TURN Wrestles with the Inner conflicts of its Key Players in “Hearts and Minds”
By Chris B.
The cannon fire of the Revolution may rage on somewhere, but this week’s Turn wrestles more with the inner conflicts of its key players.
We open to a lonely young woman sitting in her home, the table curiously set for two. How fortuitous, then, that noises lead her outside, gun in hand, to discover the crumpled body of Ben Tallmadge amongst the trees and falling rain. She drags him in, promptly doctors his wound, and says a quick prayer. The patient rouses enough to whisper, “Thank you,” much to her relief.
Ben awakens in the cabin of his benefactor, marginally off-kilter, but wary enough to take in his surroundings and the taut, edgy demeanor of the woman opposite him who still clutches her rifle menacingly. He claims to be Benjamin Brewster, traveling minister, who “goes wherever the Lord calls [him] to do His work” (like shooting spies making dead drops). He sweetly delivers the convincer: “I reckon the Lord was guiding me to another savior; I owe you my life.” His humble, dulcet tones are just the ticket to get her to drop her weapon and give back his cross (the one he’d taken from Worthington, which has inadvertently added heft to his story.) She offers up both sustenance and her name, Sarah Livingston.
Before they eat, he pulls off a convincing prayer, the benefit of being a preacher’s son, no doubt; the sparks that fly between them convince Sarah to confess to him that her husband, shot, had died in her arms one year to the day of Ben’s arrival. She felt his visit an act of Providence: if she can save him, then it might somehow make the enduring pain easier to bear. (And the fact that Ben is a handsome charmer doesn’t hurt, either.)
In the mean time, Gamble has recruited two hunters to help him find Ben, vowing to “knock on every door…till we find him.” They are not successful, despite stumbling into Sarah’s home. Though Ben has revealed himself to her as a Continental officer only to discover that his comrades had been the ones responsible for her husband’s death a year ago, ruthlessly carrying out Washington’s orders “to obtain supplies at all costs,” her intimate connection with Ben convinces her to deny his presence to his pursuers. She saves him one last time.
Peggy is tightening the screws to Benedict Arnold for the Royal cause. She makes sure to pad her introductory correspondence with compliments of his “exceptional character,” knowing such flattery is effective in ameliorating the General’s cumbersome ego. Then, when Benedict seems furious that all he is asked for is intelligence like that “of a common spy,” Peggy cajoles him with boosters about his bravery and disdain for a country that had betrayed him. Arnold pines for his honor as “the one thing I’ve carried through this war intact, and I intend to preserve it.” Ms. Shippen urges him to tell Andre what he wishes to be called in code, allowing Arnold to select Gustavus Vasa, a Swedish general who led his forces to independence from Norway at great risk to himself: “I’m not some bloody volunteer!” he pouts. This prompts her to amp her schmooze, convincing him to “sweeten the pie” by telling Andre about the inflation of Colonial dollars and the compromising effect it might have on future military campaigns.
Further, this episode reveals some of plotting skill that clearly has made Abe the cunning draughts player that he is, as he tries to block Anna from making Hewlett a captured piece—I mean, husband. First, he makes a surprise visit to Whitehall on the pretext of allowing Thomas to see his family. He learns from the Major that he does not plan to leave for Scotland after his wedding, and Hewlett feels obligated to inform Abraham the change is thanks to Selah’s supposed request of a divorce, which carries the condition that Anna confess to adultery with her former beau. As Abe’s eyes narrow, we can see he’s plotting to use this obvious lie to his advantage.
His next move is to take Thomas to see his grandfather, or as the elder Woodhull accuses, “to stop by to torture [his] father, to twist the knife.” Abe coolly shrugs off the old man’s ire: “As far as I’m concerned, I have no father”; he’s come not for a chummy chat with dear old Dad, but for a pointed discussion of “a matter that might interest the magistrate.”
Anna later comes to Abe’s shack to “make a final appeal.” She claims that she can control Hewlett as his wife, and “steer him away” from the spy ring. “What, like a horse?” Abe mocks. The content of that previous meeting Abe now delivers to Anna: he’s warned his father of the suspicious divorce request, and though the old man is a less than stellar human, “he’s a good judge. He can spot a forgery from a mile away.” He orders her to call off the wedding before she’s accused of a crime. “It’s for your own good,” Sure it is, Abe.
King’s row achieved.
Peggy pens a letter to Andre about Arnold’s desire to consider changing allegiances and, more pressingly, of her date to marry the General on March 1. In desperation, he begs Abigail to take his words to Peggy personally, to express emphatically the love that he cannot commit to paper. He is beset by memories of his time with Peggy, downing glasses of booze to quell the ache. For her part, Peggy gives Abigail a book of Shakespearean sonnets, telling her to relay, “When he holds this book, he’ll be holding my heart,” and asking earnestly, “Does John still love me?” It is bittersweet to know she “is all he thinks about.”
Andre wanders to Rivington’s tavern where Philomena quickly deduces that his melancholy is “not something [but] someone. Imagine that: a woman stealing Major John Andre’s well-guarded heart.”
Philomena offers herself as a cure for his gloom, and while Andre initially gives her a droll look that could make a cactus wither, he eventually relents. So desperate is her own longing for what she cannot have, we see her (at Andre’s request) visit our old friend Freddy, Peggy Shippen’s coiffure, to get her hair set in the same fashion as the Judge’s daughter, which Andre apparently thinks will ease his longing, and what Philomena hopes will win back the Major’s eye.
Abe and Anna push their long-standing love to the breaking point. Anna calls him out on his jealousy, but Abe swears that it is merely that he cannot stand the idea of her marrying someone she doesn’t love because it is “the right thing to do,” as he has done with Mary, and while that should have been said to her with empathy, it instead drips of hypocrisy. While Abe insists his interference is “for the good of the ring,” Anna isn’t buying it. She believes he simply wishes to deny her a chance at happiness: “If there’s even a shred of dignity left in you, admit it.” He doesn’t.
The most poignant of all is Hewlett, deeply in love with Anna, who is blindsided by his own “limited” knowledge of the ways of women. During the wedding ceremony he has so eagerly anticipated, the fateful “speak now” line brings forth the objection of Richard under grounds of forgery and potential bigamy. Anna cannot deny the charges; instead, in a shocking pivot, she literally points a finger to Hewlett and accuses the Major of forcing her, a homeless and husbandless victim of society, to the brink of crime. Richard turns to Hewlett sarcastically for a reply to Anna’s indictment and is dumbfounded when Edmund, blinking back tears, confesses. And apologizes. Later, he requests a discharge and hands over his command to Wakefield, ready to depart the colonies as he “has nothing left to stay for.”
Ultimately, Anna leaves as well, summoning Caleb via the cloak and offering Abe a letter of parting: “Maybe one day, love, though curdled into bitterness and jealousy, will find you again, and if it does, perhaps there is still a hope that this war that has already cost us so much, will not have cost us everything.”
Their game board now stands in gridlock.