"Unconfirmed Reports" is the second episode of the fifth season of The Wire. It is the fifty-second episode of the series overall. It premierd on January 13, 2008. The episode was written by William F. Zorzi and directed by Ernest Dickerson.
This title has three meanings. First, it refers to the Scott Templeton’s color piece written about the Orioles' opening day containing dubious sources. Second, it refers to the the unconfirmed reports of a “serial killer” in West Baltimore. Third, it refers to the rumors spread about Marlo.
"This ain't Aruba, bitch." - Bunk
A recovering drug addict named DeeDee talks about her addiction at a narcotics anonymous (NA) meeting. She describes how her addiction caused her to break many of the rules she once set for herself, driving her as low as prostitution. She breaks down as she describes how her inner addict still craves narcotics and is trying to kill her. Walon chairs the meeting and Bubbles is also in attendance. Walon calls upon him to speak because they have spare time. He relates that he is fifteen months clean. Bubbles amuses the assembly by describing the “dope fiend lean,” a stance he would adopt while high. He is unable to talk about his deeper feelings and his lowest point, so he leaves the floor. Walon next calls upon an addict named Marvin to speak.
After the meeting, Walon congratulates Bubbles for his humour and then chastises him for not continuing. He explains that the humour is secondary to the truths that need to be told. He cites DeeDee as an example. Walon mentions the possibility of Bubbles discussing Sherrod and Bubbles instantly turns away from him. Walon holds Bubbles and reminds him that he is supposed to pursue "a searching and fearless moral inventory." Bubbles tells him that he lives with his actions every day. Walon tells Bubbles that he must let his feelings out before letting them go. Walon also tells him that he must allow himself to the feel the pain of his regret and that a lack of feeling was never his problem, even as a using addict.
Bubbles stops at Viva House, a community center that offers free food to those who are struggling, and is greeted by one of the staff, Brendan Walsh, as he gets his seat. Inside, Bubbles watches a mother berate a screaming child. When she threatens violence, another staff member intervenes and tells her that violence of any kind is against the rules of the center.
Bubbles watches DeeDee with her child as he waits for another NA meeting to begin. Walon again appeals to him to speak, and he declines. Walon explains that he thinks Bubbles has to do something with his time even if it is not speaking at meetings. Bubbles later returns to Viva House and asks Brendan if he can help out. Brendan suggests that Bubbles serve food, as it is more enjoyable and Bubbles tells him that he can’t. Bubbles instead gets to work cleaning the pots and pans.
Lester Freamon and Leander Sydnor prepare paperwork for the case against corrupt senator Clay Davis. Freamon is distracted and intently examines the board. Sydnor reviews Davis' method – he raises money for false community projects and then the projects do not arise. Sydnor asks who they are targeting if Davis can be turned as an informant. Freamon states that there is money in the paperwork that cannot be tied to campaign finance reports and he believes that Davis can help them reveal where it comes from and who it pays. Sydnor admits that he prefers street work. Freamon tells him that the inter-connected nature of this case with the problems of the city is what makes it appeal to him and that bringing home the case would let him die happy. Sydnor wonders what Marlo Stanfield is doing now they are not observing him and Freamon predicts that he will be celebrating.
Freamon sets up surveillance on a street and waits into the night. Eventually he sees Stanfield meeting with Chris Partlow and Snoop. After spending his own time on the Stanfield investigation, Freamon is late for a meeting with Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman and Sydnor. Pearlman asks for the detectives to prepare their case by beginning at the periphery and working towards Davis to ensure they cover everything. Sydnor asks her if she thinks Davis expects the indictment and she tells him that Davis must have constantly feared it.
