Friday, July 03, 2009

The Wire, Season 2, Episode 6: "All Prologue" (Veterans edition)

Once again, we're revisiting season two of "The Wire" in two versions: one for people who have watched the entire series and want to be able to discuss it from beginning to end, and those who aren't all the way there yet and don't want to be spoiled about later developments. This is the veteran post (click here for the newbie version).

Spoilers for episode six, "All Prologue," coming up just as soon as I light a $100 bill on fire...
"He's saying the past is always with us. Where we come from, what we go through, how we go through it -- all this s--t matters." -D'Angelo Barksdale
Designed as a novel for television, each season of "The Wire" is usually greater than the sum of its weekly parts, but every now and then you get a particularly extraordinary part of the whole. Season one gave us "Cleaning Up," with the death of Wallace, Avon's arrest and Daniels standing up to Burrell and Clay Davis. And midway through season two, we get the brilliant "All Prologue."

"All Prologue" moves the plot along a fair amount: the detail figures out what the checkers are doing and how to track it, Nick gets deeper into bed with Vondas (and prepares to embark on a third career as a drug dealer), and Stringer makes a bold move of his own in hiring a hitman to murder D'Angelo. But it's also as character and theme-driven as any episode of the season so far, densely packed with one hilarious, or moving, or outright tragic moment after another.

It gets much of its power from focusing on McNulty and D'Angelo, who were the defacto co-leads of season one, and who have been intentionally marginalized to this point in season two. After trying to think outside the box of their respective institutions, each was severely punished: D'Angelo by having to take the biggest fall of anyone in the Barksdale crew, Jimmy with his exile to the boat. And "All Prologue" -- which is actually something of an epilogue to season one -- sees both men approaching what could or should be the end to their respective stories.

D more or less severs ties with his family and the larger Barksdale organization. The tragic irony of his death is that, while this decision is the last straw for Stringer, it plays out to us as evidence that Stringer had nothing to fear from D'Angelo. When you see D telling his mother to leave him alone -- in a moment as wonderfully played by Larry Gilliard Jr. as the famous "Where's Wallace?" scene -- you see that he is stronger, and better, than the family that raised him. He doesn't need them, not even to get out of prison sooner, and had Stringer not hired his hitman, D very likely would have spent the decade leading up to his parole hearing being a model prisoner, not worrying about selling out his family for a deal. This is the bed he made, and he was going to lie in it for 10-20 years. But because Stringer was so paranoid, D'Angelo is dead. And, as it does whenever a good person (as good as anyone can be, especially someone we met when he was skating on a murder charge) dies on "The Wire," it hurts, deeply, even though we know it's a fictional character.

It took some bravery on the part of David Simon, Ed Burns and company to bump off one of their two original leading men -- most showrunners would have seen how white-hot flaming incredible Gilliard was and contrived an excuse to keep him around -- just as it's brave to have McNulty be such a non-factor to this point of season two. Even Jimmy recognizes how useless he's become as a cop (the only thing he's ever really cared about being), so after failing to identify his Jane Doe and seeing Omar through the Bird trial, Jimmy prepares for "retirement." He'll still wear the badge, but he knows he has no hope of getting off the boat so long as Rawls has power, so he's just going to put his head down and slog through the days until he gets his 20-year pension. This would, appropriately, take about as much time as D would have needed to serve before being eligible for parole.

And where D'Angelo tries to separate himself from his kin and is killed for it, Jimmy desperately wants back in with his own family -- if he can't be a cop, maybe he can be a husband and father, and better than he was the first time around -- and is cast out by Elena (after one for the road, of course). No one trusts either man's motivations, even though D seems resolute about carrying his burden, and even though a Jimmy who isn't working murders might be capable of being a more functional human being.

Simon often compares "The Wire" to Greek tragedy (and has offered us a remorseless criminal organization whose head man is known as The Greek). He talks about how the characters are all set on a specific path -- by their families, by their socio-economic circumstances, by the institution they belong to, and by their own past actions -- that is all but impossible to get off of. The characters are only occasionally aware of how their lives are governed that way, but as D'Angelo discusses "The Great Gatsby" with the prison English class, he gets it -- even though he doesn't recognize how soon fate and his own past deeds are going to catch up to him.

But before we get the tragedy of D'Angelo, and the continued purgatory for McNutly, we get the comic masterpiece that is Omar Devone Little (who is himself a fan of Greek mythology) versus Maury Levy, JD.

Every other time we watch Maury at work, we have to cringe at his complete amorality even as we admire his tenacity and gift for turning pathetic-looking hands into winning ones. But damn, it's so nice to see him go up against a man who's not only just as smart, but beholden to no one and nothing but his own conscience. Maury can't outwit Omar, can't apply any sort of institutional pressure on him, and is left utterly speechless when Omar turns Maury's accusation of being a parasite of the drug game around on him: "I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. It's all in The Game, though, right?"

But that moment is only as fun to watch because we're aware of what an anomaly it is -- that the Omars of this world are few and far between, and that it'll likely be a long, cold time before we see Maury go down in utter defeat like this. The criminal justice system, for all its good intentions, is ideally set up for opportunistic parasites like Maury to make a meal of it, all while being treated as a respected (and feared) upright citizen of the community, where Omar is a loathed outlaw (albeit one who knows how to buy a snazzy track suit while still sticking to the letter of Ilene Nathan's "Anything with a tie" request).

I have so much more to say about "All Prologue," but I'm trying to get this done in advance of a holiday weekend (and I sincerely hope most of you have more exciting outdoor activities to do today and are reading this post on Monday), so we're going to go to the bullet points.

Some other thoughts on "All Prologue":

• Kima and Cheryl's relationship, and Cheryl's frustration at Kima's decision to return to active detective-work, comes to the forefront again beautifully as she insists on tagging along for Kima and Prez's strip club scouting mission. I particularly like the scene where Kima shows Cheryl a can like the one the girls died in to explain why she cares so much about these cases, because of the complicated way Melanie Nicholls-King plays Cheryl's response to the gesture. Cheryl does understand the importance of the case, but she also fears for her lover's safety, doesn't want to go through another shooting (or worse) like she did in season one, and would be much more comfortable if Kima's job didn't lead her to hanging around strip clubs. And, as Shardene's friend points out, can you blame her?

