On ''The Wire,'' Omar, Old Face Andre, and Bunny Colvin's corner kids show that the draw of the old neighborhood and old habits can be impossible to overcome

By Michael Endelman
November 13, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST
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”The Wire”: You can’t leave home

The title of this week’s episode — ”Know Your Place” — laid out the main theme in blunt terms. For some of the characters, it’s a geographic reference. The world outside of Baltimore might as well be Mordor. As Omar said, after being released from jail, ”Baltimore’s all I know. Man’s gotta live what he know.” (Not that Omar is totally incapable of change; he promised Bunk not to drop any more bodies, and it seems he’s going to stay true to that promise.) And then there’s Old Face Andre, who got caught up in Marlo’s web to a fatal end this week. Squeezed between Bunk’s grand-jury investigation and the business end of Partlow’s gun, Andre should’ve left B-More as Prop Joe suggested. Like Omar, Andre couldn’t conceive of venturing up Highway 95. So Prop Joe sold him out, and now Andre’s just another body in an abandoned row house. With this witness gone, will Bunk be able to trace the murder of the delivery woman back to Marlo?

The ”corner kids” down in Bunny Colvin’s experimental classroom made another memorable appearance tonight, and they fit squarely into the ”Know Your Place” theme as well. In a masterful scene set in a Ruth’s Chris Steak House, The Wire represented the canyon-size class differences that separate not just blacks from whites but these neglected, isolated, and uneducated kids from someone like Bunny Colvin — also black, but a successful professional comfortable in any stratum of society. Without much dialogue — just the self-conscious looks of Namond and his classmates, their nervous smiles, and their refusal to take off their jackets — The Wire made it seem like a cultural, economic, and social divide that will never be bridged. If these kids glaze over and shut down when a waitress mentions hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, how can they ever expect to have a life beyond the corner?

But before this gets too depressing, let’s shift gears over to Carcetti, who learned more about his ”place” too. With a sharp rebuke from City Council President Naresse Campbell, Carcetti discovered that bureaucratic change is easy to promise but a heck of a lot harder to enact. ”The budget process is a carefully orchestrated ballet,” Campbell said ominously. (On a side note, did I detect a little sexual tension between Carcetti and Madame President? Or was it just disgust?) Burrell is refusing to step down, so Carcetti did what he could: emasculate the commissioner, promote crusty crony Stan Valchek, and bring up independent thinker Daniels, who struck the night’s sole note of cautious optimism. ”Maybe it’s changing,” he said while toasting Carcetti. ”Maybe we are turning a corner.”

TV watch regulars have been busy discussing the roots of Michael’s severe hatred of father figures. Lots of posters have suggested that Michael was abused — physically or sexually. Last week’s episode was ambiguous on that scenario, but this one hinted pretty directly at some sort of unspeakable incident in Michael’s not-so-distant past. How else do you explain his homophobic outburst aimed at Cutty (whose only sin is that he’s too ”friendly”)? Michael’s venom shocked even Randy and Dukie, who sensed that something is off. Whatever Bug’s father did to Michael must have been pretty despicable; when Michael sat down with Marlo to talk about this ”problem,” the deadbeat dad’s life instantly became a lot shorter.

What did you think of this week’s show? Did Prez do the right thing by refusing to ”teach the test”? Will he get fired for it? How would you rate Herc’s interrogation skills? And is Carcetti really thinking of running for governor in two years, or is he just teasing Madame President?

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