The Buys

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"The Buys"
The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 3
Directed by Peter Medak
Story by David Simon
Ed Burns
Teleplay by David Simon
Original air date June 16, 2002 (2002-06-16)
Running time 55 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Detail"
Next →
"Old Cases"
List of The Wire episodes

"The Buys" is the third episode of the first 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 Peter Medak. It originally aired on June 16, 2002.

Plot summary[edit]

The police[edit]

Lieutenant Cedric Daniels attends a meeting in Deputy Commissioner Ervin Burrell's office to account for the actions of his men in starting a riot in the tower buildings. When Daniels suggests that Detective Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski should be restricted to office work, Major Valchek (Prez's influential father-in-law) insists this would be an admission of guilt. The other officers are more supportive. After the meeting, Burrell again insists on a simple investigation targeted at making arrests and seizures rather than spending time securing convictions against the organization's key members.

Bemoaning the lack of a photograph of the detail's main target, McNulty asks Detectives Augustus Polk and Patrick Mahone to get a photograph of Avon Barksdale from the Baltimore City Housing Department, which proves to be a dead end. Lester Freamon takes an interest when Greggs remarks that Barksdale used to box and once made Golden Gloves. The next day, he returns with a promotional boxing poster featuring a picture of young Avon Barksdale. Without saying a word, he returns to his desk and his dollhouse furniture. Daniels arrives, informing the detail that Prez is off the street and Herc is on sick leave for some time. McNulty visits his contact in the FBI, Agent Fitzhugh, with Greggs, looking to get some equipment to wire up Sydnor, who is being sent undercover. When McNulty tells Fitz that Daniels is the commanding officer, Fitz appears to bite his tongue because Greggs is present.

Detective Michael Santangelo is revealed to be a mole in the detail, giving information to Rawls, and especially seeking (but not finding) anything to incriminate McNulty. Waiting around the detail offices, McNulty, Bubbles and Greggs discuss their relationships. Greggs tells McNulty that she's a lesbian and McNulty admits to being unfaithful, leading to his current separation from his now-vengeful wife, Elena. Sydnor arrives, in costume, but gets some advice from Bubbles on how to be more convincing as a street buyer. Bubbles points out that the lack of glass fragments from broken crack vials on the bottoms of Sydnor's shoes is a dead giveaway and advises Greggs to make him "dance on some empties" before he leaves. Together, Sydnor and Bubbles later visit the low rise projects, and Greggs photographs their activities. Sydnor notices with chagrin that neither drugs nor cash pass through the hands of any key players.

Back at the detail, Daniels reports that the commanding officers have insisted on fast "buy bust" style investigation to render some arrests and seizures. McNulty leaves the office angry that the case is being pushed in the opposite direction he had hoped for. He arrives at Rhonda Pearlman's home at 9 p.m. and asks how to clone a beeper. Pearlman suggests that he needs probable cause and to demonstrate exhaustion of other investigative techniques in order to get a signed affidavit from a judge. When he makes sexual advances, she remarks that their "dates" are not any better now that he's not married than they were before, but they end up in bed together anyway.

The following day, Daniels readies the detail to storm the projects in an effort to find a stash. McNulty refuses to participate in the action because he believes it will sabotage their case, and also refuses to sign off sick to avoid the raid. Daniels is enraged at his perceived insubordination. In contrast, Det. Herc insists on aiding his co-workers despite being injured.

Later, Fitzhugh and McNulty have a meeting during which "Fitz" characterizes Daniels as being "dirty", revealing that the FBI had previously investigated Daniels for "integrity concerns". When the FBI found Daniels had hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexplained liquid assets, they turned their findings over to Burrell, who failed to move the investigation forward. McNulty suggests that perhaps Daniels spends a lot of time in Atlantic City, implying the money resulted from gambling winnings, but while skeptical of this idea, neither of the men can be certain of the money's origins yet.

