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The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 4
Directed by Ernest Dickerson
Story by David Simon
George Pelecanos
Teleplay by George Pelecanos
Original air date October 10, 2004 (2004-10-10)
Running time 58 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Dead Soldiers"
Next →
"Straight and True"
List of The Wire episodes

"Hamsterdam" (called "Amsterdam" in the first DVD release) is the fourth episode of the third season of the HBO original series The Wire. The episode was written by George Pelecanos from a story by David Simon & George Pelecanos and was directed by Ernest Dickerson. It originally aired on October 10, 2004.


Title reference[edit]

Narcotics are legal in the Netherlands (shown in dark blue on this map).

The title refers to the Dutch city with liberal drug laws; Officers Thomas "Herc" Hauk and Anthony Colicchio use the city's name as an example to the drug dealers. This subplot was introduced to explore the potential positive effects of de facto "legalization" of the illegal drug trade, and incidentally prostitution, within the limited boundaries of a few uninhabited city blocks. The posited benefits were reduced street crime citywide and increased outreach of health and social services to at-risk populations. The name "Hamsterdam" comes from the drug dealers' mishearing Herc when he refers to Amsterdam, although some viewers have noted that the "Ham" reference may also be a pun based on the dealers' view of the police as "pigs."


Fruit makes this statement in response to Carver and his team trying to move his crew into one of the new drug tolerant zones. This also ties in with Carcetti's announcement of running for mayor in Baltimore, despite his ethnicity, as well as Cutty's difficulty at changing his ways. To a lesser extent, it can apply to McNulty and Rhonda's dysfunctional relationship.



Councilman Tommy Carcetti has dinner with some friends. When they see reports of a murder on the news, his friends (all white) make disparaging comments about African Americans. Carcetti disapproves of these comments, insisting it's not about color and a lot of good people live in the neighborhoods. Carcetti then announces his intention to run for mayor. He notices Theresa D'Agostino, a political consultant he knows from law school, walk in. He makes a bet with his friends, who are unaware that they know each other, that he can successfully approach her. When he does talk with her he courts her interest in becoming his campaign manager but she tells him he has little chance of success because he is white.


Detective Bunk Moreland interviews drug dealers in the Western district that have been rounded up by the Drug Enforcement Unit. He tells them they can have a free pass in exchange for information on the gun. Bunk returns with no leads and Sergeant Jay Landsman catches up with him and orders him to keep working on finding the gun. Bunk meets with Jimmy McNulty at a bar to discuss locating Omar Little to help with the murders of Tank and Tosha. Bunk pretends his mother has died to attract a woman. Later, a drunk McNulty visits ASA Pearlman's house and notices Lieutenant Daniels' car parked outside after there is no answer to his shouting and knocking on the entrance door. The next scene shows Pearlman and Daniels inside her apartment and Daniels looking out the window at McNulty.

Western district[edit]

Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin attends a town hall meeting in his district. When the residents vent their frustrations on the rampant drug dealing situation and perceived lack of policing on the community relations sergeant, Colvin steps in and tells them he doesn't have answers to their questions. Colvin, furthermore, admits everything they have done has failed and any of the old strategies will still leave the residents at the mercy of the drug war. The residents of the district are surprised and placated to some degree that a police commander was actually honest with them. Carcetti and Marla Daniels are in attendance. Carcetti introduces himself to Daniels and remarks that Colvin's speech was like pouring gasoline on a fire. As Colvin leaves Lieutenant Mello asks what he was thinking with his speech.

Colvin later meets with the head of security and a director of Johns Hopkins University to discuss moving into a deputy security job there following his retirement. Colvin admits to feeling out of place at Hopkins, as he is not used to being around well-to-do academic types. The security director there, a former Baltimore Police Department officer, reassures him that Hopkins is a perfect place to work security after retiring from the department. The two of them joke about the quiet and crime-free affluent atmosphere among Hopkins students and faculty members and Colvin affirms that it would be nice to work in a less stressful and negative atmosphere.

