"More with Less" is the first episode of the fifth season. It is the fifty-first episode of the series overall. It premiered on 6 January, 2008. The episode was written by David Simon and directed by Joe Chappelle.
"The bigger the lie, the more they believe." - Bunk
Bunk Moreland interviews DeShawn Fredericks, a suspect in the murder of "Pookie." Bunk, Detectives Ed Norris and Michael Crutchfield, and Sergeant Jay Landsman manipulate Fredericks into believing his accomplice Monell is co-operating with the police. Bunk, Landsman, and Norris extract a confession by pretending a copy machine is a lie detector. Bunk observes the largest lies are the most readily believed and Norris remarks that Americans are generally unintelligent and will believe what they are told.
Detectives Kima Greggs and Leander Sydnor watch as Marlo Stanfield’s guards prepare one of the drug dealers he supplies for a meeting. The guards confiscate the dealer’s electronic equipment including his phone and music player. The detectives are impressed with Stanfield’s thoroughness and remain too far removed to hear the content of the discussion. Jimmy McNulty and Kenneth Dozerman observe Stanfield’s courtyard from a rooftop. Dozerman complains to McNulty about the department withholding their pay and also retells a story he heard about McNulty allowing a prostitute to perform a sex act on him while undercover with a vice operation.
The dealer tries to negotiate a more favourable split with Stanfield because he is unable to pay his workers. Stanfield refuses to negotiate and retains the sixty to forty percent split already in place with a threat of violence from Chris Partlow, Snoop and his other enforcers. O-Dog ushers the dealer away. Stanfield next relays a message to a runner to organize a meeting with Chris. The runner passes the message on to a motor scooter rider. The unit tails the scooter to Chris Partlow using alternating surveillance from Sydnor and Greggs in a van and Lester Freamon in a car. Greggs remarks that they have been doing the same thing for a long time. The detective marvel at the precautions Stanfield is taking. After conferring with the messenger Chris sends Michael Lee to check on his corner. The detectives tail Chris to his meeting with Stanfield. McNulty declines to follow Stanfield as they already know where he is going.
At the meeting Stanfield tells Partlow that his negotiation was successful and that his enforcers will not need to act against the dealer. They talk about the continued surveillance and Stanfield spots Sydnor and Greggs’ van. He tells Partlow that their lookouts saw McNulty climb onto the roof of Booker T. Washington earlier that day. After the meeting, Freamon suggests continuing the surveillance but Greggs suggests that they should call it a day as they are not even being paid for their overtime.
Back at the unit office Freamon suggests that Stanfield’s people may become lazy as they are re-using meeting places and that they will have a case against them eventually despite their precautions. Dozerman complains about the lack of overtime pay and the other detectives agree. Freamon suggests going to a bar and Greggs complains that she can’t afford it but agrees when Lester offers to pay. Lieutenant Jimmy Asher continues to work on his beach house and states that he is out of the loop when it comes to the pay issues.
At the bar McNulty complains that he was happy in patrol and that he was lured back to the Major Case Unit with false promises of a new day for the department. Greggs tells him that he was bored but he insists that he was content. Freamon complains that the inter-departmental politics prevented him from building a case against Stanfield when he was still using cell phones. McNulty takes this as more evidence that the powers that be are incapable of doing the right thing and that Stanfield now requires constant surveillance that is made difficult by budgetary constraints. Bunk arrives and McNulty asks him for a drink but he is facing the same problems with pay as the rest of the detectives. Freamon jokes that they could rob a liquor store but that the inebriated McNulty would be the weak link in their team.
Michael visits his corner and finds that his crew (including Spider, Marcus and Kenard) will not report their count to Dukie, who is supposed to be in charge. Michael sends Dukie to their home to meet Bug from school. Dukie tells Michael that he is not the same as him. Spider tells Michael that their count is fine and that they have no respect for Dukie. At home Michael plays Connect 4 with Bug and discusses paying Dukie to look after Bug rather than working with his crew. He suggests that Spider could take over as the crew chief. Dukie suggests that he would be like a nanny or a housewife and Michael tells him that he can do what he wants until Bug gets home from school.
The next day Stanfield stages a liaison with a woman at a hotel and fools the detetectives following him. Partlow instructs the woman to wait in a room while Stanfield attends a meeting with the New Day Co-Op. He tells Partlow to take care of his task and that Monk will pick him up after the meeting.
The drug traffickers of the Co-Op discuss problems with the redevelopment of East Baltimore by Johns Hopkins moving the ghetto areas out into Baltimore county. Stanfield suggests that the territory should belong to whomever claims it. Proposition Joe claims that the new territory should be reserved for those who are losing trade in East Baltimore. Stanfield points out that this includes Joe. Joe admits that it would include him but also others like “Hungry Man”, Parker and “Ghost” while Stanfield will be unaffected by the redevelopment.
