Turn: Washington's Spies recap: Judgment
Bloody Mary? The Red-Handed Assassin? The Van Gogh Sniper? What shall we nickname Mary Woodhull, who learned — just like Ben Tallmadge’s Tory one-night stand — that it’s impossible to stay out of the war once it knocks on your front door. For two seasons, Mary was the albatross around Abe’s chafing neck, a wife in name only whose Loyalist political leanings conflicted with Abe’s blooming patriotism. But the equation finally changed: She rededicated herself to her husband, became complicit in his treasonous secrets, and when her child was taken away from her and put in harm’s way, she took the shot heard ‘round the Turn world. It was just a matter of time before those family-bonding target-practice sessions at the cabbage farm were put to good use.
In “Judgment,” the scent of blood was in the air from the opening scene. Abe packs a mallet to literally hammer his father — Don’t call him his father! — and plans with Mary to flee Setauket with Thomas. But their plan is pre-empted by another visit from Capt. Simcoe, and this time, the sadistic leader of the Queen’s Rangers is really, really convinced that Abe is guilty. The actual evidence seems pretty flimsy — Simcoe thinks Robert Rogers had Abe’s pistol, a weapon that should’ve been handed in to the British garrison months earlier, and thus, the two must’ve been working together.
With a gun to his head, Abe confesses… sort of. Yes, he’s been working with Rogers/Culper for over a year. Remember John Robeson, the troublemaker who murdered his secret lover, Capt. Joyce, in season 1? Well, just as Rogers fixed things by forcing Robeson to become his spy — a thread that was left hanging for two-plus seasons — Abe claims that Rogers used the same pressure on him. “He forced me to watch over [Robeson],” Abe fibs. “He said if I didn’t watch over Robeson, he would reveal that I’d been with Anna Strong.”
Mary is crushed by Abe’s admission, and though she’s long known about Abe’s infidelity, hearing him say the words brings her great anguish. But Simcoe isn’t entirely convinced until Abe shows him the cellar, or as he claims, Rogers’ lair, which has the secret coding tools and Rogers’ bloody eye patch. Fine, says Simcoe, sending Mary to Whitehall and positioning Abe as bait to catch Rogers.
Mary is more cunning than her husband, and perhaps more ruthless. While being escorted back to Whitehall, she remembers that Caleb is set to meet Abe at the cove. When the Rangers are in the cove’s vicinity, she cries wolf, claiming that she sighted Rogers hiding in the woods. The troops are dismissive, but Simcoe insists they head off toward the cove to see if they find Rogers and his “horrible bearded face.” I suppose it’s a brilliant ruse to distract Simcoe and his men, but it could also simply get Caleb captured or killed. I can’t tell if Mary didn’t think too far ahead when she made this decision, or if she thought 10 steps ahead.
Even when the Rangers are safely back at Whitehall, Simcoe harbors suspicions that Mary isn’t being truthful. Why would Rogers return to Setauket, he wonders aloud. (Although… wasn’t it Simcoe who ordered his men back to Setauket after Oyster Bay because he suspected Rogers would reverse directions after their skirmish?) Once his troops exchange fire with Caleb, though, Simcoe mistakenly accepts the theory that Rogers has returned to seek revenge against him. And when the Judge inflames Mary’s vapors by hissing that Simcoe threatened Thomas’ life, she begins to think there’s only one way out of this predicament: a dead Simcoe.
In Middlebrook, N.J. (which is on the other side of a cold front that has dumped General Washington’s headquarters with snow), Ben is interrupted from dreading how to break the bad news to his boss that the Culper ring is broken when his troops capture some enemy combatants from Franklin Township. Yes, one of them is Sarah Livingston, Ben’s savior (and crush). Another sleazy American officer would like some time alone with the Tory strumpet, but it’s Ben’s job to interrogate her. He owes her his life and he’d like to return the favor, but Sarah refuses to help herself by denying her involvement in the ambush that culminated in a lethal shootout at her cabin. Ben goes as far as crafting a document that will fake-recruit her to his intelligence operation as a spy — a deal he has no intention of enforcing. “Lie — just sign it,” he pleads. “Then once you’re gone, you do as you will.”
Sarah has her principles too, however. And/or she has little confidence in the revolution’s chances, fearing that the document will only get her strung up at the gallows next to Ben when the British win the war. But the viewer knows we won’t get that far. Drunken Sleezy Officer returns, bearing gifts of food. But that’s not the appetite he has in mind. She rejects his offer of “special treatment,” allowing him to dispense with the niceties and grab what he came for. She fights back, a struggle ensues, she fumbles for his pistol, the gun goes off, and one of them lies dead. The entire camp comes running and Ben arrives to see Sarah dead. There’s nothing left for Ben to do then go Rick Grimes on the guilty officer and pound his face into hamburger meat.