Along with the rest of the Western district, Sergeant Ellis Carver's squad cracks down on the drug dealing crews, trying to move them over to the new free zones. They arrest a dealer, Spider (who identifies himself as "Peanut Butter and Jelly"), for dropping vials. The dealers refuse their orders and continue to trade on their corners. Colvin decides to order school buses to round up the drug dealers after discussing the problem with Mello. Once Colvin has the young drug dealers in the school gym he tries to inform them of the free zones. The dealers are rowdy and disruptive until the principal takes over the microphone and expertly brings them under control. Once she turns the microphone back over to Colvin he is chagrined when they are again unwilling to listen.

Barksdale organization[edit]

Dennis "Cutty" Wise continues to work on a landscaping crew. On his way to a job he sees a car being driven by young drug dealers. He learns from his employer that all of the other workers are on parole and that the supervisor is an ex-convict himself. The supervisor tells him that every day is hard work for little reward.

He tries the phone number that Shamrock gave him for work but it is disconnected. He tracks Slim Charles down to Bodie Broadus and Poot Carr's shared corner and approaches him. Bodie is hostile towards Cutty until he reveals that he knew Bodie's brother, James Broadus, from boxing before he was imprisoned. Bodie tells Cutty that James is dead. Slim Charles asks what kind of work Cutty is looking for and he offers himself for anything that pays. The soldiers leave to find a weapon for Cutty as Colvin's buses begin rounding up corner dealers.

Stringer Bell meets with Andy Krawczyk, his property consultant, and state senator Clay Davis. They discuss Stringer's property in up-and-coming areas and plans for developing them as residences. McNulty observes the meeting from outside the restaurant. Stringer finally meets with Donette and learns that McNulty had been to see her. Stringer reassures Donette that Avon's name would have been enough to protect D'Angelo and tells her that he doesn't want to keep her at arm's length any more. Shamrock picks Stringer up and receives two instructions from him - he is to handle the receipts from their man Bernard, buying disposable cell phones for them; and if Donette calls, he will take the call.

Maurice Levy sails his client Avon Barksdale through his parole hearing because of the deal he made during his sentence, despite Pearlman's letter to the parole board.

Gerard, Sapper, Slim Charles and Cutty survey one of their dealers who has been short on his count. Cutty suggests that if the dealer has a girlfriend she is likely where his money is being spent. Later, Bodie hosts a party to celebrate Cutty's return. Shamrock and Slim Charles accompany them and the party is packed with women and drugs. Cutty comments that he is surprised that Avon lets them get high and Bodie remarks that sometimes they have to. Bodie has organized some women especially for Cutty.

Major case unit[edit]

McNulty and Detective Greggs want their informant Bubbles to check the lay of the land in the Western District, particularly where the Barksdale crew is now working. They offer him $5 an hour or $30 for a day's work. Over the course of his day, Bubbles observes Marlo Stanfield talking to Fruit and memorizes his license plate number.

When McNulty and Greggs check into the detail office, Lester Freamon quizzes them about where they have been. Freamon angrily tells McNulty he owes Lieutenant Daniels some loyalty after all Daniels has done for him. McNulty tells Freamon that Stringer Bell is whom they should be after. Freamon tells McNulty that his self-destructive streak is all-consuming and the two appear about to come to blows. Greggs breaks the two up and Freamon in turn scolds her by reminding Greggs that Daniels brought her up in the job.

Bubbles reports that the Barksdale organization is sharing territory for the most part but that Marlo has the lower avenue corners and the Poe homes nearer to the city all to himself. He divulges Marlo's plate number in return for a little more cash. When they run the plate number at the detail office they find that it is registered to an older woman across town. Greggs checks the name and finds that Marlo Stanfield is 22 and has a record.

Greggs visits the homicide unit to question Detective Holley about Marlo's previous investigation. Marlo was up for a murder charge but escaped conviction by killing a witness named Pooh-Bear despite Holley's efforts to protect him. Holley describes Stanfield as pure evil.

