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Careful Schemes Crumble in TURN’s “Blade on the Feather”

By on June 21, 2016

JJ Feild as Major John Andre - TURN: Washington's Spies _ Season 3, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Antony Platt/AMC

By Chris B.

When this season of Turn began, Robert Rogers quotes to Abraham Woodhull Shakespeare’s line about the tangled web of deception.  This week, that tangle tightens to a chokehold, threatening the inevitable downfall of many key players.

“This is our victory, sir.”  So goes the premature toast of John Andre and General Clinton over the upcoming meeting with Benedict Arnold, the new commander of West Point.  He has prepared to hand over the fort to the British spymaster if his conditions are met, and they are far greater than the “£10,000 and a kiss on the cheek” that Clinton jokes.  Instead, he demands double the money and command of a Loyalist battalion.  For that exorbitant fee, Clinton claims he could buy an entire army, which is virtually what he’s doing.  Andre proposes that they cut off the rebel food supply on one side of the river; thus, “Washington will be forced to fight or disband his army for want of provisions.”

It is decided that Andre will go to a face-to-face meeting with Arnold to solidify their deal, wearing as an identifier a ring to which Arnold bears the match.  While Clinton has his reservations about the plan, Andre is convinced that all will be well if he does not accept any documents, wears his uniform at all times, and enters the territory of the enemy under flag of truce.  “Don’t think of it as enemy territory; it’s Arnold’s territory.  The Lord protected Daniel in the lion’s den, and at West Point, Arnold is the Lord.”

As Arnold sneers his way through an inspection of the troops at West Point, an extra layer of complication is added; he receives word that General Washington will be visiting the fort on the very day he plans to meet with Andre.  With him comes Ben Tallmadge, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Alexander Hamilton (Washington’s aide de camp).  Shortly after the men arrive, Arnold gets a message which he is persuaded to read aloud to the group, one for a Mr. Gustavus “from John Anderson under flag of truce.”  Despite Arnold downplaying it as the dalliances of his predecessor, this missive raises the eyebrows of Tallmadge, in particular, due to its vague wording and for the fact that Arnold immediately dumps it on the fire before anyone else can inspect it.

Before he can sneak out under cover of darkness, Benedict Arnold is constrained to confess to his wife that he has resumed contact with the British.  It seems he’s fashioned his role now from victim to hero:  “This is my opportunity to end this civil war, to be a peacemaker.”  He also asserts that he is working to secure their future since Congress still has “refused” to pay him, demonstrating that he does not make the connection between his intel to Andre about the Continental monetary situation and the counterfeiters who bankrupted Congress, insuring no one would get a dime.  What a surprise.

In York City, Hewlett comes to call on Andre, but when Abigail is told to get rid of him, we see that this is not the bashfully demure Hewlett that we have come to know; this Hewlett, bearing the scar tissue of his betrayal by Anna, shows himself into the Major’s drawing room and refuses to be put off.  Andre proceeds to handily insult Hewlett, both by forgetting his name and by being immune to his presence in York City for the last month.  Why should he bother himself with “the Oyster Major” now?  Hewlett plans to leave for England in the morning, and as his last show of loyalty to the crown, gives over his almost-wife’s lover as a traitor, passing along Abraham Woodhull’s name as Samuel Culper.  After this flatly delivered bombshell,  he somewhat ironically adds, “God save the King.”  I half expected him to drop a microphone before heading for the door.

Andre hastily pens a letter to General Clinton conveying Culper’s true identity and leaves it for Abigail to deliver to the courier, which if she remains true to her previous course, means the letter should never make it any farther than the nearest flame.

As John rushes to catch his ride to West Point, he is stopped in the street by Philomena Cheer, who presses his impatient hand to her stomach and growls at him to make time to speak to her, suggesting that she is carrying the Major’s child.  Is this a ruse, or is it reality?  That is left unclear, but her seemingly sincere appeals for him to stay with her to “take care of it” are brushed off.

Philomena later offers up details to her revenge buddy, Robert Rogers, telling him the name of the boat that ushers Andre up the Hudson and the duration of the trip.  Rogers deduces that Andre’s vital business will happen that night.  Before he stalks off in pursuit, Rogers praises her and assures her that he seeks “justice, my lady, for you and for me and for all of us left out there in the shadows.”  Indubitably, the darkness is about to descend on John Andre in ways he could not foresee.

Give Me Liberty, Then Bring Me Death

“Setauket is Sodom-on-the-Sea.”  This is the declaration of Simcoe as he slowly ticks off names and dirty deeds on the suspect list given to him by Richard Woodhull.  Even the questionable Elias Appleby, who Simcoe eventually deems innocent of collusion with Rogers, feels the burn as Simcoe torches his barn and kills his livestock as a warning to any who are still concealing their guilt, the third such incident that week.

Later, Elias sits with friends in the tavern, bemoaning Simcoe’s torture as “God’s will.”  Abe, who sits nearby, interjects that “God helps those who help themselves” and encourages the men to pursue liberty against the tyranny they’ve been offered (which really shouldn’t be a hard sell during the Revolutionary War, right?)  He paraphrases the Declaration of Independence by asserting the divine right of the people to topple tyrants and reminds them of what the Germans in Pennsylvania say:  “Without gunpowder, there is no freedom.”  Somehow, they need to extract their confiscated guns from the church so they have the means to fight back.

The elder Woodhull tries to stop Simcoe in his own way by trying to convince him that his activities are wasted energy:  “Your pointless hunt for Rogers is tearing this town apart; he is long gone, and you are stoking the fires of rebellion in his absence.”  This concept Simcoe applies to Richard’s son, motivating this estranged father to seek out Abe to try to reason with him, too, to urge caution, to wait.  Abe spits at this, reminding Richard that the town looks to the magistrate for leadership, “So lead them.  Speak up.  Do the right thing.”

When Simcoe enters the tavern and has an ugly scuffle with a Royal officer, Abe sees that as an opportunity to join forces with the disrespected Captain against their common foe, who “won’t rest until you regulars leave him the town so he can burn the whole damn thing down to ash.”  He suggests that the Captain “look the other way” and leave the arsenal unlocked so that somebody can do what needs to be done “and not a single British musket need be fired.”

It is a simple plan, but there are no simple solutions when it comes to Simcoe.  When Abe sneaks into that unlocked armory, Simcoe is waiting for him.  Abe gets off a wicked punch to the Ranger’s jaw before he finds himself pinned to the floor under Simcoe’s boot as the wild-eyed man demands of his men, “Get a rope.”

NEXT: Star-Crossed Loyalty

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