White House Plumbers Episode 1 Recap – Who was E. Howard Hunt?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 2, 2023 (Last updated: March 19, 2024)
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White House Plumbers Episode 1 Recap - Who was E. Howard Hunt?


White House Plumbers treats the Watergate scandal as a farce from the get-go and turns E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy into the insane caricatures they were always destined to be.

This recap of White House Plumbers Episode 1, “The Beverly Hills Burglary”, contains spoilers.

White House Plumbers has one joke, which it tells in a variety of ways, but always with the same punchline. It’s a funny joke, though – I’m not sure if it’ll be funny enough to build five episodes around, but the hour-long premiere, “The Beverly Hills Burglary”, gets a lot of hilarious mileage out of the idea that everyone involved in the Watergate scandal was a complete idiot.

This is a joke that will be familiar to anyone who watched seven seasons of Veep, and that show’s writers, Peter Huyck and Alex Gregory, are responsible for this five-part HBO miniseries. It was funny there because its unflattering portrait of Washington’s political operators was mostly accurate. It’s funny for the same reason here. The premiere opens with a title card warning us that while the events depicted are based on reality, names haven’t been changed to protect the innocent because almost all the perpetrators were found guilty.

White House Plumbers Episode 1 Recap

“The Beverly Hills Burglary” pulls double duty, detailing the efforts of the titular White House Plumbers – so-called because they fix leaks – to infiltrate Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, while also introducing E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy as exaggerated caricature versions of themselves.

Who was G. Gordon Liddy?

Liddy was a former FBI agent who occupied a key position in the Nixon administration during his 1972 re-election campaign and had oversight over the “Special Investigations Unit” which was established to combat damaging leaks to the press.

In real life, he had admitted to enjoying Hitler’s recorded speeches, which were played to him by a nanny in his youth. White House Plumbers uses that titbit as the basis for his entire character, to the extent that he plays the speeches at dinner parties.

Justin Theroux plays Liddy in the broadest, most slapstick-y way possible, with all the emphasis on his eccentricities and peculiarities.

Who was E. Howard Hunt?

Hunt is only moderately more serious. A former CIA spy turned PR paper-pusher and wannabe spy fiction novelist, he’s in a tailspin of Republic anger at his own lack of utility, his wife Dorothy’s own success, and his slightly leftist kids.

Hunt sees the Special Investigations Unit as a patriotic claim to fame, and his own history in the intelligence services as a kind of Bondian super-spy resume, though his abilities are slightly undercut when he leads Liddy on a field mission to reconnoiter Ellsburg’s psychiatrist’s office in ridiculous wigs.

Hunt’s experience during the Bay of Pigs Invasion gives him access to a team of equally idiotic Cuban thieves-for-hire, who the SIU uses to carry out the break-in (the episode opens with attempt two of a total four), which they predictably botch.

White House Plumbers Episode 1 Ending Explained

Purely by accident, Liddy and Hunt get away with this. The police blame the break-in on junkies, but the SIU has been disbanded.

Falling on their feet, though, Liddy and Hunt are bumped up to Nixon’s re-election campaign, which amounts to basically the same thing – an absurd conspiratorial attack on Nixon’s perceived enemies, foreign and domestic.

As if we needed any more proof that neither Liddy nor Hunt are equipped for such a thing, they handed back the Polaroid camera they used to take photos of themselves in disguise without removing the film.

You can stream White House Plumbers Episode 1, “The Beverly Hills Burglary”, exclusively on HBO and HBO Max.

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