"Pilot" is the first episode of The Shield. It was originally broadcast on March 12, 2002.
Four months after the "Farmington Project" began, Detective Vic Mackey and his Strike Team prepare to take down a major drug dealer who has never before been caught with product. Meanwhile, Captain David Aceveda offers new detective Terry Crowley a chance to bring down Mackey. Also, following a homicide, Detectives Wyms and Wagenbach discover that a child is missing, sold to a pedophile by her drug-addicted father.
In the Farmington precinct of the Los Angeles Police Department, new Captain David Aceveda is preparing to give a press conference on the improvements achieved in the district since the opening of the precinct four months ago. As he is getting ready, Wanda Higoshi, a public relations representative for the LAPD instructs him what to expect from reporters. Aceveda begins the conference and stresses how crime and violence has decreased since the "Barn" opened.
Meanwhile, on the streets, the special anti-gang unit called Strike Team pursues a drug dealer called Booty. When he sees them approaching, four of the members of the team (Vic Mackey, Shane Vendrell, Curtis Lemansky, and Ronnie Gardocki) get out of the car and pursue him, while new member Terry Crowleywaitsin the car. As he is running, Booty swallows most of the drug bags he carries. After he runs into a market and hides in an alley, the team arrives. After he teases them with having swallowed the evidence, Mackey, the leader of the team, hits him in the stomach. After he spits one of the drug bags, Mackey strips Booty and uses a pair of pliers to injure him in the groin. They then arrest him and take him to the Barn.
In another neighborhood, Detectives Dutch Wagenbach and Claudette Wyms are at the scene of the murder of Nancy Reborg. As she lies naked on the kitchen floor, Dutch remarks how pretty she is. Officer Danny Sofer comes in and tells them that the victim's sister is outside. As Dutch walks out, he asks Danny what she thinks after finding out the body. She gives him her thoughts on the motives, and he commends her for it. When Dutch meets Janet, she is desperate to find out what happened. Dutch informs her that her sister was murdered and, not believing it, she collapses in front of Dutch. As Officer Julien Lowe and Sofer try to hold her, some officers watch and laugh at Dutch from a distance. Janet then stands up and asks about Nancy's daughter, Jenny. He then brings her inside so she can identify her.
As Vic and the Strike Team arrive at the Barn, Wanda approaches him to see if he wants to talk to reporters, but he refuses. As he walks into the bathroom, he complains to desk sergeant Nathan Peterson about the men's stall still being damaged. At this moment, Aceveda asks to talk to him in his office. When Vic gets in, an attorney called Jose Garcia and his client Miguel Esteana are expecting him. They just filed a complaint on Miguel's behalf for excessive force. Mackey dismisses it and reminds them of the heroin bags they caught him with. Garcia simply tells him that he'll contest the search with the judge. After they leave, Aceveda asks Vic about the situation but he denies all charges.
Downstairs, Dutch is talking with Claudette about the killer's modus operandi, but he suddenly changes the subject to Danny Sofer, asking Claudette if he should ask her out. Claudette tries to discourage him telling him to look for something else to do. They then meet with Aceveda to give him a briefing on their case. Their main suspect is Lonnie Reborg, husband of Nancy and father of Jenny, who has a drug-addiction problem. Claudette also mentions that witnesses saw Ponyboy Harris, a fence she knows, at the victim's house the day before. After he offers his help, they decide to look for Harris. Before they do, Dutch approaches Danny but Vic and Shane start making fun of him. Ashamed and angered, Dutch tries to seem uninterested in the jokes. After he leaves, Vic asks Danny out but she brushes him off asking him about his wife. However, he reminds her that the night before she didn't complain.
On the street, Terry Crowley is in the car waiting for Vic and Shane, who are meeting someone at a car wash. Crowley later meets with Aceveda at a park and tells him about Vic's meeting. He tells him that he looked for information on the guy, and found out he is a drug dealer called Rondell Robinson. Aceveda tells Crowley that Mackey has been targeting the dealers from Robinson's rival, Two-Time. He suspects that Mackey has a deal with Robinson for protection and offers Crowley a deal to be an informant on Mackey. After Crowley agrees, Aceveda calls Moses Hernandez, who was nearby, and introduces him to Crowley. Hernandez works for the Department of Justice and is looking to open a case on Mackey. At this point, Crowley becomes reluctant, not wanting to ruin his career by snitching on another cop. When Aceveda and Hernandez insist, he agrees in exchange for a job with the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, and a car. Hernandez complies and Crowley leaves.
