The Buys

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"The Buys"
The Wire episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 3
Directed byPeter Medak
Story byDavid Simon
Ed Burns
Teleplay byDavid Simon
Original air dateJune 16, 2002 (2002-06-16)
Running time55 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]

Daniels attends a meeting in Burrell's office to account for the actions of his men in starting a riot at the tower projects. When Daniels suggests that Prez be restricted to office work, Major Stanislaus Valchek, Prez's father-in-law, insists this would be an admission of guilt. Afterwards, Burrell again insists on a simple investigation focused on arrests and seizures rather than securing convictions against the Barksdales. McNulty is frustrated that the detail has no photo of Avon. However, Freamon takes an interest when Greggs mentions Avon's former career in boxing. The next day, he returns with a promotional poster bearing a picture of a young Avon.

Daniels informs the detail that Prez is off the street and Herc will be on sick leave. McNulty and Greggs visit Fitz, looking to get some equipment to wire up Sydnor as he is sent undercover. When McNulty tells Fitz that Daniels is the commanding officer, Fitz appears to bite his tongue because Greggs is present. Meanwhile, Santangelo is revealed to be a mole in the detail, tasked with finding incriminating information on McNulty for Rawls. Sydnor is given advice from Bubbles on how to be more convincing as a street buyer. Together, Sydnor and Bubbles later visit the Pit. Sydnor notices with chagrin that neither drugs nor cash pass through the hands of any key players.

Back at the detail, Daniels reports that his superiors have insisted on fast "buy bust" style investigation. McNulty is angry that the case is being pushed in the opposite direction he had hoped for. He arrives at Pearlman's home that night and asks how to clone a beeper. She suggests that he needs probable cause and to demonstrate exhaustion of other investigative techniques in order to get a signed affidavit from a judge. They end up in bed together. The following day, Daniels readies the detail to storm the towers in an effort to find a stash. McNulty refuses to participate because he believes the raid will sabotage their case. Daniels is enraged at his perceived insubordination. Later, McNulty meets again with Fitz, who reveals that the FBI investigated Daniels after discovering he had hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexplained liquid assets.

Omar Little and his gang spend several days in a white van watching the Pit crew sell drugs. D'Angelo instructs Bodie, Poot, and Wallace in showing respect to their customers and shares his belief that if there were no violence involved in their trade, the police would not be interested in them. While waiting for more product to be delivered, D'Angelo spots his crew playing checkers with a chess set. He teaches them the game of chess using the Barksdales as an analogy. At Orlando's, Stringer is impressed by D'Angelo's earnings in the Pit and points out that if the Barksdales sell a low-quality product, addicts will buy more of it and the Barksdales end up with 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.

Back in the Pit, D'Angelo leaves to buy food just before Omar's crew steals their 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. Bubbles is on hand to watch the robbery and reports back to Greggs. The next day, Wee-Bey berates D'Angelo for being absent during the theft, but learns Omar's name from Bodie. Before they can discuss this further, the police raid the Pit. 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.


The King stay the King.

— D'Angelo

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 July 26, 2006.
  2. ^ David Simon, Ed Burns (June 16, 2002). "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 (May 26, 2004). "10 Reasons we still love TV". USA Today. Retrieved July 21, 2006.
  5. ^ Brent McCabe and Van Smith (2005). "Down to the wire: Top 10 reasons not to cancel the wire". Baltimore CityPaper. Archived from the original on August 22, 2006. Retrieved July 21, 2006.
  6. ^ a b Peter Hartlaub (June 5, 2002). "Fighting crime, and bureaucrats. Creator of HBO's 'Wire' takes police drama in new direction". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 4, 2007.

External links[edit]