NEXT: DON’T THROW AWAY YOUR SHOT, MARY
In New York City, John André’s Vertigo makeover of Philomena Cheer is finally complete. The floozy actress has Peggy’s high hair and elegant dress, which is enough to arouse André for a bout of dining-table sex that would make Benedict Arnold blush. It’s not satisfying for anyone, especially once Abigail intrudes. Her mission to deliver André’s message of love to Peggy Shippen in Philadelphia was roadblocked by her lack of an authorized passage, so she returned to get his signature. André tries to explain his actions, blaming them on his job: “Sometimes my job requires unorthodox methods to achieve results” and maybe we don’t mention this to Peggy, ‘kay, Abigail?
But Philomena is no Peggy, even if she does have the perfect hair, right down to the loose lock that trails across her neck. Just the sound of her singing is enough to remind André that this is the wrong woman, and that his beloved is in the arms of the enemy. He rudely dumps Philomena, sending her away with a cold “You can never be [the lady from the sketches], and I was a fool to ever think you could.” She leaves hurt, and though we never see Robert Rogers in “Judgment,” it’s not far-fetched that he and the woman scorned might soon cross paths.
In Philadelphia, Benedict Arnold finally gets his day in court. His flirtation with treason has passed. As he tells Peggy before facing his court martial, “You saw yourself… I could not do it. I would no sooner betray my country than I would you.” Peggy sorta-kinda hides her disappointment and wisely advises him to attach his legal defense to the revolutionary cause represented by the army.
Arnold performs well in court and plays to the sentiments of the military tribunal. Joseph Reed’s witness falters, and Arnold is excused with only a reprimand. His honor has been restored — but not his finances. General Henry Knox basically scoffs at Arnold’s request for compensation — a direct result of the bankrupt Congress that Arnold himself ensured with his damaging leak to the British. (Virginians may have recognized their governor, Terry McAuliffe, as the dapper officer praising the Virginia militia to Knox.)
Arnold returns home to Philadelphia crushed with disappointment. Honor is nice, but he needs money. Peggy is thrilled by the court martial result, and she’s singing a new tune about marriage as well. Abigail, it turns out, reached her in Philadelphia, and though she delivered André’s letter — she also flunked the Philomena Cheer test. After putting Abigail at ease with small talk about André’s morning fiddle playing, Peggy drops the Philomena rumor that her drunk socialite friend told her about. Abigail’s face says everything Peggy needs to know, and it’s doubly painful for her. Not only is André cheating on her, but his actions cast doubt on everything she thought they had together. Is she just another tool of his, another oblivious pawn that’s tricked into his “unorthodox methods to achieve results”?
Suddenly, Benedict Arnold isn’t a total loser, and when she greets him after his court victory, she’s eager to move up the date of the marriage. No time like the present. But Arnold isn’t ga-ga. He needs time to recover from his trip and the disappointment of a depleted bank account. This is his moment of truth, alone by the fire, considering his options. Peggy had manipulated Arnold, fed him to André on a platter, but he had ultimately refused. But now, on his own, staring at the fire, he seems to make the decision all on his own — and it’s totally about money, nothing more.
Back in Setauket, Mary’s plot to do what Abe/Caleb/Ben/Rogers/Hewlett could not starts with some winter squash pie and a bath. But instead of heading upstairs, Mary grabs the military rifle and sneaks outside. Alone in the dark, she positions herself for the best shot to assassinate Simcoe, who moves upstairs with a candle. He’s right there, clear in the window. Ready. Aim. Fire. The window shatters and there’s the squishy thud of a bullet sinking into flesh. Blood splatters the wall, and Simcoe drops to the floor. Ding-dong, the limey is dead!
The shot draws the Rangers back to the mansion, and Mary does what any good assassin or zombie killer would do: She stabs one well-intentioned Ranger in the throat and finishes him with repeated chest stabs. Oh, Mary, you may jump in the bathtub, but that blood will never wash off your soul.
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Just as we’re about to celebrate Mary’s crack shot, Simcoe rises from the dead. She shot his left ear off, but he’s otherwise unhurt. And he slowly realizes that only one person could’ve taken the shot behind his perimeter of defense. He rushes to the bathroom to catch Mary red-handed, but she’s exactly where she said she’d be — naked in the tub. She looks at him, terrified, perhaps because blood gushes from the side of his head but most likely because she sees the bloody hand-print she left on the wall. “Aren’t you going to ask me if I’m alright?” Simcoe says accusingly, planting the seed for further suspicions.
It was definitely the bloodiest episode of Turn yet, and Mary joined her husband as a cold-blooded murderer. But will Abe trust her? When he briefly powwowed with Caleb, he rightly concluded that Mary set the Rangers upon Caleb at the cove, though he seemed to credit Simcoe for making her spill the secret. Rogers played a huge role in the episode, but he was never seen since he’s heading west to New York. Who will he manipulate next to get in range of André, and will we ever see Robeson again now that his name has resurfaced. Perhaps Robeson helped Major Hewlett slip out of Setauket; recall that they once helped each other cross the sound. Peggy and André’s love is more and more doomed, but at least neither is living under the same roof as an angry one-eared Simcoe. Pity poor Mary and Thomas.