Orlando and Kima, buying drugs from who?
January 31, 2010 8:58 AM   Subscribe

In season 1, episode 10 of The Wire ("The Cost"), who is Orlando supposed to be buying the drugs from? (Probable spoilers within.)

OK, I'm on my second viewing of The Wire and I still don't fully understand what is going with Orlando, Kima and the botched buy-bust that goes so horribly wrong. A recap of what I know:-

* Orlando was arrested by the undercover DEA guy and offers up information on Avon.
* Levy gets Orlando out of jail, but makes him take his name off the liquor license, essentially firing him from the Barksdale crew.
* Burrell puts more pressure on the detail, asking them to wrap up the investigation using more buy-busts to bring in mid-level dealers.

But then all of a sudden Orlando and Kima have $30,000 from the DEA and are en-route to buy drugs from... who? Barksdale? Why would Barksdale sell drugs to Orlando (obviously he ends up killing him, but still)?

There's an off-hand comment from (I think) Jimmy, saying that the deal could be explained by the fact Orlando needs to pay the bondsman and the lawyers, but why would he need to buy drugs when he already has $30,000?

It just feels like something is missing here. If the whole sting is being put on because of pressure from Burrell, why is there no concern from Jimmy or Daniels about sending Kima into such a dodgy situation.
posted by afx237vi to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yeah, Orlando was buying drugs from Barksdale, well, Stringer, WeeBay, Little Man and Savino to be precise. In the episode after the shooting, Stringer is explaining the deal to Avon, in the strip club - WeeBay and Little Man had planned to take the money and kill Orlando. Avon expresses shock - where is broke-ass Orlando going to come up with that kind of money? Stringer admits it was a stupid assumption. Little Man shot Kima because he wasn't expecting anyone else in the car and "bugged out", as Stringer describes him in the copy shop to WeeBay, and orders the hit. Stringer thought they could take care of Orlando and WeeBay and Little Man could get paid on the side.
I thought he wanted drugs because he needed much more than 30 grand.
posted by queseyo at 9:07 AM on January 31, 2010

Oh, and while Burrell was always pressuring the unit to make buy-busts and to wrap it up as soon as possible, I don't remember him pushing the sting, in particular; I thought the motivation came from the unit to try and tie drugs to Stringer and/or Avon.
posted by queseyo at 9:13 AM on January 31, 2010

Best answer: If the whole sting is being put on because of pressure from Burrell, why is there no concern from Jimmy or Daniels about sending Kima into such a dodgy situation.

This situation may not have been any more dodgy than your "typical" dodgy police situation. In other words, had Burrell not used pressure to put on the sting, and had Daniels been able to wait and put on a sting when they wanted, it still would have involved significant danger to the officer(s) involved, and someone like Little Man might have still "bugged out."

However, Daniels and Co were worried, because (as you alluded to) Burrell did not allow them as much time as they wanted to pin down the details. That's why they were trailing Kima carefully through her radio, why Kima had the gun in the back of the car, etc. Their worry isn't strong enough to directly disobey the orders of their superior officer, sure, but that doesn't mean they're not worried.
posted by sallybrown at 9:20 AM on January 31, 2010

Orlando inflates his position in Barksdale's crew when he talks to the police, so his ability to buy the drugs seems higher than it truly is, and the danger to Kima seems lower than it truly is.

Orlando's motivation is reduce his sentence, get a plea deal, etc, so he claims he has an "in" with the Barksdale crew. You were right to be confused (why would Barksdale sell drugs to Orlando?) because you know that Orlando is not some big shot--but the police, Burrell specifically, who are tired of all of Daniel and Co's Barksdale rigamarole, want to take Orlando's statements at face value so they can get a buy-and-bust done and get those drugs on the table.
posted by sallybrown at 9:33 AM on January 31, 2010

I think the idea was that Orlando had been clean up until then, but now he's dirty so he can't run the bar. Since he's out of work now, and he wanted to get into dealing anyway, he wants to buy from Barksdale and it should make sense to Barksdale that he's buying. He could have had some money saved up from the previous job, and maybe got some other acquaintance or two in on the buy (in order to explain how he has 30 grand).
posted by molecicco at 10:15 AM on January 31, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers everyone. I think it all makes sense now. In fact, it sort of made sense before, but obviously with the Wire you're presented with the information and more or less have to put it all together yourself ("alllllll the pieces matter" etc).
posted by afx237vi at 1:24 PM on January 31, 2010

Why would Barksdale sell drugs to Orlando (obviously he ends up killing him, but still)?

The crucial fact here IMO is that Orlando wasn't asking for any kind of trust.

Look at it in economic terms. If Stringer had let him go in on a package, contributing some money towards buying a it wholesale from their supplier like the members of the Co-op do in later seasons, that would have made them business partners and required them to trust or at least respect each other.

If Stringer had given him a package to sell for a share of the profits, like White Mike does for Ziggy Sobotka in season 2, then that would have essentially been a collateral-free loan: Orlando would have gotten drugs to sell now in exchange for money later. Again, that would have called for a whole lot of trust.

But as I understand it Orlando was essentially just asking to buy retail: drugs that the Barksdales had already marked up in price and cut down in purity. At that point, Stringer gets all his money up front, and isn't even really making any competition for himself — Orlando would have to sell those drugs at a loss or cut them down even further if he wanted to compete with the Barksdales in price — and so he doesn't need to trust or even like Orlando in order to make it worth his while.

What Orlando forgot is that he didn't have anyone protecting him anymore now that he wasn't working for the Barksdales. Stringer could have made some money by selling weak, overpriced drugs to him; but he could make more money (and simplify his own life in the process) by selling to him, killing him, and stealing the drugs back; and that's what he decided to do.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:42 PM on January 31, 2010

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