Transitions (The Wire)

The Wire episode
Episode no. Season 5
Episode 4
Directed by Dan Attias
Teleplay by Ed Burns
Story by David Simon
Ed Burns
Original air date January 27, 2008 (2008-01-27)
Running time 58 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Season 5 episodes

"Transitions" is the fourth episode of the fifth season of the HBO original series, The Wire. The episode was written by Ed Burns from a story by David Simon & Ed Burns and was directed by Dan Attias, who won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series for the episode.[1] It first aired on January 27, 2008.[2]


Title reference

The title refers to the several transitions seen during the episode, mostly Ervin Burrell and Cedric Daniels at the Baltimore Police Department, Roger Twigg and Scott Templeton at the Baltimore Sun, and finally Proposition Joe and Marlo Stanfield.


Buyer's market out there.

Though Scott Templeton is lamenting the dwindling job market in journalism, there is also a noticeable resonance regarding the local drug trade.

Oscar Requer also says, "It's a buyer's market," when talking to Jimmy McNulty and Lester Freamon. Requer is joking about selling McNulty a condominium, but the comment also carries an implication about the availability of bodies in unsolved homicides for McNulty and Freamon to work into their investigation.

Non-fiction elements

Title 18 of the U.S. Code, chap. 47, section 10-14, "Loan and credit applications": whoever knowingly makes false statements to obtain a property loan is liable to a fine of no more than $1,000,000 or 30 years in jail, or both. This section is used against Clay Davis, for borrowing from his mother the downpayment on a property, but not declaring it.

"Boy's Village": since 1992 renamed Cheltenham Youth Facility.[3]

Ground rent stories: investigative article series from the Baltimore Sun about the ground rent business in Baltimore.[4]

The patrol ID identifying the former partner of Freamon to KGA, "9A43", indicates that he is working in the Southern district, as is to be expected since the "bodies" McNulty is looking for are "dropping like flies" in the Southern, with a lot of "midnight" shift. The "A" further indicates a midnight shift.[5]


Starring cast

Although credited, Andre Royo and Jermaine Crawford do not appear in this episode.

Guest stars

Uncredited appearances

Ryan Sands (Lloyd "Truck" Garrick) was supposed to appear in this episode but Sands was busy filming The Kill Point. Nathan James was hired to fill in for Sands as an unnamed officer.[6]



Jimmy McNulty and Lester Freamon collaborate on raising the profile of their fake serial killer. They conduct actual canvassing among the homeless as a cover. McNulty briefly meets and talks to Johnny "Fifty" Spamanto, a checker on the docks from Season 2, demonstrating how far the union has fallen since Season 2 and Frank Sobotka's death. Freamon sensationalizes the idea by adding a sexual motive and supplies a set of dentures to create bite marks. Freamon also recruits his old patrol partner to look out for bodies. They soon have their next fake victim and McNulty mocks up the crime scene and tampers with the body to imply another murder. McNulty's binge drinking and infidelity are noticed by his domestic partner Beadie Russell. Kima Greggs finds the child survivor in her case too withdrawn to help and decides to spend more time with her ex-partner Cheryl's son Elijah.

Western district

Officer Anthony Colicchio attacks a motorist who irritates him while he tries to arrest Michael Lee's drug dealing crew. The motorist turns out to be an elementary school teacher who then files a police brutality complaint against Colicchio. Sergeant Ellis Carver offers to help Colicchio through the subsequent internal investigation but Colicchio remains unrepentant. Carver decides Colicchio's behavior cannot continue unchecked and charges Colicchio himself. Thomas "Herc" Hauk later appeals to Carver for leniency but Carver explains his new philosophy that their actions as police are always important. Herc expresses regret over his own misdeeds leading to his dismissal.


Michael is signed out of holding by his mother but refuses to give her money.

Major crimes

Leander Sydnor uncovers new evidence in the Clay Davis investigation. Rupert Bond decides not to file the new charge as it would mean allowing a federal prosecution and would cost him the opportunity to raise his political profile. Bond has Rhonda Pearlman hold a grand jury deposition for Davis. Bond stages a photo opportunity (perp walk) as Davis leaves the court house to mark Davis as his target.

