Gaslit Episode 5 Recap: “Honeymoon”

Gas lighting


Season 1

Episode 5

Editor’s Note

3 stars

Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Starz Entertainment

Nixon is in trouble. For Watergate, you might say, but aha! Not really! He talks on TV about his income tax, and if you want to know more about it, I’m happy to send you to a website I just learned about, the Tax History Project. He is so weird. I love him so much.

Something I will say about this show, for all the white men it throws at you, it’s really going down the rabbit hole, in terms of pop culture. I like to think of myself as a cultured person for several decades because of my elderly parents, but here Martha Mitchell is on The Mike Douglas Show, and I’m like, “Who the fuck is Mike Douglas?” His show lasted more than 20 years! And yet, who entered the history books? Dick Cavett. Douglas tells Martha that she is the first person to publicly accuse the President of being responsible for the Watergate break-in. Martha is pretty sure she won’t be the last.

Amid all this scandal-centric scuttlebut, Nixon wins the election by an absolutely thunderous landslide. John Dean proposes to Mo, so the Cuisinart worked, and Martha works with journalist friend Winnie on her biography. You might think it’s an autobiography, but the book that will eventually be published is Martha: The Life of Martha Mitchell by Winzola McLendon. During the conversation with Winnie about the book, Martha mentions Dorothy Hunt’s plane crash.

Show creator Robbie Pickering tried to get a Watergate show done for years and finally found the hook he needed in Martha’s story. Maybe that’s why Gas lighting it sometimes feels like her story is glued to a story about the men around Nixon, though Julia Roberts’ face is the only one featured in the marketing. As often happens when someone love a topic and does a ridiculous amount of research for it, the resulting show often feels overloaded. Pop culture references are one thing, but things like a passing reference to the plane crash of E’s wife. Howard Hunt are such in a show that already has more characters than I can keep up with, the vast majority of whom are male.

But back to the Watergate investigation. Liddy and McCord are at their sentencing hearing when the judge presents a letter from McCord. This freaks out Liddy and tries to jump on McCord. McCord was going to snap, Liddy! The signs were all there! The signs being mainly that, unlike Liddy, he was not a big Fascist crackpot who tells his kids in prison how much Hitler inspired him as a child (it’s also in Liddy’s book).

Another woman appears on the show! Oh, she’s a secretary. Oh, that’s John Mitchell’s secretary (played by Anne Dudek!). Oh, she hits on him. Haha. Raw. Literally the only scene where she is physically present for this episode is this one, and in the other she has phone sex with Mitchell. Anne Dudek deserves better! She played the fierce slut House (aka Amber Volakis)! Apparently she was also in Mad Menbut i didn’t look Mad Men because if I wanted to see women being abused, I could look straight to our Supreme Court, amirite, ladies?

People find out a lot of information via television in this episode, and one of those moments is when Mitchell watches the news, where the presenter says that because of McCord’s letter, the government might open a Senate committee on the Watergate. Alright, but that’s actually the best part of the whole episode because the host is none other than PERD HAPLEY. PERRRD. You know, I gave some reviews, but those are major points of the show here. Every show should have a Perd Hapley cameo.

John Dean and Mo are getting married! Then their honeymoon is canceled because of the emerging scandal. Dean meets Haldeman in the latter’s office. Haldeman has two reasons for this encounter. The first is to tell Dean that he and Mo can spend a weekend at Camp David (Dean is VERY excited), and the second is to tell Dean to write the Watergate investigation report. Dean doesn’t want to do that because he could be charged with obstruction of justice, and Haldeman says of course, well, don’t worry about that, and then after Dean leaves, Haldeman tries to turn over his very heavy desk ? He fails.

So…I heard about Camp David. And I know things have come there (see: Camp David Accords). But it looks like a Jewish day camp, and I don’t know what’s really going on there. So I looked! It’s in Maryland, about 60 miles from Washington, DC, and after FDR took it over as a presidential retreat and named it Shangri-La (ahahahaha, can you imagine), Eisenhower named it Camp David. Nixon paved the nature trails (you started the EPA, sir! What are you doing!) that Reagan then repurposed so he could ride a horse and feel like a cowboy. The official website calls it “the President’s country residence”. There is a main presidential cabin, guest cabins and a golf course. I encourage you to look at the photos because they are terrible. I wonder if world leaders recount the strange 1960s woodwork at our leader’s country residence after their visit. Looks like the retreat center my Christian high school went to every fall.

But Mo is so excited! John Dean is so excited! I guess if it was the 1970s I’d be excited! They play tennis while sipping champagne. They are swimming in the pool. They ride like they’re on a Bachelor Date. And looking at a Godzilla movie, Mo talks about feeling only extreme emotions towards John, both positive and negative, and she thought getting married was supposed to eliminate relationship fears. I don’t want to talk about other people’s weddings because you can only talk about your own, but I will say that doesn’t sound great, Mo. But! She and John Dean are still married and it’s been so many years since everything went well.

After the Nixon boys try to save John Mitchell saying he organized the robbery, he calls them a bunch of untalented crap and leaves. So they try to let Dean hold the bag again, and he finds out from Nixon announcing on TV that Dean will be monitoring the investigation and reporting to Nixon. Dean is horrified. When he calls Haldeman, Haldeman tells him to fuck around. It sounds like something that would be said. Dean yells “fuck” a whole bunch, and Mo, standing in the corner of the kitchen, says “I want some things pass. What is funny ! There are a good number of really funny moments in this show. Let’s not lose that in the shuffle – everyone’s timing is extremely good.

As Dean lies on the ground, discouraged, Mo asks him why he didn’t tell him what was going on. He thought it would eventually go away. Look, I know some people aren’t happy with how John Dean is portrayed on this show, but I appreciate his goofy character. Does that sound right? Nope! But I certainly don’t need precision. Mo tells him that they can fix this and that he doesn’t have to write the report, because if he does, he will go to jail. This Betty Gilpin. So wise. So beautiful.

FBI agents Lano and Magallanes watch Jeb Magruder’s house until Magruder’s wife, Gail, gets in the back of their car, tells them to fire her because she’s messing with it, and steals their pizza . It’s good.

Martha falls apart in time with her marriage. She stops working with Winnie on the book and sits up in bed, surrounded by empty bottles and half-empty plates of food strewn on the floor. As we end a monologue by John Mitchell about marriage being love, hate, fire and fear (what!), she tells Mitchell that the committee has called and she is going to testify. Shit, shit, shit!

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