• On the Sobotka side of things, we see Sergei intervene with Prop Joe (who turns out to be Cheese's boss). And as Nick explains to Vondas why he doesn't just want to have Cheese taken out, Vondas' respect for the intelligence of Frank's nephew grows -- enough that he offers to pay Nick, Ziggy and Johnny 50 (who wants no part of it) in dope for the chemicals used to make it, since he knows Nick is smart enough to make a bigger profit on the drugs. Frank is a means to an end for Vondas, but he sees other possibilities for young Nico, no?

• Having yelled at and/or smacked Ziggy around for most of the first five episodes, Frank finally has a real conversation with his son here, and we get a much better understandings of the origins of the resentment that fuels so much of how Ziggy behaves. Though we've seen that Ziggy is good with computers, he didn't get to go to community college like his brother, but was instead drafted into the family business -- for which he was so ill-equipped, and for which he received virtually no benefit from being the son of the mighty Frank Sobotka. Most of the time, Frank seems like a noble villain -- he's working with The Greek for the good of the union, not himself -- but a scene like their conversation at the docks makes you wish he had been a little less selfless at some point, or at least willing to extend his beneficence to his real family at least as much as to his union brothers.

• Beadie continues to show growth as a smart detective, as she's the first member of the detail to recognize the criminal value of what the checkers do.

• Between Vondas (Greek), Sergei (Ukrainian) and now Etan (Israeli) -- not to mention Prop Joe (East Baltimore) -- The Greek has himself quite the international crime cartel, doesn't he? No concern about national or tribal loyalty -- just a shared love of profit.

• Dominic West has a lot of fun in the scene where McNulty is undressing the mannequin to distract Elena.

• Given how much of this episode functions as a season one coda, it feels appropriate -- and funny -- to have Judge Phelan back to tear into Bird during the sentencing. ("Are you Jesus Christ come back to Earth?")

• The ceremonial eyef--k that McNulty and Omar give Bird is a detail from David Simon's "Homicide" book, and was mentioned once on the "Homicide" series, though there it was referred to as "the ceremonial eyescrew" by Beau Felton.

• The prison English teacher is played by Richard Price, whose Dempsey novels are thematically very similar to what "The Wire" is doing -- and who will begin writing for the series starting in season three.

• I love Prop Joe's gift for turning a phrase, like when he tells Nick that, if not for Sergei, he and Ziggy would be "cadaverous motherf--kers."

And now it's time for the veterans-only section, where we talk about how things in this episode will play out later in the season, and the series:

• Stringer arranging D'Angelo's murder is the beginning of the end for him. That he gets away with it emboldens him to cut the deal with Prop Joe behind Avon's back, which leads to him pitting Omar against Brother Mouzone, etc. And while Avon eventually accepts the logic of Stringer's position after he finds out what happened to D, I don't know that he so easily rolls on his best friend if Stringer hadn't killed his nephew.

• At the time of this story, Kima is still faithful to Cheryl, but Cheryl will be proven right in the end about her partner's wandering eye.

• Here's a question: given how we saw Jimmy behaving with Beadie and her kids after he went back in uniform, might things have worked out for him and Elena had she taken him back here? He'll go on an alcoholic bender a few episodes from now, but that's only after she gives him the boot again and he feels completely hopeless. We see at the end of season three, and throughout season five, that his drinking and bad behavior are inextricably tied to him working as a detective. Had he and Elena reconciled here, he would have stayed in the stress-free life of a marine unit cop, would never have needed Bunk and Lester to plead for Daniels to rescue him from that purgatory, would never have been in a position to go after Marlo, etc., etc. I know with "The Wire" I'm always asking "What if?" even as David Simon tells me that the characters can't escape their destinies, but... what if?

• There was some debate in later seasons about whether Cheese was always written as Prop Joe's nephew, since early in season three there's talk of a mid-level dealer named Drac being Joe's nephew. But here, Joe complains about having multiple nephews in the game, all of them bumbling in some way, which allows for both Cheese and Drac to be kin.

• D'Angelo's killer is clever enough to fool the disinterested state cops, who'd rather not add an unsolved homicide to their stats, but not clever enough for McNulty, who'll figure out what really happened within minutes of entering that prison library next season.

• Omar will make use of the Get Out Of Jail Free card Ilene Nathan gives him in season four, and for a much greater charge than aggravated assault, after Chris Partlow frames him for murder.

• Nick's decision to take half the payment in dope is yet another brick in the path that will lead to Ziggy's ruin. Had Nick not chosen to sell drugs -- and proved to be so much better at it than Ziggy -- Ziggy would have one less resentment brewing inside himself when Double-G insults him for the final time.

• This is the last we'll see of Shardene until the series finale, I believe. Not a lot of room in "The Wire" to tell continuing stories of the characters who get a happy ending.

• Both Joe and Shardene's stripper friend say "Sheeeeeeeeit," which won't become Clay Davis's catchphrase until season 3.

Coming up next: "Backwash," in which Bodie goes flower-shopping, Joe has a proposition for Stringer and Rawls tries to dump the Jane Doe cases on the Sobotka detail.

I have jury duty early next week, and depending on how long it lasts, the next review may be pushed back a few days. Based on my past experience, I'm probably not going to get paneled, but if I do, I hope we get a witness one-tenth as colorful as Omar.

What did everybody else think?


Hudders said...

You're reaching an international audience here, Alan. As I'm in the UK I have to say: "no. I don't have anything better to do!"

Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

1. This episode, along with "Cleaning Up," are the two in this series most likely to make me chant "It's only a TV show," over and over. I don't think I was as moved by anything else that happened on this show. I won't tell you how much time I've actually spent wondering if the past really is always with us.

2. Ironically, the first few lines of the lyric to Kelly Clarkson's "Long Shot": ALWAYS remind me of the scene where D'Angelo is killed. Doubtful that was what the songwriters had in mind!

3. I must be the only person on the planet who is not fond of the courtroom scene between Omar and Maury. The dialogue feels so fake and unrealistic to me--particularly for a show that prides itself on its realism. I'm not a lawyer, but each time I watch this scene, I wonder (again) why the Ilene Nathan character doesn't offer any objections when Maury is going on and on about what a bad person Omar is. I'm also surprised Omar is able to toss off his "insightful" analysis of the parallels between Maury and him without being cut off by the judge.

4. Also, "You got the briefcase, I got the shotgun," along with "There's never been a paper bag..." [season 3], and the dialogue from the Playing Checkers with a Chess Set scene [season 1] are exammples of Wire dialogue that is (for me) just too unsubtle, even pedantic. When I watch, I feel like I'm being jerked out of the scene and into someone's agenda.