Claudette finds Ponyboy Harris who is just loading his van with stolen VCR's. She asks him about the missing girl, but he doesn't know about her. However, he tells her that he knew Lonnie Reborg was at a crackhouse owned by a man called Monty. Claudette thanks him and arrests him for the stolen VCR's. After she arrives at the Barn, she asks Vic about the crackhouse. He tells her that he knows the place and agrees to pick up Lonnie there. Vic finds Lonnie drugged, but as he walks him out, he notices there are some kids playing in one of the rooms of the crackhouse. Vic blasts Monty for it, but he tells him that their mothers were buying supplies.
Back at the Barn, Claudette and Dutch are interrogating Lonnie who doesn't remember killing Nancy. As he sobers up, he starts remembering that he killed Nancy and sold Jenny to a pedophile for $200. Dutch and Claudette get a warrant for arrest against George Sawyer. When they arrive at his home, he is feeding his ill mother. They arrest him and take him to the Barn. As they interrogate him, Dutch walks out to get something to eat. When he looks on his desk, he realizes someone stole his Ding-Dongs. As he asks everybody, Vic mocks him for his infantile attitude. Claudette comes down and brings him back up. When Dutch goes back up, he tries to manipulate George into revealing Jenny's whereabouts by making small-talk with him.
Meanwhile, Vic and Shane go out and meet Miguel Esteana at his home. As they drag him from under a car he was working on, Vic teases him about how his lawyer couldn't protect him now. When Vic returns to the Barn, Aceveda informs him that Miguel just dropped his complaint against him. Vic tells him he knew it was bogus, but when Aceveda asks him for a report, Vic assures him that he is not in charge.
On the streets, Officers Julien Lowe and Danny Sofer arrive at a house where a woman called Fran and his boyfriend Hooper called them after someone slashed the tires to their car. When they ask if they know who might've done it, Fran tells them about his ex-boyfriend, Lamar Tilton. Danny and Julien find Lamar, and he confesses having slashed the tires to Fran's car. However, he tells them that he put the money for the car before she dumped him, and he feels like the car belongs to him in part. Because of this, Lamar is arrested and taken to the Barn.
In another place, Vic finds Connie Riesler, a prostitute friend of his. After dismissing a pimp, Dmitri, he asks her if the plans for Two-Time's party were still on. She tells him that Two-Time had called her pimp, Ringo, and arranged for four prostitutes. Vic then tells her to go home and buy food for her son. Connie, reluctantly, takes his money and leaves.
Back at the Barn, Claudette and Aceveda are watching Dutch interrogate George. As he does, Aceveda asks Claudette about Vic Mackey. She tells him that she knows he uses dubious methods, but is effective; and in the long run, that's what people want. She also reminds him that he is friends with the Chief of Police and the Assistant Chief, and assures him that he shouldn't be trying to catch him. Meanwhile, George confesses that Lonnie sold him his daughter for $200. However, since he preferred them older, he traded her to a Dr. Bernard Gradyhemet on the Internet.
At Vic's house, he is having a BBQ and pool party with the members of the Strike Team. Crowley arrives and talks with Vic, telling him how fortunate he feels for being part of the team. After the party, they sit to talk about the raid they're planning on Two-Time's house. Two-Time had been hard to capture because he rarely had drugs at his house. But since Mackey received intel from Connie that he will have a party for other dealers, they knew he would have merchandise that night. Mackey also announces that Terry would be part of the raid this time, being his first official raid with the team.