Stanfield continues to antagonise Joe by asking if he will assign one of his lieutenants to develop the new territory. Joe tells him that how he runs his organization is not Co-Op business. Stanfield presses on regardless even offering Slim Charles a job working the new territory for the Stanfield Organization. Slim Charles declines and one of the other traffickers admonishes Stanfield for his comments. Slim Charles warns that they have to watch Marlo. Cheese sits silently at Joe's left hand throughout the exchange.
Partlow visits the court house, still being followed by McNulty. He interrupts Cedric Daniels, Rhonda Pearlman and Rupert Bond to ask for directions to the criminal clerks office. Partlow retrieves the file on Sergei Malatov and takes the photo of him. He recognises an unconcerned McNulty on his way out of the office. McNutly also looks at the file and remembers Malatov from his time on the Sobotka detail. The file shows that Malatov plead guilty to murder charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment. McNulty asks Sydnor if he recalls Malatov and Sydnor responds that he was not part of the Port investigation.
McNulty again spends the evening drinking and flirting with women in bars. He phones home to tell his partner Beadie Russell that he will be late and when she notices that he is slurring his speech he denies being drunk. Later that night, Russell is unable to sleep and goes to turn the porch light off but refuses to give up hope and puts it back on for him.
In the Western District Sergeant Ellis Carver gives a briefing to the officers because he is acting as sergeant in charge. Carver tries a down-to-earth approach to set his men at ease. Truck jokes about Carver’s career aspirations. Dissent quickly arises when Carver begins the briefing. Bob Brown and other officers raise several issues with regard to the withholding of their pay and Brown begins to leave the briefing. Carver shouts his men down and orders Brown to his seat. Carver then reminds them of their duty as professionals but when he announces that the department will not be servicing vehicles until further notice unrest erupts again and Brown walks out.
Carver discusses his difficulties with Mello but they are interrupted by officer Castor reporting a problem in the parking lot. Castor refers to Mello as Major – he has taken up Daniels’ position as Western District Commander. Carver and Mello look on as Brown argues with officer King from the overnight shift about the state of the vehicle he is handing over and the argument turns into a fight. Mello sees no reason to break up the fight as morale is already as low as possible.
Carver, Colicchio and Dozerman meet Herc for drinks. They complain about the state of the department. Carver remarks that Herc left the department at the right time and Herc shows off his new business suit. Herc tells his old colleagues that he has more work than he can handle as an investigator for defense attorneys. He asks them to check on a name for him in exchange for a round of drinks. Herc later meets with Maurice Levy and gives him the information his friends retrieved. He tells Levy that he only had to buy a round of drinks in exchange and Levy tells him that he could have spent less by using his expense account. Levy is surprised to see a story about his client Ricardo "Fat Face Rick" Hendrix on the front page of the Baltimore Sun.
Burrell and Rawls meet with Mayor Carcetti and his advisers Michael Steintorf and Norman Wilson. Carcetti is looking for a further decrease in spending but Burrell reports that they have already cut back on vehicle maintenance as far as possible and Rawls adds that they are withholding pay from their men. Carcetti asks about the crime statistics and Rawls says that it will be impossible to deliver the decline Carcetti promised in his campaign with their budget cuts. Carcetti asks the department to wait for the money he has promised them as he needs all available funds for the schools. Steintorf asks for other areas where the department budget can be trimmed and Rawls suggests stopping the prolonged investigation into the vacant murders as they are still not close to an arrest. The potential public relations ramifications concern the politicians but Rawls suggests that they can characterise it as temporarily suspending the investigation pending further information. Burrell suggests that they need to lift the cap on secondary employment to bolster morale and prevent officers leaving the department and Carcetti reluctantly agrees. He once again asks them to be patient and to do their best with the little he is able to give.
Carcetti asks Wilson for his thoughts and Wilson tells him that he should have accepted the Governor’s assistance with the school budget deficit last year despite the cost to Carcetti in personal political capital. Steintorf rejects the suggestion as it would have prevented Carcetti becoming Governor. Wilson suggests that Carcetti has no hopes of progressing if he continues to withhold funds from the police department and renege on his campaign promises. Carcetti asks Wilson if he feels better having vented his frustration and Wilson agrees that he does, and turns the question around, Carcetti shakes his head.
Burrell and Rawls meet with Daniels and tell him that the Major Case Unit is to be shut down due to budgetary issues. He asks about the wisdom of stopping the investigation into the vacant murders and complains that Carcetti has broken his promises to the department. Daniels mentions that Carcetti made personal commitments to him and his superiors encourage him to use his influence if possible. Burrell also tells Daniels that they have had to revoke all take-home vehicles from officers ranked Colonel and below.