5. I'll be interested in what others make of Alan's assertion that D'Angelo wouldn't have eventually turned on the Barksdale family. I've always wondered about that--especially if, indeed, the past is always with us. (D'Angelo rolled once; who's to say he wouldn't roll again?)

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on one of my favorite Wire episodes!


Eyeball Wit said...

Great stuff, as usual. (Holiday? What holiday?)

On D'Angelo, he had his chance to roll, and didn't take it. No matter how big the info, there's no real way for a DA to get past federal minimum sentencing guidelines. Maybe, he could get a cushier cell and the earliest possible parole, but D's gotta serve 10 years. That ship has sailed. For everyone but String, of course.

Can we talk about Kima? In season one, she stood apart from the rest of the squad--stable relationship, good and growing police skills, an exit strategy. But most of all, she was defined by her heart and moral compass, as exemplified by her tough-love treatment of Bubbles.

Now in season two (and for the rest of the series) she's pretty much a lesbian version of McNulty without his "natural police" chops. (And seemingy never a second thought about Bubs.) From here on in what does she do that couldn't have been done by, say, Ray Cole? A lost opportunity, I say.

And then there's Maury Levy, or more to the point, Michael Kostroff. (Is that courtroom scene Sorkin-esque or what? Which is why Lodi2k6 hated it,)

After a five-season run as arguably the most amoral character on the darkest show on TV, what is Mr. Kostroff up to now? If you've got kids, you'll know that he's playing the ditsy boss on Disney's Sonny With a Chance.

From Omar Little to Demi Lovato?

But I'm sure he's happy to have the gig. Larry Gillard hasn't exactly become Denzel, either.

And was I the only one who saw Matt Servitto (Agent Harris from the Sopranos) in a Bertoli commerical wearing a chef's hat?

And what happened to Sabrina Lloyd from our other summer indulgence, Sports Night? Word on the street is that she was last seen walking toward the vacants with Snoop and Chris Partlow.

I get the impression that we've got some people who know some people reading WAW, so I'd love to hear more about the nuts and bolts (and the hard numbers where possible) of surviving as a character actor on television, some one like the actors above who make a living, but aren't at the Edie Falco level.

Call them the Starbucks Players--they still wait in line for their own lattes, but the barista always asks "Hey, wait, don't I know you from somewhere..."

Gourmet Spud said...

I have jury duty early next week...

a.k.a. time to break out the old Princess Leia costume.

Jake said...

Best. Episode. Ever. Especially the Gatsby scene. I never knew that the prof was Richard Price though, so thanks for adding another layer (or five) Alan.

In regards to Jimmy's domestication, I don't think it would have worked. Retirement would have helped, but it was still a forced retirement. He still had some self-discovery to do and wasn't ready for the quiet life yet. I think it took Stringer's death for him to realize that even when he was happy, he wasn't, if that makes sense. Up to that, even in his retirement, he would find a way to get up to some mischief like pinning the girls in the can on Rawls. As long as he had Bunk as a drinking buddy, Jimmy wasn't ready for change. I think, anyway. :)

digamma said...

During jury selection, my friend got dismissed because he said he liked The Wire.

The world's leading expert on The Wire should have no trouble at all.

chris said...

I am reminded about the story of mayor Daley in Chicago. The media thought they had him dead to rights when they found out he got his son a cushy job. Instead of denying it or trying to cover it up - Mayor Daley said something like, "Of course I my influence to get my son a good job - what kind of father would I have been if I did anything less?"

The people of Chicago completely agreed with Daley and the media found themselves with a nothing story.

Frank Sobotka went the opposite route and refused to use his influence to help Ziggy and that was something that I'll never understand.

Anonymous said...

@Lodi2K6: Ilene Nathan could hardly object to Omar's criminal history, could she? Obviously Phelan let Omar take his shot at Levy which was hardly an analysis and more of a cutting one-liner, because Omar was saying what Phelan (and everyone else in the know in that courtroom) was thinking. Overall, Omar is more than adequately articulate and motivated to deliver that brilliant testimony. It's my favorite scene in the whole series, right up there with the scene when McNulty and Bunk figure out the murder of Dierdre Kresson, and the scene where Omar and Brother Mouzone meet in a dark alley.

Jordan said...

As to Jimmy, Alan, on first view I would have agreed with you. But the more time I've been able to consider the series as a whole, I think I come out on the other side. Jimmy is unstable as murder police. When he's somewhere else in the department, he's got something to prove--even in homicide he needed to prove he was that much damn smarter than everyone else--and that's going to catch up to him. Do you really think he'd play it cool for the next ten years? He's going to fuck around with Rawls and the powers that be until it catches up with him. The more I've thought about it, he really gets what's best for him in the end.

With Stringer, that was one of those moments where even though the payoff is a season away, right when it happens you know how it's going to end. The Wire did this as well as anything on television.

I have to disagree with the poster above on the courtroom scene. I thought it was 100% in line with Omar's character. He's always been this larger than life figure, and acts accordingly.

Aaron said...

I'm an attorney so normally even slightly unrealistic courtroom scenes tend to drive me up a wall, but I simply do not care when it comes to the courtroom scene in this episode because everything that Omar does is comedy gold. He starts off by shooting finger guns at Stringer, waggles his tie at Nathan, and then proceeds to drop lines like, "Yo, what up, Bird", "the boy too trifling to throw it off after a daytime murder", "I robs drug dealers", and the epic, "that wasn't no attempt murder...I shot the boy Mike-Mike in his hindparts."

I could care less about the realism in that scene because I am way too busy laughing at the Omar Open Mic Hour.

Anonymous said...

Alan, in your interview with David Simon you asked whether "Omar L." and "Marlo" being anagrams of each other was intentional, and if so what it meant. Does the crossword puzzle scene in this episode offer a clue? Greek god of war -- Mars -- O*mar* L. and *Mar*lo...

Just a thought, not sure if it makes sense.

Anonymous said...

I think it's worth mentioning that the DVD set has commentary for this episode with McNulty and Omar. It's very, very funny and enjoyable.

Theresa said...

Here's a question: given how we saw Jimmy behaving with Beadie and her kids after he went back in uniform, might things have worked out for him and Elena had she taken him back here?

I don't think so. In this episode, I really started to see Elena as more of a female counterpart to McNulty, willing to string him along to get what she needs (e.g., one for the road), and part of what made his relationship with Beadie such a healthy one was that she didn't buy into any of that.

