One of the biggest political scandals in American history, Watergate has inspired a number of Hollywood films and TV shows — from the classic 1976 film ‘All the President’s Men’ starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford to the more recent Starz series ‘Gaslit’ with Sean Penn and Julia Roberts. The HBO series ‘White House Plumbers’ focuses on two of the central figures of the scandal, E. Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and G. Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux), delving deep into their family life, personal beliefs, and politics. The series premiere, titled ‘The Beverly Hills Burglary,’ depicts Liddy and Howard’s first introduction and mission together. Here is everything you might want to know about the ending of ‘White House Plumbers’ episode 1. SPOILERS AHEAD.
White House Plumbers Episode 1 Recap
The series begins with a flash forward. Liddy and Howard’s infamous Watergate burglars attempted to break into the building four separate times. The series starts by depicting the second attempt. The narrative then shifts a year into the past and finds Howard working for the Robert R. Mullen Company (a real-life company; according to later revelations, it was a CIA front organization). After the blunder that was the Bay of Pigs Invasion, in which Howard had a significant role to play, the agency effectively threw him out. Caught in a dead-end job, Howard reminiscences about past glory and curses the former US President Kennedy. He gets a call from his former boss, telling him President Nixon is looking for a man like him.
Howard’s recruiting happens against the backdrop of the release of the Pentagon Papers to the media by Daniel Ellsberg. Concerned about more leaks, the Nixon administration brings in Howard and pairs him up with Giddy, a former FBI agent, and both of them serve under Egil “Bud” Krogh (Rich Sommer), the head of the Special Intelligence Unit (SIU).
After the FBI refuses to put about 500 people through polygraph tests in relation to the leak, Howard comes up with the idea of breaking into the office of Lewis J. Fielding, Ellsberg’s psychiatrist and photographing the related files to prove that the man is a foreign agent. The pair travels to Los Angeles, California, the location of Fielding’s office, on a scouting trip. After returning to Washington, D.C., Krogh renames the operation the White House Plumbers.
Howard’s wife, Dorothy (Lena Headey), is a fascinating woman. She rides horses, types down her husband’s ridiculous spy novels, and largely tolerates Howard’s antics. During the war, she also worked for the agency and was involved in the recovery of artwork stolen by the Nazis. That’s how she and Howard met in China. One evening, Dorothy accompanies Howard to a dinner at the Liddy house and meets Liddy’s wife, Fran (Judy Greer), and their four children. After learning about Dorothy’s past, Liddy starts playing the recording of one of Hitler’s speeches, spooking the Hunts.
After getting the go-ahead from Krogh, Howard recruits three men from his Cuban invasion days: Bernard “Macho” Barker, Eugenio “Muscolito” Martínez, and Felipe De Diego (in the real world, the first two would later be involved in the Watergate burglary). The mission almost predictably turns out to be a disaster. When Macho, Muscolito, and Felipe get to Fielding’s office, they find it closed. They try to inform Liddy about this, but the radios that the meager budget for the mission has gotten them are terrible, and Liddy has to be informed in person. On Liddy’s instruction, they break into the office. Meanwhile, Howard, whose task was to keep an eye on Fielding outside the man’s home, gets distracted and later discovers that Fielding’s car is gone. He rushes back to inform the others. When Macho, Muscolito, and Felipe come out looking triumphant, they return to the hotel.
Howard and Liddy discover that there wasn’t any file on Ellsberg in Fielding’s office. The former decides to celebrate this as this means that it will be in Fielding’s home and that they will be greenlighted for another mission. However, Liddy goes through the Polaroid photos the three men have taken and realizes they have trashed the place. They explain that the lock to one of the drawers broke before assuring Howard and Liddy that they have left pills scattered all over the floor, implying that addicts broke in there. Although a frustrated Liddy asks what kind of addicts will leave their pills behind, it turns out that the authorities have come up with the same explanation in their investigation on the break-in.
What is the Committee for the Re-Election of the President? Why Are Hunt and Liddy Recruited There?
Toward the end of the episode, Howard and Liddy discover that John Dean (Domhnall Gleeson) has replaced Krogh as their new boss. He fires them and then rehires Liddy as the new chief counsel of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President. His main task will be to ensure that Nixon gets re-elected. This prompts Liddy to set aside his issues with Howard and recruit him as an advisor.
As Dean explains, Howard and Liddy will be performing espionage, sabotage, infiltration, disinformation, and electronic surveillance against the Democratic Party and report their findings to Jeb Stuart Magruder. Howard and Liddy are elated to learn that they now have access to as big of a budget as they want.
In the real world, on paper, the Committee for the Re-election of the President was set up to fundraise for Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign. As ‘White House Plumbers’ indicates, they were also involved in political sabotage.
Why is Liddy So Interested in Hitler and Nazi Germany?
In the HBO series, Liddy claims that he was brought up by a nanny who idolized Hitler. And even though he denounces the “evil” actions of the Nazis, he seems to look back to his childhood with fondness. He married his wife because she had Teutonic background and still has a vinyl record of one of Hitler’s speeches. While explaining his fascination with Hitler, Liddy recalls his childhood in Hoboken, New Jersey. In the 1930s, when Liddy grew up, that town had a large German immigrant population that, like Liddy’s nanny, idolized Hitler. Even though he claims that he struggled during this period, he was evidently influenced by his surroundings.
Read More: Where is White House Plumbers Filmed?