Carcetti and Campbell meet with a representative from the US Attorneys office to discuss their problem with drug violence that could be helped by imposing federal statutes on the offenders. The federal agencies are still prioritizing political corruption and counter terrorism and Carcetti recalls them refusing his request for help with the vacant murders for the same reason. The representative suggests that they could offer a team of FBI agents for the vacant murders if the Clay Davis investigation was taken federal but that State's Attorney Bond is keeping the case local. Campbell is outraged that the federal agencies will allow murders to continue as a bargaining tool. Carcetti suggests that partisan politics are the motivation and the representative suggests that Carcetti is burning bridges to protect Davis for the same reason – they are both Democrats. Carcetti is enraged and refuses the deal alienating the representative in the process.
Wilson enters and asks if the meeting went well. Carcetti believes the US Attorney wants the case to embarrass Democrats and help the Republican Governor win another term. Wilson asks if Bond is keeping the case local to help the Democratic party and Campbell tells him that Bond is keeping the case to generate political capital for himself, perhaps hoping to one day run for Mayor. Carcetti remarks that this would make Bond a rival for Campbell’s own Mayoral ambitions and that either outcome would be bad for her – a federal case would hurt her party’s reputation and could involve Davis cooperating to build a case against the Royce administration, which once included her, while a local case would enhance Bond’s standing. She tells Carcetti not to worry about her and asks what he plans to do having cut himself off from federal assistance when they are in dire need of help and he simply blames them.
Daniels and Pearlman meet with States Attorney Rupert Bond and relay the news about the closure of the Major Crimes Unit. They suggest trying to reason with Carcetti to retain the Stanfield detail. Bond is more concerned about the Clay Davis case and Pearlman explains that she needs Freamon for the case to go ahead. Bond agrees to accompany them to the meeting with Carcetti. Pearlman and Daniels share a public embrace after he leaves.
Carcetti does not have time for the meeting and Bond and Daniels instead have a discussion with him in the corridor. He refuses to revoke the order to disband Major Crimes because of the financial pressure they are under. Bond responds that the Davis investigation will be compromised and Carcetti allows them to keep two detectives for that investigation only. Daniels is outraged that a corrupt politician is more important than all of the vacant murder victims.
Daniels briefs the Major Crimes Unit on their fate. They are angry that their work is not seen as important. Daniels tells them that he appealed to the Mayor personally, relaying that funds are reserved for patrol and crime suppression. Sydnor reminds Daniels that their surveillance of Stanfield has limited his activity. Daniels offers the possibility of reviving the investigation in the future and Freamon remarks that they will have to wait another year. Daniels sympathizes that he was also promised change in the department. Daniels gives the detectives new assignments: McNulty and Greggs will return to Homicide; Dozerman will be temporarily assigned to tactical; Asher will move to the Northern Division; finally Freamon and Sydnor will be assigned to the State's Attorney’s office for the Davis case. Daniels promises to reunite the unit when the funds are available and apologizes. As Daniels leaves, McNulty remarks that he wonders what it would feel like to work for a real police department.
When McNulty and Greggs report to Landsman’s squad, McNulty is dejected and insists that the new detective relinquish his desk as it was once his. Landsman refers to McNulty as the “prodigal son.”
At the Baltimore Sun, city desk editor Augustus “Gus” Haynes discusses foreign bureau closures and potential cutbacks in the staff at the paper with his colleagues. They determine that the paper will first offer to buy out some of its staff and will then begin making junior staffers redundant. The senior reporters joke that it will be a shame to lose the attractive but inept young writers. They joke that some day they would like to work for a real newspaper.
Haynes encourages Fletch, one of his young reporters, to begin writing early instead of waiting for calls so he will not miss another deadline. He talks to political reporter Jeff Price about a forthcoming council meeting. They discuss a possible vote on homeless ordinance but Price suggests that council president Nerese Campbell might send the vote back to committee. Haynes notices his colleagues watching a fire from a window. He tells them to call Twigg, the police reporter, and berates them for standing around and watching. He asks Jay Spry, the rewrite man, about a story on the Associated Press about cutbacks on city bus lines. His colleagues tell him the story was broken by the Daily Record and is being covered by the State desk. Haynes is disappointed that the Record beat them to a story. He notices that it is 2 o’clock and calls for budget lines from his reporters. Haynes gets a call to say that they have no photograph for a race track story and decides to send “Swag”, a photographer to the fire.
Haynes attends an editorial meeting supervised by Klebanow. Phelps, the state desk editor, reports cutbacks on the MTA routes and Klebanow senses that the story will affect many people. The staff downplay the story as the cutbacks have been suggested before and the story was broken by the Daily Record. The staff explain that the story would have been covered by their “transpo” reporter but that position has been vacant since the last round of buyouts. Klebanow claims that the staff should still have picked up the story and that cutbacks at the paper are not an excuse for missing stories – he states that they “simply have to do more with less.” Haynes points out that despite Klebanow’s claims that they have more resources than the Daily Record they are still without a transpo reporter.
