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'The Wire': Crossed liars

February 3, 2008 | 10:39 pm

Wire Finally, after weeks of buildup, "The Wire" got the showdown it was waiting for.

Not Omar finally (and unfortunately) making his move on Marlo -- we'll get to that in a moment. I'm talking about the conference room lie-a-thon between Templeton and McNulty, though their battle of wits was a bit like watching a horsefly take on a Buick. The meeting was made a little more special since the two had met beforehand as Templeton "pulled" the details on the serial killer's M.O. from a faux-begrudging McNulty while "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" filled the bar. Not long after Templeton saw the story -- and his headlines -- cooling off, it was just a matter of time before his phone magically rang.

Seriously, has there been a better moment this season than watching McNulty, eyes wide as he's listening to his own lie being spun right back to him, finally lock eyes with Templeton in front of the Sun's editors and confirm that the police had received a similar phone call? The fact that Jimmy looked like he was gnawing through his own lips to keep from laughing made it that much sweeter. There's the dark humor you were looking for, wirerookie. That whole sequence was poetry.

So now we're rolling. Just prior to all this Marlo shared a park bench with Vondas, who broke down the basics of going Greek. Marlo got a cellphone, which Vondas was very specific about only using to discuss non-business matters, then showed him some snazzy trick of how the Greeks would use it to contact him. Whatever that was, given the show's past use of codes, it's going to be complex.

But we'll soon find out, thanks to the previously oafish Herc, who's suddenly become a conscientious cop now that he works security for uber-sleazy Barksdale/Stanfield attorney Maurice Levy. Marlo drops off his new cell number, Herc passes it along to his former running mate Carver to make amends for being an investigative waste of space for four seasons, and Carver passes it over to Lester. Add one fabrication-addicted reporter and, presto, some money is flowing to McNulty for his headline-grabbing serial killer and the show is back to living up to its name.

But it can't be that easy. As much as Lester seems to have all the bases covered as he's squirreled away in that empty office (give a shout, by the way, if that whole wiretap-hookup sequence seemed fuzzy), it's going to get messy, and not just with the bizarre (encrypted?) transmission that came through Marlo's phone at the episode's end. Maybe I'm conditioned by the show's track record of ironic failure, but five more episodes is plenty of time for things to completely fall apart.

Which brings us to Omar, who unfortunately had been staking out his own ambush all this time. Half of Marlo's crew was waiting inside that condo with guns blazing, but it takes more than that to nail Omar. Omar fans, you shouldn't be too worried. Five stories off a balcony amid a hail of bullets? That's nothing. Outside of Batman, Omar's probably the only character who you could say now has Marlo right where he wants him. But . . . where did he go?

I also need to take a moment for two smaller storylines that have gotten lost in the shuffle: Dukie and Clay Davis. Still the target of beatdown after humiliating beatdown, Michael's lanky friend went looking for help at Cutty's gym, but all the ex-con can offer is "hopes and wishes" -- which I think in West Baltimore carries about as much value as the Swedish Krona. It didn't get any better when Dukie tried his hand with one of Michael's pistols. Does anyone see a light at the end of the tunnel here? Probably no one's more deserving of escaping to "the rest of the world" in the "Wire"-verse than Dukie, but that seldom carries much weight in how these things play out.

Meanwhile, Clay Davis, who this week may have broken the small-college record for number of syllables used in a four-letter-word, is far from dead in the water. He took his case to the streets, inspiring waves of support with a few homespun appearances on AM radio and a vocal endorsement from his former -- and equally crooked -- boss at city hall, Clarence Royce. And the people, in their wisdom, have spoken. Have to say, if there's been a more depressing singalong of "We Shall Not Be Moved" than when all of Davis' supporters lifted every voice on the courthouse steps, I've never heard it. Good luck at Tuesday's primaries, everyone.

-- Chris Barton

(Photo courtesy HBO)