Port in a Storm

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"Port in a Storm"
The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 12
Directed by Robert F. Colesberry
Story by David Simon
Ed Burns
Teleplay by David Simon
Featured music "I Feel Alright" by Steve Earle
"Have You Ever Seen the Rain? by Joan Jett
Original air date August 23, 2003 (2003-08-23)
Running time 63 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Season 2 episodes
List of The Wire episodes

"Port in a Storm" is the 12th and final episode of the second season of the HBO original series, The Wire. The episode was written by David Simon from a story by David Simon & Ed Burns and was directed by Robert F. Colesberry. It originally aired on August 24, 2003.


Title reference[edit]

The title refers to the turmoil taking place at the port, as foreshadowed by the previous episode title Storm Warnings. The "storm" includes the death of Frank Sobotka, the progression of the trials of several port characters as well as U.S. Marshals taking over the checker's union hall.

The title is also a reference to the proverb: "Any port in a storm". The proverb tries to say that in an emergency, people will take any help from any source, regardless of the unpleasantness of it. This could refer to Bubbles asking Kima for help (and vice versa), Nicky talking to the Greeks for advice and then turning to the detail, Avon accepting Prop Joe's stash, Sergei flipping with the police, and the special crimes unit using the resources of the FBI.


In this quote The Greek refers to the fact that everything they do is for the business they are running, from the manipulation of the ports to their own names and lives. They are twisting the world to meet their own ends but they are also an institution in themselves, connected to the other institutions such as the FBI, the shipping docks, immigration, etc. It also hints at the fact that the crime business cycle will continue.


Hank Williams' "A Mansion on the Hill" plays when Beadie and Bunk visit the Philadelphia port security office. A cover version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" by Joan Jett plays at the bar where the detail drown their sorrows. The Steve Earle song "I Feel Alright" plays over the closing montage. Earle has a small recurring role as a drug counselor named Walon, but does not appear in this season. Earle also sings Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" for the fifth season opening credits of the show.


Starring cast[edit]



Dock business[edit]

Officer Claude Diggins pulls a corpse from the water. They all recognize the body as Frank Sobotka. Meanwhile, Nick Sobotka goes looking for Frank as he did not return from his meeting with The Greek. He sees Frank's body brought ashore.

In Frank's office, Nick has to be restrained from going after The Greek. His father, Louis, arrives, and then takes Nick to Southeastern headquarters to turn himself in. Freamon happens to overhear Nick's processing, and brings him to the detail.

The Greek meets with Spiros "Vondas" Vondopoulos and they discuss their plans. The Greek decides to leave Nick alone and that it is safest to walk away and abandon it.

Later, the FBI visit the union hall and tell them that they need to change their leadership or the union will be decertified. Ott responds by withdrawing from the election and standing behind the deceased Sobotka's re-election. It leads to the union's decertification and the seizure of the local office by the US Marshals.

The street[edit]

Stringer Bell visits Brother Mouzone's bedside at the hospital and tells him they will catch whoever was responsible for his shooting. Mouzone coolly informs Stringer that he needs no assistance from them and that he will find those responsible on his own. Stringer incriminates himself when he jumps at Mouzone's use of a plural ("them") when describing his attackers.

Bubbles and Johnny spot a drug addict who has overdosed on the new, more powerful package. While Johnny keeps watch, Bubbles attempts to steal medical supplies from the responding ambulance. Officer Santangelo apprehends them and they end up in an interrogation room in the Southeastern district. Detectives Kima Greggs and Jimmy McNulty discuss Bubbles' options with him; they insist that Bubbles give them some information to secure the charges against him being dropped. Bubbles claims to have little to tell them; Johnny reminds him of Brother Mouzone shooting Melvin "Cheese" Wagstaff. Bubbles tells the detectives that the shooting was nothing as Mouzone used a "rat round". He tells them about the East side drug dealers moving in on Avon Barksdale's towers. Bubbles describes the situation as Bell and the Eastsiders sharing. Bubbles finally lets them know about the change in the quality of product being slung by the Barksdale organization. Bubbles's revelations prompt Kima and McNulty to start surveiling the towers, where they see the two crews working alongside one another.

Omar Little discusses Brother Mouzone with Butchie. Butchie reassures Omar that Mouzone most likely would not have been involved in Brandon's death, since his business is "all New York and Philly." Butchie comments that Avon, Stringer and Avon's father are all pure evil, so Stringer probably lied about Mouzone torturing Brandon prior to killing him. Realizing that Stringer set him up, Omar promises Butchie that he will get his revenge.