I think it's worth mentioning that the DVD set has commentary for this episode with McNulty and Omar. It's very, very funny and enjoyable.

I second that. One of my favorite moments from it was when Omar was explaining to McNulty why exactly he didn't want Bunk to shoot at the beer bottle on the tracks (avoiding paperwork), and McNulty said, "I wish you would've told me that at the time! I thought I was just afraid he was going to shoot ME!" Classic stuff, although it was a bit jarring to hear McNulty with a full-on British accent.

Also, I posted the question on the season 1 post, but I will post it here since Brother Mouzone was mentioned: is he related to Poot's love interest Arletta Mouzone? Coincidence? Explained and I missed it?

Finally, Alan, I live in Philadelphia, so staying in to read your Wire recaps trumps trying to survive the millions and millions of people who came to the city for the Fourth any day.

Eric Hartley said...

Great analysis of the D'Angelo-Jimmy parallels, Alan.

Any fan of the show knows Simon and the writers love these comparisons between the various institutions that make up the city and they way they grind people up.

Thinking of the series as a whole, I tend to think of Stringer and Colvin from Season 3 as the archetypes of people who challenge their institutions and pay the price (the dual "Get on with it, mother--" scenes). But I forget that before them, there were Jimmy and D. Your essay made me think of them in ways I hadn't before.

(Now a small correction that only an ex-court reporter would make: Technically, the judge isn't giving Bird the smackdown "during the sentencing." He's giving him a preview of the sentencing hearing that will come in a month or so, letting him and Levy know the required pre-sentence investigation of the defendant's background is only a formality unless Bird is in fact the son of God. Of course, Phelan only did so because of Levy's absurd request for an appeal bond. In real life, that kind of prejudicial comment -- suggesting the judge had already made up his mind -- might lead an appeals court to grant a new sentencing before a different judge. But anyway...)

Anonymous said...

i always wanted to ask but you kind of answered it, do u think
Avon would of stuck up for String if String never killed D'? I mean ideally especially knowing Avon's character you think he would stick up for him, but i mean if Brother Mouzone threatened Avon like that and Avon knowing Brother's reputation did Avon really hae any other choice?

Indeed said...

Omar's courtroom scene is also one of my favourite scenes of the series. I've seen the episode so many times and I'll still replay that scene over and over when i'm watching it.

In Wire-related news, and since Phelan is in this episode, I thought I'd point out the actor makes an appearance in Public Enemies (as John Dillinger's attorney). Also in the film, the actor who plays Herc. I hope I haven't repeated anything said in previous postings.
I loved the movie in any case, but it doesn't hurt to have two Wire sightings!

Matt said...

The Omar/Levy scene is at least as believable as Clay Davis's big courtroom monologue in Season 5. That episode's editor, Kate Sanford, said in the DVD commentary that she had jury duty after the episode had been finished, and realized that in real life Davis probably wouldn't have been allowed to go on for as long as he did. So at least the show's questionable (yet awesome) courtroom scenes aren't biased towards good or evil.

Anyway, "All Prologue" really is a great episode, and this post sums it up very well. Keep 'em comin', Alan!

B said...

I read the Ziggy-Frank scene just a little differently. Though Ziggy certainly has a lot of resentment I don't think he would actually want to go to Community College. He seems to like all those old stories, and want to be part of them but there is no place for them in the world that he inhabits. He isn't creating new stories down at the docks (or at least not ones he would want to share) and more than that there won't be anybody to share them with. Ziggy wants to be his father but he can't be. Both because there won't be any union and because he isn't the man his father is.

I'm the rare viewer who actually really likes Ziggy and his story, even as he frustrates me to no end. I just think that James Ransome is really good at making someone so frustrating kind of sympathetic.

Linda said...

Yeah, I'm with Alan that D'Angelo wouldn't have turned on Avon. I think the kid had sort of...decided that this was his lot. Maybe even accepted that even though he was taking the brunt of the punishment for other people's stuff, he had plenty of his own stuff to atone for, so it wasn't like it was this incredibly grave injustice that he was locked up.

I think he was at peace with the idea that his life as a normal, outside-of-prison guy was mostly over. I also think he had come to fear the outside world, knowing that he wasn't really prepared for any kind of non-criminal life, so in a way, the most ordered life he could find was in prison. I don't think he was happy, exactly, but I don't think he was looking for a deal to get back out into Baltimore.

And I completely believe that if Stringer doesn't have D'Angelo killed, Avon selling him out is far less likely. I think what happened to D'Angelo -- and ESPECIALLY the fact that it happened without his consent and even happened without a consult -- showed Avon that Stringer always considered himself the boss, or wanted to be the boss, or didn't think Avon was the boss. I think it made Avon understand that Stringer was an independent entity who would act on his own, and didn't see himself as merely a manager working for Avon. I don't know that Avon had the capacity for true loyalty (I'm not sure he wouldn't have gone along with having D killed if Stringer had asked him first) but I think beyond this point, he saw Stringer as a business associate first.

Anonymous said...

When Stringer had D killed on his own, without consulting Avon, Avon rightly realized that there was no more "us." Power corrupts. Stringer had big ideas, bigger than Avon's, and was now a danger to Avon. Avon was canny enough to realize the shift and act on it in a much more definitive fashion than Stringer.

Captcha: resseme-- almost a Twilight reference

Adam Jones said...


I don't know if there is supposed to be any connection between Poot's lady friend and Brother Mouzone, but my guess is that it would be an accidental recycling of the name.

The name Mouzone comes up in Simon's Homicide book and he definitely loves to use names from real people he's encountered or heard of in Baltimore lore.

MKostroff said...

Quoting Eyeball Wit:
"I get the impression that we've got some people who know some people reading WAW, so I'd love to hear more about the nuts and bolts (and the hard numbers where possible) of surviving as a character actor on television, some one like the actors above who make a living, but aren't at the Edie Falco level. Call them the Starbucks Players--they still wait in line for their own lattes, but the barista always asks 'Hey, wait, don't I know you from somewhere...'"
Well, you could ask the man himself. Kostroff here. It’s funny you should mention Starbucks because, on my last visit, the barista, who hadn’t previously let on that he recognized me, delivered my coffee while casually tossing out, “You wanted to be in the game, right? Now you’re in the game.” (one of my favorite lines).

