“Gaslit” miniseries episode 2 recap: California

Gas lighting


Season 1

Episode 2

Editor’s note

4 stars

Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Starz

Wow, the Watergate burglary in episode TWO. Where will they go from here? Watergate has become such a thing and a scandal and a symbol of broken trust. Although, as someone who narrates television episodes, I may not be able to sum it up correctly, there is a 1997 CNN 25th Anniversary articlethe book and the film All the President’s Menand a very recent version called Watergate: a new story. And, of course, a million other things have been written about it because it’s Watergate.

I felt bad for barely mentioning Martha last week when the show was ostensibly about her, but it looks like the stage is being set for her star turn. Right now, while she’s getting her nails polished in California, we’re looking at all these guys.

Like Frank Wills! In the show, Frank is hired as a night watchman at Watergate, and this very evening, the failed break-in occurs. Frank had been working there for about a year, but it makes more fun, so whatever. It’s the opposite of “One day to go until I retire”, which means that instead of inevitably dying, Frank foils a spy operation and eliminates the President. He desperately needs a job, and the man interrogating him hires him on a trial basis after reciting all the state capitals (missing Bismarck, North Dakota). Why does he have to do this stupid thing to get hired? Her interviewer says her job at the front desk is to “make white people feel safe,” and one way to do that is to have a friendly public school graduate who knows capitals. OK sir! I can’t disprove that theory, so let’s go.

Something I didn’t know was that the Watergate break-in happened twice. The first time they bugged two phones, but then decided they needed to fix the bugging devices, so they had to go back. Again, Nixon was only ahead by a huge margin and this is all extremely stupid.

Liddy and the Break-In Boys are across the street at Howard Johnson’s, which amuses me for some reason. They can spy on the Watergate DNC offices from there, as well as keep an eye on the street. Or they could do that if they weren’t watching The attack of the puppet people (that comes later). Martha’s old bodyguard, Jim McCord, is going to plant the new bugs because, in this version of the story, the only phone that was tapped was the secretary’s, and she only makes lewd calls. all day to her boyfriend (wife, amirite?).

We see McCord at Martha’s right before he gets dragged into this. They discuss Rilke because his daughter Marty reads Letters to a young poet. Martha invites Jim to join them on their trip to California, and he says he has major work shifts and can’t.

The California trip primarily features Martha and John Mitchell at a party, chatting with Michael Deaver, who worked on Reagan’s various campaigns, including his victory to become governor of California. The Mitchells want Deaver on their side to get Nixon’s approval from Reagan, so they try to convince him.

Here we are supposed to see Martha Mitchell thrive in the political game. She plays pool with Deaver and tells him that if Reagan wants to be president, he’s going to have to get in the mud like Nixon. He mentions what Nixon did to Muskie, and if you want to know more about that, I refer you to the Canuck letter incident. This Nixon. I wonder what it would be like to have a morally bankrupt president advocating law and order but constantly breaking the law and going beyond any sense of human decency. It sounds awful. Either way, Deaver gets the message, and Reagan will continue to do president things and keep silent while thousands die of AIDS. But that’s in the future! Now we are in the 70s.

Speaking of the 1970s, who wants to see Cat Stevens at the Hollywood Bowl with Mo Kane? Well, John Dean does, but he’s waiting to finally meet Nixon (whose secretary is Martha Kelly a spectacle Baskets!), then after he is rain-checked in three months, he has to hop on a plane to the Philippines. Mo calls him and he tells him that he has to reschedule their date because of his unexpected trip to the Philippines, but he will stop in Los Angeles on his way back. Mo is upset.

At Watergate, Jim is having a very bad day. He and his four accomplices struggle to pick the lock on the building, then after Jim taps the lock so they can get in and out, he realizes he forgot the walkie-talkies at Howard Johnson’s, so he has to run for them, and Jim is not in his prime. While he’s gone, security guard Frank (I love Frank) makes his rounds and notices the tape, which he removes. So when Jim returns to Watergate, the tape is missing and someone has to come get him. So everyone feels in addition rushed, and Jim ran up the stairs, stumbled and fell flat on his stomach. This Jim. Never take a break.

Frank comes back and sees there’s new tape on the door, so he calls the police (hey-ooo). The police pull up in a giant orange car, dressed as a hippie, so the Howard Johnson’s Break-In Boys don’t pay attention. But they were on VICE details, and these cops are out to catch thieves (just go with me on that). When the cops draw their guns in the lobby, one of the Break-In Boys says my favorite line from the episode: “Mother of shit. Eagle Eye, the hippies are armed! Poetry. Try to match that, Rilke.

Jim McCord and his four friends are arrested. Liddy and his HoJo people book it from there, stuffing all their files into a jeep and rushing down the street, which is now crawling with police cars.

John Dean calls Mitchell from the Philippines and tells him the news (how did he first hear it??). Dean expresses concern about Martha and her chatty ways with reporters, echoing Mitchell’s comment that the next 48 hours will be crucial. Mitchell is upset that Liddy let McCord into the DNC since no one was supposed to be related to Nixon’s people. Mitchell tells Dean to get his dick out of the butter churn on this one, which is right behind my favorite line. You know who else can’t take a break? John Dean. Mitchell tells him to go straight back to DC SORRY, MO.

In thanks for the sharp eyes of Frank Wills, he gets… a raise of $2.50 a week. Apparently it’s now around $17. So. It’s not great, no matter when it happens. I have no idea if this increase is historically accurate, but I have a feeling it would happen, so let’s get to it. Did I mention I love Frank? I love Frank. He has conversations with his cat.

In California, Martha wakes up and the house is empty except for a bodyguard. Oh oh. His phone line is cut. The TV is unplugged. Mitchell went back to DC And when she tries to pass the bodyguard, he blocks her way, tells her not to get hysterical (YOU don’t get hysterical, sir!), then grabs her and force her away to telephone. This is extremely shocking!! And it’s only going to get worse from here, so if you’re having trouble with this kind of very controlling behavior, maybe watch yourself for the next episode or two.

We close on Martha smoking thoughtfully in her bedroom while Liddy talks to one of her minions and asks how they could have been so stupid not to see it coming. Punishment.

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