Backwash (The Wire)

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The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 7
Directed by Thomas J. Wright
Story by David Simon
Rafael Alvarez
Teleplay by Rafael Alvarez
Original air date July 13, 2003 (2003-07-13)
Running time 58 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"All Prologue"
Next →
"Duck and Cover"
List of The Wire episodes

"Backwash" is the seventh episode of the second season of the HBO original series The Wire. The episode was written by Rafael Alvarez from a story by David Simon & Rafael Alvarez and was directed by Thomas J. Wright. It originally aired on July 13, 2003.


Title reference[edit]

The title is a literary reference to the concept that D'Angelo discusses in the prison book club in "All Prologue".

One of several definitions for "backwash" is "a condition, usually undesirable, that continues long after the event which caused it".


Horseface makes this statement to the recently severely injured New Charles while the stevedores wait for the ambulance.

Non-fiction elements[edit]

The face on the dartboard in Frank's office is that of Robert Irsay, the owner of the former Baltimore Colts, who, in 1984, took the team to Indianapolis.[1]


Although credited, Paul Ben-Victor, Frankie Faison and Andre Royo do not appear in this episode. Also, due to D'Angelo Barksdale having been killed off, Larry Gilliard, Jr. is no longer credited.


Sobotka detail[edit]

Bunk Moreland and Beadie Russell meet with Sergeant Jay Landsman to discuss using a computer to monitor dock traffic. He is initially outraged but is more accepting when he learns that Lieutenant Cedric Daniels has granted them space in his detail's off-site location. Before storming out, he speculates that Daniels might take the 14 unsolved murder cases, which would relieve the division of the uncleared murders.

Colonel William Rawls later calls a meeting with Daniels to try to persuade him to take the Jane Doe homicides. Daniels stands firm. Later, in a tense discussion with his wife, Daniels defends his decision to stay with the police department and tells her he is "playing their game" from now on. She seems unimpressed.

Kima Greggs and Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski follow up on the information they got from Shardene Innes's friend and find a strip club employing Eastern European dancers. Greggs and Prez watch as the girls leave the club and file into a van. They then trail the van to its destination – an apartment building where all the girls are being kept on the sixth floor.

Thomas "Herc" Hauk and Ellis Carver purchase a remote audio surveillance bug to get information "above street level" on the drug trade. Carver is dubious of the cost ($1,250 with a policeman's discount), but Herc persuades the shopkeeper to let them have it for a trial period of 48 hours in exchange for the store keeping Carver's credit card (Herc's card is "maxed out"), hoping to return it as soon as they have a meet on record. They place the bug in a tennis ball, without the necessary paperwork, and have some success monitoring Frog. However, when Nick Sobotka arrives, Frog distractedly picks up the ball from the gutter and bounces it repeatedly on the sidewalk, eventually tossing it into the busy street. Panicked that his credit card is on the line, Carver tries chasing the ball in the heavy traffic, only to watch helplessly as it is thoroughly demolished by a Mack truck. Later on, Herc and Carver plan to fraudulently claim to work with a confidential informant to recoup the cost of the surveillance bug. Herc insists that Carver register the confidential informant because Carver has the 'trustworthy look'.

Lester Freamon and Beadie continue to study the drug traffic through the docks by using their cloned computer. Freamon watches clean checkers at work just to familiarize himself with how things work. When they pick up Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa working a ship, they call in Kima and Prez for help with surveillance. Soon enough, Russell sees him "lose" a container, and they follow it back to Double G's warehouse and see Sergei "Serge" Molatov meeting with Proposition Joe. Greggs photographs the encounter.

Jimmy McNulty, currently without an assignment, spends time with his estranged wife Elena watching their sons play in a tent in the garden. Jimmy once again attempts to rekindle his relationship with Elena, but is unsuccessful as Elena admits she can never trust him again.