Baltimore Sun

Scott Templeton unsuccessfully interviews for a position with The Washington Post. Upon his return to the staff at The Baltimore Sun he rushes to catch up on the Davis story after being left out of the loop.


Mayor Tommy Carcetti must grant favors to Nerese Campbell and the politically influential ministers to smooth the transitions in the police department. Cedric Daniels remains concerned that Ervin Burrell will expose his history of unexplained income and destroy his chances of becoming commissioner. On his wife´s advice, Daniels appeals to Burrell to tell him he had nothing to do with his removal by Carcetti, contrary to the Sun quote (Not for Attribution), but receives the silent treatment. Burrell gives the file on Daniels' past to Campbell. Campbell convinces Burrell to leave the department quietly with the promise of a well-paid replacement position, but keeps the file, and is seen starting to read it with some interest after leaving Burrell's office. At the press conference for his departure, Burrell whispers to Daniels to relax as he reminds him of what Daniels himself once told him (Cleaning Up): had he wanted to release the compromising file on Daniels, he would have done so already. However, releasing it really was Burrell's initial plan, before Nerese warned him of the consequences.

New Day Co-Op

Marlo Stanfield convinces The Greeks to consider him as an insurance policy for handling their supply of narcotics into Baltimore. Stanfield's rival "Proposition Joe" Stewart fears reprisal from Omar Little following the death of Butchie and decides to leave town. Stanfield asks Proposition Joe to teach him more about money laundering and is introduced to attorney Maurice Levy. Omar returns to Baltimore and quickly ascertains that Stanfield was behind Butchie's death.

At a New Day Co-Op meeting: Fat-Face Rick talks about investing in the local real estate market with the million he will receive from City Hall for swapping his club (More with Less), once he is out of the Sun spotlight again and closes the deal; Stanfield observes Hungry Man and Cheese arguing over territory, and Cheese's uncle, Prop Joe, putting an end to the argument by assuring Hungry Man his nephew will do as he should. Stanfield continues to court Cheese's loyalty and has Chris Partlow capture Hungry Man and deliver him for Cheese to murder. Cheese reciprocates by revealing Proposition Joe's location. Stanfield and Partlow surprise Proposition Joe as he prepares to leave town. Proposition Joe tells Marlo that it would be in their best interest to keep him alive due to the quality heroin being supplied through him by the Greeks, but Marlo explains that he's already spoken with the Greeks and that they'll do their business with Marlo instead. Marlo tells Proposition Joe to close his eyes, telling him to "breathe easy," and Chris shoots Proposition Joe in the back of the head.[7]


Omar returns to Baltimore to avenge Butchie's murder and Donnie offers to help. Initially suspecting Proposition Joe, Omar confronts Slim Charles in an apartment complex but Slim is able to persuade Omar that Prop Joe had no involvement in Butchie's death. Slim Charles suggests Marlo was behind the murder. Later, Omar and Donnie visit Marlo's court in hiding and decide to go after Monk Metcalf.

First appearances



  1. "Season 5 crew". HBO. 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-12.
  2. "HBO Schedule: THE WIRE 54: TRANSITIONS". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
  3. "Cheltenham Youth Facility". Department of Juvenile Services of Maryland. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  4. "A Sun investigation into the secretive ground rent business in Baltimore.". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  5. "Baltimore City Police". Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  6. Nathan James' WAMO interview
  7. Dan Attias (director); Ed Burns (story and teleplay), David Simon (story) (2008-01-27). "Transitions". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 4. HBO.
  8. Simon, David (2006) [1991]. "Post Mortem". Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (4th ed.). Owl Books. p. 641. ISBN 0-8050-8075-9. Rick 'The Bunk' Requer left to man the department's retirement services bureau, though his homicide incarnation lives on in Wendell Pierce's portrayal of the legendary Bunk Moreland on The Wire, right down to the ubiquitous cigar.
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