Cleaning Up

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"Cleaning Up"
The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 12
Directed by Clement Virgo
Story by David Simon
Ed Burns
Teleplay by George Pelecanos
Original air date September 1, 2002 (2002-09-01)
Running time 56 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Hunt"
Next →
List of The Wire episodes

"Cleaning Up" is the 12th episode of the first season of the HBO original series, The Wire. The episode was written by George Pelecanos from a story by David Simon & Ed Burns and was directed by Clement Virgo. It originally aired on September 1, 2002.

Plot summary[edit]

Clean up[edit]

Stringer Bell visits the low-rise projects and collects the whole crew's pagers (including D'Angelo Barksdale, Bodie Broadus, Poot Carr, Manny, Cass and Sterling). He gives mobile phones and three numbers to Bodie and D'Angelo, instructing them that they can use the phones to organize meetings, but that all business talk will now be conducted face to face.

Avon Barksdale and Stringer meet with their lawyer Maurice Levy. Levy tells them that they need to clean up now that they know that they are being investigated. He tells them to walk away from Orlando's club, as Orlando probably told the police about it before he died. Avon asks when the trouble started, and Stringer suggests that it was around the time of D'Angelo's trial. Levy suggests that Nakeesha Lyles, a female security guard who had planned to testify against D'Angelo Barksdale, may be a problem. After Levy departs, Stringer convinces Avon to insulate himself from their crew by passing all communication through him.

D'Angelo meets with Stringer and Avon at the club. Stringer asks him about Wallace and D'Angelo tells them that he has left "the game". D'Angelo appeals to Avon to leave Wallace alone and then leaves. Back at the pit, Wallace returns from his grandmother's and asks for his old position back. Bodie tells Wallace that he would have to accept a demotion, but D'Angelo overrules him. D'Angelo takes Wallace aside and gives him advice on how to handle his return. D'Angelo's mother Brianna arrives with a lunch for him.

New approaches[edit]

Cedric Daniels visits his wounded detective, Kima Greggs, and bumps into a drunken Jimmy McNulty outside of her room. He tells McNulty to go in and see Greggs or go back to work. McNulty confesses that he is wracked with guilt over his role in starting the investigation in which Greggs was shot. He says that the case does not mean anything. Daniels tells him that the case meant something to Greggs and that they must continue their work and find her shooters.

McNulty arrives at the detail office as Lester Freamon fits Shardene Innes with contact lenses. Freamon tells McNulty that their surveillance is faltering because the Barksdale organization is changing its operating procedure. He has sent Prez to Annapolis to chase the paper trail in campaign contributions. Freamon suggests that they have Shardene wear a wire in Avon's club.

Daniels meets with Deputy Commissioner Burrell and Major Bobby Reed to discuss his investigation. Burrell feels that the case is over now that the wiretaps have gone dead. Daniels argues that they still have time remaining on the court order, so they should keep up the surveillance. Burrell tells Daniels that he will not need so many men and orders him to return detectives Santangelo and Sydnor, but allows him to keep Freamon and Prez. Burrell gives this order with a smile, thinking that he is letting Daniels keep only the most useless detectives on his detail, but Daniels is quietly satisfied as, unbeknownst to Burrell, both Freamon and Prez have revealed themselves to be valuable investigators.

ASA Rhonda Pearlman meets with the State's Attorney, who is worried about the Barksdale investigation looking into campaign donations. He gives Pearlman evidence of returned contributions from unknown sources from his own offices to hand over to the detail. Pearlman is distressed that the investigation is worrying her superiors, as this reflects poorly on her, and she denies any knowledge of the detail's actions. As the records are public, no one had asked for her assistance.

Shardene attempts to infiltrate the office at the club while wearing a wire, but has little success in obtaining pertinent information. Later that night, beat officers find the body of Nakeesha Lyles. Bunk reports the murder to the Barksdale detail and they realize that Wallace may be in danger. Daniels scrambles to organize his men to locate Wallace. Freamon offers to let Shardene stay at his apartment, drawing a warning from Daniels to "Remember who you are." It has not gone unnoticed by the Barksdale detail that Freamon has developed a fondness for the young woman.

Daniels is called into a meeting with Burrell and Senator Clay Davis. Davis is concerned about the detail looking into his campaign finances and the involvement with his driver. Daniels refuses to apologize for the driver's arrest and tells the senator that if he is clean, he has nothing to worry about. Davis tells him that he has no idea where his campaign contributions come from. Daniels leaves the meeting and Davis insists that Burrell needs to control him.

As Daniels arrives back at the office, Herc celebrates the results of his sergeant's exam. Carver was less successful and is away on in-service training. Police from the shore, whom Daniels had asked to check on Wallace at his grandmother's, phone in to report that Wallace left two days ago. Pearlman arrives at the detail to quiz Daniels about the investigation into campaign donations. Freamon trains Shardene in measuring her steps to map the inside of the club. Prez is quick to interpret her findings, again showing his aptitude for math. Using the measurements, the detail installs a camera in the wall of Avon's office from an adjacent vacant building.

