Duck and Cover (The Wire)

"Duck and Cover"
The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 8
Directed by Dan Attias
Teleplay by George Pelecanos
Story by David Simon
George Pelecanos
Original air date July 20, 2003 (2003-07-20)
Guest stars
Season 2 episodes
June 1, 2003 – August 24, 2003
  1. "Ebb Tide"
  2. "Collateral Damage"
  3. "Hot Shots"
  4. "Hard Cases"
  5. "Undertow"
  6. "All Prologue"
  7. "Backwash"
  8. "Duck and Cover"
  9. "Stray Rounds"
  10. "Storm Warnings"
  11. "Bad Dreams"
  12. "Port in a Storm"
List of The Wire episodes

"Duck and Cover" is the eighth episode of the second season of the HBO original series, The Wire. The episode was written by George Pelecanos from a story by David Simon & George Pelecanos and was directed by Dan Attias. It originally aired on July 20, 2003.



Title reference

The title refers in part to Ziggy's pet duck. It also refers to Frank's realization that the docks are under surveillance and to the coverup measures he has to take. This could also be seen as a warning call to surrounding characters or the audience of McNulty's actions after his failed reconciliation with his ex-wife.


How come they don't fly away? - Ziggy

Ziggy's question as to why ducks don't leave their cages when they are free to do so. The reason being that their wings are clipped. A metaphor for many of the groups in The Wire, and the individuals that find themselves in some way caged - the stevedores, the illegal immigrants, D'Angelo, the police, the corner boys.

Non-fiction elements

Ziggy references Stephen L. Miles, a Baltimore lawyer remembered by locals due to the local-run late night commercial advertising his firm.[1]


Starring cast

Although credited, Idris Elba, Frankie Faison, Wood Harris and Andre Royo do not appear in this episode. This is notable for being the first episode where Idris Elba does not appear.

Guest stars

Uncredited appearances

  • De'Rodd Hearns as Puddin
  • Tray Chaney as Malik "Poot" Carr
  • Luray Cooper as Nat Coxson
  • Bill Heneghan as Maryland Port Authority Commander
  • Kevin Jiggets as Frommers
  • Lisa Bullock as Waitress
  • Billy Finnigan as Bernand AKA "Fuzzy Dunlop"
  • Dan Garrett as Gus the Bartender




Jimmy McNulty deals with the disappointment of his failed reconciliation with his wife by returning to his old drinking habits. He gets drunk and tries to drive home from the bar. When he crashes into a bridge abutment while turning a corner he refuses to believe he misjudged the turn, reverses back and hits it again, cutting his hand. He then gets some food at a diner and ends up having a one-night stand with the waitress. He wakes up the next morning hung over, with the cut in his hand having bled onto the bed.

He spends another evening drinking with Bunk Moreland at the train yard. He asks about the detail and admits wanting to work with them again. He can't express his feelings but seems to want to say without a case to work or his family he is worthless.

By the end of the episode, McNulty finds his way on the case he has worked on as part of his personal moral crusade since the beginning of the season.

Sobotka detail

The detail meets with Assistant States Attorney Rhonda Pearlman and they give her a report on their case to date. Their investigation of phone logs from George "Double G" Glekas' warehouse links to "White" Mike McArdle, Petey Dixon and Proposition Joe. Kima Greggs' photos confirm the link. They have identified Sergei "Serge" Malatov and tracked his cell phone through his truck rental paperwork. His phone records show that he calls the warehouse every day that a container goes missing.

Lieutenant Cedric Daniels introduces Thomas "Herc" Hauk and Ellis Carver's linking of Nick Sobotka to the drug dealer Frog, which they have falsely reported as being obtained from an informant. Pearlman admits there is probable cause for wiretaps on Sergei's cell phone and the warehouse phone and checks their efforts to prove exhaustion. Pearlman checks over their paper work and takes it to the duty judge. The judge signs off on the request but has Herc and Carver move and install an air conditioner and wash his windows in exchange.

Lester Freamon and Bunk appeal to Daniels to help McNulty by going back to Colonel William Rawls. Rawls again tells Daniels no on McNulty's transfer. Daniels then brings up his agreement to take on investigating the murders and Rawls capitulates based on the hope that Daniels can clear his homicides. Daniels calls McNulty to let him know he is back.

In a scheme to recover the $1,250 Carver lost on the destroyed wireless mic, Herc gets his cousin Bernard to pose for photos as their fake informant, Fuzzy Dunlop. (The fake name was likely inspired by Herc and Carver's misadventures with the bug-in-a-tennis-ball in the previous episode.) Bernard insists on 10% of the CI payments. Carver hands the paperwork to Daniels who balks at the name and high price but signs it anyway. Herc and Carver grin over the success of the scheme.

