It’s a new John Dean. A confident Dean. A swaggering Dean. A Dean you don’t want to hang out with because he seems like a real asshole. Did he before? Sure, but in a much more insecure, tripping-and-falling-in-the-mud way that made us laugh. Now, as someone whose name Nixon actually knows, he asks the secretary if “Dick” is in and saunters into Nixon’s office. Don’t get too up on your high horse, Dean. Remember that second-place spelling-bee ribbon.
We spend so much time with John Dean that we can’t help but like him. I mean, he’s likable! Sure, he’s working for the president who vetoed government-funded child care, but he’s attractive compared to absolutely everyone else working in that administration, and he seems like an actual human being instead of a festering garbage heap of ineptitude (too far?). We also know, despite his wandering down the wrong path, that he will right it. He and Mo will work things out, and John Dean will come out a relative hero compared to the other Watergate players.
But, for now, omg, Dean, get it together; you look ridiculous. He is, however, doing a great job at covering things up. When our FBI gentlemen Lano and Magallanes are reluctantly given permission by director Louis Gray to interview low-ranking staff at CREEP, Dean is there for all of their interviews, barely allowing staff members to get a word in as he objects to the FBI’s questions. Only bookkeeper Judy Hoback gets past him! Woodward and Bernstein later stated that Hoback was “the key source” for them and more important than Deep Throat, which is a real surprise.
Finally, Hoback gets her due. She manages to slip a note to Lano and Magallanes saying she’ll meet them at a diner at 1 a.m.. Can you imagine? Why do I never get mysterious late-night diner assignations slipped to me? Probably because I rarely leave the house. Regardless! Hoback tells the agents that something shady was going on at CREEP, and it could be traced all the way to the president’s chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman.
Hoback also says she was assigned to help Liddy get set up at CREEP and assisted him with his ridiculous Operation Gemstone poster boards, so she knows all about that. Liddy never told her anything about the operation, but he talked a lot about malum in se (like the episode title!). As viewers of Legally Blonde, I think we’re all familiar with malum in se versus malum prohibitum, and also that we’d rather have a client who was innocent. Hoback says that Liddy elaborated, though (probably because Legally Blonde wasn’t out yet in those days), that malum in se is “the act of evil in and of itself” as opposed to malum prohibitum, which is “the laws of man.” Okay, sir. Then Liddy goes on to talk about “sycophantic modern-day sodomites,” because here’s a man you want organizing your delicate espionage operations. Him and the Bay of Pigs guy. Top of the bunch.
Meanwhile, two months after the Watergate break-in, Martha is having nightmares about being attacked by the bodyguard who grabbed her and shoved her face-first into the couch. Makes sense! She and John and Marty are going about their lives, with Martha looking noticeably Not Great. John sets up a doctor’s appointment for her, and when the doctor checks her out, she has massive bruises across her body. How does she still have those two months later?? Is that normal? Being a male doctor in the 1970s, he prescribes diazepam for anxiety. After, Martha meets with her reporter friend Winnie (hello, Allison Tolman!), who says Martha needs to talk about what happened. Her asshole bodyguard is telling journalists that Martha made up everything about her kidnapping.
During all this is the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, which is being picketed by anti-Vietnam protesters (the Vietnam War would go on for a further three years). Dean flies down there to attend a big-name donor’s party, and the Mitchells pointedly try to ignore the convention, despite it being on every television in the house during John’s birthday party.
Dean is being gross. Mo isn’t talking to him, so he tells his friend — who in my notes I refer to as “IT Guy” because he played one of the IT guys on The Office — that he should save some of “the birds” for him. Sexual conquests, am I right, men? (“IT Guy” is in fact Dickie Moore, played by Nelson Franklin, by the way.) It’s pretty clear by Dean’s frequently drunken state that he does not like himself right now. Nor should he! You’re being a tool, Dean. Also Mo is Betty Gilpin, so what are you doing? He has to go to the big-name donor’s event, though, so off he goes to Kenneth Dahlberg’s sex party.
Correct! Everyone is naked! Well. Almost everyone. Dahlberg tells Dean, “Don’t be modest at a fuck party, son. It’s unbecoming.” Sage advice. Also, Dahlberg is played by John Dough from the 1999 film Drop Dead Gorgeous, and once I realized that, I couldn’t forget it. Dahlberg’s main reason for wanting Dean at his sex party is not due to Dean’s recently increased proximity to the president. It is to literally squeeze Dean’s balls in a hot tub while Dahlberg tells him to get the FBI off his back. I fully, with no proof, accept that this is how things were done in the ’70s. Just grab some balls and state your demands. Dean ekes out an “Okay.”
At the Mitchells’ place, John’s birthday is in full swing, complete with patriotic red, white, and blue theming. He good-naturedly yells for someone to turn off the Republican National Convention, while Martha stumbles around, calling herself a little tipsy. Julia Roberts does a truly great job here being the drunken spouse at a party. It’s possibly a little more than that, though, as she asks the maid where her diazepam is (it’s under the bar). Martha takes one with a drink (the ’70s!) and then, while sitting on the floor behind the bar, hears John’s party guests talking about how embarrassing she is, and how Mitchell begged to stay on the campaign.
Martha walks to their bedroom and sees John sitting on the floor in front of the TV, watching Nixon’s speech at the convention, clapping when the audience claps. This is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen, which Martha clearly feels, since now she thinks she ruined what John wanted to do. She has A Plan, though.
We know about Judy Hoback now, but what about Deep Throat! Well, he’s there too, in the parking garage with a very Robert Redford–looking Bob Woodward. As was revealed in 2005, Watergate informant Deep Throat is associate director of the FBI, Mark Felt. Felt has been lurking in the background of scenes in Director Gray’s office, making surprised sounds when Lano and Magallanes reveal something new about the connection to the White House. I’m just old enough that I remember when Deep Throat was a big mystery, and then Felt admitted it was him and people went, “Huh. Okay.” Even Nixon and his cronies thought Felt was the leak, so it wasn’t a fun surprise. But! Still nice to be resolved.
For you Jim McCord fans out there (#McCordNation), he basically just gets pushed around by Liddy (and also waterboarded??) and then gets 30 years in prison for wounding the nation or some such flowery language from the judge. McCord is having a hell of a time.
Everyone is getting it together at the end. Martha, post–seeing her husband having his Sad TV Time, gets herself fancied up, goes downstairs, and greets reporters while looking amazing. She is there to defend Mitchell and tell everyone he became the fall guy and the Nixon administration should be worried about her. Dean, sober and in California, brings a food processor to Mo’s front door. Yes, she slams said door in his face, but he’s so earnest about the food processor and how helpful it will be.
John Mitchell walks past Martha in their building’s lobby without saying anything to her. THIS MEANS SOMETHING. We will see what.