The Pager

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"The Pager"
The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 5
Directed by Clark Johnson
Story by David Simon
Ed Burns
Teleplay by Ed Burns
Original air date June 30, 2002 (2002-06-30)
Running time 60 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Old Cases"
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"The Wire"
List of The Wire episodes

"The Pager" is the fifth episode of the first season of the HBO original series, The Wire. The episode was written by Ed Burns from a story by David Simon & Ed Burns and was directed by Clark Johnson. It originally aired on June 30, 2002.


The police[edit]

Judge Phelan signs the wiretap affidavit for a clone of D'Angelo's pager. Lester Freamon finds that each pager message consists of a seven-digit phone number and a two-digit identifying tag. The phone numbers used do not work, so Freamon postulates that they are using a code to mask the numbers. The code is ultimately cracked by Detective Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski, much to McNulty's delight. Freamon visits Daniels' office and tells him that they need audio surveillance (a wire) on the payphones surrounding the projects to make the case. He knows that Daniels is concerned about his career, but insists that they put the cases first.

Bubbles tells Detective Kima Greggs where to find Omar Little's van, and she and McNulty sit on the van, waiting for Omar to show up, hoping to catch Omar with a gun and convince him to become an informant. McNulty calls his estranged wife Elena and asks for his sons to come over. He insists he has everything ready, but she does not believe him and refuses to allow the visit.

Detectives Ellis Carver and Thomas "Herc" Hauk track Bodie down to the low-rises and violently arrest him for absconding from the juvenile detention center. Bodie refuses to consider making a deal and Herc and Carver respond to his insults with a savage beating. While waiting to hand Bodie over to juvenile intake, however, they end up shooting pool with him.

Bunk Moreland receives important news from a ballistics technician: the casing from the Kresson scene confirms the link to the Barksdale association, just as Sergeant Landsman predicted; the gun used in this murder was previously used in two others.

Later, McNulty and Greggs follow Omar's van into a cemetery, where they parley. McNulty tries to convince Omar that they have an enemy in common, but Omar thinks that working with the police is wrong. McNulty reveals that Bailey has been killed; though Omar pretends to be unfazed, he reveals two things: that Bird was the one who killed William Gant, and that he knows that Bubbles is their CI (confidential informant).

The street[edit]

Avon Barksdale wakes up at the house of a girlfriend named Chantal. The phone rings, but the line goes dead when she answers. Avon tells Wee-Bey Brice to remove the phone lines. Wee-Bey tells Avon he is worried they are being paranoid.

Omar Little, Bailey and Brandon discuss their next 'rip' on an East Side corner. Omar draws out a plan to trap the dealers in the alley they use. Omar approaches from the front carrying a shotgun while nonchalantly whistling "The Farmer in the Dell" which scares the dealers, who then run into the alley where Brandon and Bailey, also armed, are waiting.

In the low-rises, young dealers Bodie Broadus and Poot Carr discuss HIV (which they call "the bug") and its transmission during sexual acts. Bodie notices Wallace a distance away playing with a child's figurine, and throws a bottle at the wall near him in anger, then yells that the gang keeps getting robbed is because the members are not on their guard.

D'Angelo takes his girlfriend Donette out to an expensive restaurant. Requesting a quieter empty table, the waiter informs D'Angelo that the other table is reserved. Donette argues that D'Angelo should have been more forceful, but he worries about seeming out of place. He wonders to Donette if there are markers of their social class that they can't avoid showing when they appear at the nice restaurant. Donette assures D'Angelo that anyone who can pay belongs at the restaurant, though D'Angelo embarrassingly shows his unfamiliarity with the restaurant's atmosphere by mistakenly reaching for a display dessert.

Stringer and Avon discuss taking over the Edmondson Avenue corners, as they are wide open. Avon tells Stringer that Stinkum should run the territory.

Bubbles tells Johnny that he is on a mission to bring down the Barksdale hoppers that beat Johnny, however Johnny cannot understand why Bubbles is voluntarily working with the police as he feels his misfortune is all part of the game.

Avon and D'Angelo visit Avon's brother in a nursing home, which serves as an example of the dire consequences of acting carelessly in their way of life. Avon tells D’Angelo that one mistake could see either of them like his brother and that the fear motivates Avon to work harder.

Later, Poot and Wallace spot Brandon in an arcade and page D'Angelo to let him know. D'Angelo pages the news in from the project phones. Although all the pages are logged at the detail office, the calls themselves are not recorded, so, without a wire, the details are useless.[1][2][3]


Title reference[edit]

The title refers to the pagers used by the Barksdale organization and cloned by the police detail.


Avon uses this phrase in a speech he makes to D'Angelo about the random nature of their business and the constant danger involved. It also relates to the detail; as Freamon points out, they should have had the wire up in time to catch the discussion of Bailey's murder on the phones (and, if not that, certainly the kidnapping of Brandon).

Non-fiction elements[edit]

The conversation Bodie and Poot have about HIV/AIDS transmission is taken almost verbatim from the non-fiction book The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood.[4]


Starring cast[edit]

Although credited, John Doman and Frankie Faison do not appear in this episode.


  • Bailey: Off screen murder, killed by Wee-Bey Brice and two other unnamed attackers; implied to be Bird and Stinkum.

First appearances[edit]

  • Marquis "Bird" Hilton: A foul-mouthed Barksdale organization enforcer. Though apparently responsible for the murder of Gant in the first episode, this is the first time Bird appears onscreen. Bird is played by rapper Fredro Starr, from the group Onyx, who becomes the second of eight musicians to play minor recurring roles on The Wire (others include Method Man and Steve Earle).


An Entertainment Weekly review picked this episode as "amazing" because it begins to deliver pay-offs on the show's slowly developing plot lines. The review also praised the show's naturalistic dialogue (making an extensive comparison to funk music) and praised several of the actors for their performance. The episode's most rewarding plot lines were those that involved D'Angelo's struggles with his conscience and McNulty's battles with the bureaucracy of the police department.[5]


  1. ^ "Episode guide - episode 05 The Pager". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-26. 
  2. ^ David Simon, Ed Burns (2002-06-30). "The Pager". The Wire. Season 1. Episode 5. HBO. 
  3. ^ Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books. 
  4. ^ The Corner p.228
  5. ^ "Wire Power". Entertainment Weekly. 2002-06-28. Retrieved 2007-10-03. 

External links[edit]