‘White House Plumbers’ Episode 4 Recap & Ending, Explained: How Did Dorothy Hunt Die?

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From the very beginning of HBO’s political drama miniseries White House Plumbers, some three weeks ago, it could be felt that alongside the two protagonists, the character of Dorothy Hunt would also be quite an important figure. An intelligent CIA asset and also the wife of Howard Hunt, Dorothy’s importance had been growing over the last three episodes, and now it finally takes over everyone else in episode 4. As the five men who had broken into the DNC office at the Watergate building are arrested, Howard and Gordon Liddy realize that they are in deep trouble, but the two still go about their exceptionally unusual ways to find a solution for themselves.

Spoilers Alert


How Is The Watergate Break-In Linked With Hunt And Liddy?

At the end of White House Plumbers episode 3, the five men who had broken into the DNC office to plant surveillance bugs for the masterplan created by Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy had been arrested by undercover policemen. As soon as they got to know of this horrible end to their grand scheme, Hunt and Liddy cleared up their hotel room, gathered all the equipment that had been used, and left the place in a hurry. They knew that the authorities would soon come after them, but the sheer ease with which they could be linked to the matter was still unknown to them. Before the team had left for their break-in job, Hunt had given one of the members a personal envelope to post, and this contained money he was sending to his country club to clear his dues. The member had obviously forgotten to post the envelope and was found with it during the break-in, with the police gathering it as a piece of prime evidence. With Howard Hunt’s name and address mentioned in detail on the envelope, he is easily tied to the team by the police.

Despite his claims against the fact, Howard Hunt goes into full panic, rushing home that night to wake up his elder son, Saint John. Since his wife Dorothy is on vacation in Paris, Howard finds it easy to convince Saint John to help him out of a very serious situation, especially after telling the son for the first time that he used to work as a CIA agent. Together with his son, Howard drives to a desolate bridge over a river and gets rid of all the equipment used in the Watergate plan, throwing them into the water one after another. The panic-stricken man even throws away his typewriter without any logical reason per se, which Saint John also points out. Returning home, Howard feels that his reputation is safe for now until he receives a phone call from Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, who asks him to comment on why his name and address had been found on the envelope that was being carried around by one of the Watergate burglars. This is the first time that Howard realizes this connection has been made by the police and that the press has gotten a whiff of it. Panicking even more, Hunt now goes into hiding inside his own house, holding himself in an emergency bomb shelter and ordering his children not to receive any calls on the landline phone.

The connection with Gordon Liddy is not as evident, as no direct links to the man are found right away, but it is only a matter of time before his identity is revealed too. However, it is Liddy himself, the true epitome of false pride, who approaches the political higher-ups regarding the matter. Liddy meets with the acting Attorney General of the time, Richard Kleindienst, and informs him of the link that could very well be established between the Watergate burglars and President Nixon. After all, one of the burglars, Jim McCord, also happens to be the Head of Security of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. While at the police station, Jim does not reveal anything about his identity; but his reputation and prior work experience as the bodyguard of John Mitchell put him in trouble once again. One of the police officers recognizes him, and the fact that McCord himself told some security guards at the Watergate building that he now works for the Committee to Re-Elect the President back in episode 3 establishes a clear connection between the two sides. As news of this scandalous break-in spreads all across the media outlets, Liddy is more worried about the integrity of President Nixon and his office than his own reputation or even life.

On the night of the break-in and the subsequent arrests, Liddy returns home and calmly tells his wife that he will most likely be sent to prison soon, almost as if taking extreme pride in the matter. Later on, in a not-so-nonchalant covert meeting with John Dean on the streets of Washington, D.C., Liddy tells Dean that he is ready to be shot dead by a sniper appointed by the CIA so that no harm can be done to Nixon’s reputation. Gordon Liddy is a character who is busy showing off his patriotic spirit throughout White House Plumbers, and he continues on the same track. Such a suggestion is, of course, laughed off by Dean, as it would lead to even more scandal, and Liddy instead tries his ways of covering up the connection with the Committee. He shreds all the remaining bank notes that had been given to him and Hunt by the Committee, fearing that the serial numbers will be linked to the ones found on the five arrested burglars. Liddy also shreds a number of soaps that he had taken home from the Watergate Hotel so that it cannot be proved that he had anything to do with the Watergate compound whatsoever. However, the authorities easily find out that Liddy and Hunt had booked a hotel room near the building on the night of the break-in, and the FBI, as well as the press, now start trying to contact them.


How Does Dorothy Hunt Take Charge Of The Situation?

As soon as Dorothy reads about the break-in at the DNC’s Watergate office, she calls home from Paris, knowing well that her husband is now under immense pressure. Because of Howard’s instructions to his children, though, her phone calls are not picked up, and the woman ultimately has to return to the United States with her two children. Ever since her return, Dorothy keeps insisting that her husband should just come clean and avoid any more complications, but Howard refuses to agree, stating that he will not name any of his accomplices or superiors under any condition. As Howard’s professional and personal lives now come together, with his wife trying to save him from the massive scandal, it is evident that the man is more determined to make the left-minded (as he believes) Democratic party lose than save his situation. As the White House refused to get into this matter, in a weak attempt to save the President, Howard, and Libby were sure that once Nixon got re-elected, he would pardon them.