Bunk, Freamon and Russell decide they must persuade Daniels to take on the murders because he will permit the kind of investigation they feel that they need to run. Freamon makes an impassioned plea to Daniels, successfully convincing him that it's imperative the detail takes on the 14 murders he has been resisting all along. As a result, Daniels later visits Rawls's office to inform him that he's willing to take on the case, as long as he gets Rawls's full compliance with any request for support. Rawls gleefully agrees to the bargain.

Daniels is far less successful, however, at selling the idea to his wife; when Daniels tells her he loves his job, she replies, "The job doesn't love you." She reminds him that she fell in love with him for his ambition, and he's lost his way. She exits the room in disappointment and anger.

Dock business[edit]

Nick gets further involved in illegal activity and sets himself up as a supplier to Ziggy Sobotka's dealer contact Frog. He is unknowingly picked up by the surveillance of Carver and Herc.

Later, Nick brings a thick roll of bills to Ziggy at Delores' bar — his share of the first drug profits plus money Frog owed him from earlier dealings. When Ziggy fails to show appreciation for the windfall because the drug operation was supposed to be his domain, Nick pushes him. Ziggy shows him a letter from a law firm claiming he has fathered a child with a notoriously promiscuous local woman. Nick realizes that the letter should have been hand delivered by personal service, rather than mailed; he spontaneously calls the law firm's number and immediately, a cellphone across the room rings—it's Maui's cell phone. Half-amused, Nick tells Ziggy he has been the victim of a prank. Later, Maui continues to taunt Ziggy with a song ("Love Child" by The Supremes) from the jukebox and the other stevedores try to convince Ziggy he could take the much bigger Maui in a fight.

Frank Sobotka attends a seminar on robotic dock technology and is appalled when he realizes the automated systems threaten to make stevedores obsolete. He meets with Nat Coxson back at the union offices and appeals to him to let him extend his term as union treasurer for another year, deferring an agreement to alternate between white and black leaders annually.

Frank meets with his lobbyist, Bruce DiBiago, and expresses his frustration with the lack of progress with the politicians, all but accusing DiBiago of playing him and the union. Frank rants about his family's history and its lack of a financially secure future before delivering a box of cash and insisting that Bruce work the politicians harder to get the canal dredged.

A dock worker called New Charles suffers a severe leg injury while moving freight when his leg is trapped under heavy cargo and severely damaged. The stevedores rush to his aid and he is taken to hospital, but he ends up losing the limb. Frank and Nat visit his family and Frank delivers a thick envelope stuffed with cash, saying it's from the union. After Nat reminisces about how New Charles got his name (he arrived on the day "Old" Charles died), Nat pointedly asks Frank where the money comes from. Refusing to answer, Frank simply walks away.

D'Angelo's funeral[edit]

Bodie Broadus buys a floral arrangement for D'Angelo Barksdale's funeral and orders it to look like the high rise tower that D'Angelo controlled before his demotion. Stringer Bell visits Brianna Barksdale's house for D'Angelo's wake and finds her inconsolable. Donette seems more pragmatic about the death. In the prison Avon Barksdale and Wee-Bey Brice discuss D'Angelo's ‘suicide’. Unaware that Stringer Bell had engineered the murder (while having the assassin make it look like suicide), Avon is despondent over his nephew's death. Still, Avon musters enough anger at the act to dismiss D'Angelo as weak.

The funeral is well-attended and Bodie's over-the-top floral arrangement garners compliments. After the ceremony, Proposition Joe approaches Stringer Bell to discuss sharing his supply for a share in the Barksdale organization's profits—noting that the word on the street is that the deteriorating quality of the Atlanta product is nearly unacceptable to the junkies. Stringer pragmatically agrees to present the idea to Avon during his next visit to the prison. When he does so, however, Avon angrily dismisses it out of hand.[2][3][4]


  1. ^ Profiles: Stealing Life: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker
  2. ^ "Episode guide - episode 20 backwash". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-06-22. 
  3. ^ David Simon, Rafael Alvarez (2003-07-13). "Backwash". The Wire. Season 2. Episode 07. HBO. 
  4. ^ Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books. 

External links[edit]