgetry" is the eighth episode of the third season of the HBO original series, The Wire. The episode was written by Richard Price from a story by David Simon & Richard Price and was directed by Agnieszka Holland. It originally aired on November 14, 2004.

Production[edit]

Title reference[edit]

Colicchio describes Colvin's plan to create drug tolerant zones using the episode title. It's a metaphor for Hamsterdam, being small in morals because the drug dealers and users are protected by the law there.

Epigraph[edit]

Crawl, walk, and then run. - Clay Davis

Davis uses this phrase in his speech to Stringer about the need to prepare himself for moving into the world of federal corruption.

Credits[edit]

Starring cast[edit]

Although credited, Deirdre Lovejoy, Wendell Pierce, Andre Royo, J. D. Williams, and Corey Parker Robinson do not appear in this episode.

Guest stars[edit]

  1. Isiah Whitlock, Jr. as Clay Davis
  2. Chad L. Coleman as Dennis "Cutty" Wise
  3. Jamie Hector as Marlo Stanfield
  4. Brandy Burre as Theresa D'Agostino
  5. Michael Hyatt as Brianna Barksdale
  6. Melvin Williams as The Deacon
  7. Megan Anderson as Jen Carcetti
  8. Clarence Clemons as Roman
  9. Doug Olear as Special Agent Terrence "Fitz" Fitzhugh
  10. Gbenga Akkinagbe as Chris Partlow
  11. Benjamin Busch as Officer Anthony Colicchio
  12. Ryan Sands as Officer Lloyd "Truck" Garrick
  13. Michael Willis as Andy Krawczyk
  14. Richard Burton as Sean "Shamrock" McGinty
  15. Anwan Glover as Slim Charles
  16. Jonathan Orcutt as Sheriff
  17. William Zielinski as Gene - public health academic
  18. Mayo Best as Gerard
  19. Kelli R. Brown as Kimmy
  20. Christopher Mann as Tony Gray
  21. Brandan T. Tate as Sapper
  22. Ernest Waddell as Dante
  23. Perry Blackmon as Perry
  24. Fran Boyd as Needle Exchange Worker
  25. Tiana Harris as Devonne
  26. Genevieve Hudson-Price as Dee-Dee
  27. Felicia Pearson as Snoop

The female needle exchange worker is played by Fran Boyd, who was one of the main subjects of David Simon and Ed Burns' previous HBO miniseries The Corner.

Uncredited appearances[edit]

Plot[edit]

Summary[edit]

Politics[edit]

Councilman Tommy Carcetti hosts his public safety sub-committee meeting with Acting Commissioner Ervin Burrell and Deputy Commissioner William Rawls. He is concerned that the impressive reduction in crime from the Western district may be a misrepresentation and Burrell tries to reassure him that it is a statistical aberration. Carcetti moves on to the witness protection problems the city has been having and Burrell tells him there is no funding. Carcetti lays into Burrell despite urging from Councilman Anthony Gray to hold back. Theresa D'Agostino leaves the meeting because Carcetti has ignored her advice to save the witness protection program as ammunition for his campaign. At a dinner with Carcetti and his wife, D'Agostino chastises Carcetti for his short sightedness in using facts to win arguments instead of inspiring people and urges him to be more likeable. D'Agostino arranges for Carcetti to get coaching in improving his demeanor.

Western district[edit]

Sergeant Ellis Carver checks in with Officer Aaron Castor and learns that Hamsterdam has been quiet apart from a few overdoses. A drug dealer named Tucky sells to an addict named Dee-Dee in her car. Tucky is approached by someone selling jewelry who tells him to go into one of the vacant buildings and tell them Rafiq sent him to get a good deal. Once inside the dealer is assaulted, bound, gagged, robbed and shoved in a room with several other victims. Once the stick-up crew has left, the dealers manage to escape and alert the police. The dealers plead to Carver, Detective Thomas "Herc" Hauk and Officer Anthony Colicchio that if they are not allowed to carry weapons, then the police should guard them against stick-up crews.

Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin takes his friend The Deacon on a tour of his cleaned up areas and then brings him into Hamsterdam. Colvin discusses the dealers' complaint with Carver and suggests that he pay the now-unemployed lookouts to watch for trouble, acting like auxiliary police officers and thereby neutralizing the problem of having so many unoccupied children around. The Deacon is disgusted by Hamsterdam and asks Colvin what "in God's name" he has done. The Deacon cannot be convinced that Colvin's scheme is a good idea. He asks Colvin to provide things such as clean water, needles, condoms and treatment centers now that he has concentrated the addicts into one place. Colvin says that such schemes are outside of his mandate as a police officer. Later Dennis "Cutty" Wise meets with the Deacon and helps him to load boxes into a car. Cutty tells the Deacon he needs to occupy himself to stay straight.