Daniels visits ASA Pearlman at her office. She gives him some bad news—Avon is up for parole—before they flirt. McNulty goes to his son's science fair and Elena asks him about his late alimony payments.

The next day Greggs reports to McNulty that Marlo is a killer and theorizes that he may be working for Stringer. Greggs spends the day with Bubbles mapping out the territories of the drug dealers. She learns that the dealers are using "burners" (disposable prepaid mobile phones).

McNulty visits the college where Stringer is taking an economics class to obtain information about him. McNulty matches the cell phone number from the school's records to Stringer by calling him after class. Stringer answers the phone using the name of his front organization, B&B. After his confrontation with McNulty, Freamon has had Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski checking property purchasing records for the same business.

McNulty reports his results to the rest of the unit. Freamon impresses McNulty by revealing that Prez's records search had also turned up Stringer's phone number as well as property registered in his own name; apparently, Stringer is trying to build a "legitimate" business presence as a property developer in parallel with his illicit drug-dealing organization. Greggs brings up the disposable cell phones, and McNulty worries about how they can wiretap phones with such short working lives. Freamon tells McNulty he will stop covering for him soon and he needs to swallow his pride and return to the unit.

Daniels has an awkward drink with McNulty and they discuss Daniels' new relationship with Pearlman. McNulty tells him that he wishes them all the best and Daniels thanks him for making it "easy".[1][2]

First appearances[edit]


Darkroom Productions' "Hamsterdam" mixtape series, a collection of work from Baltimore rap artists, takes its name from this episode.

The second soundtrack compilation Beyond Hamsterdam takes its name from this episode.

The term "Hamsterdam" (or sometimes "Hampsterdam") has since been used to characterize urban districts that are ignored by police.[citation needed]

The episode "The Foot of Canal Street" in the first season of the HBO series Treme contains an inside joke, when Sonny's friends refer to his hometown as "Hamsterdam" rather than "Amsterdam". George Pelecanos wrote this "Treme" episode, and many of the Hamsterdam episodes of The Wire.

A commercial for the 2010 Kia Soul features hamsters riding around in the car, and "Hamsterdam" is referenced on a street sign for Hamsterdam Ave.


Starring cast[edit]

Although credited, John Doman, Frankie Faison, Corey Parker Robinson and Michael K. Williams do not appear in this episode.

Guest stars[edit]

  1. Callie Thorne as Elena McNulty
  2. Isiah Whitlock, Jr. as Senator Clayton "Clay" Davis
  3. Tray Chaney as Malik "Poot" Carr
  4. Chad L. Coleman as Dennis "Cutty" Wise
  5. Benjamin Busch as Officer Anthony Colicchio
  6. Jay Landsman as Lieutenant Dennis Mello
  7. Delaney Williams as Sergeant Jay Landsman
  8. Richard Burton as Sean "Shamrock" McGinty
  9. Brandon Fobbs as Fruit
  10. Anwan Glover as Slim Charles
  11. Mayo Best as Gerard
  12. R. Emery Bright as Community Relations Sergeant
  13. Clarence Clemons as Roman (credited as Clarence Clemens)
  14. Brandan T. Tate as Sapper
  15. Maria Broom as Marla Daniels
  16. Shamyl Brown as Donette
  17. Brandy Burre as Theresa D'Agostino
  18. Vera Holley as School principal
  19. Muna Otaru as college records clerk
  20. Tony Cordova as Sean McNulty
  21. Michael Kostroff as Maurice Levy
  22. Eugene Little as Landscaping boss
  23. Michael Willis as Andy Krawczyk
  24. Brian Anthony Wilson as Detective Vernon Holley

Clarence Clemons' name is misspelled as Clarence Clemens in the credits.

Uncredited appearances[edit]


  1. ^ "Episode guide - episode 29 Amsterdam". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-08-07. 
  2. ^ David Simon, Ed Burns (2004-10-10). "Amsterdam". The Wire. Season 3. Episode 04. HBO. 

External links[edit]