White House Plumbers S1E5 Recap: “True Believers” — I’m Going to Act Like a Jackass

Judge John Sirica sits at his bench in the courtroom.
Photograph by Phil Caruso/HBO

The following recap contains spoilers for White House Plumbers S1E5, “True Believers” (directed by David Mandel and written by Alex Gregory & Peter Huyck). 

White House Plumbers S1E5 “True Believers” opens with one of the funnier gags of the series—a somber Hunt, with his wife’s casket and his son singing a ballad, suddenly has Liddy lean in from directly behind him to ask to talk. Meanwhile, Saint John is attempting to honor his mother with the song “MacArthur Park” but is mangling it so badly I could barely make out what he was trying to perform.  

Freaking Gordon Liddy, man. Approaching a distraught Saint John at the post-funeral gathering at the Hunt household, Liddy says, “Your father is having a rough time…because of your mother.” Uh, yeah, dude. Saint John tearfully speaks about how Dorothy bought him his first guitar, and how scared he was to play it before Hunt. Liddy responds with an anecdote about fear: his greatest fear used to be rats, but he cornered, killed, and cooked and ate the biggest rat he could find and was no longer afraid of rats. “Face your fears, son,” he concludes, before pressing Saint John for details on Hunt’s planned book. 

Hunt appears to be just as broken as his children, but when Fran sits down to console him, Hunt laments that his own country has turned on him and he might go to jail. Fran grants him the pain of that grievance, but clarifies that she’s referring to his grief. Talking outside, Hunt informs Liddy that Dorothy took out a 200k life insurance policy before getting on the plane, the plane was rerouted at the last minute, and the FBI agents arrived at the crash before the firemen. 

McCord, delivering a condolence casserole to the Hunts, informs Hunt that Nixon had just recently promoted one of “his own guys” to Undersecretary of Transportation: Egil Krogh, who has oversight of FAA and NTSB—the latter being, according to Hunt, who should have been at the crash before the FBI. Krogh, nicknamed “Bud,” was the man who originally recruited Hunt to the Plumbers back in the pilot episode

Hunt and Liddy sit with their lawyers at a table in the courtroom while the prosecuting attorney stands to speak.
Photograph by Phil Caruso/HBO

Hunt finds Dorothy’s notebook ledger in a box. He goes to Kevan with it, telling her he has something of her mother’s he’d like her to have. Kevan immediately inquires about Dorothy’s camel hair coat. Unfortunately, Hunt says, Dorothy was wearing it on the plane. It’s one of the driest jokes the series has done, but Harrelson delivered it perfectly. Hunt gets cold feet on involving his daughter, but Kevan insists on whatever this gift is. Hunt tells her that he must say under oath that he didn’t destroy the evidence, nor did he ask Kevan to do so. 

Liddy calls Dean, who tells him that the Plumbers will have living and legal expenses taken care of, as well as a Presidential pardon within two years. Liddy says he worries about Hunt breaking and offers “prophylactic action…by any means necessary.” Dean immediately tells Liddy to not break another law. Liddy snaps and tells Dean he’ll have to do better than two years, because the money he wired to the Plumbers is a far bigger deal than planting a couple of bugs. 

During the discovery phase, the film left in the camera from pilot finally comes back, but it’s of little consequence at this point. More importantly, Hunt realizes that the entirety of the contents from Hunt’s safe given to discovery by Dean do not include the Gemstone file. In a prior episode, it is clearly shown that Dean notices the file as Hunt puts it in his safe. The Gemstone file would clearly implicate Dean and the White House in the entire affair, and Hunt concludes that Dean removed it, bringing the entire blame down on Liddy and Hunt. 

On the final day of the trial, before the jury can state the verdict, it is revealed that McCord has written a statement for the judge, which refutes some of the testimony and indicates that there are other names involved that did not come up. The men are found guilty, with Hunt receiving the harshest sentence of 35 years. 

One of the names McCord gives is John Dean, as it seems McCord actually did something semi-useful and said that the payments coming from Dorothy Hunt were on behalf of the Committee to Re-Elect the President, which all goes back to Dean. Watching these interviews from prison, Liddy remarks that he’s met a prisoner in a different block, and it would cost just two cartons of cigarettes to get Dean killed. Liddy would draw blame from himself by punching a guard and getting put into solitary confinement.

Unfortunately, Dean made a deal with the prosecution, and throws Nixon under the bus, which means that Liddy and Hunt will absolutely not be receiving pardons. Hunt immediately suffers a stroke, and in the hospital, is visited by an irate Kevan, who read Dorothy’s notebook of hush money and gives her father an ultimatum: he’ll come clean with the prosecution, or she’ll tell them herself. 

Saint John and Lisa sit in a crowded courtroom.
Photograph by Phil Caruso/HBO

Hunt sorrowfully tells Liddy that Dorothy’s death was his own fault: all of his actions are what led to her getting on that plane, and now he has nothing but regret. He plans to cooperate with the prosecution. This is the breaking point for the friends, and there is a very tense moment with the camera close in on Hunt’s face with Liddy right behind them as they walk to the food court. Suddenly, Liddy punches a guard in the face and whispers to Hunt “Two cartons of Pall Malls,” indicating that Hunt will die if he stays in this place. Luckily for Hunt, his cooperation gets him transferred to a minimum security prison. 

Fran visits Liddy in prison, and we get a final twist of the knife as to just how emotionally manipulative this man is. Despite being offered a deal to get out early, he turned it down because he is “the man who will not break,” and somehow convinces Fran to agree with him that the favors he’s doing for the other prisoners are more important than their marriage. The last we see of Liddy, the prisoners are giving him a standing ovation for his favors, including a Jewish prisoner requesting Kosher meals. Said prisoner is very confused when Liddy throws up a Nazi salute. 

In the final moments of the show, text cards show that Hunt served two and a half years in minimum security prison, and “on his deathbed, he may or may not have confessed to the Kennedy assassination.” Liddy served four and a half years after getting his sentence commuted by President Carter, and appeared on two episodes of Miami Vice.

While I feel like White House Plumbers could have used maybe one more episode to spread out the densely packed events of the scandal, I still had a great time following along with the espionage and enjoying how badly these men messed up one of the most unbelievable political events in history. The writing and directing were sharp, and the performances of Theroux and Harrelson, supported by an excellent cast, were so much fun. I’m hoping that Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck and David Mandel team up again. 

White House Plumbers airs on HBO Mondays at 9PM ET.

Written by Hawk Ripjaw

Hawk Ripjaw has been sharing his opinion on film and TV since his early teens, when the local public library gave away prizes for submissions to their newsletter. Since then, he's been writing for local newspapers, international video game sites, booze-themed movie websites, and anywhere else he can throw around some media passion. He watched the Mike Myers Cat in the Hat movie over 50 times in two years, for science.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *