Simcoe returns to Setauket, and Judge Woodhull has to pay the price
Last week’s episode of Turn: Washington’s Spies rattled the table, with Edmund Hewlett and Anna Strong not only parting ways, but both leaving Setauket in opposite directions after their failed engagement. The show had been in need of a major shakeup, and that episode concluded with questions whether either character would ever be seen again. Only one returned for “Hypocrisy, Fraud, and Tyranny,” but as the episode unfolded, it’s clear that both have roles left to play in this season of Turn.
The midseason episode seemed like a slight pause, and although there was plenty of action, the focus seemed on repositioning the pieces on the board for the heavy drama to come, in which several characters seem to be on a collision course. At the heart of that intersection of accelerating figures is Major John André, who’s running with Benedict Arnold’s intelligence about the rebels’ dire financial situation and planning a massive counterfeiting operation with hopes to bankrupt George Washington’s army. To do so, he must turn to a professional criminal rotting in a New York jail. Henry Dawkins is a convicted forger who may or may not have been involved in the counterfeiting operation in which executed traitors Hickey and Bradford were implicated. Dawkins retains some bitterness toward his former partner in crime, Isaac Ketcham, but André grants him parole and sets him up in Rivington’s basement to start printing phony Continental notes. “False congressional notes for a false Congress,” snickers Rivington, whose loyalties seem decidedly with the Crown. He offers to give Robert Townsend a taste of the action, but the sphinxlike Robert demurs, or at least just recycles his share to purchase a prompt advertisement in the Gazette to alert the Culper ring of André’s scheme.
In Middlebrook, N.J., Washington’s headquarters has another new patriot: Anna Strong. She left Setauket in Caleb Brewster’s whaling boat and went with him back to HQ rather than seek a reunion with Selah. There’s work to be done at the camp, but not exactly what Anna signed on for. A more accomplished academic can comment, but it looks like the rebels have Anna and some other women digging latrines. Benjamin Tallamadge and Caleb are kind enough to offer her a handkerchief to wipe off the grime before they bring her to meet the great leader himself. One can only imagine how it felt to gain a private audience with George Washington, a legend in his own time who towered over his contemporaries both physically and metaphorically. And such a gentleman, too. In his soft whisper, he graciously thanks Anna, the Signal of Setauket, for her contributions to the cause. For many reasons, the encounter causes Anna to become emotional, but she pulls herself together to make the point that she still has plenty to offer to the Culper ring. Washington, however, has said his thanks. The ceremony is over when he signals Ben with a polite but condescending dismissal, “All of your efforts have been greatly appreciated, madam.” As far as Washington is concerned, Anna is no longer of use.
But it’s not because of her Hewlett affair, news of which would certainly have disqualified her from future service and likely kept her from any face-to-face with the Commander-in-Chief. Ben succeeded in keeping that part of Anna’s story secret from Washington. But he had to fib more than a little to explain her sudden exodus from Setauket. His fabrication of convenience: There were whispers of adultery with Culper, and rather than risk the ring, Anna left Long Island because of social shame. Anna is rather hurt when Ben comes clean about why she’s been set aside — an understandable reaction after looking in the eyes of the man who will eventually be on the dollar bill. But in Ben’s defense, his story is more a half-truth, a falsehood only of omission: Anna and Abe did commit adultery, and Ben’s withholding the real reason for her arrival in camp only served to protect her. Still, poor Anna, wearing a scarlet A that George Washington can see a mile away. “I just wish you had a sister growing up, Ben,” she says bitterly. “Or a wife. Or even a girl… that you loved.” “That’s enough!” yells Ben, reminding us that his heart is still in Franklin Township.
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Back in Setauket, Abe is done mourning Anna’s departure. He and Mary are laying the groundwork for the Second Amendment, bonding at the farm like never before when the Gazette arrives with Robert’s signal. After Abe sets out for Oyster Point, Mary and Thomas are left to fend for themselves. She’s getting better with the rifle — no doubt a skill that will play dividends in a future episode — but even she knows to take cover when Capt. Simcoe rides through with his surviving Queen’s Rangers unit. She rushes back to Whitehall and pleads with the Judge not to tell Simcoe that Abe is a spy, but her father-in-law is a cold, cold man. (Maybe it’s because of the presence of Angus Macfadyen, but the Judge is reminding me more and more of Robert the Bruce’s calculating father in Braveheart.) Once he sees Mary’s panic as Simcoe approaches, he forces a concession: He’ll remain quiet about Abe’s espionage as long as Mary willingly leaves Thomas in his care.
Oh, Judge, you’re so devious. I’m sure such ruthless tactics will impress Simcoe, who is terribly disappointed to find that Hewlett has fled his wrath but only too happy to take over Whitehall, especially since he has every reason to suspect that the Judge was in cahoots with Hewlett. The Judge parries Simcoe’s initial accusations, but Simcoe is going to make him sweat. Not only will he take over Hewett’s quarters in the mansion, but he evicts the Judge from his own study to set up his headquarters. Twisting the knife, he orders the Judge to ask permission before entering the study ever again. The Judge somehow underestimated Simcoe’s wiles and depravity, and his feeble attempt to request assistance with a letter to Simcoe’s military superior is doomed for failure.
