Wars are won on the battlefield by brave soldiers who risk life and limb for cause or country. In the Revolutionary War era, those battle-tested warriors fueling the action and political whirlwind were almost exclusively men, but women weren’t completely without influence. In fact, the natures of men and women, as depicted in Turn: Washington’s Spies, gave clear-eyed women an abundance of soft power, and in “Hearts and Minds,” it was the men who found themselves reacting — often flailing — to romantic machinations of the human heart.
Benjamin Tallmadge has had only one true love in three seasons: the army and especially its leader, Gen. George Washington. But after narrowly escaping Gamble following his sloppy attempt to dispose of Rev. Worthington, the injured American stumbles toward the country cabin of Sarah Livingston. Sarah is setting a quiet dinner for two when she hears the sounds of a visitor on her property, and though she sets out to investigate with her rifle, her heart goes out to the unconscious Ben when she discovers him in the rain. She drags him inside, treats his gunshot wound after finding the (stolen) crucifix in his pocket, and sheds tears of joy when Ben drifts off to sleep after the worst has passed.
Even before she introduced herself as Sarah, I thought of another Sara of fiction living in a similar circumstance. In Charles Frazier’s Civil War novel, Cold Mountain, a fugitive Inman spends a night with a Southern widow named Sara who’s mourning her husband while raising her newborn. There is a connection of convenience, and they share an evening, though not as intimately as Ben and Sarah do the next night.
After the first night, however, Sarah still has her guard up. She demands his identity, and Ben, rightfully unsure of his whereabouts and the partisan affiliation of his host, fibs that his name is Benjamin Brewster, a traveling minister. The crucifix seems to confirm his lie, and Sarah relaxes. Only then does she explain the absence of her husband — shot by thieves a year ago to the day — and her unembarrassed response to Ben’s awkward question about how much she saw of him while she changed his clothes represented some justified level-jumping. So it didn’t feel forced when they kiss the next night and spend the night together.
Of course, Ben is in no rush to leave the morning after, though a noticeably cooler Sarah is eager for him to take the 1778 walk of shame. (Or perhaps she simply hopes he has to rush home to clean his andirons!) Feeling pangs of what might be love, the romantically inexperienced Ben wants to bring her with him when he eventually sets off for home; she more realistically dismisses their night together as the sad product of two lonely people. Unfortunately, Ben’s response to this is truth telling, and he confides that he’s an officer in the American army. Oops. Sarah’s husband was murdered by American soldiers who forcibly took his crops. Ben even recalls the military order that justified their crime. When Gamble and his search party arrive looking for him, Sarah doesn’t hand Ben over, though that decision doesn’t exactly reflect a softening of her position. “I never want to see your face again,” she tells Ben after Gamble’s posse leaves.
Back in Setauket, Edmund Hewlett is fielding an even weaker game in his doomed engagement to Anna Strong. As she tells her ex-lover Abraham Woodhull, as a way of getting him to spare Hewlett’s life, “He loves me, and his experience with women is…limited.” Safe guess. Hewlett is over the moon for his new fiancée, even if their Whitehall wedding isn’t exactly the social event of the season. The only thing he denies her is her wish to honeymoon in New York City, her ruse to get him away from Abe’s murder plot.
NEXT: Anna tries to save Hewlett with a cruel kindness.
Abe also is sent spinning by his true love’s decision to marry the enemy. He warns Anna that her divorce document from Selah won’t pass muster and conspires with his dickish father to undermine the wedding. When Anna makes a final appeal to save Hewlett’s life, Abe dismisses her pleas with cruel taunts about her considerable charms. She accuses him of jealousy, leading him to retort, “No, I can’t stand the thought of you marrying someone that you don’t love because you think it’s the right thing to do.”
“Like you did,” she returns, referring to his obligatory marriage to his dead brother’s fiancée, Mary.
Game, set, match: Anna. But her cutting comment is also the best justification yet for her romance with Hewlett. She became more available to Hewlett’s affection only after Abe and Mary rededicated themselves to their marriage. Although Abe might argue, he had abandoned Anna, leaving her little choice but to make the best situation for herself with an earnest suitor. Maybe part of her goes to see Abe that night to see if there’s any spark left in their long affair, to see if Abe’s jealousy rouses the love that once made them soulmates. Instead, Abe’s reaction is cold and cruel, revealing a man she can hardly recognize.
But her wedding is not to be. Judge interrupts before the I-do’s to accuse Anna of forging Selah’s divorce papers. And Anna reaches into Hewlett’s chest pocket and rips out his heart: “It is a forgery…and he made me do it. He promised to take care of me. He convinced me to lie. Said no one would notice.”
(If you choose, you can freeze-frame the exact moment where Hewlett’s heart shatters, Ralph Wiggum style.)
True to Anna to the end, Hewlett admits to the lie. And so, perhaps Anna and Hewlett were meant for each other after all, for they are the only two who’ve committed altruistic acts of love. Hewlett assumes guilt and takes the fall for Anna, resigning his commission and planning his return to Great Britain. But Anna pointed her finger at him because she knew his heart and she knew that this was the only way to save Hewlett from Abe. “I had hoped to embrace this new world,” says Hewlett, in parting. “But it seems the romance, as always, was one-sided.”
With a final clothesline signal to Caleb, Anna leaves Setauket, perhaps for good. Will Caleb reunite her with Selah? Will she ever return to the story? And if she ever comes home, will she rediscover the man she once gave her heart to, the man she lost to the patriot cause.
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In Philadelphia, Peggy Shippen is dancing circles around Benedict Arnold now that he’s taken the first step toward treason. The American general is slightly suspicious of Peggy’s convenient knowledge of spycraft and back-channel connection to the mysterious John André, and he’s quite insulted by André’s first correspondence, which sells him short in every way and hands him the codename Monck, a subtle dig from English history. “My honor is the one thing I’ve carried through this war intact, and I intend to preserve it,” shouts Arnold. But after another gentle nudge from Peggy a moment later, Arnold is sweetening the pie — along with demands for proper compensation, of course — with the top-secret intelligence that Washington’s army and the American government are virtually bankrupt. In for a penny, in for a pound, Benedict.
In New York, André is sick with longing and regret, especially after a letter arrives from Peggy announcing that she and Arnold now have an accelerated wedding date. Hearing him strain to say the word “March” to Abigail was the second saddest moment of the episode. After much drinking alone and much reminiscing about his courtship while staring at Peggy’s portrait, André ventures to Rivington’s pub. He’s not alone for long, drawing the attention of his onetime sexual plaything, Philomena. “Did something happen in Philadelphia?” she asks and then draws the correct conclusion. “Imagine that: a woman stealing John André’s well-guarded heart. There is a cure for that sort of melancholy…”
Sure, why not, he reluctantly decides, though the always-observing Townsend watches him leave with Philomena. But some semi-passionate lovemaking can’t distract André from his aching heart. If he can’t have Peggy, he can at least pretend: He requests that Philomena style her hair exactly like Peggy’s — not a problem because she knows an expert in the Philadelphia style who’s new to Manhattan. Freddy!
Peggy grips a lock of André’s hair when she’s ravaged by Arnold; now André is reshaping his concubine to wear Peggy’s high roll. It’s all about the hair. Freddy is bound to write Peggy that André has taken up with a woman who’s wearing her style hair, and my guess is that her initial impulse will not be flattery — especially after Abigail reassured her that she was all he thought about.
Three beautiful women, five lost boys. Perhaps the men will win and lose the war, but the women might be the real field generals.