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TURN’s “Benediction” Offers a Rapid-fire, Blood-filled, & Treacherous Instalment

By on May 10, 2016

Ksenia Solo as Peggy Shippen - TURN: Washington’s Spies _ Season 3, Episode 3 - Photo Credit: Antony Platt/AMC

By Chris B.

The aptly named “Benediction” is definitely a blessing—a wonderfully rapid-fire, blood-filled, treacherous blessing.

The ominous opener has Robert Rogers observing the fallout of the Queen’s Rangers on their spy-hunting mission to Rocky Point, prematurely labeling Simcoe a “dead man marching.”

Caleb and his raggedy band of men are already at the home of Beekman, the Tory patsy and former “terror of Setauket” during their youth.  Karma has paid a call on the former bully in the form of a gun-toting “little Caleb Brewster,” who takes pleasure in seeing his childhood nemesis gagged and tied to a chair.  Though Caleb vows to not let Simcoe slip through his fingers once more, that is exactly what happens when the Rangers arrive under cover of darkness and fire just a single shot through the window before all descends into chaos.  In the ensuing gun battle, Simcoe and the others disappear into the woods while Caleb is saved by a timely bullet from Rogers, who has been lurking in the shadows all along.

At Whitehall, Anna appeals to Mary for assistance on the deal she made with Hewlett, allowing the Woodhulls to leave Setauket unharmed, the one that Abe refuses to honor.  “Reason with him, Mary; he won’t listen to me anymore.”  Mary will not bend, however, asserting her faith in Abraham and offering that perhaps it is Anna who should go.  For her part, Anna seems to agree:  she forges a letter from Selah requesting a divorce and gives Hewlett the answer he desires to his proposal of marriage, on the condition that they leave Setauket and America, starting a new life in the old world.  “This is our chance, Edmund.”  Hewlett concurs.

In New Jersey, Ben does a quick change out of his uniform, preparing to follow Worthington on his travels and carry out his mission for Washington.  He traps the Reverend in the forest as he leaves intelligence about troop movements, claiming his spying was “an act of grace” for the men he’s ministered to as they lay sick and dying, the casualties of war.  Ben seems a mite reluctant to kill the minister, until the latter declares, “Washington is a fool.”  Bad move—that gets the traitor gets a quick bullet to the heart.  Good thing the minister’s final sermon had been a recitation of Psalm 23; his walk through the valley of death has arrived.

As Ben disposes of Worthington’s body, he is ambushed by Gamble, the man who had infiltrated the Patriot camp and killed Nathaniel Sackett.  He’s knocked out and later awakens draped across the back of a horse at Gamble’s camp, a prize for Major Andre.  When Gamble looks away, Ben pounds the horse and it gallops away, but not before Gamble gets off a shot that hits Ben in the side.  The last moments of the episode find Ben, pained and bleeding, struggling through the darkened woods alone.

Raging Rangers

This episode features a showdown between two deliciously awful adversaries:  Robert Rogers and John Simcoe.  It highlights the questionable changing of the guard in the Queen’s Rangers, and is possibly a cautionary tale for the war at large about misreading one’s opponents.

Rogers becomes trapped at Rocky Point, surrounded by his former soldiers, now under another’s authority.  He appeals to them, calling several by name and claiming he would never throw them to the wolves as Simcoe would.  While the Captain calmly tells his foe to go ahead and slit the throat of the officer he’s using as a shield, Rogers vows he’d never have done so:  “I would die for you!”  It is to no avail, however; the men do not lower their weapons until Simcoe orders them to so that the titans can solve their issue the old-fashioned way: one on one.  The new commander is so confident that he orders the men to let Rogers live, or follow him, if the latter is successful in killing him.

Simcoe bests Rogers in swordplay, knocking him to the ground and slicing his eye.  He mocks, “You’re old, fat, and slow.  You’re the past.  And I’m the future.”  As Rogers crawls away, Simcoe muses why it would be that Rogers would return to Long Island after the King had renounced him.  A realization dawns:  Rogers must be the very spy for whom he searches, Samuel Culper, hiding “treachery in plain sight, a mercenary through and through, playing both sides against one another.”  This misguided conclusion could prove to be a boon to Abe and his fellows, removing at least one layer of dangerous scrutiny.

