The Wire
The Wire

"Time After Time" is the first episode of the third season of The Wire. It is the twenty-sixth episode of the series overall. It premiered on September 19, 2004. The episode was written by David Simon and directed by Ed Bianchi.


Title Reference

The title refers to the cyclical process of initiating reform, change and return to the status quo.


"Don't matter how many times you get burnt, you just keep doin' the same."

Bodie says this referring to Poot's repetitive behaviour with women but it also refers to the season's theme of reform through explaining entrenched behaviour.


Major Crimes Unit

Detectives Jimmy McNulty and Leander Sydnor take up a surveillance post in a vacant building and observe drug lieutenant Melvin "Cheese" Wagstaff. At the detail office, Lester Freamon, Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski and new addition Officer Caroline Massey man a wiretap. When a drug dealer calls to arrange a meeting with Cheese about a bet, Massey is the most skilled at interpreting the slang used. Sydnor observes that Cheese does not use a phone, instead conducting his business face to face and receiving his telephone messages through his number two. Freamon states that they have been working the investigation for three months and have still not heard Cheese's voice.

Freamon and Kima Greggs relieve McNulty and Sydnor in the evening. When McNulty returns to the office, ASA Rhonda Pearlman and Lieutenant Cedric Daniels are discussing giving up on the wiretaps. McNulty believes they must continue and will eventually reach Proposition Joe and Stringer Bell; he heatedly asserts that Bell is their target and that all other objectives are secondary. Daniels insists they need a break in the case to justify continued use of the wiretaps.

McNulty, Greggs and Freamon observe a dealer named Drac who is far less disciplined on the phone than Cheese and his people. Drac openly mentions drugs and McNulty wishes that he reported to someone more important. Freamon states that Drac is supplied by Lavelle Mann, one of Proposition Joe's soldiers. Sydnor has been developing a connection with Mann through undercover work for some time. They plan to arrest Mann in the hope that Drac will be promoted and give them more information on the organization through his careless talk on the wire. Drac is likely to get the position because Proposition Joe is his uncle.

Daniels takes the plan to Acting Commissioner Ervin Burrell, who is reluctant to fund more wiretaps. Burrell reports that while he has sent Daniels' promotion to the mayor, the mayor is now holding it up because Daniels' wife Marla is set to challenge one of the mayor's allies in an upcoming election. Burrell tells Daniels that the mayor will not make him a commander until he knows where Marla stands politically.

McNulty goes to a Baltimore Orioles game with his old partner Bunk Moreland. He meets his estranged wife Elena to take his children for the second half. Elena has a new boyfriend who is able to afford far better seats than the detectives, but shows little interest in the game. Meanwhile Detective Ed Norris works a shooting scene and gets a call about another murder. He tells the homicide unit to call Bunk in to work the case and Bunk is forced to leave the game.

The following day Daniels marshalls his men for the hand-to-hand on Mann. Sydnor is the undercover officer. Pearlman notices that Daniels has been living out of his office. Once out in the field Greggs and McNulty make a clean arrest and Sydnor maintains his cover. Drac immediately starts talking about a possible promotion on the wiretap. Unfortunately for the detail the promotion goes to Cheese instead of Drac.

McNulty continues to fight for the future of the case but Daniels sees no further potential. Freamon chastises McNulty for his confrontational attitude towards Daniels. Prez arrives at midnight to find McNulty reviewing old files from the Barksdale investigation. McNulty explains his research as a way to avoid making the same mistakes again.

Western District

Sergeant Ellis Carver marshalls his new squad and plans a sting on a corner drug dealing operation. Thomas "Herc" Hauk prepares himself by playing “Theme from Shaft.” Carver orders his men to let the runner go, expecting him to be a decoy. When the runner picks up a bag Carver changes his mind and starts a pursuit. The real stash remains with the dealers. They lose the young boy in alleyways and call in backup. Carver stands atop his car and delivers a speech insisting that they will catch the runner eventually.

Major Colvin greets two new officers to his district, Aaron Castor and Brian Baker. He gives them a tried and tested speech about knowing their location as the key to survival and provides them with compasses. Carver and Herc have finally caught their runner and brought him in. Colvin asks them if they have any drug charges—they were forced to charge the kid with loitering—and criticises their use of resources.

Lieutenant Mello hosts a meeting with the Western district officers as they start their shift. He asks them to stop throwing beer cans onto the roof of their precinct building as it has been noticed by media helicopters. He closes the meeting with his catchphrase "don't get captured". Colvin checks in with Mello and tells him he is going out into the district. On his way he checks in with Carver's squad and is disappointed to see they have brought in more street dealers on loitering charges with no leads into their distributors. Out in his district Colvin is even more disappointed when one of Marlo's young drug dealers, Justin, approaches him despite his being in uniform.

Barksdale organization

Bodie Broadus, Poot Carr and Puddin reminisce about their days working in and living around the 221 tower just before it is demolished. Later, Stringer chairs an organization meeting at the funeral home (pictured) to discuss their new direction now that their main territory is lost, Shamrock oversees the meeting and ensures that it conforms to Robert's Rules of Order. Bodie suggests that they need to take new territory by force and Poot agrees. Stringer criticizes Bodie over his actions the previous year in taking over territory and bringing police attention to them. Slim Charles, his new chief enforcer, is dubious of their ability to operate without territory. Stringer believes that product is now the key to his operation. He suggests that they supply other dealers with their product rather than battle over territory. When Slim Charles and Poot remain openly dubious Stringer becomes angry and urges them to think like grown men.

Wee-Bey Brice talks to a prisoner named Dennis "Cutty" Wise who is about to be paroled after a fourteen year sentence. Cutty was once a legendary soldier in the drug trade. As Avon Barksdale walks across the exercise yard to talk to them, play stops to allow him to pass. Avon asks Cutty for help securing new territory and gives him a number to call when he is released for a coming home gift. Avon worries that prison might have broken Cutty but Wee-Bey believes he is strong.

