Do you ever get the sense you’re watching two different shows here? There’s this exaggerated and cartoonish version of the figures of Watergate, most clearly exemplified in Jeb Magruder and G. Gordon Liddy, and then there’s the serious, we’re-in-an-HBO-drama-except-it’s-on-Starz players like John and Martha Mitchell. This episode highlights Liddy and the Mitchells in maybe the most uneven installment of the series to date. Not that I didn’t enjoy those parts separately. But together they were, how do you say, real weird.
Part One is about the Mitchells, starting with how they met, which was at a Cantonese restaurant called China Pearl in the 1950s. The time shift was not queued up for us at all, other than John Mitchell having darker hair, so I assumed it was present-day and that he had dyed it to appear younger. If they didn’t want to put a date on the screen, they could have had Mitchell and his racist friend being like, “Boy, President Eisenhower and those highways of his,” or “That Elvis kid is really climbing the charts” or “Wow, it sure is great being a white man here in the 1950s.” HELP ME OUT, SHOW.
If you weren’t picking up the pastness of the scene based on hair color, then Martha Mitchell walks in to meet John and she. looks. BEAUTIFUL. Can you imagine if you were on a blind date and it was with Julia Roberts? She looks like a goddamn angel. They’re both very into each other, even though it makes zero sense that she’d be so into him since they’ve only just met and he is no Dwight Eisenhower (can you imagine if I used Eisenhower as a barometer for attractiveness?). She makes a wish on his eyelash.
Oh, also, John looks at the Chinese zodiac placemat early on and points out that he’s the Year of the Rat (like the episode title!). Martha finds this placemat later and is nostalgic about it. Mainly, though, it’s just like — hey, he is like a rat.