The street[edit]

Omar Little and his gang spend several days in a white van watching the low-rise crew sell their drugs. D'Angelo Barksdale instructs Bodie Broadus, Poot Carr, and Wallace in showing respect to their customers and shares his belief that if there were no violence involved in their trade, then the police would not be interested in them. While waiting for more product to be delivered (waiting for "the stash" to be "re-upped"), D'Angelo spots them playing checkers with a chess set (pictured). He teaches them the game of chess using the analogy of the Barksdale crew - Avon as king, Stringer as the queen, the stash as the rook, soldiers as pawns. When Bodie learns of the possibility of a pawn becoming a queen, he draws a comparison with himself. D'Angelo is skeptical, remarking that pawns die early in the game, but Bodie insists that a smart pawn can be successful.

At Orlando's, Stringer is impressed by the amount of money D'Angelo is making in the courtyard. D'Angelo suggests that things will be better when they get a new package of narcotics. Stringer explains that there is nothing better on the way, but points out that if they sell a low-quality product, addicts will buy more of it, and the Barksdales will actually make more money. On his way out, D'Angelo strikes up a conversation with Shardene. She doesn't remember him but is open to his advances.

That night, back at The Pit, D'Angelo leaves to buy food just before Omar and his crew burst into the stashhouse to steal the drugs. When one of the low rise dealers, Sterling, refuses to reveal the location of the stash and insists that nothing is there, Omar shoots him in the knee. This prompts a younger dealer to reveal that the stash is hidden in the kitchen. When his partner Brandon uses his name in front of the dealers Omar is exasperated. Bubbles is on hand to watch the whole proceedings and reports back to Greggs. The next day, Wee-Bey Brice berates D'Angelo for the theft of his stash while he was not even present. Bodie is able to mention Omar's name to Wee-Bey. Before they can discuss this further, the police raid the Pit area. The dealers have changed stashhouses, so the detail finds little evidence, though Freamon notices a number written on a wall and writes it down. While searching the crew, Mahon is punched by Bodie. Herc, Carver, and Greggs respond with a beating. Carver reports that a camera crew has offered to show their seizures. Daniels is disgusted when Greggs points out they have nothing to show.[1][2][3]


Title reference[edit]

The title refers to the deals struck in the various institutions featured. Valchek buys Daniels' support of his son-in-law with resources. Drug addicts buy narcotics from the Barksdale organization. Sydnor makes undercover purchases from Bodie.


D'Angelo uses this phrase when describing the rules of chess using the analogy of the drug trade (pictured). He explains to Bodie that pawns can only become queens, never kings. In the analogy Avon Barksdale is the king. This analogy is alluded to further in seasons 2 and 4.


Starring cast[edit]

Although credited, Wood Harris does not appear in this episode. This is the first episode of the series not to feature the entire starring cast.

Guest stars[edit]

First appearances[edit]

This episode introduces the recurring character Omar Little, a stick-up artist who robs drug dealers for a living. Little is played by Michael K. Williams. The character became a major part of the show, frequently cited by critics and fans as one of the favorites.[4][5] With the third season, Michael K. Williams joined the starring cast. His character is accompanied by his partners in crime Brandon Wright and John Bailey.

The episode also marks the first appearance of recurring Baltimore police department officers Major Bobby Reed, commander of the internal investigations division (IID), and Major Stanislaus Valchek, Southeastern district commander and Prez's father-in-law. Valchek plays a major role in the second season, and appears in all five seasons of the show.


A San Francisco Chronicle review picked the scene of D'Angelo instructing his subordinates in the rules of chess as one of the first season's finest moments.[6] They praised the character of D'Angelo and the show's portrayal of his difficulties as "middle management" in the drug organization having to deal with unreliable subordinates, demanding superiors and his own conscience.[6]


  1. ^ "Episode guide - episode 03 The Buys". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-26. 
  2. ^ David Simon, Ed Burns (2002-06-16). "The Buys". The Wire. Season 1. Episode 3. HBO. 
  3. ^ Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books. 
  4. ^ Robert Bianco (2004-05-26). "10 Reasons we still love TV". USA Today. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  5. ^ Brent McCabe and Van Smith (2005). "Down to the wire: Top 10 reasons not to cancel the wire.". Baltimore CityPaper. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  6. ^ a b Peter Hartlaub (2002-06-05). "Fighting crime, and bureaucrats. Creator of HBO's 'Wire' takes police drama in new direction". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 

External links[edit]