Once on the outside Cutty phones the number Avon gave him. He arranges a meeting and Shamrock arrives and gives him directions to a package of narcotics and tells him to wait for some "real work". Cutty watches one of Marlo Stanfield's crews plying their trade. He approaches the dealer, Fruit, and strikes a deal to work the package he has been given for a share of the profit. When Cutty returns later that night Fruit tells him his stash was stolen. Cutty asks him for a crime report number and Fruit pulls a gun to drive him away.


Bubbles and Johnny push a new haul of junk metal down the street. They lose control of the trolley and it crashes into the car of Marlo's driver. He threatens them with a weapon but when Marlo urges him to hurry up he lets them go taking their trousers as punishment.

After buying new pants they are short of cash for drugs and cannot get enough for both of them. Bubbles bemoans their situation as they bed down for the night while Johnny holds out hope for the next day.


Mayor Clarence Royce leads the demolition of the West side's high rise housing projects. He makes a speech claiming that the destruction of the towers will be good for the community and is a sign of his administrations commitment to reform. The speech is well received but as the dust cloud envelops the audience the applause falters.

Councilmen Tommy Carcetti and Tony Gray preside over a police department review meeting. They grill Acting Commissioner Burrell and Deputy Commissioner William Rawls about increased violent crime in the Eastern part of the city and learn that they have reassigned the flex squad and other local units to patrol at high crime rate times of day. Marla Daniels has the ear of state delegate Odell Watkins as they observe the meeting. Afterwards Carcetti, the chairman of the review board, asks Burrell out to lunch. Gray comments on the presence of Watkins and Carcetti asks if he recognised Daniels.

At their lunch Carcetti regales Burrell with political tales of hardnosed Baltimore Democrats from the first district. Carcetti offers Burrell help if the mayor shorts him on funding and support as he can use the crime review subcomittee that he chairs to help Burrell. Burrell tells Carcetti that he believes in chain of command and is loyal to Royce. Burrell later tells fellow African American officer Major Reed on the audacity of Carcetti's approach claiming "What can a White Councilman give me that a Black Mayor can't."

Rawls holds a comstat meeting and berates Major Marvin Taylor for treating a spate of robberies in his district as separate incidents. Colvin expresses sympathy for Major Taylor to Mello. At the next subcomittee meeting Carcetti has filled the room with press. Burrell meets with the mayor and his chief of staff Coleman Parker about Carcetti's actions. Parker speculates that Carcetti is preparing for a run at the mayor's seat as Carcetti's district is getting its share of funds and representation in Baltimore politics and his ambitions are exceeding his district's needs. Royce scoffs at the idea claiming "Not my chair, not in this town, if the man came off any Whiter, he'd be see through." Royce believes that Carcetti has no chance of winning the mayoral election given the fact that with Baltimore's African American majority, Carcetti is likely to lose on the basis of his race alone. Parker however sees the crime rates that have risen under Royce's administration and claims that Carcetti will exploit the figures as his campaign foundation. Burrell then asks if they are able to call Carcetti off where Parker then claims that Royce's administration are not able to negotiate favors with people from Carcetti's district, a majority white ethnic section of Baltimore which has a history for voting against Baltimore's African American politicians. Out of options, they pressure Burrell to have the department reduce violent crime citywide by 5% or more in each district and keep murders under 275 for the year. Burrell agrees as a means of preventing Carcetti from continuing to draw negative media coverage of the department.

At the next comstat meeting Burrell tells his men to cut the felony rate by 5% and reduce the murder rate to 275. Raymond Foerster, now colonel in charge of the criminal investigation division including the homicide unit, is dismayed at the directive. Rawls then claims that there will be no excuses given to the commanders claiming that if Baltimore had New York City's population, there would be 4,000 murders annually. Major Colvin, the western district commander, realizing how the commanders have been encouraged to water down their crime figures then states "you can reclassify an agg assault, unfound a robbery, but how do you make a body disappear?" questioning how to "juke the stats" with murder victims. Burrell responds with a threat of replacing district commanders who cannot provide the numbers they need. Major Valchek asks Colvin what got into him, surprised and amused that he would stand up to Rawls and he tells him that he is nearing retirement and there is little they can do to ruin his career.

Daniels attends a meeting at his home with Marla's political contacts including Watkins. Once they have left Marla thanks him and he returns to sleep at the office.[1][2]




  • Aidan Gillen, J. D. Williams, Corey Parker Robinson, Seth Gilliam, Domenick Lombardozzi, Jim True-Frost, Robert Wisdom and Michael K. Williams are all new additions to the opening credits this season.
  • Howard "Bunny" Colvin describes rookie officer Aaron Castor's uncle Lloyd Castor as "good police." According to the DVD commentary on this episode, this is a reference to an actual Baltimore police officer by that name.
  • In reality, in the year 2000, Baltimore's murder rate dropped to below 300 for the first time in a decade. Observers credited this with the new commissioner's dedication to wire-tapping and high-end police work. This commissioner was Ed Norris, who plays a homicide detective by the same name on The Wire. [4] In the year 2003 (the last full year prior to the airing of this episode), there were 270 murders; though this is low for Baltimore, as suggested in the episode, it is more than five times the national rate in the same year. [5] 2004 and 2005 were also around the same amount. [6]
  • Lt. Mello, as played by real-life former detective Jay Landsman, ends his morning announcements by saying "Don't get captured". According to Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, Landsman used to frequently end his speeches with this pronouncement when he was a sergeant with Homicide.
  • This is the first episode in which William Rawls appears as Deputy Commissioner of Operations aka Deputy Ops.