Meanwhile, Davis has a tantrum in commissioner Ervin Burrell's office. Davis demands support from Burrell who explains that he cannot intervene with the new Mayor and State’s Attorney involved. Davis reminds Burrell that he helped to negotiate a pay raise on Burrell’s behalf so that Burrell would have more income but would not lose his post to an outside applicant. Burrell explains that he would have to go around Colonel Cedric Daniels to interfere in the case and that Daniels is loyal to Mayor Tommy Carcetti. Burrell reminds Davis that interfering in the investigation would be a criminal act and Davis refuses to accept the lack of support because he has supported Burrell in the past. Davis accuses Burrell of believing that he is finished and threatens that he will remember Burrell’s attitude. William Rawls discusses their statistics with Burrell after the meeting and explains that while the numbers are poor they have already been manipulated as much as he dares with City Hall expecting clean statistics.
Marlo Stanfield meets with his enforcers Chris Partlow and Felicia "Snoop" Pearson. They have noticed that they are no longer under surveillance. Stanfield worries about cameras and Partlow reports that they have had no further problems since the one they stole from the courtyard. Snoop is eager to get back to work. Stanfield orders them to assault Webster Franklin’s drug dealing crew because he refused to accept their package. Stanfield also orders the murder of a man named Junebug for badmouthing him. Next, he asks for the death of Omar Little for stealing from him. Snoop reports that Little has retired and Stanfield tells Partlow to bring him out of retirement. He explains that he feels his crown is not worth much if his goods are being stolen.
Stanfield asks Partlow about a task involving Jessup Correctional Institution. Partlow tells Stanfield that he is on the visiting list and gives him the photograph of Sergei Malatov that he took from the courthouse. Snoop tells Michael Lee and O-Dog that they will now have to earn their pay.
Stanfield arrives at Jessup Correctional Institution and is surprised to find Avon Barksdale waiting for him instead of Malatov. Barksdale is amused by the moment and tells Stanfield that he will have to go through him to reach Malatov. Barksdale suggests that Stanfield plans to use Malatov to contact The Greeks and cut Proposition Joe and the rest of the New Day Co-Op out of the connection. He tells Stanfield that he is willing to forget their differences and will arrange the meeting out of West Baltimore loyalty, provided that Stanfield sends one hundred thousand dollars to his sister, Brianna. Barksdale inquires after Stanfield’s health otherwise and Stanfield replies that “the game is the game,” Barksdale responds “Always.”
Stanfield returns to the prison, having paid the price for meeting Malatov. Barksdale presides over their exchange. Malatov is dismissive both of American prisons, Stanfield’s bribery, and of Stanfield as a criminal. Stanfield explains his desire to contact The Greeks and offers to pass his money directly to Spiros Vondas instead of to Malatov. Stanfield suggests that Malatov has nothing to lose by setting up a meeting, as either a successful business relationship could emerge, reflecting well on Malatov, or Vondas will decline the meeting.
Monk, O-Dog, and Snoop plan the assault on one of Webster Franklin’s corners. Monk hopes to drive up to the corner and have the other disembark and kill anyone they can. O-Dog suggests taking a West coast approach and attempting a drive-by shooting, having recently enjoyed the movie Boyz N the Hood. The enforcers fail to hit anyone, so they quickly stop the vehicle. Snoop kills one fleeing drug dealer with a carefully-aimed shot and remarks that, unlike LA, in Baltimore they aim to hit their target.
Snoop next accompanies Lee and Partlow as they observe Junebug’s home. Partlow quizzes Lee about their rationale for watching so early, and explains that he wants to avoid being surprised. Lee questions the need for the murder of Junebug on hearsay. Partlow explains that it is necessitated by the impact of Junebug’s supposed rumour mongering on Stanfield’s reputation. When Lee remains unconvinced, Snoop shouts him down. Partlow sends Lee to the rear of the building and instructs him to kill anyone trying to escape. Snoop is dispatched to disable the nearby surveillance camera and then meet Partlow inside the house. The murder of Junebug goes as planned, but when a child leaves from the rear of the house, Lee does not shoot him as he flees.