But Howard’s fear of getting charged and imprisoned also gradually grows in his mind. The man comes up with the bizarre plan of flying to Miami and then taking a private flight to Nicaragua, where the family would take shelter under President Somoza Debayle, with whom Howard had established a relationship during his CIA days. Making use of this very fear, Dorothy convinces her husband to get in touch with a lawyer and prepare for the court case. They hire a defense attorney by the name of William Bittman, and through him, they want to create pressure on the White House, suggesting that Howard would reveal the truth if his family was not taken care of. It is also Dorothy herself who becomes the one taking the calls for her husband, the Hunt family in general, against the White House, all done through Bittman. Fearing a large-scale scandal, the White House authorities start sending money to Hunt and Jim McCord, while taking care of the Cubans themselves. Gordon Liddy is notably kept out of this deal, making it clear that the government does not see him as a considerable threat or asset, unlike the others. Nonetheless, Howard wants to take care of his partner, as Liddy has a family too, and despite Dorothy understandably not wanting to, they keep paying the Liddys out of their own share. It is Dorothy Hunt who handles this entire transfer of funds and keeps her husband and family afloat while the government presumably tries to find ways to bring an end to such negotiations.

With the election results drawing near, the government gradually decreased the amount of money that was being sent to the Hunts, and now Dorothy has to convince Howard to genuinely come clean about the matter. She sees the business potential of Howard writing and publishing a book that would present the true story of the Watergate scandal from their side. Howard agrees to this, as such a book would not only earn large profits but also cleanse their image in public, as people would finally see them as patriots for the nation. The couple goes over to Gordon Liddy’s house to pitch this idea and get Liddy on board. There is no surprise in the fact that Liddy outright denies doing such a thing, for it would not only mean that they were accepting defeat but also bring political pressure on the Republican Party. As Dorothy has no other option, she reveals to Liddy that his beloved government had not even paid them any support, and the money they are receiving is all from the Hunts’ personal account. Gordon Liddy’s pride and ego are clearly hurt, and from then on, he does not speak to Howard Hunt again. Charges of conspiracy, burglary, and eavesdropping are brought against the two men, and they are temporarily released on a bail of ten thousand dollars.


What Happens To Howard And Dorothy’s Marriage?

Soon after the bail, the Hunts have to go through a massive downgrade in lifestyle in order to keep up with the legal expenses. The results of the election are finally out, and Richard Nixon gets re-elected as president with a landslide victory. This enrages Dorothy, for she had earlier very clearly stated that there was no reason for Howard to get involved in senseless spy operations, for Nixon would surely win. Finally, on the way to another one of her flights to a different city in order to transport the government cash, Dorothy makes it clear to Howard that she wants a divorce from him after she returns. The man is shocked at this sudden decision, and Dorothy states how he had only just been blind to such an obvious possibility for so long. The main reason for Dorothy’s taking this decision now is that their son, Saint John, told her about how he had helped Howard get rid of the evidence from the break-in on that particular night. Disgusted that her husband had gotten their son involved in his bizarre conspiracy plot, Dorothy Hunt tells Howard of her decision once again and then walks into the airport.


How Does Dorothy Hunt Die In The End?

Aboard the flight that Dorothy takes, which is going to Chicago, the woman is seen meeting with a young journalist from CBS News named Michele Clark. This meeting looks like it had been fixed before, and now Dorothy tells Michele all the information about Howard’s involvement in the Watergate scandal and also that of President Nixon’s entourage. Dorothy claims that she wants to make these revelations for her children, both from the monetary side as well as to cleanse their father’s public image. But only a few minutes before the flight is about to land, it crashes and kills everyone aboard, including Dorothy Hunt. As the landline phone in Howard’s house keeps ringing to inform him of this accident, the man gleefully ignores the calls, believing that someone might be calling to discuss the scandal.

In reality, Dorothy Hunt had indeed died in a plane crash, which led to some seeing a CIA conspiracy in the matter. Dorothy supposedly had been asking Howard to write a book on the Watergate scandal, essentially exposing the Nixon government, and to those believing in this conspiracy theory, this was enough reason for the CIA to eliminate her. There is no record of Dorothy actually fixing a meeting with Michele Clark, though, and Clark was just another passenger who died in that crash. White House Plumbers combines fact and conspiracy theory to show the final scenes of the episode, and it even states in the disclaimer at the end that although some of the content has been dramatically reimagined, Dorothy Hunt had surely died in the plane crash on that day.


What Can We Expect From Episode 5?

White House Plumbers will be coming to an end next week, and the ultimate exposition of the political scandal will be covered in that episode. As of now, Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt have been arraigned and released on bail, while President Nixon and his aides are enjoying their newly won second term. But this would change, as history has it, and how exactly this will be presented is to be looked forward to. How Howard Hunt will react to the news of his wife’s passing in the plane accident will also be something to expect from the next episode, especially since the show has combined fact and conspiracy more than once. There are suggestions, especially in episode 4, that Howard had some involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and whether White House Plumbers will bring any more such matters to the fore will be interesting to see.


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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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