“My son is in prison. And Major Hewlett is captured. There’s no one left for you to crawl into bed with here. Get out of my house… now. —Judge Woodhull to Anna
Abraham Woodhull is rotting in a British jail in New York, accused of espionage but claiming to be a double-agent working for the Crown. Major Edmund Hewlett, who is sympathetic enough these days to have a first name, is being held by patriot forces in Connecticut and will likely be mistakenly charged with war atrocities. It’s not a good time to be a woman like Anna Strong, without a husband or protector. There are ruffians about, many of them in uniform—one of whom refuses to let her be.
“Houses Divided” is an apt title that describes everything that Turn: Washington’s Spies is about, specifically the notion that our war for independence was a civil war that pitted town against town, neighbor against neighbor. But the title can also refer to the characters themselves in this episode, as the current drama suggests how conflicted they are in their emotions and loyalties: Their heads and their hearts are occasionally at odds.
Take Anna, for instance. She’s one of the show’s most compelling and crucial characters, a feisty and passionate patriot with an unfortunate—if not tragic—romantic backstory. She’s levelheaded and courageous, but also a barroom babe who can’t help but attract all sorts of amorous attention. She’s married to a patriot, carrying on an illicit affair with Abe, resisting the advances of a mad-dog psychotic who’s returned to prove his love for her, and feeling a sweetness for the smitten and pitiful star-gazer.
Take Abigail, Anna’s “freed” but not-free former slave who’s currently the best-positioned patriot spy in Philadelphia, where she’s John André’s primary house servant. She’s communicating intelligence to Anna in exchange for the continued safe care of her son Cicero in Setauket. But she has no real quarrel with André, nor the British, technically, since the Crown’s views on slavery are much more progressive than the colonies’. Her only concern is her son. So how will her attitudes change if and when loose-lipped Cicero comes to live with her and André in Philadelphia? The charming British intelligence chief offers to reunite mother and son as a token of his appreciation for her hard work and discretion—and let’s also give the brilliant André credit for possibly seeing the big picture and acting on possible suspicions. Washington once dismissed Abigail’s intelligence because he worried that it might be compromised—misinformation that shouldn’t be trusted. He may have been on to something.
And take the Judge, the most frustrating character in all of Turn. He is an unapologetic Tory, loyal to the Crown—perhaps only because it seems inevitable and everlasting. He’s never softened his stance, except for playing peacemaker in situations that concerned Abe. But now that Abe’s captured and in prison, his heart has only hardened. Mary, whose own soul is also a house divided, desperately pleads with her father-in-law to save his own son, scolding him: “When it comes to politics you’re a businessman. You don’t really believe in the king. You just believe the king’s the safest bet. You need to choose between your pride and your family.”
NEXT: Arnold’s love letters are makeout music to André’s ears