Opening quote: "It's a buyers' market out there." —Templeton
And so the sad process of saying good-bye to The Wire's enormous cast of supporting players begins. This episode is the last we'll likely see of two of the richest characters on TV; police commissioner Ervin Burrell is fired, finally, by the mayor, and Prop Joe takes a bullet to the head courtesy of Marlo and Chris. Happily, we learn of a previously unknown connection between these two once-savvy players of the game: "Ervin was a year before me at Dunbar," Prop Joe tells Herc as the two read the newspaper in lawyer Maurice Levy's office. And what is Joe's memory of the commissioner in his high-school days? "He was in the glee club. Stone stupid," he says.
Now Burrell's singing for his supper in Washington; he's got a cushy mattress to land on, procured from Carcetti in exchange for not revealing the skeletons in Daniels's closet. Speaking of closets, presumably Rawls has managed to stay in his, because he'll be acting commissioner for as long as it takes to get Daniels seasoned in Deputy Ops. Burrell, humiliated over and over again this episode, gets one last moment of dignity when he explains to Rawls how he should plan to interact with City Hall in the commissioner's office: "You will eat their shit," he says. "Daniels, too, when he gets here."
Meanwhile, that same shit is hitting the fan pretty much everywhere else. In the Western, the shit hits officer Colicchio's hand as the hot-tempered narcotics cop is tricked by local kids into opening a paper bag full of dog crap. The ensuing mêlée gets Colicchio written up by Carver for conduct unbecoming, despite Colicchio's warning that Carver will be considered a rat. Omar's back in town and gets the jump on Slim Charles — who keeps it together, gun to his head, and convinces Omar that Prop Joe has nothing to do with Butchie's death. Low-level Co-Op member Hungry Man isn't so lucky; after beefing with Cheese over territory, he soils his pants when captured by Snoop and Chris and delivered to Cheese as a peace offering. It's this sensitive gesture that seems to turn Cheese, finally, toward Marlo and away from his uncle, Proposition Joe.
McNulty and Freamon are searching for another victim of their made-up serial killer. After a fruitless night spent questioning the homeless — including everyone's favorite UCBT performer turned crazy guy in beloved HBO series Ptolemy Slocum — they find their body, and Freamon pulls a set of teeth out of his pocket, the better to take a bite out of crime and sensationalize their case. Their extracurricular escapades are more fruitful than Templeton's; he plays hooky for an interview in the august halls of the Washington Post, where he's told he's way too green by an editor who sings the praises of the paper Templeton's already convinced himself he's too good for.
"I treated you like a son," a saddened Prop Joe tells Marlo in the episode's breathtaking final scene. "I wasn't meant to play the son," Marlo replies. With Partlow looming behind him, Joe offers one final proposition: "I just step out of the way. You'd never hear from me again." Marlo smiles. "Joe, you'd be up in mischief in no time. Truth is, you won't be able to change up any more than me." Marlo stares intently at the man he's about to have killed. "Close your eyes," he coos, almost like a lover. "It won't hurt none. Joe, relax. Breathe easy." When Partlow's gun goes off, Marlo doesn't even blink.