NEXT: Anna proves her worth
In New York, Robert sticks his neck out a little too far. When Dawkins tries to set up a booze tab during working hours, Robert offers to bring some Madeira down to the forgers, on the house. But rather than glide through the background like he normally does in the coffee house, Robert draws immediate attention when he interrupts the counterfeiting enterprise. Everyone wonders who this guy is with the tray of drinks. Yes, André recognizes him as the host from upstairs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s invited to hear all about the details of their plot. Though André fixes Robert with a slightly suspicious eye, a glare echoed darkly by Gamble, André doesn’t curtail his instruction, allowing the spy to absorb all the information he requires to inform the rebels.
Bing, bang, boom, the secret message is heading to Washington. Samuel Townsend picks it up from Robert in the form of an encrypted musical composition, hands it off to Abe in Oyster Bay, who shuttles it to Caleb. But it’s too late to prevent the plot when Washington is finally made aware. Even though they know that André’s shovers are heading for Con Hook, not far from the American lines near West Point, there’s nothing to be done to stop the British from flooding the region with phony bills, making an already weak dollar practically worthless. Desperate, Ban and Caleb turn to Anna, who’s taken over Sackett’s cart of goods as a consolation prize for Ben’s ill treatment. Some quick brainstorming leads the trio to agree that André will need to unload the funny money in “a flood, not a trickle,” and Caleb remembers a guy who knows a black-market privateer who just pulled his tobacco crop off the market. Translation: André and Gamble are going to dump the huge sum on one huge purchase of an entire crop rather than risk a series of small transactions. And it just so happens that Caleb knows exactly where said privateer operates.
Quick! To the Caleb mobile! (Or whatever mode of transportation will get the men and their war party the 90 miles from Washington’s Middlebrook headquarters in New Jersey to the Moodna Creek inlet in New York.) The men arrive just in time to see Gamble and his counterfeiters tricking the black-market dealers with boatloads of forged bills. When Caleb sees the man who murdered his mentor, Sackett, he wants to take immediate retribution. But Ben wisely recommends that they keep Gamble alive long enough to learn the whereabouts of the other counterfeiters. Once hell breaks loose, however, all bets are off. The cash is set aflame, and Ben gets some revenge on Gamble for shooting him and holding him captive. But in the hectic hand-to-hand fighting, Ben has no choice but to stab Gamble in the gut — screwing up his own advice. As far as anyone knows, the rest of the phony bills are floating through the Hudson Valley, putting more downward pressure on the rebel dollar.
When Abe returns from Oyster Point, Mary greets him with the bad news that the Judge has Thomas and Simcoe is back in Setauket. His paternal — and survival — instincts activated, Abe hurries to the cellar to fetch his pistol and take the fight to Whitehall. Mary tries to calm him but only serves to distract him from the figure lurking in the shadows: Robert Rogers (minus one eye). Armed and angry, Rogers forces Abe to tell the latest intelligence reports about André’s plot. “Sounds just like Andre,” he sneers. “Using money as a weapon… Is he crossing the lines himself?” Key words, because you can tell that Rogers is already formulating a trap. And Abe conveniently gives Rogers another morsel of info that just might prove to be the bait: André is down in the mouth about a woman, it seems. See, Rogers knows this woman; although he can’t recall her name, he met Peggy Shippen, and he’s determined to get her identity from the rebel mole himself in New York. “This is the key,” he tells Abe. “This is the heel of old Achilles himself.”
The plan is already taking shape: lure André across enemy lines with the promise of a meeting with the love of his life. Perhaps Anna could persuade Abigail to use her trusted role as a go-between between André and Peggy to spring the trap. Or perhaps Washington’s plans for the war will push destiny in Rogers’ direction. Either way, methinks Rogers survives the manhunt long enough to see the look in André’s eyes when he exacts his revenge.
Abe, however, is not part of Rogers’ plan. When Abe tries to stop Rogers from heading to New York (with a rock to the skull), the old ranger slaps Abe silly and locks him and Mary in the cellar. (Note to self: Never build a cellar with a lock on the outside.) “I’m not going to kill ya,” Rogers says, as a farewell. “But we will never see each other again.”
Back at Whitehall, Simcoe finds the Judge’s damning half-finished letter, and he just happens to be playing with little Thomas when the Judge comes skulking downstairs at night to find it. The Judge is no match for Simcoe’s evil, and only Abe bursting in saves him from perhaps further damage. (Never mind asking how Abe and Mary escaped the cellar…) Abe’s new plan: sic Simcoe on Rogers. He lies that he and Mary were robbed by the one-eyed ranger, and Simcoe, who’s under the false impression that Rogers is Culper, quickly forgets his current feud with the Judge. “Which way did he run?” he hisses.
Let the hunt begin. (And may Hewlett get in the way.)