Managing editor James Whiting arrives and Klebanow asks Haynes for the major stories from the city desk. He mentions the State’s Attorney complaining about a decline in quality casework by the city police, the City Council meeting on the homeless ordinance, a fatal road traffic collision, two overnight murders, and the rowhouse fire. Rebecca from regional affairs reports a story on a Johns Hopkins press conference, and on University of Maryland not making its desegregation goals. Whiting objects to the story as he is a personal friend of Gene Robbins, the Dean of Journalism, and has been told that the reputation with “black faculty and students” is much improved. Haynes questions Whiting about Robbins's race. Whiting dismisses the question as he thinks race is “beside the point.” Whiting tells Klebanow to shelve the story until more reporting on how the University is perceived can be done. After the meeting, Rebecca asks Haynes why he antagonized Whiting. He explains that he believes that a healthy newsroom is dependent on everyone speaking their mind and arguing.
Haynes corrects a semantic error in Alma Gutierrez’s fire article. Jay, the rewrite man, explains that at “The Baltimore Sun, God still resides in the details” and bemoans the junior reporters. Gutierrez checks a dictionary and concedes her error. Her colleague Scott Templeton asks her what she is working on and remarks that Baltimore is a bad city for news as few stories go national. Gutierrez reminds him of the vacant murders story a year ago and he reminds her that it is still unsolved.
Haynes is disgusted to find a burnt doll inserted into the photographs of the fire and the state desk editor remarks that it is a trademark of Carlisle, the photographer. Haynes complains to Swag and refuses to use the photograph. Haynes jokes that Carlisle's car trunk will be full of a collection of charred dolls.
Price attends the council meeting and reports back to Haynes – he plans to lead with a story on Carcetti asking Campbell to redraft the bill as he does not want to appear to be running the homeless out of the downtown area. Haynes reviews the agenda from the council meeting and finds something that interests him. The council is buying property from drug trafficker Ricardo “Fat-Face Rick” Hendrix and selling him better property for less than its value as part of their redevelopment efforts. Haynes instructs Price to check their records and the council records on the vote and then changes his mind and sends him back to the council meeting to observe the vote, find out who sponsored the proposal and get a quote. He asks Guttierez to go to the property, a strip club named Desperado and get a quote from Hendrix – he tells her to threaten him with using his photo on the front page until he co-operates. He assigns Templeton to do the background research on the story and Templeton is disappointed to have the less glamorous role.
Haynes watches over Jay’s shoulder as he edits the story. Klebanow and another editor check with Haynes about its potential and he suggests that it is front page material. He tells Klebanow that Hendrix will net a million dollars of city money and have better property than he started with on the transaction. They ask why the council is acting so favorably towards Hendrix and Haynes explains that they are still checking campaign donation records but already have forty thousand dollars worth of contributions from either Hendrix or people using the address of the Desperado club. Klebanow asks why the story was not in Haynes’ budget lines report and Haynes credits Price with finding the story in the council agenda. Klebanow agrees to give the story space on the front page.
Price calls in having received a quote from Council President Naresse Campbell and she asks to speak to Haynes off the record. She tells him that the transaction is “above board” Haynes asks why they are giving Hendrix a profit on the deal and if Campbell made it clear to the council that Hendrix was a campaign donor. During the conversation Haynes arbitrarily inflates the donation figure to sixty thousand dollars and Campbell does not correct him so he assigns Templeton to keep looking for more donations.
Pleased with the story Haynes takes his team to a bar. He congratulates Guttierez on getting a quote from Hendrix. Templeton complains that she should get more than a contributing line for her efforts but she is satisfied. He tells her that he hopes to move on to the New York Times or the Washington Post but she tells him that the Baltimore Sun is “still a pretty good paper.” The next day the reporters are proud to see their work on the front page. Templeton asks Haynes for the reaction piece on their story and Haynes tells him that Price has it but asks him to stay eager. Haynes again makes his afternoon appeal for budget lines on stories from his reporters.
Recovering drug addict Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins sits quietly in his sister's basement. When she has to go to work she insists that he leave because he has betrayed her trust in the past by pawning her appliances while she was out. Bubbles ask to stay but she refuses to change her rules. Bubbles spends the night walking the streets surrounded by the temptation of drug dealers and old associates including his one time scam partner Hucklebuck. Bubbles returns home in the morning and then goes to work peddling the Baltimore Sun to commuters. His customers include Nerese Campbell who is livid to see the story on the front page.