Herc brings the dealers, including Spider into the precinct to use the identikit computer to make a composite of their attacker. Herc is impressed with the dealers' computer skills, and he and the dealers play with the system to create images of imaginary people. Colicchio is disgusted by Herc's goofing around with the dealers. When Carver returns to the precinct he is also unimpressed with Herc's lack of focus on his police duties. Later, Officer Lloyd "Truck" Garrick, Colicchio, Herc and Carver discuss Colvin's project over beers. Colicchio describes it as "moral midgetry" and says it is heartbreaking to keep coming in day after day to police Hamsterdam. Carver argues that Colvin has always backed up his men and has therefore earned the right to try whatever he likes after 30 years in the Baltimore police. Herc reminds them that Colvin had described Hamsterdam as temporary, but Colicchio is skeptical that it will ever be shut down.

A community leader named Roman tries to calm unrest among the young unemployed boys in Hamsterdam. He meets with Cutty and the deacon and suggests a basketball tournament to keep the boys occupied. Cutty tells the deacon he is more of a boxer than a ball player and Roman suggests an abandoned gym that kids use. Roman worries that it is too far away from Hamsterdam and Cutty asks why there are so many people there. Roman explains Colvin's initiative and tells Cutty the deacon hopes to intervene to improve things in the area. Roman takes them to a working boxing gym and Cutty seems to have returned home. Roman then guides him to the disused gym and Cutty tells Roman he will fix it up himself, pleased to have something to work on.

The Deacon meets Colvin in a pool hall and tells him they need to discuss the situation. Colvin leaves to attend the ComStat meeting but promises to return. At ComStat, Rawls all but accuses Colvin of altering his figures to attain the significant drop in serious crimes in his district. Daniels refuses to take any credit for the drop in crime. Rawls asks Colvin to give him his records so he can check the figures.

Colvin, Roman and the deacon meet with someone from a non-profit public health organization to bring him into Hamsterdam to provide facilities for the people there. He is concerned that it is not sanctioned by Colvin's superiors and the deacon urges him to act quickly. The next day, initiatives are in full swing to exchange needles and provide free condoms. Colicchio takes this as a sign of the permanence of Hamsterdam.

Major case unit[edit]

Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski reports that he has tracked Bodie Broadus's disposable cell phone using its serial number and has managed to follow it from the manufacturer through several wholesalers to the Mondo Mart where it was sold to the end user. Lester Freamon and Cedric Daniels are impressed with his thorough and meticulous work. He reports that six of the other numbers are phones from the same company. He also identifies the stores in which the phones were sold, with no more than two phones purchased from any single store. Freamon maps out the locations and finds that they are all spread along I-95 between Baltimore and Richmond. Freamon and Daniels admire the discipline of the drug dealers in driving 200 miles every couple of weeks to avoid investigation.

Freamon assigns Jimmy McNulty and Kima Greggs the task of tracking the buyer of the phones. They visit Mondo Mart and find that security tapes are reused after a week, so there is no chance of getting footage of the buyer. Greggs decides they should drive further out of town to the independent stores to see if they have better memories or security footage. Sergeant Jay Landsman calls McNulty with a message that Brianna Barksdale has tried to reach him and gives him a contact number.

When they reach Virginia they find the shop where Bernard bought eight phones and owners that are helpful and keep meticulous written transaction records. However, their security tapes are reused every 24 hours. McNulty spots a local patrol car in Dumfries, Virginia and realizes the local police could help them. He assumes they will be racist being in a more Southern area and asks Greggs to stay in the car while he talks to them. Inside, McNulty talks with the white local sheriff, claiming that Baltimore has gone to hell under an African-American majority rule under the premise that the sheriff will be more inclined to help him. However, McNulty finds his foot in his mouth, as the sheriff's deputy, who is also his wife, is African American. The sheriff cooperates despite McNulty's feigned racism and shows them that he has asked a businessman across the street to refocus his security camera on the mini-mart because the market has frequent problems with shoplifting. He offers to get them a copy of the tape in the morning. When McNulty is out of earshot, the sheriff tells Greggs that McNulty is a "bit of an asshole", and Greggs feigns her incredulity. McNulty and Greggs find a motel and they discuss infidelity. In the discussion, McNulty claims that he spent half of his marriage in motel rooms and managed to successfully cheat on his wife by having his partner cover for him by saying he caught an extradition case. McNulty learns that Greggs has returned to living with Cheryl but makes a move on her anyway. Greggs laughs off McNulty's advances.

Greggs and McNulty return to the unit office with the tape and find Special Agent Terrence "Fitz" Fitzhugh installing new equipment with Freamon and Prez. McNulty calls Brianna back and Daniels is surprised that she is involved. Fitz's equipment allows Prez to enlarge the image from the video camera footage and get Bernard's plate number. Greggs and Prez track the plate number to a rental agency and find that Bernard rents a car from them every couple of weeks to make his collections.

