‘White House Plumbers’ Episode 2 Recap & Ending, Explained: Which Project Gemstone Was Approved?

HBO released the second episode of its dramatization of the infamous 1972 Watergate scandal, titled White House Plumbers,”\ in which two men take up the duty of re-electing President Nixon. Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux) become part of the committee tasked with doing whatever might be needed to get Nixon back in the chair for a second term, and in the process, they do multiple things that are questionable from a legal standpoint. As the events inch towards the main Watergate scandal, here’s what happens on the second episode of HBO’s White House Plumbers.


Spoilers Ahead

A Not-Family Man

Before we get into the events of the episode, though, it’s important to look at how much like a dictator Howard acts in his home, although he’s the brains at work. Always busy with work, Howard rarely has time to take care of the immense issues inside his family and can’t muster the patience and care needed to talk to his daughter, who’s locked herself in the bathroom. Getting late for work and stuck in his duty as a father, he chooses to kick the door down and wipe his hands of his responsibility as a dad before he heads to the White House to be important. After enjoying massive success at work, he sits down for a game of friendly Scrabble with his family but must impose rules, making his daughter Lisa flip out. Liddy might be a hot-headed idiot with deep sympathies for the Nazi regime, but Howard is far from the ideal role model.


Gordon’s Resolve 

The episode begins in 1971, with an elderly woman typing certain interesting names and figures on a paper, items including the names of the Attorney General of the USA, President Nixon, and a mention of about 400 thousand. She also types in a warning as a footnote to have the memo destroyed when it’s been viewed by the intended party. We quickly shift to March of next year, as Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy are wooing two sex workers with tales of their bravado for a proposal. The proposal is of honey-trapping liberal Democratic politicians to blackmail them later when they meet for the National Convention, and when the women ask why they should trust these two strange men, Gordon Liddy gives them his word. To demonstrate the value of his word, Liddy holds his hand over an open flame, repulsing the women until Howard asks him to stop the self-harm.

The Nixon Re-Election Committee

At the President Nixon Re-Election Committee, Liddy openly brandishes his German pistol in his office, much to the dismay of Jeb McGruder, Nixon’s Deputy for the Campaign. Later, Howard and Dorothy invite the Liddys to the country club where Howard has a membership, but things go awry quickly when the Hunt children, Lisa and Saint John, are spotted getting high. When asked to say hello to their dad’s colleague, the children can barely string a sentence together, and soon afterward, they are at the center of another controversy because Lisa has to protest against the racial slur directed at a black waiter. Howard unsuccessfully tries damage control but only makes it worse by asking his unstable daughter to apologize to the man she’d blamed for racial comments. Lisa calls him a “racist pig,” and Howard is slapped with a hefty bill on his tab. We also learn that Howard is four months behind on his tab, further indicating his need for cash.


The ITT Scandal

When presenting their 12-step Project Gemstone to Attorney General John Mitchell, Liddy lets his crazy side run wild, and he suggests situations where they can murder Democratic opposition inside the Justice Building. Despite Howard’s attempts to salvagee the situation, the plan is ruined, and Mitchell scraps the entire project, vehemently rejecting the $1 million ask for this anarchist 12-step. With this, Howard is certain that his career at the White House is over, and he’ll return to a life of mediocrity until the ITT scandal comes to light. In 1971, Dita Beard, a lobbyist for the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, typed a memo in which he mentioned that Attorney General John Mitchell had entered into a less-than-legal agreement with ITT. The Justice Department was alleged to have settled an antitrust suit against ITT in exchange for receiving $400k in donations to host the 1972 Republican National Convention in San Diego. Interestingly, it’s the same woman we see at the start of the episode. With Mitchell coming under immense pressure, it comes down to Howard and Liddy to be the only two men who can make it all go away without drawing further heat, and it might earn them a spot in Mitchell’s good books.

Howard’s Finesse 

Dita Beard, who’d been called to testify the following morning, is visited by Liddy, who asks her about any health problems she might have, and as it turns out, she’s had a history of angina. On the morning of her testimony, she was flown out of the city with a case of chest pains and kept in a hospital. However, this only delayed the process of Liberal Senator Teddy Kennedy questioning Dita for her involvement in the ITT scandal. Thus, she’s visited in the hospital by Howard, who unleashes a world of charm and imprints on Dita the importance of family and how she can keep her family happy by pretending that the memo was fake. Howard promises her a fat Christmas bonus from ITT in exchange for her loyalty, knowing that the company will do anything to make the trouble go away. Like clockwork, when the entire Congress convenes in the cramped hospital room, Dita claims that the memo was inauthentic and her signature a forgery before pretending to have a heart attack.


Which Project Gemstone Did The Attorney General Approve, And Why?

Howard and Liddy are back in Mitchell’s favor for making the Congress trouble subside, and they’re granted approval on one of the 12 gemstone projects, Project Opal. Their team is assigned to bug the DNC headquarters to listen in on the plans of the opposition and is awarded a budget of $250k for executing this illegal activity. However, the fancy yacht, beautiful sex workers, and two-way mirrors are canceled. The men gather on a rooftop and look at their target building as one member wonders where the Watergate Building is—a major Easter egg for the catastrophe that’s to follow soon.

The reason Mitchell approves Project Opal is that he needs to know the plans the opposition to Nixon is hatching if they hope to counteract them in the best possible way. Of course, honey-trapping the opposition is struck through because it’ll raise several questions and is much more conspicuous than tiny listening devices planted inside a massive building. Additionally, Mitchell realizes he needs to thank the two men for helping him drown out the noise Congress was making regarding the ITT scandal, lest they become a problem later. However, will this be enough to keep Howard and Liddy satisfied? We’ll have to tune in next week to find out.


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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.

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