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'Turn' recap: 'False Flag'

Washington’s temper explodes as Ben tries to root out a traitor.

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Antony Platt/AMC

Turn: Washington's Spies

TV Show
run date:
Current Status:
In Season

“Just imagine how dangerous it would for a patriot spy living inside New York City.”

That’s what Abraham Woodhull told Major Hewlett after his first espionage reconnaissance mission in the British-occupied city. Actually, maybe it’s not that dangerous… as long as the patriotic spy is facing an adversary as blind and oblivious as Hewlett. This is a man who seems to be completely duped by Abe’s offer to be a double-agent for the British, a man who has been easily manipulated by every side so far, a man who literally catches a colonist red-handed as he’s paging through his private diary and gives him the benefit of the doubt. For a guy who has streaks of paranoia, denial might be Hewlett’s defining characteristic and ultimately his fatal flaw.

So, good for Abe, who’s still getting the hang of the spy business. If he had to operate under the nose of John André or Robert Rogers, he might already be a dead man. But Hewlett’s convenient blinders allow him some breathing room, and his first trip to Manhattan yielded tangible results, with an accurate estimate of British forces and the crucial names of warships in the harbor. Abe surreptitiously slips away from morning breakfast with his family for a secret rendezvous with Anna, who has her own bit of intelligence about Charles Lee to send to Ben and Gen. Washington. But Anna is suspicious about Abe’s methods and is appalled when he reluctantly reveals that he’s pretending to be a double-agent for Hewlett. The Anna I thought I knew from season 1 would’ve relished such daring and clever mischief for the patriot cause, but now she chastises him for being foolish and expresses regret that she ever jumped out of that boat to stay behind in Setauket rather than be with her husband. “I jumped for you,” she tells him. Sweet. But c’mon, Anna: Abe is finally acting like the man you fell in love with, the man of action you once urged him to be.

At Washington’s headquarters, the intelligence is cause for celebration. Washington is giddy with the precision contents of Abe’s Culper report about New York, but he refuses to acknowledge the other matter of General Lee’s loyalty. Ben thinks that Abigail’s information is cut-and-dry and that Lee must be confronted. But Washington is correct—not only for the political considerations he forcefully expresses later—but because Abigail’s information is potentially compromised. Think about it: In the chess game of intelligence, it’s not ridiculous for one side to try to sew discord in the camp of its enemy. From Washington’s point of view, Abigail might be manipulated by André, hoping that Washington and Lee turn on each other. The audience might know better, but Washington doesn’t, nor does Ben.

Ben expresses his frustrations to patriot spymaster Nathaniel Sackett, who has more important matters on his mind. He gives Ben and Caleb a tour of his spy shop, and hints at a special mission that he’s plotting that involves Caleb securing the intelligence that Patience Wright died for, the hidden secret British documents in her bust of King George. (But what was Sackett hiding in those barrels behind the curtain?) Ben is hung up on Lee’s betrayal, so when he sees Thomas Jefferson’s polygraph duplicator, he sees an opportunity to suss out Lee’s treasonous intentions with a forged correspondence from General Gates.

Major André is also of the mind to send a letter, but he doesn’t require a phony letter—he has Peggy Shippen in mind. She pays him the compliment of visiting him at the theater, where he’s the only talented thespian in the soldiers’ staging of Taming of the Shrew. He asks her to write a letter to Benedict Arnold, a request she takes as an insult—most likely because it makes her think that André’s interest in her is only business and not romantic. “I’m not a piece on your chessboard, Major,” she says, before leaving in a huff. Don’t worry, André: She writes the letter.

NEXT: Introducing General Arnold