OK. Here’s what you have to know. There’s nothing sacrilegious about the actors you recognize from The Wire turning up elsewhere. That’s what we do, most of us. We go job to job. I know it was all very real, and you all want to believe that The Greek is only The Greek, and Prop Joe is only Prop Joe, but as real live actors who don’t live on your screen, we have to move on and take other gigs, not only to pay our bills, but also to keep creating as actors. As for my role on Sonny with a Chance, I honestly love it. I wanted to do something totally different from The Wire, and boy did I find it. Wire fans are skeptical when they learn that comedy and musical theatre are where I come from. (I did The Producers, for Pete’s sake. Doesn’t get wackier than that.) But doing Sonny returns me to two things I love: comedy and kids. Naturally, nothing will ever, ever, ever be as cool as having played Maury Levy for five seasons. I loved that role. But to suggest that we’re somehow less legit because we continue our careers after the show is just a little na├»ve. Sorry if that’s blunt.

The fact is, in our profession, this is what success looks like. Very few actors become “names.” But if an actor can pay his bills exclusively from acting (and writing, in my case) he’s in a tiny minority group known as “working actors,” or, as I like to call us, “blue-collar actors.”

As for the possible inaccuracies in the courtroom scenes... Years ago I did an episode of West Wing. The plot was very interesting, and involved some lesser known legislation regarding the White House’s restrictions on accepting gifts. I spoke with the writer. He made it all up. It was convincing, but fictional. I love that so many people, cops, Baltimoreans, gang members, have said that The Wire was spot-on in its depictions. Even still, that isn’t an obligation. This is entertainment, not training films for lawyers. Most of what goes on in real courtrooms wouldn’t be interesting enough for television, or even HBO.

Hope this sheds some light. And while I have your attention, a thousand thanks for being fans of the show.

Eyeball Wit said...

Wow. This is really cool (and at the risk of sounding like a geek, I realized at one point yesterday that I did long, sit-down interviews with each of the three remaining Wimbledon semifinalists, so it's not like I tumbled off the proverbial turnip truck..)

Thanks so much, Michael. I'm sorry if it came off in any other way, but my comments were all about my growing realization of the difficulties of making a living as an actor. And about how, being a blue-collar actor is about being smart and professional when you're *not* in front of the camera.

Because of things like IMDB, I love to look to see what other things my favorite actors go on to, and it makes me more than a little sad when I see that, even for very talented actors who had great, memorable roles, it seems like it's often slim pickings.

A friend of mine worked in marketing for the company that makes Excedrin, and they were shooting commercials and one of the actresses they brought in was Elizabeth Moss. He didn't even know who she was at first. Between The West Wing and Mad Men, she was auditioning for a commercial and *she didn't get it.* Or actually she got it, got paid, which is good, but it never aired, so she lost out on residuals. But that commercial probably allowed her to take a role in a Ibsen play and pay the rent at the same time. (Did you know that Moss was the voice of the little girl in Lorne Michaels' Frosty the Snowman Returns?)

By the way, I just loved your West Wing turn with Dule Hill, playing capture the flag in A Change is Gonna Come. In just a couple minutes of screen time, your character get the classic Sorkin recite-the-resume treatment
(Dule: "Mr. Squire is from the Counsel's office. He's a Rhodes scholar, he's got a law degree from Yale, and I believe he's memorized the U.S. Code..."
You: "I get a little tripped up by Title 14."
TV scripts on the internet? Isn't the future wonderful?)

And I really like Sonny (although I'll never admit it to my nine-year old daughter or my 12-year-old son.) You watch, this one's going to stick in kids' heads and 10 years from now lots of 21-year-old women will be coming up to you at Starbucks and saying "Hey, aren't you Marshall Pike?"

If you're so inclined, tell us more about Dan's Detour of Life and how that fits in for you. Is it like web-gigs for journalists, where you do it more for exposure than money? Is it exempt from SAG provisions?

Oh, and give us the name of your favorite indie bookstore that keeps signed copies of Letters From Backstage in stock for WAW readers.

And finally, the other sides of Michael Kostroff:

Maybe I'll make some brisket today (served hot, with BBQ sauce) but I'm sure it won't be as good as Yvette's. And no, Herc's not invited.

Thanks again and enjoy the holiday.

Muz said...

There's a great bit in one of the commentaries from Wendell Pierce on the subject of his roles.
I forget exactly how it goes, but he talks about being the token black guy in a million roles and feeling kinda sad that it's probably never going to be as good as Bunk ever again.
A friend tells him to look at it this way "You've been Bunk Moreland. Now it doesn't matter what you do! You can completely sell out and no one can take that away from you."
I think he says something about, keep an eye out for him smoking a cigar while dressed in a chicken suit outside some fast food chain.

Anyway, keep attracting the cool commenters Alan and gang. Great stuff

Anonymous said...

I'm always thrilled to see actors from The Wire in other things. Hell, I watched Beverly Hills 90210 because Tristan Wilds was in it! That's devotion. I hope all the wonderful actors from this great show have thriving careers. Good luck to you, Mr.Kostroff! You deserve it.

Devin McCullen said...

I just wanted to let Eyeball Wit know that the Excedrin commerical with Elizabeth Moss did air, and in fact they're still running it. She also had a recurring role in "Invasion" in between TWW and MM, which was not a bad show.

MKostroff said...

Hi again, Eyeball and all,

Eyeball, absolutely no apology necessary. I think it's great for people to realize that actors don't just live on viewers' admiration, and that working at all in our business is a huge score. Speaking of which, I'll see your clips, and raise you this one:

You're 100% correct that the pickings have been slim. Along with the rest of the country, showbiz has been hurting lately, so stars are doing TV guest star roles that used to be done by lesser-knowns, and lesser-knowns are doing commercials and smaller roles formerly done by unknowns. Because of my musical theatre background, I much prefer returning to the stage, which is how I've been spending my summer.

Thanks for the compliment on my "West Wing" episode. I love Sorkin. I did two episodes of "Studio 60" that were a lot of fun.

You asked about "Dan's Detour." It was a funny and sweet web series (the new frontier, they tell us), starring me as a guy whose nice, settled life falls apart. Unfortunately, after we shot the pilot the project fizzled. Not all that unusual here in Hollywood. I believe you can still view the pilot on

Your question about how things work with web content and SAG is one with complex answers. In fact, our union recently voted in a very detailed new contract that covers that exact question. But yes, "Dan's Detour" was SAG, and it was a good solid gig.

My book, "Letters from Backstage," is available on, where you'll see some really, really nice reader comments, and at many of the big chair stores. Smaller stores (I advocate supporting them) can always order it for you.