He may be younger and slimmer, but as Simcoe expounds his superiority, he does not realize what Rogers is doing.  Robert has poured out gunpowder on a rock and is batting at it with the blade of his hatchet.  Simcoe chuckles, “It’s a shame when the mind goes,” just before he is blown off his feet by the explosive device that Rogers has ignited by his activities.  By the time the Rangers struggle to their feet, Rogers is gone.  A livid Simcoe shrieks, “Find him!  He’s got one eye!”

Apparently that blindness has been contagious.

Love-ish

As Shakespeare once noted, “the course of true love never did run smooth”; this applies doubly so when that course is stopped up by extra bodies like a strained colon at Easter dinner.  First, we have the star-crossed pair of Abraham and Anna.  As Abe pounds away on the frame of his farmhouse in a nice bonding moment with his son, Anna shows up to deliver the news about her and Hewlett.  “You told me to make a choice; I have.”  Abe, however, is not prepared for what that choice is.  He counters with a reminder of her obligation to the spy ring, and when that falls flat, he grudgingly asks, “What about us?”  Anna is unmoved: “There is no us; you saw to that.”  Abe accuses her of marrying Hewlett out of spite, aghast by the idea that she may actually love the other man.  Anna is firm, but not convincing, in her ambiguous reply that would make the worst Hallmark card ever: “I love him…enough, to save his life.”

Abe’s father is no more generous about the new couple.  When Richard, incensed by Anna’s remark with respect to his parenting, calls her a “harlot, ” Hewlett lowers the hammer on him, demanding respect be shown to his intended.  Richard scoffs, “So you’ve gone hand-in-hand with the enemy once again.”  The elder Woodhull has deduced that there’s been a deal crafted with Abraham, making superfluous his own revelation of his son as a traitor to keep Thomas from following after.  Hewlett puts it back on Richard, claiming that if he’d have told what he knew about the spy ring sooner, they’d have been spared the tragic developments.

While Richard stalks indignantly from the room, ending the conversation, the damage of it has been done. Now, Hewlett is determined to stay and fight—fight the negative opinions heaped on Anna, fight Simcoe, fight for them.  “I am done running, Anna.”  He thinks he can keep her safe, so he asks her to write her husband, agree to the divorce petition, and marry him as soon as is possible.  (That noise you’re hearing is Anna gulping, hard.)

Another pair beset by “wishes and tears” are Peggy and John.  In Philadelphia, Benedict Arnold tries to endear himself to Peggy’s father, Judge Shippen, decrying the “baseless charges” of Joseph Reed.  Apparently, the court martial tactic suggested by Washington proved successful, and all charges against Arnold have been dismissed, as “Fortune favors the bold, and smiles upon the righteous.”  Arnold’s latest bold move was to call in a favor to get Peggy’s oldest sister, Betsy, her missing sweetheart, Major Edward Burd.  He lines up a cushy job for him and cajoles the lad to not waste any time in proposing to Betsy and getting married, as Benedict knows this is the only way to get Peggy to the altar for himself.

For her part, Peggy tries to delay the inevitable.  She advises her sister to wait until summer, when “the city will be in full bloom and you’ll be even more radiant.”  But her sister does not wish to wait and potentially ruin her one chance at happiness, and “father’s favorite” is not unsympathetic.  Then, during dinner, Arnold receives the news that Joseph Reed has reignited the charges against him, and Benedict, more bitter than ever, pledges, “If they want to make an enemy of me, then I will make them mine.”  Peggy seizes the opportunity to approach him about defection to the other side.  She tells him that she knows Major Andre, a man “who wanted England to make peace with the Colonies,” and desires to know others who think likewise.  Peggy claims that this is her way “to help the man that I love.”  Indeed.  The dramatic irony is thick—the dumbstruck General has no idea, of course, that she means Andre.  Now, the fateful seed has been planted:  “If your friends won’t appreciate you, Benedict, then perhaps his will.”

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