Mayor Tommy Carcetti meets with his chief of staff Michael Steintorf, State Delegate Odell Watkins, and Norman Wilson. Steintorf reports an improvement in school test scores, but Carcetti is exasperated that the return is not in keeping with the vast amount of funds he has thrown at the system. He is also annoyed by the prospect of becoming Governor and his successor having an easier time as Mayor because he has solved the fiscal problems from the state house. Wilson suggests that Nerese Campbell's recent problems with the newspapers linking her to corruption might prevent her from becoming Mayor. Watkins relays that Campbell described the real estate deal with drug dealer Ricardo Hendrix as a hold-over from the preceding Royce administration. Steintorf suggests that Campbell’s publicity might cost Carcetti votes in his election campaign, as people will not want her to take over as Mayor. Watkins asks them what is making the Governor vulnerable. They have no strong suggestions. Carcetti realizes he is behind schedule again and leaves. Watkins wonders aloud about the appropriateness of running for Governor without Carcetti completing his first elected term as Mayor. Steintorf tells him that it is not out of place with the rest of the world.
Gus Haynes regales his colleagues Jeff Price, Tim Phelps and Roger Twigg with a tale of a reporter upsetting ex-Mayor Tommy D'Allesandro with constant follow-up questions that he described as coming from his desk, D'Allesandro eventually responding that his own desk told him not to answer any more. Scott Templeton arrives and Haynes asks him what story he is working on. He describes a "heartbreaker" story of a woman who died of an anaphylactic reaction to crab meat. She was a mother of four and her relatives are setting up a trust for her children. Templeton enters the building and the others joke that a "mother of four" always has a hard life, as does the "innocent bystander." Haynes remarks that there is not much innocence anymore. Phelps misses the days of "statuesque blondes" and "buxom blondes" appearing in the paper. Haynes has to leave to attend a meeting on a school project. He believes that Executive Editor James Whiting is hoping the story will earn the paper a Pulitzer.
In the meeting Whiting explains that he is looking for a "Dickensian" story examining the lives of city schoolchildren and the ways the system has failed them. Staff reporter Scott Shane suggests that the children have been let down by many factors in their lives. Haynes suggests that examining the children requires an assessment of the deficient parenting in the city and the effects of the drug problem. Another reporter suggests that the schools are a better subject because the problems there have the potential to be addressed. Haynes admits that they should critique the city schools and that they deserve criticism but explains that he is worried focusing on that limited aspect of the children's lives would make the story irrelevant to its subjects and would require ignoring the wider problem. Templeton suggests that little context is needed to examine a single classroom and Haynes disagrees saying that context is important to seriously examine anything. Whiting disagrees and champions Templeton’s view – a story of limited scope.
Haynes states his concern that their intention is to win a prize when it should be to address the problem. Whiting tells him that he knows the problems of city schools because his wife is a volunteer at one. He insists the story focus on tangible deficiencies and outcomes in education. His reporters again point out that resources are not the only impediment to learning. Whiting demands a one sentence synopsis or "budget line" for the piece. Haynes flippantly offers a suggestion. Whiting is insulted and tells Haynes that he is looking for an educational project not an amorphous series detailing society’s ills and that by including everything they will end up with nothing. He suggests Templeton as the best person to write the piece.
After the meeting Haynes watches Templeton in conversation with Whiting and Managing Editor Thomas Klebanow. Haynes stops a reporter named Wooton and asks for statistics for her Port story – overall there are less goods moving through the port. Wooton warns Haynes that Klebanow is approaching. Klebanow suggests that Templeton should write the cover piece and Templeton suggests a piece about a baseball fan. Haynes agrees and wishes Templeton luck.
Haynes wakes up in the night worried that he has transposed the figures Wooton gave him. He checks the figures with Jay Spry and is surprised to find that they are correct. Spry tells him that he has a deadline nightmare with no purpose and that he must be better than he thought.