As far as signed copies, they're only in a few stores in cities I've visited. (I did a mini book tour while driving across country to film season five of "The Wire.".) Still, even unsigned, it's a good read, if I do say so myself.

MKostroff said...

Ah...that should be chain stores. To the best of my knowledge, chair stores don't carry my book. I'd hate for you to spend an afternoon scouring among the La-Z-Boys.

Eyeball Wit said...

Ah, prestige voiceover work: Morgan Freeman, Sean Connery, George Clooney...Michael Kostroff. But I'm not sure they ever got the chance to do a chess-playing woodchuck.

I sneaked a peek at the first few minutes of Dan's and it's funny and smart. And the streaming video kept stopping on my Macbook Pro with fiberoptic wireless.

Feel free to ignore the question, but, in general terms, how does commercial work stack up to, say, television, money wise. Using a greater than, less than or equal kind of scale, how would a national spot like that Wendy's commercial pay compared to, say, a Wire episode?

Oh, and my kids are just totally impressed that you know Demi Lovato. (You do, right? It's not like after a scene she's whisked away by her security guys who say 'If you wish to speak to Ms. Lovato, please contact her publicist.'")

And say hi to your sister for us all, too.

Thanks for pointing out the Excedrin spot. I remember talking at length to my friend about this, and the did definitely decide on a version with another actress, at first.
What happened is twofold--the Excedrin brand got sold (at which time he left the company) and Elisabeth Moss got the Mad Men role which likely prompted them to run the spot which was already in the can.

Allen St. John
aka Eyeball Wit

gcam said...

I'm sure all true wireheads have read the book "the wire, truth be told" by one of the shows former staff writers rafael alvarez. well, now that the show has concluded, i was able to track down mr. alvarez. i asked if a sequel might be coming out he resonded....

releasing my complete rewrite of 'truth be told' (all 5 seasons, tons
of new material) by this christmas.

great news for wire fans, and thank you alan for having this web site

Anonymous said...

Mr.Kostroff what's your favourite season?

rhys said...

Vondas and "the Greek" are not Greek. They make the very pointed statement at the end of season when they are taking off in regard to how Frank and Nicholas know nothing about them, including the fact that they are not even Greek.

I thought it was Bunk who pulled Omar out of jail after the frame up job. Or was it Bunk who leaned on Ilene for Omar?

Charles said...

I'm pretty sure that its only The Greek who says that he's not even Greek at the end, Vondas just says something like 'and all they have of me is my name, and my name is not my name'.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The Greek isn't Greek, but I believe Vondas is. It's just that his name isn't Vondas.

nfieldr said...

Just rewateched that ep from season 4 today. Bunk pressured Ilene Nathan to get Omar moved out of the BCDC to a "county" facility.

MK, pleasure hearing from you. That's what I like about Alan's blog, you never know who's listening. :-)

Alan Sepinwall said...

I thought it was Bunk who pulled Omar out of jail after the frame up job. Or was it Bunk who leaned on Ilene for Omar?

Bunk has Ilene transfer Omar to a safer facility while he investigates the frame job.

Anonymous said...

Entering a contest of power or money (to the extent they are ever distinct under capitalism), whether overtly such a contest or fronting as an inquiry into truth and pursuit of justice, there are common objectives for Omar -- mock, subvert, play the game against itself for his own purposes . . . one of which may be just to have fun. Omar as witness is Omar as stickup boy. Sure, he's that, but that's not what he is. That's not what it's about. ("Wasn't never about that.") When Omar's called into combat here, called to testify -- leaving the elderly bailiff whom Omar does not regard as a combatant and thus alone with him he is the Omar we usually only see with friends and lovers, a gentle, soft-spoken man -- he puts on an emblem of his intent: subversion. Dressed in dark suit and tie he subverts the dress code. Swears to tell the truth, then he lies and says, believe me or don't, I don't care. That's just Omar having fun. His serious objective is to let the jury see that Marquis Hilton, the "well-dressed," well-mannered man sitting at the defendant's table, is Bird, a sociopathic killer. When Omar achieves that objective, he smiles. He knows his work is done. All the rest is Omar at play.

Respecting the "eye-f..k" scene, at the very end of it, after Omar tacitly admits to McNulty he was perjuring himself on the stand and McNulty walks away, Omar continues to look in the direction where Bird was taken and it reminds me of what Omar will tell Stringer later in the season, that there could never be closure for him with Brandon.

Finally, and not unrelated, I choose to see and take comfort in D'Angelo's comments on Gatsby as his foreshadowing Stringer's demise as Stringer plotted his. And it seems appropriate that "The Wire" should reference "The Great Gatsby" since "The Wire" does for our hyper-capitalist era of neo-liberal globalization what "Gatsby" did for the unfettered capitalism of the "Roaring Twenties" (though protected by its milieu from falling under the spell of the ideology it is attacking, as Fitzgerald did).

Eyeball Wit said...

• The ceremonial eyef--k that McNulty and Omar give Bird is a detail from David Simon's "Homicide" book, and was mentioned once on the "Homicide" series, though there it was referred to as "the ceremonial eyescrew" by Beau Felton.

A friend of mine works for the Oxford English Dictionary, and David SImon contacted the OED suggesting that Homicide was the first reference for "eyef*ck" (and by extension that he was the first published user.)
Alas, t'was not to be. Turns out that the term goes back as far as the 1920s, if I recall correctly. Simon did supply a bunch of Wire scripts which contained any number of colorful alternate usages.

Orion7 said...

For as many times as I'd seen that Rozerem commercial, I'd never noticed it was Michael Kostroff's voice. You gave me a good laugh when I realized why you'd linked that video. And I enjoyed the song-and-dance routine from one of the other videos. Thanks for posting here. It's always interesting to get a new perspective on the show.

The smackdown Maury Levy gets at the hand of Omar was satisfying to watch the first time around just because of the character archetype. It isn't until a few seasons later, when we see Levy in action with Marlo and company (and Herc) that we realize just how right Omar was.

I see similarities between Levy and Clay Davis. Both characters were caught breaking the law, and both managed to emerge scot free after a lot of scrambling and talking. They symbolize one of the themes of the show: the people who try to improve the system run up against it and eventually lose. Those who play along keep winning.

