White House Plumbers – Season 1 Episode 4 “The Writer’s Wife” Recap and Review

The Writer’s Wife

Howard and Gordon have contrasting reactions in the aftermath of the police arresting their Cuban burglars. The former is all panicky, taking St. John’s help in dramatic style to get rid of all evidence. They wipe and throw everything into the river. The latter is calm, composed, and indifferent, willing to take it as it comes. Howard tells his entire family he works for the CIA. The men arrested demand legal counsel before they say anything. James McCord was under a fake name at the scene but is recognized by a friend at the station. That gets the ball rolling for the complete chaos waiting for us ahead.

Gordon pays Richard Keleinidinst a visit. He is the acting Attorney General for Mitchell. Richard had no idea about the ploy and the Committee to Re-Elect Nixon and posited it will not end well for them. The world mustn’t find out until the next 48 hours. But of course, they do. The news has already got out as Bob Woodward from Washington Post calls Howard for a comment. He decides to go into hiding in the underground bunker he has built in his house.

Magruder is panicking as well and is asked by Gordon to hire a lawyer. He is getting rid of all evidence, including shredding the money, as his FBI training kicks in. Speaking of the FBI, two agents pay Howard a visit but he chooses to stay hidden. Dorothy learns of the burglary in the papers but isn’t able to reach Howard, who has asked the children not to pick up any calls. Gordon visits Howard in his bunker and tells him about shredding the money.

Howard’s fickle financial condition prompts him to lash out at Gordon. Howard eagerly looks toward Gordon for comfort about the White House “taking care of them.” Gordon triumphantly reinforces that Nixon believes in loyalty and will do so. Dorothy and Kevan come back through a sea of reporters waiting outside their house. They find Howard inside, who has stayed hidden from the press and federal agents till now. John Dean assures Gordon that Director Gray of the FBI will do their bidding in the investigation. All they need to do is keep their mouths shut and lay low.

It is revealed that Mark Felt is heading the investigation; the same Mark Felt that was present at the first meeting of the WHP at the WH. The former FBI genius believes that the break-in at Ellsberg’s office is the bigger problem as the order came from the WH itself. Gordon offers his and Howard’s sacrifice for that incident but wants assurances from Dean that “they will be taken care of.” Dean is coy and flabbergasted at how delusional Gordon is about the scale of the situation.

Dorothy loses her wits at Howard in the privacy of their room. He professes to have a plan that involves Nicuraguian dictator Somoza. But Dorothy lives in the real world and says they need a lawyer to do damage control.

Howard meets with hotshot attorney William Bittman the next day. Dorothy is with him too. Gordon is meeting with Larue, Nixon’s WH lawyer to discuss clemency. But Bittman doesn’t see it as a viable opportunity. Dorothy makes it clear to Bittman that he must tell the “two-faced spineless politicians” at the WH that “loyalty is a two-way street.”

Gordon and Fran, by comparison, are a hoot. She completely believes every word Gordon says about him making it scratchless out of this mess. Ironically, Larue’s office is at the Watergate, marking the return of the prodigal son. Bittman relays a request from Mr Rivers, an unknown entity at this point, to talk with Dorothy, “the writer’s wife”; not Howard. Dorothy deals with Rivers like a champ. He assures her that Howard and the Cubans will be dealt with but Gordon is on his own.

Howard says they will take care of Gordon from their cut of the money. He cannot leave his partner hanging. Dorothy moves the money around and distributes it among themselves, McCord, and Gordon. Howard and Dorothy aren’t left with a lot after spreading it, with most of the money going into Bittman’s pockets. The money eventually stops but McCord isn’t surprised. While meeting with Dorothy, he claims that even though the cause of these politicians is righteous, they are themselves evil. All they care about is saving their own faces, even if it means putting men like McCord in the line of fire.

During dinner at Gordon’s house, Howard reveals that they might get as much as half a million dollars for a book deal to tell their stories. They might not get the pardon even if Nixon gets reelected and this might secure them a golden nest. Gordon’s rejection of the notion inspires a scathing no-nonsense response from Dorothy, who criticises his “honour among thieves” pride. Gordon reveals that the stewardess Howard was flirting with when they came back from Miami after the Ellsberg job, has just written to the FBI showing off Howard’s book and handwritten note.

Dorothy confesses that they have been giving money to Gordon and Fran from their own pockets and now they are broke. How long will they be loyal to these powerful men?

The court proceedings begin and Judge Sirica (played by F. Murray Abraham) will be presiding over it. Gordon is no longer talking to Howard, who once again sends a message through Bittman to the WH: “Get me more money.” Dorothy reveals to St. John that this mess is her fault. She was going to leave Howard after she came back and hasn’t kept him restrained.

Nixon wins the election comfortably and Dorothy is even more heartbroken that now he won’t care for the men he got into trouble. The calendar has turned to December of 1972 and Dorothy announces his intention to separate from Howard. They accuse each other of infidelity and a lot more things, none more damaging than Dorothy’s mention of Howard using St. John to destroy evidence. She has finally given up on holding the family together and waiting for Howard to “come around.”

Howard drives away heartbroken. Dorothy is fine and unbeknownst to her husband, she is talking to Michelle Clark, a CBS news reporter on the plane. She defiantly protects Howard’s image, even as she is separating from him. As Clark asks Dorothy about Howard’s involvement in JFK’s assassination, their plane crashes. Howard makes pancakes and ignores the ringing phone with the tragic news.

The Episode Review

The makers of WHP seem committed enough to get all the details right. But there does seem to be some confusion about what the show really is. Their stance is further diluted as Dorothy Hunt’s tragic death in an aeroplane crash bookends episode 4. For the uninitiated, the crash became an even bigger issue in the Watergate scandal, with many alleging that the man we saw brush past Dorothy in the final scene was a hitman sent by Nixon to kill her.

As entertaining as the show has been, episode 4 confirms the lack of clarity about the project. This episode did not make as much splash as it should have in the aftermath of the scandal becoming public knowledge. If that was not the point of focus, why bring to attention everything around it?

The scandal has an endless bottom in public memory. WHP has until now presented a slice-of-the-scandal-like account. At the end of the day, you should ask this question to yourself; is that enough?

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