Spiros and Proposition Joe meet in the park to discuss their future business. Spiros assures Proposition Joe that he has new people coming in to restart their operation. When Joe asks where they are moving to, Spiros smirks and walks away in silence.

Stringer meets with Avon in prison to discuss Brother Mouzone's failure to protect their territory. Avon worries that if they cannot maintain their reputation, they will lose their business, and he questions the competency of Mouzone since he didn't get the job done that he was hired for. Avon chastises Stringer for asking Mouzone who attacked him, explaining that a soldier in the drug game never does that. He reminds Stringer that the drug game isn't about his business class. Avon finally accepts that they must work with Prop Joe. They conclude their meeting with the usual gesture of mutual loyalty, but Avon is noticeably hesitant to bring his fist to the glass and it is clear that he is unhappy with Stringer. Stringer meets with Proposition Joe to give him the good news, and Joe informs Stringer that their resupply will have a slight delay. Their encounter is photographed by Greggs and McNulty.

Sobotka detail[edit]

Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, Greggs and Lester Freamon discuss the disappearance of their Greek suspects and the identity of the mysterious man whom Spiros met with. Not yet knowing of Sobotka's murder, Greggs reassures Daniels that the union leader's cooperation could still break the case for them.

Daniels meets with Major Valchek and makes a case for Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski's career after he punched Valchek in the detail office. Daniels successfully maneuvers Valchek into not making a charge against Prez by pointing out to him the witness statements collected from both the police officers present during the incident as well as the FBI agents (Daniels points out that even if members of his unit cheated on the statement, the FBI members in the office would not). Valchek then agrees that Prez can return to the detail after two months of midnight shift narcotics work in the Southeastern district followed by a written letter of apology to everyone in the room acknowledging that his assault on Valchek was an unprovoked 'cheap-shot'. At the same time, Valchek expresses his dislike for Prez, stating that he is burdensome, that he had warned his daughter not to marry Prez, and that he guided Prez through the department only on his daughter's behalf.

At the Southeastern intake desk, Freamon is collecting photographs of headless and handless corpses that Landsman provided. Freamon happens to be nearby when Nick Sobotka turns himself in and reacts when Nick states his surname as "Sobotka." Meanwhile, Daniels, Pearlman and the FBI team meet with Acting Commissioner Ervin Burrell and Colonel William Rawls to discuss the case. With Sobotka dead just before he was going to act as their informant, Pearlman tells them that the case has stalled. Daniels reminds them of the arrests which they have made so far. Though the FBI has little to show in the way of arrests, the unit is happy just to have enough evidence to force the union to change its leadership or face decertification. Rawls is still irked that his fourteen Jane Doe homicides remain unsolved; Pearlman and Daniels have no answers for him. Just then, Freamon phones Daniels during the meeting to tell him that Nick Sobotka has come in and is ready to talk.

Rhonda Pearlman and Daniels interview Nick in the detail office. He reveals that it was Spiros' offer to help Ziggy Sobotka that lured Frank to their meeting. Freamon reveals to Nick that Ziggy signed a confession and that they also had the receipt of the murder weapon from the pawnshop where Ziggy bought the gun, so leaning on the witness would have unlikely freed him from the murder charge. Nick tells them that he found Frank's truck under the bridge. He gives them information on everyone he can on their board including Spiros, Eton Ben-Eleazer and Sergei. He links Sergei to the killing of the crewman in Philadelphia by hearsay. Finally, Nick identifies The Greek in the photograph which serendipitously captured him in the foreground, but is unable to give them anything beyond that.

Freamon tells Agent Terrence "Fitz" Fitzhugh that it is best to keep Nick's involvement quiet. Fitz pauses before faxing the paperwork and then decides to check on Agent Koutris. He is dismayed to learn that Koutris has been gone from San Diego for a year and has transferred to the FBI's counter-terrorism office in Washington.