Pearlman meets with Greggs and Bunk to discuss how to proceed with the investigation of the vice aspect of the smuggling. They tell her that they have found that the same company owns the warehouse and the apartments. They speculate that the apartments are being used as a cat house. They decide they need someone to go undercover to infiltrate the apartment as a john. No one seems like a good fit for the job, until McNulty shows up for duty for the first time and—much to the amusement of the rest of the detail—becomes the obvious choice.

Greggs and McNulty set up surveillance of the parking garage at the apartment building. They pull over one of the johns and get him to explain how to contact the madam. They also note the girls are being driven in via panel truck.

Beadie Russell, Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski and Freamon notice another potential container theft from the docks - a Transco lines ship with Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa working as checker. This time the surveillance work runs in combination with the wiretaps and the detail tracks the container to the warehouse. When Frank Sobotka sends out a second container (a clean decoy), McNulty rushes to tail it. Beady Russell arranges to slow down the rig with a fictitious traffic stop, until McNulty can get into position.

Dock business

The stevedores continue to mock Ziggy Sobotka, egging him on to retaliate against Maui's taunting. When he eventually does, the sucker punch is pathetic—Maui easily bests him, pins him down and has a forklift bring them to the top of a two-story container. Maui throws him on the top and warns the laughing stevedores not to rescue Ziggy from his predicament. Ziggy curses the other stevedores, yelling "You gave me bad advice!"

When Horseface reports the fight to Frank Sobotka, Sobotka is more worried about their month-end finances than his son's latest screw-up. He goes to pay his 90-day overdue cellphone bill but learns that his account is "flagged" to not be cut off—a possible cue that law enforcement is monitoring their activity. Horseface dismisses this as paranoia. Later, Sabotka spots Greggs on the docks when she is posing as an engineer to watch the smuggling operation. His suspicions are raised enough to ask after Beatrice Russell and he learns she lied when she told him she was transferring to Fairfield—the other port authority officers tell him she is detailed to the Baltimore City police. He decides to send out a clean container to test the waters. Sobotka notices the container being stopped and goes to call the Greek but realizes his cell phone is unsafe. He uses the untapped office phone to set up a meeting with The Greek.

Frank meets with his brother Louis and offers him a position with the port advisory board—a position that was clearly made available to Louis after Frank made a generous contribution. Louis refuses the offer saying it's not for him. He insists that everything he has comes straight. Frank tries to claim the only difference between them is that he chose the right union but Louis disagrees. Frank is infuriated that Louis has a sense of moral superiority over his choices.

Ziggy buys a duck from a neighborhood man who keeps birds. He meets with his cousin Nick and admires his new car. Nick asks him about his fight with Maui and can't hide his amusement. Ziggy takes the duck to Delores' bar, entertaining the other stevedores with duck jokes, and the bird's propensity to drink whiskey and beer on top of the bar.

At the warehouse George "Double G" Glekas and Sergei unload the clean container and angrily phone Spiros "Vondas" Vondopoulos at the cafe. The police trace the call and recognize it as the same number that Frank dialed. Vondas instructs Sergei to dump the container and McNulty follows it far enough to make sure, but is then recalled by Daniels.

Frank drinks with Nick and discusses their problems with the investigation. He asks Nick to accompany him to the meeting. The Greek is impressed by Frank's caution, suggesting they only move clean containers for a while. Nick and Frank insist that they must still be paid in full for moving the containers and The Greek agrees to their terms because he expects them to continue to do good business in the future.

After the switch

The police dismiss the non-contraband container as a mistake, but Freamon is nevertheless pleased to have obtained the number of Vondas's phone. McNulty and Beadie go for a drink and discuss their past relationships. McNulty drives her because her car is in need of repair. While at the bar McNulty calls the number for the madam and sets up an appointment. McNulty has another drink at Beadie's home but leaves quickly when he sees pictures of her children, realizing nothing good could come out of a sexual encounter with Beadie.

Barksdale organization

Bodie Broadus and Poot Carr walk through their territory bemoaning the lack of trade because of their weak product. Puddin has a similar story from the towers. Later they notice an independent crew dealing on their territory with far more success than they have been getting.

Bodie and Poot organize a crew to strike back against the dealers on their territory. They make an early start and beat them to their corner. When the other crew arrive they successfully drive them away but expect retaliation.[2][3][4]


  1. ^ Best of Baltimore 1999 | Best Horrifying Merger: Saiontz and Kirk and Stephen L. Miles
  2. ^ "Episode guide - episode 21 duck and cover". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-06-22. 
  3. ^ "Duck and Cover". David Simon, George P. Pelecanos. The Wire. HBO. 2003-07-27. No. 08, season 2.
  4. ^ Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books. 

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