Alan, I'd always seen a parallel between Jimmy and D, but you provided me several examples that I hadn't noticed.

gcam said...

a favorite levy line.... while talking to someone on the phone, rhonda is advised that levy is waiting to talk to her, she says, put the scumbag on, and when levy takes the phone he says, this is he

as for the greek being greek or not, i am almost positive that he was referring to the phony passport he was holding at the time which indicated he was from a different country

Kemper said...

One thing that always bugged me about D's death. The hitman used his own belt to strangle D but when he's arranging the body by the door, it's clear that D is wearing his own belt.

I caught this on the first airing and always assumed that this was one of those minor footnotes that would come back into play later. I told all my fellow Wire fans repeatedly that that D's second belt would come into play at some point. And when McNulty starts looking into D's death later, I thought that's when we'd get a "F*** me! Why is he wearing a belt but got a different one around his neck?"

Alas, even McNulty doesn't catch it. So I guess it was just something that was never caught while filming/editing, but I was always disappointed that it never came up again because it would have been such a classic Wire-style moment to have such a minor detail come back up again later in the series. Can't win them all....

MKostroff said...

Oh, boy. This could become a time-consuming pastime. Still, I'm always happy to demystify the world of actors for "civilians." And I do enjoy talking about the show. So...

Eyeball, using the specifics you mentioned in your question, a national Wendy's commercial would pay approximately one gabillion times more than an episode of "The Wire." Now that's a rough figure, obviously. It might be 1.2 gabillion. You get the point.

Pay for commercials is a complicated thing, based on how many times the thing runs, how many markets it runs in, what time of day, what channels, etc. It's far more complicated than it is interesting. But potentially, a primetime national network commercial that runs can buy you a house. Pay on HBO shows, on the other hand, is notoriously low, and no one cares. I'd work for them any day of the week.

Yes, I know Demi. She's a terrific kid. Very goofy and fun. She's ruined many of my takes by making me laugh until I cry. Now, she does it on purpose.

Anonymous, I think my favorite season was season one. Many people have told me season four was their favorite. I inform them they're mistaken, since I was only in two episodes that season, and that therefore, it couldn't possibly be the best one.

As for the term "eyefuck," a little behind-the-scenes tidbit: Use of the term wasn't limited to dialogue. It was also all over our "stage directions" (descriptions of the action provided in the script), as in "Marlo eyefucks Herc as he passes."

Orion, you're exactly right. For all its great surprises, one thing seemed fairly consistent in the story of "The Wire": To a large extent, good guys got got. And bad guys weren't touched.

I often wondered, while shooting, if Levy was going to get offed by someone. Surely, he moved among a dangerous element. Sure, he was safe as long as he succeeded. But it always felt like one slip up could turn the gang against him. In retrospect, it was a foolish concern. Monsters like Levy never seem to die on "The Wire."

All the best,


Unknown said...

MK, it's great to hear your thoughts. If you don't mind me asking, there's something i'm interested in - the whole time you were playing Levy, did you try and find the sympathetic angles of him? Was this a character that you could barely bring yourself to play, or did you find yourself actually liking him a little?

There's not much to like about the character, unlike characters such as Avon, which is why I find it interesting to wonder what was going through your mind as you were playing him. Thanks for any response.

MKostroff said...

Hey, Kayvan --

Really great question. There's a traditional philosophy among actors when it comes to playing villains. It's said that very, very few characters are simply evil. There has to be something else that drives them, and what's more, in most cases, they don't think of themselves as evil. It's the actor's job to discover those things. That's part of our work. Though the audience may hate him, from the character's perspective, there has to be more to him than just being hateable.

I wouldn't say that I found the sympathetic side to Levy; that's not the word I'd use. While most of the show's characters displayed surprisingly complex combinations of admirable and less admirable traits (Think of the make-up of characters like McNulty, Bunk -- even hardened killer Weebay had great concern over his tropical fish), Levy is one of the few characters on the show whose good side we never saw.

But what made him tick for me was this: The chess game. He relished out-maneuvering his opponent, and showing him or her exactly what he'd just done. "See what I did? Your plan would have worked, except for this: I screwed you. Pretty good, huh?" In this weird sense, Levy loves the law. To him, it's a creative field. If you're very clever and very careful, you can bend it to your clients' interests (he'd say). So when I was doing all those awful things, there was almost a contained merriment about it. Hence the smirk.

As for barely being able to bring myself to play him? Hardly! Levy was a gift. We actors love playing interesting roles. And when someone stops me to tell me what an asshole I was, it's a huge compliment.

Sorry for being so wordy...that's me.


Eyeball Wit said...

Thanks again MK. 1.2 gabillion? Even a bigger gap than I would have thought. (Then again, even the most junior ad copywriter gets paid more per word than The New Yorker ever paid John Updike.) Toward that end, let's hope some ad exec is a fan of The Wire...or Sonny.

My 12-year-old son had this to say about Levy.
He's doing his job, and in our justice system, even the guilty deserve to be represented effectively and aggressively because it makes the police live up to the letter of the law, and in doing so he protects all of us.

That said, in season five especially, we learn that Levy has been coloring outside the lines....

But while we don't see it, I imagine that Levy compartmentalizes very well. He's probably a good father and a good husband. I would guess that Yvette Levy has got a better marriage and family life than Elena McNulty ever had.

Anonymous said...

Minor point -- I'd say it's a matter of interpretation whether D'Angelo takes "the biggest fall of anyone in the Barksdale organization." In terms of actual sentence, I think Weebay has it worse. He's in for life, if not several life sentences. But if you're talking about a different kind of fall - from being the heir apparent to being a casualty of the Game, on early retirement, taken care of but relegated to the status of "hanger-on" instead of participant and eventual ruler...
yeah. D'Angelo has fallen hard.

Eyeball Wit said...

The thing you latched on to with Levy: the fact that he's often playing chess in a world full of checkers players, dovetails with something that David Chase (?) once said about creating characters that appeal to viewers (and I'm paraphrasing broadly):

"Whether they're cops or gangsters, you want your characters to be really good at what they do."

And like Chris Partlow and Wee Bay and McNulty and Omar, Maury Levy is very, very good at what he does.

Isn't Omar's testimony in the Bird case, the only time that Maury really "loses" in this show?

Unknown said...

I'd say its both that scene and the scene that Ronnie plays the tape of him incriminating himself in the series finale. While the second isn't so much a huge "loss" for him in the sense that Marlo still gets to walk, he doesn't get exactly what he wants AND its only in these two scenes that i'd say we really see Levy's face drop, however subtly. More humiliation than "losing", really.

