‘White House Plumbers’ Episode 1 Recap & Ending, Explained: Why Do Howard And Gordon Celebrate?

The infamous Watergate scandal has been covered in popular culture quite a few times, but HBO’s take on the whole matter makes the latest installment even more entertaining. Starring Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux as Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy, respectively, White House Plumbers showcases the break-in attempts that happened at Democratic National Committee H.Q. at the Watergate office. The episode opens with the title card showing that all the characters have the names of the people they’re based on and follows the dramatization of the second break-in attempt of the four total attempts that were made. Before we get into the story, let’s get to know our two protagonists, Howard and Gordon.

Spoilers Ahead

Howard Hunt: A Liberal-Hating PR Nightmare

Hunt would’ve been canceled if he had a social media account in 2023, that’s for certain. Given his extremely conservative views about liberalism and the havoc that communism is causing in America, his first approach is to blame everything on the Soviet Union and communism. He never misses an opportunity to look down upon the people who protest wars and blames former President Kennedy for his failure to handle the Bay of Pigs invasion As a father of four, he can be rather insensitive to his eldest daughter Lisa’s condition; she needed intensive therapy after she was in a car accident. Howard has some fantasies that he often tries acting upon whenever he gets a chance, and these are mostly about trying his luck at having extramarital affairs. He fantasizes about himself as the real-life representation of “James Bond” and even has a name for his superspy character, Edward.

Gordon Liddy: The Former FBI Agent With Questionable Inclinations

Liddy is introduced as a very resolute man who’s willing to suffer third-degree burns on his hand to prove his commitment, but the first time we see him, he’s being pinned down to the table by his female secretary, who’s reprimanding him for touching her. He quickly plays it off as giving a self-defense class and forms a bond with Howard because of their history in intelligence services. When Howard and his wife Dorothy visit the Liddys, they’re rather surprised to learn Gordon listens to Adolf Hitler’s speeches and uses a gun to scare street urchins. Later, Howard finds out that Gordon used to be bullied brutally as a kid, and it was Hitler’s speeches and the majestic shape of the Hindenburg that gave him the courage to stand up for himself. However, Gordon is a loyal husband and reminds Howard of his duties to his wife when the latter tries flirting with an air hostess, although he can come off as sexist. Of course, that’s the effect of the period the drama is set in, so not much can be done about the characters’ sexist views.

The New Task

Former CIA agent Howard Hunt, who has been fired following the catastrophic failure of the U.S. invasion at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, is now stuck in a dead-end job and desperately wants out. He is contacted by Colson, his former boss, who wants him back at the CIA office because President Nixon needs somebody of Hunt’s caliber to investigate the matter of the recent Pentagon Papers leak, and this might be his opportunity to make a much-needed comeback. When Hunt arrives at the White House, he is met with Egil Krogh, Hunt’s superior, who informs him of the SIU, a special unit being formed to handle the crisis that has occurred. Daniel Ellsberg, a man suspected to be a Soviet spy, has leaked sensitive information about the U.S. government to the press. This is where we meet former FBI agent Gordon Liddy, who is to be Howard’s colleague. The team convenes and presents the CIA’s perspective on using polygraph tests to seek out the truth, but they learn that President Nixon has banned the use of polygraph tests because they are unethical now, and they need to figure out other methods to extract information. Howard and Gordon decide it is up to them to get to the root of the matter, which is why they decide to go to L.A. to find out about the psychiatrist Dr. Fielding, whom Ellsberg used to visit. The plan was to take notes in the Beverly Hills Chamber of the psychiatrist and ultimately extract the information from the psychiatrist’s office, hopefully discrediting or refuting his statements.

The Trip To L.A.

To make sure they do not draw suspicion, Howard and Gordon make use of makeup provided by a CIA operative and dress up as tourists. They take several pictures near the psychiatrist’s chamber to scope out the place and manage to get into the chamber by bribing a maid and speaking some bad Spanish with her. Gordon takes pictures of the chamber while Howard distracts the maid outside, and Howard is exhilarated by their success on the flight back to Washington. Their boss is extremely impressed by their performance and gives them the green light to steal a file from the doctor’s chamber that might have information on the suspect. It was extremely necessary to steal the file because Fielding had denied providing it to the authorities, claiming that his patient had the privilege of confidentiality.

Stealing A Confidential File

The next order of business is breaking into the doctor’s office and stealing the file; however, neither Howard nor Gordon can do that because each man has been a part of an intelligence agency in the past, and if caught, both CIA and FBI will incur tremendous shame. Therefore, Howard contacts his Cuban buddies from the Bay of Pigs mission, who agree to do the mission pro bono because they wanted to remain in the good books of the intelligence agency. At night, Gordon and Howard follow the doctor till he reaches his home, and Howard waits outside his place, keeping watch, while he sends Gordon back to the office to oversee the process of breaking and entering. The two parties are to maintain communication with each other by using walkie-talkies; however, the walkie-talkies are horrible, and neither party can hear the other, which is one of the reasons why the plan goes horribly wrong. The Cuban friends of Howard find out that the door is locked and they cannot enter, so they must break the glass to make an entry. They’ve got to make a quick escape because the doctor suddenly heads back to the chamber, and in the process, they leave a mess behind because they ransacked the entire place but still did not find the file they were looking for.

Why Do Howard And Gordon Celebrate In The End?

Both Howard and Gordon are extremely frustrated at the way things have turned out, and they each express their anger in different ways. Neither man is excited to go to the White House the next day, but when they turn up, they find out that the entire blame has fallen upon drug addicts, who were thought to be the ones who broke into the scene the previous night. Additionally, they learn that their superior, Egil, has been fired, and now their new boss is Councilor John Dean, who immediately fires both men. However, thanks to the ways they have proven themselves, Dean hires Gordon to head a new committee to head the operation of reelecting President Nixon in the upcoming elections. Gordon proves loyal to his partner and brings in Howard as an advisor, and together they are given the task of doing anything that they can think of to ensure that Nixon has a smooth ride to the next presidential seat. The men, who had already been tired of the poor pay they had been receiving, asked for funding from Dean. When Dean asks for an amount, they don’t hesitate to drop a million dollars as the number, and to their utmost surprise, the council doesn’t even seem fazed as he agrees to the amount. The two men celebrate what seems like a lottery as the pictures they’d clicked while scoping out the psychiatrist’s office are developed in the darkroom.

The men went in thinking they’d lose their job and must return to the horrible employment they could scrape by, and they do get fired. However, they’re immediately rehired and tasked with using any means necessary, including espionage and sabotage, to ensure Nixon ascends to the presidency in the upcoming election. Additionally, they learn that they can ask for funding to carry out the mission, and they can’t believe their request for a million dollars has been approved. They rejoice because they hope to pocket most of the money for themselves, and this will be their way to a good life, although the worst is yet to come.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

Latest articles