The Pager – Episode 5, Season 1 – The Wire
Teleplay: Ed Burns
Story: David Simon and Ed Burns
Directed by: Clark Johnson
Opening quote: “A little slow, a little late…” Avon Barksdale
Spoiler Alert: This is written for those who have viewed The Wire at least once if not multiple times. If you have not viewed, please enjoy the wonderful experience of the series for the first time with the delight of not knowing what is coming next. I encourage you to leave this blog and go stream The Wire on Netflix, or better yet, buy from Amazon (affiliate link). The Wire: The Complete First Season
When comparing Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale, some like to think of Stringer as the brains of the organization and Avon as the brawn. Avon is more of a soldier, but he is not a one-dimensional character. He is intuitive, he is affectionate to his family, and he is generous to his management team. And this episode sheds light on those characteristics.
The Pager opens with Avon Barksdale at the home of one of his many girlfriends. When she answers the phone, whoever called, hangs up without saying anything. Avon heads out and the first thing he tells Wee-Bay is to get rid of the phone line. And, even though we know Daniels’ detail is making progress in their investigation, Wee-Bay’s reaction that Avon is over doing it a bit is understandable. At least, until we hear him share with D’Angelo (video below) what visiting his uncle in the nursing home is a constant reminder of.
What happens when wicked smart Jimmy McNulty finally meets wicked smart Omar Little? A little bit of showboating, a little bit name-dropping, and the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship.
After a few days of McNulty and Kima staking out Omar’s place, Omar and Brandon come out in the middle of the day, and lead them into a cemetery. When McNulty suggests that they share a common problem, namely Avon Barksdale, Omar shrugs it off and suggests that even if Avon were a problem, he would still not be inclined to snitch on him. The Game isn’t played that way.
McNulty plays the typical card – if you get picked up, ask for one of us and we’ll do what we can. But then he drops some information that he knows Omar will be interested in but dresses it as news from the old neighborhood – the fact that John Bailey was shot. Omar knows exactly what McNulty’s doing and returns the favor by sharing that “Bird dropped the working man,” referring to William Gant, the witness in D’Angelo’s trial. Omar, leaves it at that but tells Kima her snitch knows who Bird is and refers to Bubbles by name.
The first half of the episode moves from back and forth from key local scenes very quickly – we visit Avon with his girlfriend and then in the car with Wee-Bay, the corner where Omar is about to hit up the Barksdale’s crew again, the basement with the detail, the Pit with D’Angelo, Poot, Bodie and Wallace, the stakeout with Kima and McNulty, Orlando’s.
Stringer tells D’Angelo that he expects there is a snitch in the shop and recommends that he not pay them on Friday. The kids who come to him for money are probably clean. The ones who manage without their pay are probably the snitches.
A very subtle and powerful scene takes place shortly after. Wallace is sitting apart from D’Angelo, Bodie and Poot playing with a toy. Bodie picks up a bottle and throws it at Wallace’s head. As smart as Wallace is and as dangerous of job as he has, he is still a kid. And we see that D’Angelo recognizes this as well.
Johnny Weeks the friend of Bubbles has healed sufficiently to be out of critical care and the hospital and is at a rehab center. The beating he took at the Pit in episode 1 for trying to pay with fake money has resulted in internal damage – he’s hooked up to a bag. And echoing the truth of Stringer’s comment regarding heroin “This here sh*t – it’s forever,” Johnny shares with Bubs that he’s been going to 12-Step meetings twice a day at the rehab center and then in the next breath asks, “Bubs – who has the best package now?”
Bubbles is obviously guilt-ridden and tells Johnny there was nothing he could do at the time of the beating. He also shares that he is working with the police to get the Pit boys arrested. Johnny doesn’t like it and notes that the beating was “all part of the Game. You taught me that.”
Poor D’Angelo not only has the daily stress of managing the Pit, and the embarrassment of the stick up and the recent search and seizure, and Stringer micro-managing him – Orlando plants seeds of discontent by mentioning Avon’s recent promotion of Stikum.
While Herc and Carv have some shining comedic moments in this episode, it is Sgt. Jay Landsman who steals most of the laughs. He invites McNulty into his office because as he says in a sing-song voice, “something needs kissing” and drops his trousers.
Landsman also shares with McNulty that he has made things right with Rawls.
Another big development is that the slugs McNulty and Bunk pulled from Deirdre Kresson’s apartment match up with the slugs in two other open murders, that will likely track back to Barksdale.
The episode ends with Wallace and Poot pointing Brandon out to Stringer and the soldiers.
A la Carte
- It’s in this episode that we learn Omar has an aversion to cursing. He asks Brandon “Why is everything ‘F’ this and ‘F’ that? Nobody wants to hear them dirty words.”
- Herc and Carv hilariously try to sweat Bodie with a Good Cop, Bad Cop methodology gone bad and it results in what Kima so aptly pegged as “waging a war on drugs, one brutality case at a time.”
- Prez is able to crack the code the Barksdale crew is using on the pagers – earning him a wet one on the lips from McNulty.
- The scene with D’Angelo and Donette at the fancy restaurant is one of the few moments in The Wire that doesn’t ring true and seems to be lingered on a little too long. It’s filled with a series of faux pas – indicating that D’Angelo doesn’t understand how to act out of the projects. Everything that we see of D’Angelo prior to this scene, makes it a little inconsistent. If it were Bodie, Poot or Wallace – it might seem more believable.
The Target – Episode 1, Season 1, The Wire
The Detail – Episode 2, Season 1, The Wire
The Buys – Episode 3, Season 1, The Wire
Old Cases – Episode 4, Season 1, The Wire
The Wire – Episode 6, Season 1, The Wire
One Arrest – Episode 7, Season 1, The Wire
Lessons – Episode 8, Season 1, The Wire
Game Day – Episode 9, Season 1, The Wire
The Cost – Episode 10, Season 1, The Wire
The Hunt – Episode 11, Season 1, The Wire
Cleaning Up – Episode 12, Season 1, The Wire