Recap: White House Plumbers (S1, Ep2) — Hunt and Liddy Move Up in the World, but Second Episode Feels Stagnant

Gotta say, I’m a little disappointed. Though the White House Plumbers‘ premiere was flawed, I found it to be a pretty silly and fun introduction to this not-so-complicated story of incompetent espionage. It had its issues, but I was looking forward to the next episode and seeing more of the misadventures of Watergate masterminds (a relative term, yeah) Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and Liddy (Justin Theroux).

“Please Destroy This, Huh?,” sadly, does not work as well as its predecessor. The opening scene is pretty good—a woman is typing out a fairly incriminating report on a typewriter, and asks her colleagues if “commitment” has one or two Ts, then mutters “ah, fuck it,” an attitude that won’t do Hunt and Liddy’s operation any favors. It’s a nice way of showing that no one is really innocent in the destruction of the Watergate operation…but then the episode proceeds to hit the same notes the premiere did, just less effectively.

One thing I didn’t really touch on in my review of White House Plumbers‘ premiere episode is the struggles Hunt has with his family—they were mostly in the background, serving to establish him as bad of a father as he is an agent of espionage. But these scenes take up a lot more time in this episode, and I can’t really say it’s time well spent. If there was a way to tie these two storylines together—for it to be something more than just further elaborating on why Hunt sucks and to tie into the main story’s theme of everyone doing something wrong—I’d be more okay with it, but it’s just not interesting or funny in a comedy to see a man being a bad father to his vulnerable daughter.

The biggest disappointment (and simultaneously, the best part) of “Please Destroy This, Huh?” is Liddy, who is not nearly as funny as he was last episode, but Theroux still manages to earn some laughs with him. His obsession with using his new position to disappear someone doesn’t work great as a repeated joke, but seeing him beat up his boss for the crime of trying to stop him from killing someone is pretty great. The enthusiasm with which he presents his series of movie poster-esque plans to undermine the country’s integrity is also tons of fun to watch, as is the horrendous wig with which he approaches this episode’s target for illegal dealings.

Because after Liddy botches his pitch (he keeps talking about killing people), he and Hunt are tasked with keeping Republican lobbyist Dita Beard (Kathleen Turner) from testifying about the writing of a memo that could easily cause a scandal for the Nixon administration. It’s not an awful way to spend the episode, and there’s something to be said regarding how easily Beard’s party was ready to slander her in case they couldn’t get her to lie. But the episode doesn’t dig deep enough into that to find anything interesting to say about it. On top of that, it’s just not as exciting as Hunt and Liddy’s awful break-in last week, and while it’s not an issue that this show isn’t non-stop action, it feels a little off considering how much it revels in sensationalizing these things.

White House Plumbers still looks fine, it’s still acted fine (aside from its two leads, who are doing a pretty great job), all of its technical aspects are still solid, enjoyable, and competent. But with its technical aspects as passable as they are, I would hope the writing would be able to back it up. It doesn’t need to be action and adventure, it just has to make for something a little more entertaining than the final product. The last scene of the episode at least serves as somewhat foreboding and promises to get around to the burglary the series centers around—the successful bribery of Beard gets Liddy’s plan to wiretap Watergate approved—but sadly, it just doesn’t carry the same exciting, funny tension as the premiere, which I hope it can recapture soon.

This episode of White House Plumbers is now available on HBO Max.

Sam Layton
Sam Layton

Sam Layton is a Chicago suburb native that's trying his best to make a career out of his (probably unhealthy) habit of watching too much television. When he's not working as the Third Coast Review's current sole TV reviewer, he's making his way through college or, shockingly, watching too much television.