Templeton spends the day interviewing people about baseball at the Orioles stadium but struggles to find a suitable subject for his piece. When he returns to the newsroom he tells Haynes that he interviewed a 13-year old orphaned wheel chair user from the West side named EJ. Haynes asks for further details or a photograph and Templeton claims that the boy was injured by a stray bullet, photographers were unavailable and that the boy refused to give his full name. Haynes allows Templeton to start writing but has another reporter, Jay, check the paper's records for a story about EJ’s original injury. Haynes is unable to find the boy when he sends out photographers and has no record of the shooting so he confronts Templeton with the inconsistencies in the story telling him that he needs more corroboration to print the story. Templeton gripes that he resents Haynes’ implication that he is fabricating the story and Haynes tells him that he is not implying anything but requires his reporters to maintain a standard of verifiability. Haynes is interrupted by Whiting, who is pleased with Templeton’s story. Haynes explains his concerns to Whiting who tells him that while the lack of verifiability is not ideal it is understandable and that the story will run. Haynes accepts the decision and thanks Templeton for his work.
The regional affairs editor, Beth, quizzes Haynes about his involvement with the baseball story and he explains that Whiting prevented him from aggressively editing the story before he had even read it. She asks if Haynes was concerned by the lack of a full name and he tells her that he was. She also remarks on the lack of a photograph.
Michael Crutchfield reads from the paper and relays the news that Tommy Carcetti has removed the cap on secondary employment for police officers. Bunk Moreland considers looking for a job. Jimmy McNulty asks what he can do and Bunk jokes about his sexual prowess. Crutchfield offers a position as a security guard. Kima Greggs comments on the injustice of being unable to get paid for solving murders when you can for watching property. Rhonda Pearlman arrives and asks about new cases. There is just one case. When Pearlman calls the night slow McNulty postulates that the murder rate will rise now they are not watching Marlo Stanfield. Pearlman explains that the Police Department rather than the States Attorney’s office suspended the investigation. McNulty points out that the States Attorney’s office did not object just as they did not object to Partlow and Snoop's gun charge hearing being postponed twice. Pearlman tells him that postponement are “pro forma” and he snidely suggests that the “game is rigged.” Pearlman leaves with a nod to everyone except McNulty. Greggs admonishes McNulty for attacking Pearlman as she is not the problem and he tries to explain his actions by telling her that he is tired of being messed around. Greggs answers a call and McNulty takes the case. When he leaves Greggs remarks on his bad mood and Bunk tells her he is worried about him.
McNulty cannot find the remaining available working vehicle in the department parking garage and has to walk up to the roof. When he gets there he finds that the vehicle is damaged and then that it has a flat tire. He becomes enraged and kicks the vehicle, hurting himself in the process.
McNulty arrives at the crime scene by city bus to the disbelief of the first officer – Bob Brown. McNulty explains that he couldn't find a working vehicle and didn't get a taxi as he knew he would not be reimbursed because of the departments financial problems. The decedent is a mother of four who was found in bed after not being seen for several days. Brown believes the death is most likely natural but felt obligated to call it in because the decedent had a pillow over her face. McNulty offers that he often wakes up with a pillow over his head especially when hung over. Brown says that he usually vomits then goes to work and McNulty characterizes that as the "Western District Way.”
McNulty waits for a report from the medical examiners office. He stumbles across a county homicide detective named Kevin Infante arguing with a new medical examiner. Infante’s partner Nancy Porter recognizes McNulty and explains that their decedent had probably overdosed and his body was wedged between a toilet and a wall. She tells him that the efforts of the paramedics to free the trapped body post mortem have given the impression of a strangling – fractured bones, bruising on the neck and petechiae around the eyes. McNulty is surprised to learn that post mortem pressure on the neck can give the same effect as an actual strangulation.
McNulty takes Porter to breakfast and then bumps into Lester Freamon afterwards. Freamon tells McNulty that he has been continuing to observe Stanfield and thinks that they are becoming complacent now they know the constant surveillance has been withdrawn. Freamon suggests that with just a few more weeks of investigation they could have the case they need. McNulty tells Freamon that Daniels was clear that he cannot give them any resources and Freamon suggests going elsewhere.