Different faces of Levy is something I find very interesting - compare the voice of Levy on the tape incriminating himself to the smug, calculating Levy we normally see. There's something about his clipped, grunting tone on that tape that really gives extra weight to the character, and I personally loved it.

Excellent job on the show MK, and thanks for your responses.

JB said...

Lodi2k6, I agree with you. Sometimes the Wire dialogue got a little unrealistic, and it's a credit to The Wire that these moments even stood out in the first place, because there was always something so amazingly authentic about each scene that made them all so wonderful. That said, I loved the Chess scene, and so I can see why people have their favorites and love them, even if others find them a bit unrealistic, because I always bought the "chess explanation" all the way. "and like I said, she ain't no bitch."

Eyeball Wit said...

True dat on the scene with the feisty Rhonda Pearlman--love how she briefly lapses in to a Balmore accent--but I see that as Levy at his best.
She sprung something big on him, and like Ali getting tagged by Chuck Wepner, he staggers for a second, but regains his bearings, and proceeds to take control again, and make a deal that allows him to not only save his own butt, but, as he tells Herc, take his firm to a new level by getting Marlo off on the murder charge.

Anonymous said...

I love reading MK's comments with Levy's voice in my head.

The scene of Ziggy and his Dad talking on the docks reminds me of the scene in Breaking Away where the "Italian" kid talks to his dad. His dad brings up how he's a Cutter, a stonecutter, but his son isn't. He mentions how Indiana University asked them to cut the stones that built the university's buildings. The Cutters always hoped that someday their kids would go to IU, but it just doesn't happen.

The dad asks him what him and his friends do all day, they're out swimming in the quarry. "So you're living in the holes that we created, I guess you are a Cutter."

Muz said...

After getting beat up by Pearlman (to an extent) I do love the scene where Levy is explaing the deal to Marlo.
That's another slightly questionable line really; he says something like "That's the deal kiddo and not a lawyer in this town could get you better".
I kinda think saying that the way he did might tip his hand to a fairly sharp guy like Marlo. But it's a good chuckle as well.

(Now I think about it, I wonder if Levy is down on the Magnificent Bastard list at TV Tropes yet.)

Unknown said...

One of the advantages of rewatching this show:

During the courtroom scene, I recognized that Omar's playful finger-guns at Stringer foreshadows what ultimately happens between them a full season later.

Gridlock said...

(albeit one who knows how to buy a snazzy track suit while still sticking to the letter of Ilene Nathan's "Anything with a tie" request).

I read it as Omar using clothes he already owned, but blowing the entirety of the $200 allowance (iirc) on a ridiculously expensive but stylish tie.

Even if not right, I'd like to think my way is more 'Omar' :D

Gridlock said...

Don't you just have to mention you're a believer/aware of jury nullification to get out every time?

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised there were no comments about Bunk hitting Lester in the head with a tennis ball. I found it so hilarious I kept rewinding and rewatching it.

Anonymous said...

"the detail figures out what the checkers are doing and how to track it,"

It's funny... I never really thought about this until I read this sentence... and it's kind of superficial, and totally coincidental, since that's just what they're called...

but the "checkers" are basically playing checkers on the chessboard of capitalism (where everybody around them is playing chess), no?

Ahmedkhan said...

This episode is my personal favorite of the entire series. Omar's demolition derby on Levy, the reappearance of Prop Joe as a major character, D'Angelo's murder, and on and on.

There is one scene, though, that I regard as a hidden gem that seldom gets recognized: the meeting with the stripper, Kima, Prez, and Cheryl. In the 10,000 + year history of the dramatic arts there has probably never been a finer 2 minute bit performance by an actor than that of the stripper (Toni Hunter). What is profound about the scene is once you get past the humor - and it is genuinely humorous - the tale the stripper tells is that of the degradation of women, a critical theme of this season. The prostitutes were reduced to slavery and regarded and treated as chattel. It's depressing to think about it for very long.

Ahmedkhan said...

Omar's court appearance provides two series markers that, in my opinion, are especially significant to the story. The first, his demolition derby on Maurice "Mr. Slime" Levy, is significant in that in all five seasons this is the only instance we see Levy stymied, stopped cold in his tracks. He then gets into a snit because this witness, who Levy expected to make short work of, bests him and with incontrovertible logic renders him momentarily speechless.

Just as significant is the contrast this appearance presents with the courtroom scene early in the series' first episode. In the first, Levy's smug, assured demeanor suggests he already has a not guilty verdict for his client in the bag. More pronounced is the sense that the Barksdale crew, who the viewers don't even know at this stage, owns the room. Stringer, Wee-Bey, Savino, et. al., are the embodiment of intimidation, and the two state witnesses are visibly intimidated, even though one does the right thing. In this latest episode, the Barksdale crew's menace is greatly diminished - only Stringer has any credible presence for that purpose. And far from the nervous state's witnesses at D'Angelo's trial giving wary and apprehensive glances in the direction of the Barksdale crowd, witness Omar coolly struts in and proceeds to taunt and agitate the Barksdales, pointing a finger gun at Stringer, and baiting Bird by demeaning and winking at him. Omar is effectively intimidating the Barksdales. This scene could arguably be the story's first visible indicator of the beginning of the decline of the Barksdale organization's reach and power in the Baltimore drug trade, certainly of its diminished muscle, something that will shortly have telling effect on its fortunes.

There is one similarity between the Season 1 scene and this: McNulty sits behind Stringer and they communicate, each time with McNulty smiling with amusement, in the first episode at Stringer's cartoon and written message (it is pretty funny), and this scene when McNulty reminds Stringer that here they "ain't on the street." Ironically, Stringer's street intell about Omar's sticking up the Ashland Avenue boys at the same time Gant's murder occurred is probably accurate.

Ahmedkhan said...


I still haven't been able to determine if Simco hasn't intended something specific by having Nick Sobotka and Bunk each make it a point to pronounce Eton Ben Elezar's name incorrectly as Eee-ton, rather than the correct Ay-ton (long A). Nick pronounces the name incorrectly immediately after Vondas, who has pronounced the name correctly, introduces him to Eton. In Bunk's case, during the staff meeting with the unit reviewing tracking activity on the Greek's people McNulty pronounces the name "Ay-ton" and Bunk quickly cuts in and "corrects" McNulty by firmly interjecting, "Eee-ton". I wouldn't have thought any more of the mispronunciation had Nick been the only one to mispronounce, but then there is this later episode's scene with Bunk. This is yet another "we'll never know."