The Wire Season 2, Episode 11: Bad Dreams

"I need to get clean." —Sobotka

Directed by: Ernest Dickerson
Story by: David Simon & George P. Pelecanos
Teleplay by: George P. Pelecanos

At 6 a.m. sharp, the police action begins. The cops storm Glekas's appliance store but find the place utterly cleaned out, with only a bloodstain where Glekas died left behind. The cops also burst into Nick's row house, rousting his parents and Aimee from their beds, although Nick is nowhere to be found. They do find a large stash of both heroin and cash, handcuff Aimee and toss the rest of the house. The cops also nab Serge and Eton at their houses and White Mike and the Russian madam at theirs. Sobotka, emerging from his house, is followed but not arrested, Valchek having sent word that he wants to perform that chore personally. After finding his son accused of murder in the morning paper, Sobotka tellingly drives to the union hall, not the jail where Ziggy is incarcerated.

Nick, having drunk himself into a stupor with his old school chum Prissy, wakes up in her bed, hung over and filled with dread. Arriving home, he finds his mother and father — consumed by shame and anger — barely able to speak to him, although his father does inform him that the cops want him. At the union hall, smug and happy, Valchek arrests Sobotka. "Big man on the docks," Valchek says to him. "Don't look so big now, do ya?" A few moments later, Sobotka is taken for his perp walk, cameras firing and reporters shouting questions.

At the detail office, Daniels finally learns that Glekas was shot the day before and storms over to Landsman's office at homicide, demanding to know why the detail wasn't notified. "Lemme ask you, who exactly am I working all these dead girls for?" Daniels says. "The homicide unit, right? The same homicide unit that can't put two and two together and pick up a phone, leaving me to read it a day and a half later in the Baltimore Sun." Landsman, chastened, can muster only a lame "Sorry, Lieutentant. My bad." He recognizes that the moment has been lost. The offices and warehouse the Greeks used have been sanitized.

The Feds read Sobotka the charges they've lodged: Racketeering, wire fraud, conspiracy to import heroin, conspiracy to violate Federal customs statutes, white slavery... When Sobotka asks them what they want, they tell him full cooperation. "Name names and come clean. You help yourself and your union." Their mention of the union, however, infuriates Sobotka: "Twenty-five years we been dyin' slow down there. Dry-docks rustin', piers standin' empty. My friends and their kids. Like we got the cancer. No lifeline got throwed, all that time. Nuthin' from nobody... And now you wanna help us. Help me. Where the fuck were you?"

Except for White Mike, the rest of the suspects are hostile and silent. He, however, is ready to chirp, especially after McNulty plays him a compelling audio tape that in court will nail him as a drug dealer. The problem is, as a low-level outsider, Mike's knowledge of the Greeks and their organization is limited.

After his detention hearing, Sobotka's lawyers want to talk, but Sobotka shakes them off. "Not now." I need to get clean," he tells them, heading finally to jail to visit his son. When he sees Ziggy and asks what happened to him, Ziggy tells the truth: "I dunno. Got tired of bein' the punch line to every joke." Ziggy is bitter toward both his father, whom he says has more affection for the union than he does for Ziggy, and his mother, who zones out on Nembutal. He also reveals to Sobotka that he's known for years that Frank is not his real father.

Proposition Joe meanwhile arranges a meeting between Omar and Stringer. Stringer has decided to defy Avon and have Brother Mouzone offed so that he can uphold his deal to cede territory to Proposition Joe in exchange for quality dope. Convincing Omar that Brother Mouzone had in fact murdered Omar's lover Brandon, Stringer then tells Omar where Mouzone can be found. Taking the bait, Omar shoots Mouzone, wounding but not killing him. Bleeding badly, Mouzone convinces Omar that he had nothing to do with Brandon's killing, and, believing him, Omar calls an ambulance instead of shooting Mouzone.

After his talk with Ziggy, Sobotka decides to put in a day of hard labor for the first time in a long time. He volunteers for stevedore work at the union hiring hall, and spends the day loading ships and securing the loads to the decks.

For the moment, the detail lets Vondas remain at large, tailing him in the hopes he'll lead them to the head of his operation. When Daniels asks Fitzhugh for a quality surveillance team to stay on Vondas, who's being followed by the inexperienced Russell, Fitz reminds him that the Feds are interested only in the union guys, "which means my field office is pretty much over this case."

Russell, warming to the job, tracks Vondas subtly and reports in that he's gone to a hotel room downtown. "She wasn't much when we started," admires Bunk. "Now she's got game," McNulty finishes his thought. When Vondas leaves the hotel with his lawyer, however, The Greek trails behind, and neither Russell nor any of the more seasoned cops pick up on his presence. Worse, they manage to lose Vondas altogether.

Russell is outraged when she hears Pearlman and Daniels discussing possible immunity for White Mike on his drug charges, and volunteers to speak with Sobotka to see if she can flip him to learn the same information. He accepts, agreeing to meet with Daniels and Pearlman, ready to spill his guts. Pearlman, playing by the book, stops him however, and tells him to return in the morning with a lawyer at his side.

At dinner, The Greek and Vondas discuss how to keep Sobotka on the ranch. The most obvious way, they decide, is to pressure the young clerk Ziggy shot in Glekas's store to change his story and tell the cops that Ziggy fired in self-defense. Vondas feels certain that Sobotka, able suddenly to spring his son from jail, would be less inclined to talk to the police. And of Nick, whom Vondas has grown fond, Vondas says don't worry. When he meets Nick later and tells him of the plan to pressure the clerk, he asks to meet with Sobotka in person, to be sure of his cooperation. "We only ask loyalty," Vondas says, handing Nick a slip of paper with a location where he and Sobotka should meet.

When Nick sees his uncle, Sobotka is bitter and says he intends to blow the whistle on the Greeks. Nick urges him to reconsider, telling Sobotka of the Greek's scheme to lift some of Ziggy's weight by leaning on the clerk to change his story. Intrigued, Sobotka agrees to meet with Vondas, but forbids Nick to come with him.

FBI agent Fitzhugh's report detailing Sobotka's plan to flip the next morning in exchange for leniency for Ziggy and Nick reaches FBI agent Koutris, who again tips The Greek to the imminent danger. As Sobotka makes his way to the lonely spot under the Key Bridge for his meeting with Vondas, the FBI agent Koutris sends a message to The Greek and warns him of Sobotka's intention to tell the police what he knows. With Sobotka in sight, The Greek tells Vondas that the union leader must not leave their meeting alive.

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George Pelecanos