Later they meet with FBI Special Agent Terrence "Fitz" Fitzhugh. They tease Fitz by repeatedly moving their car when he pulls his vehicle alongside them. Fitz asks them why they won’t come to his office and Freamon explains that they wanted to avoid signing in at the front desk. Fitz asks who they have upset and McNulty tells him they are working on a case that command has closed down – the vacant murders. Fitz is shocked that the case was closed down and asks where the detectives were after their year of investigation. Freamon mentions Stanfield, Partlow and Pearson as their main suspects and Fitz recognizes the names. Freamon explains that they have no lab work or witnesses so they began prolonged surveillance. McNulty tells Fitz that 2-3 weeks of FBI manpower and resources could break the case but Fitz reminds him of the policy about prioritizing terrorism and political corruption targets. McNulty tells him that the groundwork is done and making the case would garner headlines for the FBI and Fitz agrees to take it to his superiors. The detectives continue to harass Fitz by blocking his path as he goes to drive away.
Fitz and his supervisor, Amanda Reese, take the information to the Maryland District US Attorney and try to convince him to offer support. He is dubious following his meeting with Tommy Carcetti (in "More With Less"). Fitz meets with McNulty and explains that the refusal was triggered by the rift between city hall and the US attorney’s office. Fitz tells McNulty that he is still trying to understand the issue but that Freamon will be unable to get outside support from any agency for the case for the foreseeable future.
McNulty meets Freamon and Bunk at a bar. They bemoan the political climate making it acceptable to murder dozens of African Americans and not be pursued to the best of the departments abilities. Bunk characterised the vacant murders as “misdemeanour homicides” of young black males. They suggest that if the victims had been white women or children the investigation would be ongoing. McNulty mentions a missing white cheerleader in Aruba prompting Bunk to deliver the epigraph “this ain’t Aruba bitch.” Freamon suggests that if the annual homicide rate was made up of white victims the city would be under martial law. McNulty believes there must be a way to get the funding they require and Bunk tells McNulty that being the smartest guy in the room, he should be able to devise a plan to get it. When McNulty begins flirting with a woman, Freamon remarks on his unfaithful behavior.
The next day McNulty nurses a severe hangover and Bunk quizzes him about the state of his relationship with his domestic partner Beatrice Russell. Greggs points out to McNulty that he is still wearing yesterday’s shirt. Sergeant Jay Landsman assigns a case to Bunk and McNulty despite the latter's protests.
Greggs and Crutchfield are assigned the triple homicide case at Junebug's house. Officer Aaron Castor is managing the scene and tells Greggs that the backdoor is open and theorises that their suspect may have left from the rear of the building. Greggs corrects him – there are multiple suspects as there are both shotgun and handgun wounds on the victims. Castor reports that their cameras outside were disabled and Crutchfield remarks that the crime was carefully planned. Greggs hears coughing from a closet and finds a child hiding inside. She chastises the uniformed officers and carries the child to the rear of the property to avoid the media.
Bunk and McNulty attend their own scene and the officer reports a probable overdose and explains that they are waiting for transportation. Bunk notices the McNulty is distracted and checks if he is alright. McNulty dismisses the uniformed officer and goes back to his car for a drink. When he returns McNulty begins to disrupt the scene by knocking over furniture and knocking a hole into a wall. McNulty begins to rub plaster from the wall onto the decedents clothes and Bunk asks if he has lost his mind. McNulty crosses himself and then chokes the decedent, Bunk is unable to watch. Finally McNulty offers that "there is a serial killer in Baltimore, he preys on the weakest among us, he needs to be caught." Bunk tells McNulty he wants no part in his actions and leaves the scene. McNulty continues to distort the scene and moves the decedent into a face down, kneeling position.