TURN Review: The Little Things Start to Add Up in “Many Mickles Make a Muckle”
By Chris B.
The twisted dance of espionage and betrayal twirled precipitously in the latest installment of Turn: Washington’s Spies.
The opener is a flashback to the assault on Samuel Townsend and his horse barn by the Queen’s Rangers, who “set to wreaking as much havoc as they could.” A simmering Robert offers his father a pistol to defend himself should any more return, much to his father’s dismay as it goes against their Quaker beliefs; however, his son is not deterred. Recalling Culper’s words, he decides to fight back with eyes, ears, and wits. He’s chosen a side—rather, he’s had it chosen for him by this heinous act. “God as my Witness, they will pay,” vows Robert. The close of the scene is ominous as we see the creep who punched Mr. Townsend going for another blow before he’s called off by another man: Caleb Brewster.
Simcoe and his Rangers go in pursuit of Robert Rogers, with Abe in tow. Rogers knows they follow and why: “You sent the hounds to me, farmer.” As the men disperse to form a dragnet, Rogers overpowers one, clucking at him for his poor tracking skills before slicing his throat, and escapes their grasp. Simcoe dismisses Abe home as the Rangers go in pursuit. Abe, however, speeds off in the direction of Oyster Bay.
At camp, Washington, confounded by the perfect duplicates that the counterfeit money represents, suggests that the only way for Congress to protect itself from the fake bills is to recall ALL bills—in other words, it has to declare bankruptcy; he and Tallmadge shall ride to Philadelphia to testify to this need. Further, he is frustrated by the speed with which messages are received from Culper Jr. in New York; he has determined that the excess is Culper Sr.’s role, so in order to make the chain faster, he wants messages picked up directly from Oyster Bay, “reducing the transfer time in half” but cutting Abe out of the ring.
In Philadelphia, Benedict Arnold rages on about his mistreatment at the hands of Major Andre. What unfolds is a cleverly edited negotiation of the terms, Andre in New York with his commanding officer and Peggy with her fiance. Peggy and John work their targets, trying to get the other “to see things from his side.” Arnold wants money and property, but more than that, “he wants a battlefield command.” General Clinton is firm: “Arnold will give us what we want, or he will remain with these rebels, and when they are defeated, he will be branded along side Washington as one of history’s greatest traitors.” (Well, you have it half right, sir.) Arnold appears to waver; he admits that it was Reed, not Washington, who has been keeping him at risk, actually acknowledging that he “let his anger cloud his judgment.” You think, Benny? But Peggy keeps needling him: “Your anger is justified; you are in the right.” Arnold is determined to prove that he is, and once he’s done so, he “won’t even need the British.” He plans to convince Washington of it when he comes to Philadelphia and attends their party in the commander’s honor.
As the saying goes, “Many mickles make a muckle,” or as Billy Lee adeptly translates, “the little things add up.” This story, though, is doomed to go exponential.
If you’ve ever had an awkward Thanksgiving where everyone has an axe to grind, the dinner table is a powder keg, and it is only a matter of time before someone lights a match, this episode of Turn must’ve been hauntingly familiar.
The crew has a quandary: Caleb’s face cannot be seen by Mr. Townsend since that fateful night, so how to carry out the General’s orders? Apparently, Abe concocted the idea of the raid to nudge Robert Townsend off the fence. Abe told Caleb to “scoop up some Connecticut lads, row out to Oyster Bay, play like we were Queen’s Rangers, and ransack the old man’s place…only it got out of hand.” Ben is furious, but Caleb equivocates, “It ain’t as bad as what we did to him—throwing him into a cell, putting the fear into him—probably where he got the idea.” Using questionable methods to illicit a definitive response seems to be a standard in playbook of the Setauket Four.
The solution: Anna Strong, who volunteers, “Send me; he hasn’t seen my face. And if you have reservation with that, comfort yourself with the fact that this man (Caleb) has given you no choice.” Brewster opens his mouth to defend himself, but as his friends fix him with twin stares of derision, he shuts up. Anna will go, with Caleb as her back-up..
Abe arrives in Oyster Bay to shoo the elder Townsend out of his home before Rogers arrives looking for Robert. He even starts packing the old man’s suitcase for him, but just as they get to the door, Anna arrives, and a dreary awkwardness descends as she gives Abe a status update: “Accept it, Abe; you’re out.” She announces herself to Samuel as the new courier, yet another change in an ever-shifting game.
Rogers is next to appear, and when Caleb bursts in after him, gun drawn, the former Ranger takes Anna as his human shield to keep the others in line. Abe intercedes, giving all a brief glimpse at the complicated hand he’s been playing. He baffles Mr. Townsend by revealing he knows the gunman, who is not, in fact, Austin Roe; he shocks Caleb by telling the one-eyed killer, “We’re on the same side,” and he provokes Rogers by adding, “but if you hurt her, you’ll die.”
Abe warns them sternly that Simcoe and the Rangers are coming, but Rogers welcomes that and refuses to go anywhere until Robert arrives from York City. They wait awkwardly around the table, Rogers gnawing on hunks of turkey forked up by his hostage. When Robert at last arrives, he joins the tense group and is grilled by Rogers about “the young woman who has turned Andre’s head” so that he can “use it to get close to Andre.” Abe stares Rogers down, showing his steely center: “You won’t get close enough…and once they capture you and torture you, you’ll give away this ring, and I cannot let that happen.” Then, barely blinking, he offers a counter, that Rogers should let the spy ring to its thing, “and we’ll get Andre for you, but if you do not put that gun down, you’ll not be walking out of this room alive.”
Meanwhile, Samuel has enough time to examine Caleb’s face and pronounce, “You’re the Queen’s Ranger. You attacked me, and you burned down my farm!” Caleb can but offer weak denials, much to Rogers’s delight. (His gleeful, “Here we go!” was the best line of the night.) Abe, still ice, tells the younger Townsend, “This is true. I told him to.” Robert knows immediately why: to manipulate him into joining the cause, but his outrage is matched by Abe, who claims he did not have a choice, a concept Robert could not possibly be familiar with since the latter had never actually made any choices. “You couldn’t do it yourself,” Abe almost sneers.
By then, the disillusioned Robert is only too happy to give up the name that he thinks Rogers wants: Philomena Cheer. “Ah, the actress…I can use her.” As he prepares to part, he wants to settle things with Abe: instead of “wasting a bullet” on Anna, he states, “I used to like you, boy, I did, but I warned you not to cross me,” and raises his gun to Woodhull. However, he’s stopped by Robert, who presses his small pistol to the Ranger’s temple and reiterates his line about squandering ammunition, eliciting an amused, “An armed Quaker—who’d have guessed it?” Instead of firing, he drops his arm and orders Rogers gone. Ultimately, it is a good thing he didn’t need to shoot—the gun was not loaded.
But the damage is done. Culper Jr. is all but out, mortified by what’s been revealed. “You think that I would trust any of you? You can’t even trust each other.”
Abe is rueful as he, Anna, and Caleb make their getaway on a tiny row boat All of the bravado he’d displayed earlier has vanished. “I know what failure looks like, Caleb. The ring is done, and so am I.” Anna offers some gentle succor: “You didn’t fail, Abe; you served. No one could have done what you did for as long as you have.”