"Don't matter how many times you get burnt, you just keep doin' the same." -- Bodie
A wave of urban reform brings down the notorious Franklin Terrace public housing towers, forcing the Barksdale drug crew to find a new home. Stringer Bell uses a new sales strategy as he awaits Avon's return. McNulty and the Detail look to make a case against Stringer with a wiretap on a drug ring run by Proposition Joe.
"There's never been a paper bag." -- Colvin
Omar continues his bold strikes on Barksdale stash houses, now heavily guarded. Under orders from Stringer Bell, Bodie faces a critical test against Marlo, a fierce young dealer with lucrative corners. As the wire on Proposition Joe continues to yield little, McNulty launches his own reinvestigation of last year's prison suicide of D'Angelo Barksdale.
"The gods will not save you." -- Burrell
Colvin feels the sting of Burrell and Rawls during a Comstat assessment of his district's felony numbers; a blown wiretap forces Daniels's detail to turn to a new target; Proposition Joe cautions Stringer Bell that the police have been tapping phones. Carcetti continues to curry favor in Mayor Royce's inner circle.
"Why you got to go and fuck with the program?" -- Fruit
West Baltimore residents get surprising straight talk at a community meeting from Major Colvin. Bubbles finds gainful employment; Stringer lunches uptown; and Bunk dangles the promise of immunity to a group of corner boys, in exchange for help. Greggs learns how Marlo takes care of business as Bubbles instructs her on the next big thing: disposable cell phones.
"I had such fuckin' hopes for us." -- McNulty
Frustrated in his grass-roots reform efforts, Colvin arms himself with intelligence from Daniels's detail and personally delivers a message to the next level of corner management. McNulty sees Stringer Bell's legitimate business dealings as a sign that he is now unreachable as a drug target. Bubbles shakes the tree for Johnny one more time.
"Just a gangster, I suppose." -- Avon Barksdale
Stringer Bell gets an education in construction management; Bunk uses shoe-leather to catch up with Omar and deliver a searing message; a frustrated Colvin unleashes the troops on the corner boys, ignoring his new edict; Avon sends Cutty and Slim Charles against Marlo; Bubbles refocuses the picture for Greggs.
"Conscience do cost." -- Butchie
Herc discovers a blast from the past, which he belatedly reveals to his ex-colleagues. Daniels blows a gasket over the real reason the detail was reassigned from an investigation in Pimlico to the Western District. Stringer Bell learns from Donette that she's told Brianna about McNulty's visit and that Brianna is likely to talk to him.
"Crawl, walk, and then run." -- Clay Davis
With Amsterdam running full-tilt, Carver and Truck discover there really is no honor among thieves. Prez impresses the detail with what he's found out from Bodie's cell phone, information that sends McNulty and Greggs on a road trip. Colvin sees the benefits of his plan working but has overlooked the human toll, until the Deacon points out the deficiencies.
"...while you're waiting for moments that never come." -- Freamon
Responding to an officer's call for help, McNulty and Prez turn down the wrong alley, with unanticipated results. A Barksdale crew violates the unspoken Sunday truce with gunplay, increasing discontent among the New Day Co-op members. Stymied in his effort to open a gym, Cutty is surprised to find help from within Baltimore's power structure.
"Call it a crisis of leadership." -- Proposition Joe
Brother Mouzone returns to Baltimore on a mission of revenge and casts a wide net in his search for Omar, who has his own plan. Colvin manages, for now, to put off a 'Sun' reporter inquiring about Amsterdam. Carver learns how much he doesn't know about good policing, while Pearlman and Daniels plead their case for a new kind of wiretap to Judge Phelan.
"We don't need to dream no more." -- Stringer Bell
The wire begins to yield information about the Barksdale organization, though finding links to the top proves elusive. Stringer and Avon reflect on how far they've come, with each harboring plans for the future. Tipped by Burrell, Carcetti sees Amsterdam for himself and weighs the benefits against the political reality.
"...we fight on the lie." -- Slim Charles
In the Season Three finale, a reticent Avon readies his troops for a war against Marlo. Meanwhile, as the detail works towards the top rungs of the Barksdale organization, McNulty reassesses his pursuit of Stringer Bell and the path he's chosen for himself. While Royce continues to grapple with Amsterdam, Burrell offers a deal to minimize the fallout.