And once inside, Colvin delivers one of those speeches that's probably the reason most of us enjoy The Wire so much. "You know what I was thinking?" he asks The Deacon. "That tonight's a good night. Why? Because my shot cop didn't die. And it hit me. This is what makes a good night on my watch. Absence of a negative. ...Here's the thing. Six months from now, I'm gone. I put in my thirty, and the only thing going be left of me on that job is an 8-by-11 framed picture in the Western hallway. But you know what? The shit out there. The city is worse than when I first came on. So what does that say about me? About my life?" And if you remember no other thing about this episode -- not the Gus Triandos thing, not the stuff with Cheese and his dog, not even shirtless, sexy Daniels -- remember that speech Bunny Colvin just gave, because it pretty much informs everything he does from this point forward.
Back at the Major Case unit, everyone's just sitting around. The wiretaps are as silent as a tomb. "Not a call since we gave it up to Cheese," Freamon remarks as McNulty strolls in. To his credit, McNulty resists the temptation to do an I-told-you-so dance.
Over at the Western, Colvin arrives to deliver another significant address to his grim-faced charges. First, some good news on Dozerman: his condition has been upgraded to guarded. As for the Western itself, the condition remains critical. But Colvin intends to do something about it. He puts the kibosh on any future hand-to-hand undercover drug buys; the news is met with muffled outrage from the assembled officers. At this point, Colvin produces a paper bag, puts it on the top of the podium, and begins spinning a tale: "Somewheres, back in the dawn of time, this district had itself a civic dilemma of epic proportion. The city council had just passed a law that forbid alcoholic consumption in public places, on the streets and on the corners. But the corner is, and it was, and it always will be the poor man's lounge. It's where a man wants to be on a hot summer's night. It's cheaper than a bar, catch a nice breeze, you watch the girls go by. But the law is the law. And the Western cops, rolling by, what were they going to do? If they arrested every dude out there tipping back a High Life, there'd be no other time for any other kind of police work." If you've spotted the parallels between what Bunny is talking about and the current situation dogging the city, you are about eight steps ahead of Herc, judging by his furrowed brow. Then again, that's not that significant an accomplishment, is it? Colvin continues: "And if they looked the other way, they'd open themselves to all kinds of flaunting, all kinds of disrespect." Bunny opens the paper bag and produces a High Life. I take back all the mean things I said about Amstel Light earlier -- compared to High Life, Amstel Light is the Maker's Mark of beers. "Now, this is before my time when it happened," Colvin says, "but somewhere back in the '50s or '60s, there was a small moment of goddamn genius by some nameless smokehound who comes out the Cut Rate one day and on his way to the corner, he slips that just-bought pint of elderberry" -- Bunny does likewise -- "into a paper bag. A great moment of civic compromise. That small wrinkled-ass paper bag allowed the corner boys to have their drink in peace, and it gave us permission to go and do police work. The kind of police work that's worth the effort, that's worth actually taking a bullet for." On that last line, Carver was in sharp focus, while Herc, sitting next to him, was blurred -- I have a feeling that was a very deliberate directorial decision. Anyhow, Colvin notes that Dozerman was shot trying to buy three piddly little vials last night; he produces three vials and holds up the paper bag. "There's never been a paper bag for drugs," he says, and into the bag go the vials. "Until now." Perhaps some people only know Robert Wisdom from his work on a dopey prison show that's been on the air about a year-and-a-half past its sell-by date; if that's the case, scenes like this show why that's a pity.