At the Barn, Dutch and Claudette interrogate Dr. Grady trying to find out where he is holding Jenny. As he refuses to talk, Aceveda approaches Mackey and asks for help interrogating Grady. Vic comes into the interrogation room with a bag full of things that he will use to force a confession from the doctor. As he starts beating him up with a phone book, Aceveda turns off the video and Dutch and Claudette walk out of the room angered at this. Eventually, Vic walks out with the address where the doctor had Jenny. Dutch, Claudette, and Aceveda arrive at the address and after beating down the doors, they find a secret basement where Jenny was being held. After they opened the door, Claudette goes down with the girl and cradles her.
As Danny is about to leave the Barn, she congratulates Dutch for solving the case. When he asks her why is she still there, she tells him that Wickman and Greenwalt called in sick, so she and Julien were working double shifts. As they talk, they start feeling a weird smell and Dutch finds dog excrement on his desk. Knowing that Vic did it, he blasts him for, but Vic only mocks him further assuring him that "nobody leaves here without providing a stool sample". Danny then rejects her invitation to go out telling him that Betsy, a friend of hers, arranged a blind date. As Claudette and Aceveda look down at it, he assures her that the dog excrement prank is common practice against detectives that think they're better than the others.
Late that night, the Strike Team leaves for Two-Time's house, while Dutch is left cleaning his desk. As they drive to the place, Claudette arrives at her home and is greeted by her dog. Also, Danny is at her home getting ready for her blind-date. After meeting him, she decides to bring her gun in her bag. Aceveda is at his home feeding his baby, Sophia.
Two-Time is at his house playing video games with his girlfriend. When the Strike Team arrives and breaks one of the glasses, his girlfriend goes to throw some of the drugs they had and is pursued by Lem and Ronnie. As Two-Time goes inside the bathroom to throw the drugs, Shane and Vic approach him and he shoots at them. They duck and shoot back at him, killing him. As they go inside the bathroom, Terry approaches the room. Vic then takes Two-Time's gun and points at Terry, shooting him in the face. After he drops, Mackey simply stands beside him looking at him dying and shakes his head.
- Michael Chiklis as Detective Vic Mackey
- Catherine Dent as Officer Danny Sofer
- Reed Diamond as Detective Terry Crowley
- Walton Goggins as Detective Shane Vendrell
- Michael Jace as Officer Julien Lowe
- Jay Karnes as Detective Dutch Wagenbach
- Benito Martinez as Captain David Aceveda
- and CCH Pounder as Detective Claudette Wyms
- Kenneth Johnson as Curtis Lemansky
- Tamlyn Tomita as Wanda Higoshi
- Jim Ortlieb as Dr. Bernard Grady
- Max Perlich as Ponyboy Harris
- Ricki Lopez as Miguel Esteana
- Michael Reid Mackay as Monty
- Jamie Brown as Connie Riesler
- Cathy Cahlin Ryan as Corrine Mackey
- Jodie L. Gullett as Booty
- Jeremiah W. Birkett as Hooper
- Michael Auteri as Sergeant Nathan Peterson
- Page Kennedy as Lamar Tilton
- Amy Bollenbacher as Fran
- Juan Garcia as Moses Hernandez
- Andrea Marcellus as Janet
- Yancey Arias as Jose Garcia
- Brooklyn McLinn as Dmitri
- Chelsey Cole as Jenny Reborg
- Jalil Jay Lynch as Two-Time
- David Rees Snell as Detective Ronnie Gardocki
- Rohn Schmidt as Danny's blind date
- Britt Soderberg as Cop
- Rodger Arlen as Detective
- Ric Drasin as Pipe
- Kevin Vila as Police Station suspect
- Unknown as Mark Stone
- Unknown as Nancy Reborg
- Unknown as Two-Time's girlfriend
- Theme Song: "Just Another Day" by Vivian Romero, Rodney Alejandro, and Ernesto Bautista
- "Bawitdaba" by Kid Rock
Technically, this episode is unnamed. The term "pilot" is traditionally used in the entertainment industry to identify the first episode of a television series.
- International airdates:
- Estonia: November 4, 2003
- Germany: August 4, 2004
- France: June 27, 2007
- The episode had 4.8 million viewers in the USA.
- This is the only episode of the first five seasons where Kenneth Johnson is not credited as part of the main cast. Instead, he is featured in the guest credits at the beginning of the episode.
- During the transmission of the episode, the first commercial break didn't occur until 30 minutes into the show, to help preserve the intensity.
