‘Gaslit’ Episode 4 Recap: ‘Malum in Se’ Focuses on Martha Mitchell’s Trauma

The Starz original series Gaslit returns with episode 4, “Malum in Se.” While Martha Mitchell (Julia Roberts) might be free from the hotel room where a bodyguard brutally assaulted her, the trauma from the attack sticks around. With John Mitchell (Sean Penn) no longer working for Nixon, many might assume Martha’s life goes back to normal, but that’s hardly the case. Meanwhile, John Dean (Dan Stevens) tries to reconcile with Mo (Betty Gilpin,) but his attempts fall flat.

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for Gaslit Episode 4 “Malum in Se.]

'Gaslit' Episode 4 'Malum in Se' production still featuring Betty Gilpin as Mo Dean wearing a plaid button down shirt while looking out a window.
‘Gaslit’ Episode 4 ‘Malum in Se’ featuring Betty Gilpin as Mo Dean | Starz

‘Gaslit’ Episode 4 ‘Malum in Se’ shows Martha Mitchell’s lingering trauma from her assault

One of the earliest scenes in Gaslit’s fourth episode, “Malum in Se,” shows Martha’s nightmare. In the dream, she hears water running in the bathroom, and when she goes to investigate, something rattles behind a mirrored door. As she prepares to open the door, Peter, the bodyguard who held her captive and assaulted her, crashes through, tackling Martha to the ground. She wakes up in a cold sweat while John sleeps soundly beside her. The following day he insists she see Dr. Feldman for “her nerves.”

The Mitchells attempt to leave their life with politics behind them in “Malum in Se,” but the press continues to hound Martha for information about her claims. It’s clear John told Martha not to speak to the media, and she ignores them as she leaves her building on her way to the doctor. Dr. Feldman sees Martha’s bruises, but she tells him it happened due to a misunderstanding with a bodyguard. 

Later, she meets Winnie (Allison Tolman) for lunch, and audiences see a headline claiming Martha’s story about her assault is a lie. Peter’s talking to the press and trying to discredit Martha. Martha tells Winnie the doctor prescribed her a sedative, but Winnie insists a sedative isn’t the answer. 

“If you keep quiet, other people will do the talking for you,” Winnie tells her.

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The police arrest G. Gordon Liddy, Howard Hunt, and James McCord 

It’s no secret that G. Gordon Liddy (Shea Whigham) is unhinged, but Gaslit’s “Malum in Se” pulls his conspiratorial thinking to the forefront. McCord meets with Liddy and Hunt explaining that he believes President Nixon should offer them some help because they were, after all, committing the crime for him. However, Liddy waterboards McCord threatening him not to speak to any higher-ups as he believes what they did was for the greater good. 

The judge tells the men he knows they did this on behalf of someone else during the trial. He sentences them with a maximum of 30 years in prison, but he also gives them two months before the sentencing is finalized. This gives the men to think about whether or not they want to reveal any more information.

John Dean wants Mo back in ‘Gaslit’ Episode 4 ‘Malum in Se’

Regardless of how the public feels about the real John Dean, Dan Stevens’ portrayal of Nixon’s counsel charms audiences with almost all his scenes. In Gaslit’s “Malum in Se,” Dean clumsily attempts to reconcile with Mo, but they fall flat. His first call to Mo in the episode happens right after she cuts her thumb, which causes Dean to spinoff on a spiel about the best can opener on the market. He asks her about her weekend plans, and she lies, telling him she’s going sailing. 

Later in the episode, he shows up at her door with a Cuisinart food processor, and oddly enough, not a can opener, she slams the door in his face. He sits outside her house, regaling the features of the kitchen tool while Mo watches from the window. When he tries to call her one more time, she bluntly tells him not to call her again.

Meanwhile, he’s also handling the Watergate investigation outside of his relationship woes. In one of the final scenes of “Malum in Se,” Martha sees a drunken Mitchell on the floor in their bedroom after his birthday party while watching Nixon on TV. Even though Mitchell claims he’s happy to leave politics behind, he claps for the president, hinting he misses his old life after all.

New episodes of Gaslit air Sunday night on Starz.

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