White House Plumbers Ending Explained

The thrilling satirical miniseries White House Plumbers concludes with episode 5, and the show’s ending leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Based on the real events of the infamous Watergate scandal, HBO’s White House Plumbers centers on G. Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux) and E. Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson), the two men hired to orchestrate the conspiracy. Unlike other series that play fast and loose with history, White House Plumbers presents the facts in a reasonably accurate way. Besides presenting the complicated story of the Watergate break-in, the show highlights the many fascinating characters who made up this dark chapter in U.S. political history.


The series draws its narrative thread from the book Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices, and Life Lessons From the White House by Egil “Bud” Krogh, a figure in the scandal who is actually part of the real-life cast and characters of White House Plumbers. As such, the show is able to present the story in a cinematic way that feels as gripping as any dreamed-up political thriller. Though the episodes mostly stick to the facts, White House Plumbers and its ending never miss an opportunity to tease many of the conspiracies surrounding the Watergate scandal and the people who were involved.

RELATED: Where To Watch White House Plumbers

Was The Plane Crash Really An Accident?

Lena Headey in White House Plumbers.

Coming as the hair-raising conclusion to the show’s fourth episode, the shocking death of Dorothy Hunt (Lena Headey) elevated what was a simple game of petty crime into something much more serious. As with most events in White House Plumbers, Dorothy Hunt really did die in the tragic crash of United Airlines Flight 553 in December 1972, a tragedy that also claimed the lives of 39 other passengers and the entire crew. However, the scene at Dorothy’s wake at the beginning of episode 5 seemed to suggest that there was more to the story than an unfortunate airline disaster.

Nixon’s re-election security head James W. McCord Jr. (Toby Huss) arrived at the wake to offer his condolences to the grieving Hunt family, but he also dropped a few conspiratorial hints in order to spur E. Howard Hunt into cooperating with the prosecution. The White House Plumbers investigation was a conspiracy of its own, but McCord alleged that Dorothy’s death may not have been an accident, and he even specifically mentioned Nixon’s appointment of “Bud” Krogh as the U.S. Under Secretary of Transportation as proof. Though a conspiracy was never proven, McCord’s claims did conform to the available facts of the crash.

Why Did Howard Testify?

E. Howard Hunt looks perturbed in White House Plumbers

Despite being steadfastly loyal to the cause throughout White House Plumbers, E. Howard Hunt did eventually testify and cooperate with the investigation into the Watergate conspiracy. The series offers a slew of reasons why he decided to flip on the Nixon White House, but they all speak to who White House Plumbers‘ E. Howard Hunt actually was. The first deciding factor was certainly McCord’s allegations of a conspiracy surrounding the death of Hunt’s wife, Dorothy. Knowing that Nixon and his cronies were willing to possibly kill in order to preserve their secrets helped to spur Hunt into action against them.

The most obvious reason why Hunt did eventually cooperate was to preserve his relationship with his daughter Kevan (Kiernan Shipka). Following her father’s stroke, Kevan gave him an ultimatum and generally lambasted him for sacrificing his family in order to stay loyal to the White House. Eventually proving that blood was thicker than water, Hunt testified to save face with his children but to also possibly prevent another “terrible accident” from befalling those around him who had a tangential connection to the conspiracy. The ironic twist at the end of White House Plumbers was that Hunt’s testimony wasn’t that important in the wake of John Dean’s (Domhnall Gleeson) earth-shattering revelations.

G. Gordon Liddy Never Testified

G. Gordon Liddy looks on in a hotel room in White House Plumbers

In the same way that E. Howard Hunt’s actions spoke to the kind of man that he was, the actions of his co-conspirator G. Gordon Liddy did as well. Always a confrontational and complicated figure, Liddy refused to cooperate with the investigation and remained loyal to the Nixon White House even long after it was proven that the conspirators had been sold out. Reflective of G. Gordon Liddy’s supposed Nazi sympathies, the White House Plumber stayed loyal to the end and was eventually rewarded in a way. In 1977, Liddy’s sentence was commuted to eight years by then-President Jimmy Carter.

Part character study and part historical account, White House Plumbers truly speaks to the kinds of people that E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy were. Though other important historical figures were featured, the emotional crux of the show hinged on those two, and they were actually quite different. While Hunt could be swayed by an emotional appeal to do the right thing, Liddy remained steadfast in his convictions because he was the kind of man who was always going to be a rogue agent. He helped a Jewish inmate while in prison but also sang Nazi songs and even performed the infamous salute seemingly just to be difficult.

Was E. Howard Hunt Involved With The JFK Assassination?

Liddy and Hunt talk while wearing disguises in White House Plumbers

One of the most fascinating tangential details presented in the ending of White House Plumbers was the reveal that E. Howard Hunt made a deathbed confession claiming he was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The series made several cheeky nods to Hunt’s alleged involvement, but the real-life figure was somewhat cagey about it until he died. Many conspiracies surround John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and Hunt was a member of the CIA during the president’s time in office. Despite the fascinating nature of Hunt’s claims, no evidence has ever surfaced to substantiate them.

The Real Meaning of White House Plumbers’ Ending

The conspirators ride together in a car from White House Plumbers

In many ways, White House Plumbers was merely a document of a period of American history as told through the lives of two controversial figures. However, the show also took the chance to comment on the entire Watergate situation in a subtle and telling way that found deeper meaning where it might not have been obvious. The final episode of the miniseries really spoke to what the entire program was trying to say, and that was that it all amounted to absolutely nothing.

Liddy, Hunt, and the rest of the break-in gang were all scapegoated in order to save a president who would eventually be ousted anyway. In a cruel and ironic twist of fate, the sacrifices of the conspirators meant nothing and essentially served to reiterate that crime doesn’t pay. The Watergate scandal has been covered by multiple media sources, but the series added a new wrinkle by turning Liddy and Hunt into bona fide characters who rivaled the greatest fictional creations. White House Plumbers posed the question of what it all meant, and in the end, it simultaneously answered that question with a resounding shrug.

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