Oh, he's a dog, that Scott Templeton. A pompous dog. On the heels of last week's fabrication of the wheelchair-bound 13-year-old kid who was heartbroken (cue the violins) after failing to get into the Orioles' opening day game, Templeton's back in the fiction biz this week in the third seg of "The Wire," "Not for Attribution."
Mr. Entitlement is pissed off once again that he's relegated to reaction quotes on a big story about a shakeup in the police commissioners office, so he comes up with an incendiary blind quote that he claims is from city council prez Nerese Campbell. One thing that doesn't quite ring true is that Baltimore Sun city editor Gus Haynes, who insists that Templeton tell him the source of the quote, would instinctively question why a political pro like Campell would let loose to a relatively inexperienced reporter that she doesn't know that well -- not even the paper's City Hall beat reporter. But we can let that one go, for now. (Knowing what a dyed-in-the-wool journo "Wire" creator/exec producer David Simon is at heart, we're counting on him to devise some particularly cruel form of punishment for Mr. Entitlement by season's end.)
"Twigg's not the only guy with game around here," Templeton, played to sniveling perfection by Tom McCarthy (pictured above), tells Clark Johnson's Gus.
Indeed, gaming is the broader theme of this episode. Dominic West's McNulty continues to game the system by inventing his homeless serial killer. Deputy police commissioner Stanislaus Valchek finks to Mayor Tommy Carcetti that commissioner Ervin Burrell is cooking the crime stats, and then makes a craven bid to become Burrell's temporary replacement, if only so he can get a "pension bump."
Hizzoner reacts by floating a trial balloon on the Sun's front page about his successor, who's not Valchek, even on an interim basis. Dope kingpin Marlo Stanfield is getting hip to the world of money laundering through Proposition Joe -- legal ways of gaming the system by shipping money via local preachers who are busy building non-existent hospitals and such down south in the Caribbean where the banks work on the "don't ask/don't tell" business model.
The scene of Stanfield, played by Jamie Hector (pictured right), in Antilles trying to communicate with the French-speaking bank teller are priceless fish-out-of-water stuff. He's OK with Prop Joe's plan, but he still wants to see his stash.
"Y'all got my money," Stanfield tells the pretty bank teller, with all the worldliness of, well, a Baltimore dope dealer.
Back to the newsroom, there's another priceless scene between Gus and reporter Alma Gutierrez (Michelle Paress) where he explains in 30-seconds how good stories go bad, at least placement-wise. This should be required viewing for all flaks, uptight executives and other sources who freak out when their stories don't get the placement they may reasonably deserve (as opposed to those who freak out without cause).
More often than not, it's not a conspiracy rather than a comedy of errors. Gus offered up Alma's story about three people murdered execution-style in a house in the rough part of town. At first the A-section editors thought the story had some traction for page 1, but by the end of the night, there was other stuff (no doubt something that was less of a bummer, given the editorial direction they're getting from stuffy old red-suspenders exec editor James Whitting III). By the time the metro section editor was told to get the story in, jump space in that section is at a premium, so Alma's 35-inch story becomes a 12-inch story. It happens, folks, it happens. It hurts to slash good stories. I love how Gus does not make the fatal mistake (as some of us are inclined to) of apologizing to Alma.
"We messed up," Gus allows, but he does not use the S-word. Shit happens, deal with it -- that's his message and it's a good lesson for reporters.
Other random highlights of this seg include the opening scene with McNulty in one of the interrogation rooms at 4 a.m. It's a testament to West's acting skill, and probably a makeup artist or two, how much his blotchy, bleary-eyed face tells you that it's 4 a.m. and he's been drinking and working all night in an nearly airless, windowless room, pouring over old files of murders that nobody gives a hoot about.
For a seasoned cop, McNulty has such a funny sense of justice being black and white. As he's tries to explain his motivation to Bunk, who's losing his mind about the whole thing, Jimmy insists that his plot will open up the funding for "real police work" to be done. Like on the Marlo Stanfield case that has yielded 22 dead bodies, and counting.
"He does not get to win. We get to win," McNulty insists.
I noticed in this episode in particular that the ambient music in the background scenes seemed significant. Had to giggle at the use of the Fifth Dimension's "Up, Up and Away" in the scene in the convenience store where McNulty's buying his red ribbon and Gutierrez is looking for a copy of the paper.
Coming into her own in this episode is Felicia "Snoop" Pearson (pictured left), who is muscle for Marlo. She's quite a compelling character, probably because the actress is not that far removed from the life experience of the streetwise gunsel character she plays. No kidding, at first glance I could not tell if she was male or female.
Finally, I have to admit I didn't get the whole thing at the end with Omar, exciting as it was to catch up with him. It'd help if I understood Spanish, but probably not that much.