White House Plumbers – Season 1 Episode 5 Recap, Review & Ending Explained

True Believers

The finale of White House Plumbers picks up in the aftermath of Dorothy’s death in the plane crash. Although the chatter about it hasn’t picked up yet, a conspiracy is nrewing. At the funeral, St. John dedicates a song to her mother and breaks down, needing consoling from Lisa. Gordon is apprehensive that Howard is nearing his breaking point and won’t keep silent about the White House’s involvement.

What does McCord say to Howard about Dorothy’s death?

At Dorothy’s funeral lunch, we meet David’s – Howard and Dorothy’s youngest son – godfather, Dr Artime, whom Howard refers to as the person who should have been Cuba’s president. And in addition, William Buckley Jr, the host of Firing Line, a popular reality tv show. Fran is worried about him but Howard assures her that he will be looked after. McCord knocks at their door, having brought a casserole for the family.

Before departing, he mentions the possibility that Dorothy was killed by the WH, as Bud Krogh, whom we met in the first episode, is named the new undersecretary of transportation.

McCord alleges that this appointment and the crash are not a coincidence. Howard doesn’t think too much of it yet, but the seed of doubt is planted. He discusses with Gordon the $200k insurance policy Dorothy took out for herself before going onto the plane. Howard also alleges that the “FBI beat the firemen to the spot of the crash,” which is highly unusual. Usually, first, the firemen reach the spot. They then call the NTSB, who then calls the FBI, “only if they find something suspicious.” That’s the procedure.

How does the scandal gradually entangle the highest public office in the US?

Later that night, Howard, without telling Kevan anything, hands her a register. It contains details of the payments, maintained by Dorothy, that the family received from the WH. The next morning, Gordon calls John Dean and expresses his reservations about Howard. Dean assures him that the WH will keep making annual payments to the plumbers plus living expenses. They will also be doing two years of jail time before receiving a Presidential pardon. In the most unexpected – yet, deep down expected – moment of the series, Gordon offers “prophylactic action” against Howard. But Dean shuts him down.

Nixon makes a public announcement, distancing the administration and the WH in this political espionage scandal. John Dean is tasked with conducting an investigation on the West Wing staff. The court trials finally begin. Gordon, Howard, the Cubans, Frank, and McCord are on trial for the burglary and attempted bugging of the DNC office. Judge Sirica is eagerly looking forward to the trial.

How does John Dean protect himself and betrays the “plumbers?”

But he loses faith in Silbert, the government prosecutor when he starts his arguments with ulterior financial motives. After the first day, the accused meet for lunch and Gordon communicates Dean’s message to all of them. Howard goes with Bittman, his lawyer, to meet Silbert for evidence discovery. To his utmost shock, Howard realizes that Dean, before handing over the evidence to Silbert, has excluded diaries tying the WH to the burglary and the Fieldings job in LA. Dean protected himself by taking out the GEMSTONE file from Howard’s safe.

This means that the leverage the plumbers had is gone. Gordon and Howard will have to take the fall for the entire thing. Jan 30th 1973, in the final hearing before the decision, Howard and Gordon testify that the WH was not involved in the process. The hearing on March 23rd of the same year brings forth another shocking revelation. McCord has personally written to the judge implicating the WH and striking a deal with the prosecution for cooperation. Everyone except him is sentenced to do lengthy jail time.

Why does James McCord decide to make a deal with the prosecutors?

McCord has also named people working close to the President like Dean and Mitchell. Gordon is chipper in the jail, while the others are unsure of their fate. According to Gordon, the only men McCord can implicate are himself and Howard, since he had no direct contact with the WH. In the investigation by the Senate, McCord implicates John Dean in the crimes as well. He also names Dorothy and the Committee to Re-Elect Nixon as the sources of money he received.

Lisa and St. John are shocked to learn that Howard has sold the house. This happens when Buckley and Artime show up, taking custody of David. The children visit Howard in jail and confront him about their situation. He tries to reassure them that he will take care of them, but they aren’t convinced.

What prompts Howard Hunt to make a deal with the prosecution?

Lisa also tells him that Dean has made a deal with the WH. It turns out that Nixon was recording his meetings in the aftermath of the arrests and trying to implicate them to save his own face.

Howard is extremely anxious and has a stroke. In the infirmary, he is greeted by Kevan. She has come to check up on him but also threatens the guy. She read the ledger of accounts and is angry at Howard for not keeping his family’s interests above the country’s. Her ultimatum puts Howard in a tricky predicament. Gordon is brought out to testify in court. In the waiting room, he runs into Dean but the meeting is awkward as Dean tries to justify his move.

He also suggests that Nixon was ready to pin everything on Gordon due to his unwavering loyalty, but in a negative way. Gordon barely prevents himself from stabbing Dean with a sharpened pencil. Back in prison, Gordon is still unwilling to talk. However, Howard’s stance has completely changed. He feels regret after what Kevan said about not caring about his family. He even blames his choices and says they led to Dorothy’s death. He puts himself in Gordon’s firing line by admitting he will cooperate with the prosecution and get out.

They have a fight where both say nasty things. Gordon blames Howard for taking more money than required to maintain his “phoney lifestyle,” while Howard calls Gordon a “failed FBI agent and politician” and suggests he take the deal too. He also cites the fact that Daniel Ellsberg, who was charged with leaking important Pentagon files in episode 1, is also a free man. Howard’s testimony in front of the Senate Committee doesn’t necessarily go according to plan.

Has Howard left it too late to make a deal?

Other graver events, like Ehrlichmann’s implication and VP Agnew’s scandal, have taken precedence in mass media. Is Howard too late to join the party? It definitely seems so. Dean has done all the things Howard could have done; cooperated with the testimony, written a book, and had a tv series made on it. Fran beseeches Gordon to take the deal and come home with an early release. But Gordon is unwavering in his will to stay mum. Gordon receives a standing ovation from inmates after his continued efforts in their interests start materializing.

Gordon is overwhelmed with the reception and starts reciting a German song, while doing the “Heil Hitler” salute, having just ensured Kosher meals for a Jewish inmate, who started the rousing applause. That is White House Plumbers in a nutshell! And apparently, it is all true.

How does it all end for Gordon and Howard?

Almost a year later, Howard, now in a minimum security prison, finds out that Nixon has resigned. 49 people were found guilty in Watergate. Howard served two and a half years in prison, and may/may not have admitted to Kennedy’s assassination on his deathbed. Gordon served about five years and had his sentence commuted by President Carter.

The Episode Review

Pretty much the entire episode was directed towards bringing a close to the Watergate saga. And in doing that, the creators remained true to their formula throughout the entire season. Theroux and Harrelson were once again emphatic as their characters’ families made them rethink their priorities. Well, not Gordon, but Howard certainly turned after he realized his hollow ideals didn’t mean anything to the man and institution he revered.

Although one would have liked this ironic epiphany to have been channelled in the previous episodes to some extent, the finale had several instances. Without dilly-dallying on too many details, episode 5 has a smooth rhythm and likeable pace despite being the longest in the season.

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You can read our full season review for White House Plumbers here!


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