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TURN “Quarry” Review

By on July 24, 2017

Jamie Bell as Abraham Woodhull, Chris Webster as Sergeant John Champe - TURN: Washington's Spies _ Season 4, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Antony Platt/AMC

By Chris B

How can one, in the words of Edgar Allan Poe, “not only punish but punish with impunity”?

The challenge of that becomes all the more difficult when shuffling the plans to take down two high-profile targets, as Abe Woodhull is attempting to do, to satisfy the Continental Army’s goal of capturing Benedict Arnold, as well as his personal goal of eliminating the cancer of John Graves Simcoe.

The united front of Woodhull and Hewlett run hypothetical murder scenarios for their mutual nemesis, but all seem fraught with problems:  shoot him and he won’t die, shoot him and his men shoot back, poison him and someone will trace it back to them.  Should Abe lure Simcoe to Benedict Arnold’s house and stab him while he awaits the General’s company?  Perhaps too many questions will be asked of a house staff incapable of keeping secrets.  (Cicero, darling, we’re looking at you here.)

Then, Cicero appears in the barracks, soberly informing Abe, “General Arnold requests you at his house.”  However, when Abe arrives, it is Peggy who greets him politely, thanking him for coming to the house, “as well as to York City to kidnap my husband.”  She offers Abe her services in his endeavors, in return for a guarantee from Washington that the Shippen family will emerge from the war unscathed by her husband’s treachery.

They decide that Peggy should arrange for a carriage ride for her and her husband, during which Benedict will be kidnapped, taken to the wharf, and carried away via the water.

From his bunkmate, Abe learns of a new man coming to their division. a defector.  Champe ends up in a bunk next to Woodhull and Sturridge, and he wastes no time in throwing around the secret phrase about the summer of ’73 and gaining Abe’s attention.  Champe moves almost too efficiently, and Abe advises him to slow down and get settled before setting fire to the whole town.  Champe wants to push forward to meet the other contact (Robert Townsend), but Abe again tries to get him to put on the brakes: “He’s the anxious type; I’m not, and you’re making me anxious.”

It doesn’t work.  Champe wants to make contact that very night.

Abe introduces Champe to Robert, and both are surprised that the latter knew nothing of Champe’s arrival or his mission.  The sergeant thus wastes no time in telling Townsend the plan—in three days, they will attack Arnold on the way to his outhouse, take him the three blocks to an abandoned dock, and ship him out.  Abe is rattled by this, seeing his plan of vengeance on Simcoe floating further and further away.  He flatly refuses to help haul Arnold, and Champe (as much as the man is capable of human emotion) is taken aback.  Both Champe and Townsend know something is off with Woodhull, but Abe tries to regain control of the situation, telling the others, “Tallmadge isn’t here, and we are.  Thursday’s too soon.”

Champe, though, is unimpressed.  He throws Abe against the wall, telling him drily, “Arnold is the job that I’ve come for, and I’ll see it done.  If you botch that, I will kill you.  Clear?”

All right, then; Thursday it is.  Sort of.

When Abe approaches Abigail with the plan to pass along to Peggy, he lets her know that he’s no interest in Arnold, that his focus is solely on Simcoe.  He wants her to get Cicero to call Simcoe to the house, place him before the fireplace, and let Abe have his way.  But Abigail refuses—she doesn’t want to be a party to murder, and she doesn’t want her son to be implicated as an accessory.

Abe then plays his ace.  He tells Abigail he’s seen Jordan (a.k.a., Akinbode) when the latter saved his life in Connecticut and killed a bevy of Simcoe’s Rangers, thus preventing the man from returning to the city to claim Abigail if Simcoe still lives.  “All you have to do is open the door,” Abe assures.  She relents, if Cicero does not deliver the summons.

Thursday is a go for all.

Abe later tells Champe that the plan has changed.  Champe alone is to take Arnold while the General is out with his wife, Abe having traded for guard duty in the front of the house to execute his plan for Simcoe.  Champe is ticked, but Abe puts the Sergeant’s own words back in his face:  “Arnold is your job, so see it done.”  At this point, he’s got no choice but to agree.

The plan hits a snare when Simcoe, sitting bored at a table with Arnold and another soldier, learns that Abe Woodhull has enlisted.  Luckily, Robert overhears them.  He goes to the barracks to warn Abe under the guise of delivering a bar bill for General Arnold, but while Champe sees him and knows something is amiss, private conversation is not possible.

Abe visits Hewlett to tell him of the set-up at Arnold’s house.  The Major is worried about Simcoe coming with other soldiers, about the noise, the blood, and the interference of the servant staff.  Abe puts off his concerns like he’s Axle Foley:  “Trust me.”  But he lacks the charisma to pull that off.  Second attempt:  “Trust the plan; you know it’s the best we have so far.  You know it will work.”

Regardless, all of it rides on Hewlett writing a convincing summons that can be passed off as Arnold’s and properly inserted into the courier system.  Abe holds up Hewlett’s quill:  “Work your magic, and the bastard dies tonight.”

The plan hits another snare when we see that, not only does Simcoe have his Rangers follow Abe and know he’s visiting Hewlett, they have an informant in Abe’s ranks.  Corporal Reed tells Simcoe and his men that Woodhull has arranged for guard duty at General Arnold’s home that night.  Simcoe thinks that the General is the target of a plot, but he’s in no big hurry to warn him; when he gets the summons at the pub to appear at Arnold’s home, he realizes that it is actually himself.  He is amused and brushes off his men’s offers of assistance:  “I think I can handle this myself.  You men enjoy the music.”