Race for Wallace[edit]

Bodie reports to the towers after getting a call on his new phone. Stringer arrives and asks Bodie about Wallace. Bodie tells him that Wallace has returned. Stringer asks for Bodie's opinion of Wallace and Bodie tells him that Wallace is weak. Finally, Stringer orders Bodie to kill Wallace and checks that he has a gun. As Bodie leaves, Stringer calls him a soldier. After Bodie tells Poot about his task, Poot insists that Wallace is using narcotics and therefore not an informant. Bodie counters that if Wallace is using, then he is unreliable and has to go anyway. Finally, Bodie concludes that if they do not carry Stringer's orders out, they will be out of the business, and Wallace's death is part of "the game."

McNulty and Daniels visit Wallace's old squat, but find it abandoned and devoid of the extension cords that he was using to steal electricity. McNulty finds an address for Wallace's mother, Darcia Wallace, and he takes Daniels there to see if she knows his whereabouts. She is little help and is more concerned about her next drink than her son being in danger.

Wallace brings Chinese takeout for the young children whom he looks after. Later he goes out for a meal with Bodie and Poot. When they return home, the children have all left. Bodie and Poot corner Wallace in his bedroom and Bodie draws his weapon. He steels himself to shoot Wallace as he pleads for his life, but is unable to do so until prompted by Poot. After the first shot, Poot takes the weapon and finishes the task.

A new lead[edit]

The next day, Avon arrives to clear his office at Orlando's, and the detail is frustrated at once more being a step behind. Poot has his girlfriend report a dead animal in Wallace's apartment the next day so that the body will be found. Bunk investigates the scene and recognizes Wallace. Avon meets with D'Angelo as the office is emptied and asks him to drive to New York to receive their next package. He tells D'Angelo that he wants him to do it because he is family and he feels that he can trust him. With this information, Daniels and McNulty borrow a tracking device from the FBI and install it on D'Angelo's car as he changes his clothes.

D'Angelo is stopped by the New Jersey State Police and then brought in by the detail. McNulty and Daniels interrogate him without a lawyer. D'Angelo is wary, having been tricked by McNulty before. McNulty says that Wallace is dead, but D'Angelo does not believe him.

Brianna berates Avon for letting D'Angelo get arrested. Stringer and Levy visit D'Angelo and he asks about Wallace. Stringer cannot answer him and D'Angelo becomes enraged when he realizes that McNulty was telling the truth. He refuses to let Levy represent him.

Daniels meets with Burrell to discuss this new development. Burrell suggests that this arrest is sufficient and that the case is over. Daniels thinks that D'Angelo will give them more if pressured. Burrell questions the relevance of Daniels' men looking into campaign finance and then threatens him with the FBI's report on his excess capital. Daniels refuses to back down and insists that he will continue with the case as long as he has time on the wiretap affidavit. He threatens Burrell by stating that he is willing to go down for the Eastern District allegations, claiming that it will eventually happen anyway but will result in bad press, which is the one thing, according to Daniels, that Burrell is most afraid of.

McNulty and Daniels watch the SWAT team prepare to arrest Avon. McNulty tells Daniels that they should make the arrest themselves, and they go in together. Daniels cuffs Avon but McNulty lets Stringer go, telling him that they will catch him later. At the office, Freamon, Prez, and Sydnor review the board. Freamon adds a newspaper article about a downtown business revitalization project being built in an area where the Barksdale organization has been amassing property. Sydnor tells them that the case is the best work that he has ever done, but he still feels that it is not finished.

At the low rises, the dealers' orange sofa stands unused.[1][2][3]


Title reference[edit]

The title refers to the cleaning up of loose ends performed by the Barksdale crew, as recommended by their lawyer Maurice Levy (see picture) as well as that of the police forced to bring in the case in the wake of the effects of "The Hunt" that interfered with their case due to the resulting changes made by the Barksdale organization.


The epigraph is spoken by Wallace as he discusses his return to "the pit" with D'Angelo, explaining why he can not stay in the countryside, and why he can't move to another part of Baltimore. This is because everything that he is has been molded into his part of the drug dealing institution of "the pit", meaning that he is stuck in the life the institution forced him into.


The song playing during the conversation between Bodie and Stringer Bell is "Hip Hop", from the album Black on Both Sides by Mos Def.


Starring cast[edit]

Although credited, John Doman, Andre Royo, and Sonja Sohn do not appear in this episode.

Guest stars[edit]

First appearances[edit]

Brianna Barksdale: D'Angelo's mother and Avon's sister who is fully aware of their business.


Wallace: Shot by Bodie Broadus and Poot Carr.

Nakeesha Lyles: Killed by Barksdale Organization

Little Man: Killed by Wee Bey


The Futon Critic named it the fifth best episode of 2002, saying "You'd be hard pressed to find a harder to watch sequence than this one in 2002 as Poot and Bodie have to step up and get rid of the gentle and kind-hearted Wallace. I get the shivers just thinking about it."[4]


  1. ^ "Episode guide - episode 12 Cleaning Up". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-31. 
  2. ^ David Simon, Ed Burns, George P. Pelecanos (2002-09-01). "Cleaning Up". The Wire. Season 1. Episode 12. HBO. 
  3. ^ Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books. 
  4. ^ Brian Ford Sullivan (January 4, 2001). "The 50 Best Episodes of 2002 - #10-1". The Futon Critic. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 

External links[edit]