Thomas "Herc" Hauk and Ellis Carver are left waiting outside Nick Sobotka's home. Herc convinces Carver that they have to leave the detail to get any respect. They become increasingly frustrated with their waiting game and eventually tell Nick's father that Nick must give himself up. They are outraged when he tells them that Nick has been in custody for over 12 hours already. Angrily, they march to Daniels's office where they tell Daniels they feel like they are not being properly used in the detail. Daniels pleads that surveillance is part of the job but Carver feels that they are being treated like pack mules and that Daniels disregards his rank in the department. Carver then points out a post in the Western district working as a D.E.U. sergeant for Major Colvin that he is going to request a transfer into, given the unit's street work and as recognition of Carver's rank. Herc and Daniels watch Carver storm out.

Freamon and Bunk Moreland try to identify the body of the Philadelphia crewman from their records of headless and handless corpses. Beadie Russell and Bunk travel to the Philadelphia port to ask more questions about their crewman's disappearance, and after little success the officer finally reveals that they keep security tapes on file. A review of the tapes shows the license plate of a car rented by Sergei, placing him at the scene of the murder of the crewman. When confronted with the footage in an interrogation room, Sergei finally begins to talk and gives Vondas up for the murder of the crewman whom he implicates in the death of the girls. Sergei's account wraps the murders up of the fourteen Jane Does, much to Bunk's delight.

Meanwhile, Kima and Cheryl shop for baby products and Kima's downbeat attitude over her impending parenthood prompts a tart rebuke from Cheryl.

Back at the detail office, McNulty and Kima check with Lester Freamon about information on Proposition Joe's supply uptake from The Greeks. They learn that he recently doubled his order.

Nick, Ashley and Aimee are placed in protective custody in a basic motel by the FBI. Nick tells Aimee sarcastically that they finally have a place together. The following day, Nick leaves their motel to head for work. La La tells him there is only one ship to unload, so their lack of seniority means another day without work.

At the docks, the detail finds The Greek's last shipment of drugs and they decide to keep watch on it. Bunk reports his information on Sergei to Daniels who presses him for more information on The Greek. Sergei reveals a location that The Greek uses for meetings. Daniels moves on The Greek's hotel swiftly but is once again a step behind - Spiros and The Greek are shown checking in for a flight at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

With their case work over, members of the detail drink in a bar. Greggs and McNulty use their photos of Bell and Proposition Joe to convince Daniels that they could be a target for the major case unit. Fitz tells Daniels that the leak was from his agency, and apologizes. Frank Sobotka continues to haunt Major Valchek from beyond the grave - he opens a letter from Brisbane, Australia with a photo of the surveillance van that is still making its way around the globe one port at a time. Valchek whispers sadly in Polish "rest in peace" [Spoczywaj w pokoju] on behalf of Sobotka.

Closing montage[edit]

As Nick mourns his uncle's death by staring out over the water near the docks, a montage of scenes from around Baltimore unfolds with Steve Earle's "Feel Alright" playing in the background: US Marshals close the union hall with a lockout; Johnny "Fifty" Spamanto urinates on The Greek's last container full of drugs, still under surveillance, and makes an obscene gesture at the watching policemen; Pearlman prosecutes Eton and Horseface; Rawls and Landsman giddily celebrate the clearance of their Jane Does; Ziggy serves his time; Clay Davis and other Baltimore politicians break ground on the condominiums that will replace the grain pier—demonstrating the politicians' reluctance to be seen voting for any project pushed by Frank Sobotka after his arrest and murder; Beadie Russell returns to work at the docks with the port police; during a pensive moment, Freamon dismantles the detail's investigative board, leaving up the photo of The Greek; the drug trade continues in the Southeastern district with Frog's crew finally driving an old woman to sell her home; Poot Carr and Puddin warily watch the police cruise their territory; the stevedores get drunk on a street corner; Proposition Joe takes a shipment of drugs from the back of a truck; the truck also dispatches a group of disoriented women—business as usual for the drug and prostitution trade; and finally a series of images of industrial decay around the docks flashes on screen. The montage concludes, and the season concludes as Nick walks away and rain begins to pour.[1][2][3]


  • Frank Sobotka: Killed by the Greeks, who had been tipped off to Sobotka's impending communication with the police.


The Futon Critic named it the 16th best episode of 2003, saying the series "once again reminded us happy endings are all too rare in the 'real' world with its second season finale."[4]


  1. ^ "Episode guide - episode 25 Port in a Storm". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-06-22. 
  2. ^ David Simon, Ed Burns (2003-08-24). "Port in a Storm". The Wire. Season 2. 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 2003: #20-11". The Futon Critic. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 

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