- Vic Mackey tells David Aceveda that he doesn't answer to him "not even on Cinco de Mayo". This is a reference to a Mexican holiday celebrated on May 5 which commemorates the victory of the Mexican army over French forces.
- When Dutch Wagenbach is interrogating George Sawyer, he mentions singer Britney Spears who, at the time, was a teenager singer known for her sensual videos.
- Dutch is a fan of Ding-Dongs, a chocolate cake sold by Hostess. When someone takes them from his desk, Claudette Wyms tells her she saw some Twinkies upstairs, which is another cream filled cake also sold by Hostess.
- Aceveda calls Vic "Al Capone with a badge" in reference to the notorious gangster of the early 20th century.
- The Dodger Stadium is visible during the last scene when the Strike Team arrives at Two-Time's house in what appears to be an ongoing game. However, it is later mentioned that the raid took place at around 1:00am. It would be very unlikely that a game would still be in progress at that time.
- The murder of Terry Crowley was done specifically to shock viewers and put them against the lead character, Vic Mackey. To keep it as a surprise to viewers, Reed Diamond, the actor who played Crowley, was included in the opening credits and clips of him where heavily featured in commercials for the show.
- The final musical montage features all the characters except Julien Lowe. There was footage for it, showing him having oral sex performed on him by a man, but the creators decided to reveal that he was gay later on the show.
- Shawn Ryan was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, and Clark Johnson was nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for this episode.
- David Aceveda: You remember Miguel Esteana.
- Vic Mackey: Sure, Miguel's a piece-of-shit drug dealer with the 25th Street Coronas.
- Jose Garcia: This is the kind of attitude you foster under your command?
- David Acevea: Mr. Esteana's attorney, Jose Garcia.
- Vic Mackey: I know Jose. He represents a bunch of piece-of-shit drug dealers.
- Terry Crowley: I didn't agree to be a witness in a federal case.
- David Aceveda: The friends Mackey has, federal's the only way we'll nail him.
- Terry Crowley: I go outside the department and rat out another cop, my life's not worth crap in LA.
- David Aceveda: He's right. It's too dangerous. He can't pull it off.
- Terry Crowley: I didn't say that.
- David Aceveda: I know. I just meant you need assurances of an upside to all this.
- Terry Crowley: Such as?
- David Aceveda: Such as... a guarantee of a job in Justice when it's all over.
- Terry Crowley: You think I want to be an errand boy in some Alaskan outpost?
- Moses Hernandez: You pick the city then.
- Terry Crowley: Okay. Try the home office in DC. I'm gonna need moving expenses.
- Moses Hernandez: Sure.
- Terry Crowley: Plus a car and a nice big fruit basket. I'm giving up my life, you gotta give me something back.
- Vic Mackey: You got kids here.
- Monty: It's Teacher Institute Day.
- Vic Mackey: Where's their mom?
- Monty: Buying supplies.
- Vic Mackey: Jesus Christ, Monty, you can't have kids around this place.
- Monty: What am I supposed to do?
- Vic Mackey: Stick them in a back room. Rent The Lion King.
- Monty: Someone stole the TV.
- Vic Mackey: Then buy them some crayons for Christ's sake! Just keep them away from this shit.
- Dutch Wagenbach: OK, who took my Ding Dongs?
- Vic Mackey: What are you? In kindergarten?
- David Aceveda: Miguel Esteana's dropping his complaint against you.
- Vic Mackey: Told you it was bogus.
- David Aceveda: I'd like your incident report first thing tomorrow morning.
- Vic Mackey: Sure. It'll be a couple of days. I got something on the back burner.
- David Aceveda: It's not a request. Tomorrow morning.
- Vic Mackey: You'll get my report in a couple of days. Maybe a week. You don't like the timetable, you take it up with Gilroy.
- David Aceveda: I don't have to. In this building, I'm in charge.
- Vic Mackey: Maybe in your own mind, amigo. But in the real world, I don't answer to you. Not today, not tomorrow, not even on Cinco de Mayo.
- Vic Mackey: Good cop and bad cop left for the day, I'm a different kinda cop.
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