McNulty's drinking all day, staying out all night, screwing around on Beadie and strangling dead bodies. Still, who can blame him? He starts his day taking the damn bus to a murder scene thanks to department cutbacks. City Hall pulls the plug on the Marlo investigation and more bodies start to pile up. The FBI refuses to bankroll the case and it looks like a year's worth of intel on Marlo's deadly crew will go to waste. The real sting comes when Lester and Bunk start to reason why no one cares to continue investigating a string of 22 murders in Baltimore: All the victims were black men. "This ain't Aruba, bitch," Bunk declares, in reference to the real-life Natalee Holloway investigation. The sentiment, of course, being that one missing white girl will get more attention — and more dollars for the investigating department — than a string of black murders. McNulty's solution? He compromises a murder scene to make it look like a serial killer is knocking off white people in the city. It looks like The Wire is ready to give us that promised media manipulation arc.

The department is still broke, so the only police detail left on Marlo's crew is an off-duty Lester. Chris and Snoop take advantage of the cops' slide and start to thin out Marlo's competition on the streets. They take young Michael along for a few hit jobs, continuing his gangsta internship, but the kid learns that life on the streets is a lot bloodier and more petty than any scene in Boyz N Da Hood. Considering the series' fondness for the darker path, I'm not looking forward to watching Michael's fate unfold.

Marlo, looking to secure his own fate as gangster no. 1, pays Sergei a prison house call. He wants "The Russian" to get the Germans to help him knock off Prop Joe and the other East Siders. After an odd encounter with Avon, Sergei's go-between, Marlo threatens Sergei into acting. Will the greedy Avon turn on Marlo and help the East Siders figure out what's coming?

It looks like Gus doesn't need any help sniffing out a phony story at The Baltimore Sun. The ambitious young reporter Templeton seemingly pulls a Stephen Glass, fabricating an overcooked color story about local baseball fans, and gets a gold star from head honcho Whitting for his efforts. Gus stays professional though, slyly grilling Templeton about the details of a story he'd rather not publish. Later, Templeton, losing his soul by the second, agrees to take the lead on a "Dickensian" (Whitting's word) series designed to sell papers and win awards instead of report the truth. A lot of critics are blasting The Wire creator David Simon, a 12-year vet of The Baltimore Sun's crime beat, for settling old scores with his depiction of a demoralized, corporate-run newsroom. Most of the criticism is unfair. Simply put, this stuff really does happen in print newsrooms across the country. I've sat in on enough editorial meetings to know that generating revenue and empty acclaim are sometimes higher priorities for newspapers than delivering hard news. It sucks, but it's true, and it's great to watch a major TV series highlight such a troubling trend.

Then there's Bubbles. The ever-recovering addict is still floating around Baltimore like a ghost. He hides his pain about Sherrod's death and, as Walon can tell, it's eating him up inside. Still, he won't talk about it and passes the time atoning over dirty dishes in a soup kitchen. I'm holding out hope for Bubbles. This might sound crazy, but, even if Baltimore crumbles at the end of this series, I still think Bubbles might end up OK.
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