McNulty meets with Brianna and insists that D'Angelo Barksdale could not have killed himself. Brianna tells McNulty that no one would have dared harm D'Angelo with Avon's protection, and McNulty concurs. He concludes that D'Angelo's murder must have been planned, as a spontaneous killing would have been more likely to have been carried out via a swift shank. McNulty makes Brianna feel guilty by telling her that no one cares enough to look into it further, and he also brings up her role in convincing D'Angelo not to turn on Avon. Brianna asks him why he did not come to her first. McNulty responds by stating that he thought Brianna cared more about protecting the drug operation than her own son. McNulty leaves Brianna uncontrollably in tears alone in the room.

Barksdale organization[edit]

Avon Barksdale and Slim Charles attend Rico's funeral and Avon plans to get revenge on Marlo Stanfield. Meanwhile, Stringer Bell meets with Senator Clay Davis to question him about lack of progress in his development business. Davis tries to divert him by giving him a contract to supply light bulbs. Davis tells Stringer that they will be operating at a federal level in three years. Stringer tells Davis he is ready to run immediately, but Davis insists that he needs to work his way up gradually from local to state to federal contracts.

Back in the office, Avon gives Slim Charles a contact in social services to find some of Omar Little's relatives. Slim Charles suggests that splitting their efforts between Omar and Marlo may be a mistake, but Avon reassures him that since he is back they can handle everything. He tells Slim Charles they cannot get to Marlo directly so they will have to get "Devonne" on him. Shamrock visits social services with a bribe and learns that Omar's grandmother still lives at the same house. Charles takes Sapper and Gerard to stake out the house and tells them to wait for Omar to show up. Sapper once more fails to understand the plan.

Stringer checks in with Andy Krawczyk and learns about a rival property developer who has garnered much success from an association with Clay Davis. Stringer goes back to Davis and insists that he move faster in making him money. Davis takes Stringer to meet a contact who arranges federal funding but who refuses to talk to Stringer. Davis reassures Stringer that they will do business with the contact. Stringer returns to Davis with a briefcase full of cash and looks for assurances that Davis will deliver. Davis calls this a sign that Stringer is still not ready, but takes the money and tells Stringer that everything is a go.

Brianna visits the funeral home looking for Avon and finds only Stringer. Stringer tries to dissuade her from talking to Avon and promises to put them in touch.

Omar[edit]

Omar has moved his crew over to the East side and is having much more success robbing the dealers there. On their return to the West side they are surprised at Hamsterdam. Omar believes it is too good to be true and refuses to consider it as a target.

Stanfield Organization[edit]

Marlo catches a girl watching him in a club and approaches her. Marlo checks that she is there with friends and declines both drinking and dancing. Instead they leave the club together. After they have sex in his car she persuades him to meet her again the following day. She tells him her name is Devonne.

Marlo phones Devonne to arrange a meeting, but feels suspicious. He assigns Chris Partlow to deal with Devonne to avoid possible problems in the future. Snoop sits in the restaurant where Marlo had arranged to meet Devonne and recognizes a Barksdale soldier buying a large quantity of food and taking it to a nearby SUV. Snoop reports in to Partlow. Partlow observes Devonne receiving a signal from the car. He and his crew drive by and Partlow fires his shotgun into the SUV, wounding Avon in the shoulder and killing one of Avon's soldiers, Tater.

Shamrock reports the shooting to Stringer and tells him that Brianna has been calling looking for Avon. Stringer orders Shamrock to keep Brianna away from him and Avon. Slim Charles takes Avon to a veterinarian to address his injuries. Avon meets with Shamrock, Slim Charles and Perry and tells them they are going to wait out Marlo, forcing him to return to the corners to make money. Stringer interrupts the meeting. He warns Avon about the consequences of war. Avon criticizes Stringer as being too concerned with money and having lost his hard edge for the street and warns he may not be smart enough for the business world. Stringer says that thinking before killing does not make him soft, but Avon challenges Stringer's manhood by asking him who he has killed. Stringer reports Brianna's meeting with McNulty and reveals to Avon that he was behind D'Angelo's death, and that his was a life that had to be taken. Avon attacks Stringer but Stringer overpowers his wounded friend and tells him that he did it for him, to protect him from D'Angelo turning against him. Stringer lets Avon up from the ground, and Avon walks away and sits down, speechless as the screen fades to black.[1][2]

Deceased[edit]

Tater: Barksdale soldier killed by Chris Partlow in Avon's attempt at killing Marlo.

Reception[edit]

The Futon Critic named it the 15th best episode of 2004, saying "It was the showdown we all knew had to happen as Stringer surprisingly confesses to Avon his ordering the death of his nephew after being chided over his lack of toughness. What follows is absolutely, jaw dropping riveting as Idris Elba and Wood Harris prove themselves to be some of TV's most talented actors.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Episode guide - episode 33 Moral Midgetry". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-08-09. 
  2. ^ David Simon, Richard Price (2004-11-14). "Moral Midgetry". The Wire. Season 3. Episode 08. HBO.
  3. ^ Brian Ford Sullivan (January 4, 2001). "The 50 Best Episodes of 2004: #20-11". The Futon Critic. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 

External links[edit]