Simcoe stops in front of the house, notes the lack of guards outside, but proceeds any way.  Cicero shows him into the sitting room, but Simcoe does not take the offered divan facing the fire.  Instead, he seats himself in the chair opposite and pulls out his gun to wait.  Cicero sneaks down the hall to warn Abe not to proceed, but Abe shrugs him off.

Just as Abe is about to strike, the Arnolds burst through the door.  The General is only mildly surprised to see Simcoe there, presenting a tube with orders from General Clinton which are far more interesting to him.  While he calls to Cicero to collect his travel items, Abe escapes through the back door and Simcoe, upon seeing the message from Clinton, hastily exits via the front.

Abe scurries back to the barracks to find his whole company and one infuriated drill sergeant waiting for him, but given the urgency of their new orders, no questions are asked.


What We Do for Love

At the New Windsor camp, Mary continues to entertain her new-found Tory best friend, Mrs. Barnes, who assures the former that no one at camp pays much mind to women, so they can covertly gather all manner of information, such as troop counts and armament details.  However, she reminds Mary that she knows something even more valuable:  her association with Anna gives her access to Major Tallmadge, Washington’s head of intelligence.

Mary convinces Anna and Ben to meet her in the barn under cover of darkness.  She tells them there is a spy at camp, but she will not reveal her name until they cough up information about Abe.  Anna, much to Ben’s chagrin, offers that Abe is alive and well in York City and that a man has been sent in undercover to assist and retrieve him.  Satisfied, Mary tells them about Mrs. Barnes, who is actually Mrs. Bates, whom she advises they arrest immediately.

However, Ben has other plans.  “She is targeting our network, but we know nothing about hers.”  He sends Mary back to gather further intelligence, and while she is initially reluctant, Ben wisely connects her actions as essential to the safety of her husband.  Thus, Mary agrees.

Mary has almost immediate difficulty with this, however, as she learns that Mrs. Bates’s situation is not that different from her own.  Ann is only trying to help her husband, a soldier in Clinton’s army in New York:  “If I can help him stay safe by pretending to be something I’m not, fine by me.”  They commiserate about how much they miss their husbands, and Mary clearly feels conflicted about accepting the confidence of a woman who, like herself, acts out of love, not deceit.

Ben, however, is unimpressed with the information from Mary about Mrs. Bates’s motives for her actions.  He brusquely tells her, “We don’t need to know her reasons; we need to know who she’s working with so that the hangman knows how many nooses to ready.”  Chastened, Mary simply asks for more time.

It’s one thing, though, when your motivation is love for another whom you value more than yourself.  It is another thing entirely when one directs every bit of that love inward.

Champe has arrived in York City, and he and his bandaged arm have already found an audience with General Clinton.  How?  Benedict Arnold practically wishes to adopt him after he shamelessly flatters the turncoat, calling Arnold the veritable wind beneath his wings:  “I’m here solely due to his actions.  They gave me the courage to cross the lines, and…his example has raised the passions of my fellow soldiers.”  Now, Arnold wants Champe to be his recruiting sergeant, “the face of the American Legion.”

When Champe is sent off to trade in his uniform for a “proper” one, Mr. Inspiration preens in front of a dreadfully bored and annoyed Clinton, who looks ready to sigh and roll his eyes more than the cast of Mean Girls.  Arnold advises Clinton to send him to the south, where “men from the countryside will rally to me and swell our numbers.”  This is contradicted by the letter that’s arrived from General Cornwallis, who is pursuing Nathaniel Greene through the Carolinas; the British win each skirmish but gain no ground, and Cornwallis reports that “rebel numbers swell after each battle.”  

Arnold purports to be the antidote to this poisonous path.  Unlike Cornwallis, he is “a colonist, a hero to them all.  Fight fire with fire.”

He gets his wish.  The American Legion and the Queen’s Rangers are being sent to the front in Virginia.  

This means Benedict must bid farewell to his pregnant wife.  At first, he almost seems caring, telling Peggy that he regrets the timing of his absence from home.  But his true self isn’t far away:  he then tells Abigail, “Take the best possible care of Mrs. Arnold.  This child means the world to me.”  Peggy, though, clearly is relevant only as the vessel which contains his spawn.  Charming.

Then, he sweeps out the door and takes with him Abigail’s child, who means the whole world to her, without a second thought.


Slipping Away

The message in the Gazette is received at camp, and Ben has to rouse Caleb to inform him that he’s got a day to row the Hudson with a partner.  The latter continues to suffer post-traumatic stress from his torture at Simcoe’s hands.  Caleb is distracted and distant, and when Ben asks him none too gently if he’s finished drinking, he deliberately turns toward Ben, guzzles from his flask until a waterfall of the liquid drips from his beard, and walks away.

But Caleb is far from done.  His second rower on the mission, Teddy Beddows, seeks out Ben to beseech help when the mission gets delayed because Caleb is too inebriated even to stand.  Ben is less than amused by his giggling friend; he grabs Caleb by the lapels, screams in his face about being derelict in his duties, and threatens him with a Court Martial.

Caleb, however, claims he made himself non-functional to save the mission:  “You’re better off without me.  You all are.”  All he can hear in his head is the mocking voice of Simcoe when the smarmy demon “thanked me for giving up my friends.”  Ben tries to assure him that never happened, but he is far too burdened by his pressing responsibilities to linger and offer real help.  Instead, he mutters that Brewster should’ve told him sooner and stalks away.

Ben takes Caleb’s place in the boat, arriving in York City just in time to see the British ships being loaded with men and supplies, realizing immediately why no one was at the dock to meet them.

The core of the Culper ring is about to sail away.

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