‘White House Plumbers’ Episode 3 Recap & Ending, Explained: What Happened During The 4th Break-In?

HBO’s dramatization of the 1972 Watergate scandal, White House Plumbers, is a blueprint of what NOT to do when you’re infiltrating a highly secretive government building. Based on the arrests made during a break-in attempt to gather information on President Nixon’s opponent, the show represents how former CIA and FBI operatives Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy fumbled the plan, which led to their subsequent arrests. Starring Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux in the lead roles, here’s what happens in the third episode and what became of the crew during the fourth break-in attempt.


Spoilers Ahead

The Second Attempt

If obstinacy and hard-headedness were an Olympic sport, Gordon Liddy would be winning prizes left and right, right beside Howard Hunt, competing for the sport to prove your doubters wrong. The third episode of “White House Plumbers,” based on the 1972 Watergate scandal, demonstrates how the Plumbers’ crew found themselves on the wrong side of the law because they pushed their luck too far. The episode dramatizes the remaining three of the four attempts the crew made to break into the building to bug the DNC until their luck ran out the final time. We witness the second attempt failing as James McCord messes up the plan and goes elsewhere with the equipment kit, as the locksmith realizes that he’s got the wrong tools while trying to open the front door of presidential candidate McGovern’s office. The second attempt is a disaster, and the crew has to return, hat in hand, to Howard’s place, where Gordon is throwing orders around and preparing the lot for the third attempt.


The Success

Of course, Gordon is a threat if kept anywhere near kids, and Dorothy wants this Nazi-leaning eccentric patriot out of her house at the earliest, and she has reasons for that. On the morning of the second attempt, Gordon pointed his revolver at the Hunts’ youngest kid, who was playing with a toy gun, sending Dorothy straight into panic mode. Gordon is bad news, and she knows it all too well, but she can’t get her husband on the same page because he’s chasing the high of being in the CIA and feeling important. By the time Howard does realize he wants out, it’s too late. The crew goes in for a third time, this time making McCord pose as a security guard so that he can tape the backdoor’s lock, leaving it accessible when the crew returns at night. The plan goes smooth as silk as the Plumbers sneak in through the rigged door, the locksmith picks the lock clean, and the bugging goes down without a hiccup. As the crew celebrates with tequila and whiskey on the rooftop, happy days are here for former FBI and CIA operatives Gordon and Howard.

Another Failure 

However, luck is a foreign concept to Howard and Gordon, and they find it out the embarrassing way when John Dean calls them to his office and reads the transcript of McGovern’s security’s bugged phone. As it turns out, all bugs but the security’s telephone are “inoperative,” and the mission has been a disaster again. Having ignored his family for far too long and starting to realize the lack of loved ones, Howard blasts Gordon over the phone, saying he’s out: there won’t be a fourth time, period! He’s going to Paris with Dorothy, their star daughter Kevan, and musicalmusician genius David. Dorothy can’t betray a smile too early because she knows Howard is too keen to hang on to his glory days if given a chance, which is why her frustration is visible when Howard leaves to get his passport back from the White House. If Howard goes back to the White House, Gordon is going to convince him to give his life for the USA and to earn the President’s commendation. Like clockwork, Gordon manipulates Howard into saying yes a fourth time, and soon, Howard is bidding farewell to his wife and kids, who leave for Paris, before heading back.


The Final Attempt

McCord tapes the door like before to return with the crew, but the nightguard notices the tape and removes it before locking the door. The Cuban crew can’t break in, and back in the “command center,” they participate in a vote to go another time or scrap the plan. You can guess which side Gordon and Howard represent. James becomes the tiebreaker in the 2-2 deadlock, and they return another time, the same night, as Gordon and Howard maintain communication through walkie-talkies, better ones this time.

What Happened To The Crew During The Fourth Break-In Attempt?

McCord is the last man to go inside the building, but he fumbles with the plan by not removing the tape from the backdoor like before. As the crew goes back into McGovern’s office to click pictures of some confidential documents, the same security guard who’d removed the tape finds a fresh set on the lock and calls it in. Soon, three burly men in hippie costumes have the entire Cuban crew, along with McCord, kneeling on the floor, asking questions. Realizing the muck they’re in, Howard and Gordon run around the suite, gathering any proof of their being in the room while rubbing down fingerprints in a rush. The episode ends with all the Cubans in the police station being taken into custody, although they refuse to confess anything. However, the amount of cash on their person, the equipment they’re apprehended with, and their presence at odd hours inside a presidential candidate’s office are enough to begin a case. Howard and Gordon manage to walk away from the hotel, but we’ll know the fate that awaits them when the next episode rolls in.


As it turns out, McCord was the bad apple in the lot, whose recklessness got the cops onto the crew and got them arrested. Despite being an eccentric flight risk, Gordon had been right about getting McCord off the team, and had Howard agreed, White House Plumbers wouldn’t have been a show because the plan would’ve gone down without the world knowing. Since McCord forgot to remove the tape, security got alerted and sent the cops to nail the suspects, and the plan went awry. However, the whole reason they got into this mess was because of Gordon’s bleeding patriotic heart and dedication to serving the country. Had Howard stood his ground and gone to Paris with his family, he’d not have had his mugshots taken like in the trailer. Poor planning, an unprofessional team, and a string of bad decisions made the worst cocktail, which led to a hangover that landed the crew in prison. What happens to the Plumbers when the cops crack down on them? Tune in next week at the same time to find out.

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