TURN: Washington’s Spies The Black Hole of Calcutta Season 4 Episode 2 Recap – In the previous episode, General Benedict Arnold is moving hard to decimate the ranks of American spies. . Duplicitous Peggy Shippen accuses her romantic rival Philomena Cheer of hobnobbing with top British officers to pick up bits of useful military information which she can pass on to the American rebels under George Washington. Where did Peggy get the inside scoop on the actress Philomena? Why from her hairdresser, Freddie Morgan, of course. Freddie was working in Philadelphia when the actress went in for a high roll. You can think a ‘high roll’ is some kind of sexual act, or maybe an acrobat’s trip, or perhaps both, but actually it’s a hairstyle common among fashionable women of the day.
TURN: Washington’s Spies The Black Hole of Calcutta Season 4 Episode 2 Recap
TURN: Washington’s Spies The Black Hole of Calcutta Season 4 Episode 2 Recap images from amc.com
Episode 2 of Season Four opens on the Connecticut Coast where Caleb is manning the oars while singing a bawdy sea ditty. He meets his contact Rob when he gets to shore. What starts as a good-natured ribbing turns into an ambush and a violent attack as bandits assault, rob and kidnap Caleb. Then they turn him over to the British authorities and a fat reward.
When Washington finds out about Caleb’s capture, he has to worry about how much Arnold knows about the Culper Ring. Talmadge tells him he knows only that he runs spies and that Caleb is his associate. “If Caleb keeps his mouth shut, they won’t hang him,” Talmadge opines.
No More Mr. Nice Guy
No more the amiable gentlemanly George Washington of Season 3, the general has morphed into a hard-bitten fighting man with little tolerance for others. Nor are things up to snuff with the army, short on supply, reduced to rags and promises of pay that never comes. The threadbare army suffers a morale problem and some of the troops are griping about Washington’s leadership and deportment.
“The man’s ass is so tight he probably shits through his teeth,” says one man. His compatriot has a better understanding of the situation and doesn’t appreciate the insult to his commander. “Put a bridle on that mouth or I’ll do it for you.” The two men begin to fight. Washington sees them, pulls them both up off their feet and fling them down again with a lecture on respect and proper military discipline.
Back at the Army camp, Mrs. Carney continues to slight Anna, even when she tries to improve their lot. They are from different strata of society, an era when class distinctions were far more pronounced. Martha Washington strolls along the encampment and picks up a ‘fork,’ really a spoon which has been cut with jagged edges. “Isn’t she fine to grace us with her company, before she returns to her home to be waited upon by her servants?” remarks the resentful Carney woman.
Among the prisoners at Bridewell Prison, Mulligan the tailor and spy is being interrogated. His resume indicts him, according to General Arnold: “You were a member of the Sons of Liberty. Veteran of the battle of Golden Hill.” Mulligan pooh-poohs the insinuation, relying on a father-in-law connection to vouch for his loyalty to the Crown. He expects Arnold would be “sympathetic, given your own past,” alluding to the general’s recent switching of side.
Two for One
Mary returns home, alarmed to find Colonel Talmadge with her father and husband. “He’s come to tell us that Caleb Brewster’s been captured and to gather our belongings.” But Talmadge’s purpose is rather to ask Judge Woodhull’s help in being smuggled into the city. He wants to rescue Caleb, fearing that the spy might suffer under interrogation and give up sensitive information to the British.
Abe comes up with a plan involving kidnapping of a Tory in good stead and a trade. Judge Woodhull offers himself to the game. Abe figures that the British are more likely to make the trade if they offer two for one – meaning he’s put himself also into the bargain. Anna Strong later suggests they demand a ransom. It would cause suspicion if it appeared that the rebels valued the smuggle Caleb Brewster so highly as to trade two men for one, she tells them.
Truth or Consequences
Brewster is bold and unperturbed when Arnold begins to question him. He complains of the food quality and continues to insult the general. Simcoe can hardly bear witnessing the encounter as Arnold gives up in humiliation and frustration. The interrogation of Caleb Brewster takes a turn for the worse when Colonel Simcoe offers to help General Arnold. The smile is soon wiped from Caleb’s face when Simcoe steps in to take over. His first question is a punch in the face.
Once again Samuel Roukin is his perfect icy self as the villain Colonel Simcoe. With a brain functioning like static electricity, and an abundance of cruelty. he at first grills Caleb with his early American version of waterboarding. Caleb hangs tough but unwittingly gives up information about the Culper Ring.
Simcoe has learned from a careless giggle what General Arnold could not get for all his efforts. Simcoe realizes that Rogers is not Culper, as he first expected, and now realizes the master spy is Abe Woodhull. Caleb tries to laugh it off but Simcoe is smarter and far more dangerous. He lays his toothed sword on the table, happy to take Caleb on in matters of ungentle persuasion.
Anna Strong’s de facto trading post is doing well, complimented even by Martha Washington. Mrs. Barnes comes to her for a loan of provisions and Anna obliges. But Anna is displeased to hear that her friend Mrs. Carney is to be drummed out of the camp followers for refusing to do laundry. This strikes Anna as being unusual for Washington, impelling her to plead with Martha to intervene. But Mrs. Washington sticks with protocol and heads back to Virginia without a second thought.
Caleb Brewster’s Very Bad Day
Being drummed out of camp is bad news for Mrs. Carney but it’s not as bad as the news Caleb Brewster is getting. According to a popular torture ritual of the day, Colonel Simcoe runs a sword blade to create a wound on Caleb’s bare chest. Beside the prisoner Caleb is a dish of salt which, between questions, Simcoe presses into Caleb’s bloody wound. Caleb is already in extreme pain but Simcoe has a message of more pain to follow if he doesn’t give up the spy network. Instead, Caleb threatens Simcoe: “You’ll wish you never left England.”
Caleb spits on Simcoe, earning him another bloody stripe, and another salt compress. Undoubtedly, he would think himself lucky to be waterboarded compared to that torture. Nonetheless, Simcoe and Brewster share mutual sadistic laughter at the gruesome occurrences. In the same scene, Simcoe discloses a secret to Simcoe that he’s never shared. “It may surprise you that I was not born in England. In point of fact, I never set foot in it.”
To wit, he was born in England, son of a surgeon. When he was age ten, he was deprived of his father, thrown into a tiny dank cell by people he had medically treated and helped. “Black Hole of Calcutta, it was called.” Designed to hold three people, the cell held sixty, according to Simcoe. What lesson did Simcoe derive from this experience? “Mercy is weakness. Strength is truth,” he says after delivering another slice to Caleb’s back.
That’s not the worst of it. The torture goes on, and sensitive people may want to turn away. It may be television, and not as much the subject of world attention as, say, the Oscars, but Samuel Roukin, in the character of Simcoe , will have created one of the most memorable psychotics in media history for that one scene alone. Indeed, considering his pathology, sadism, and Saturnine outlook, Simcoe seems a creature created from the DNA of Hannibal Lecter, Attila the Hun, and the devil himself.
Other Episodes of TURN Washington’s Spies reviewed on TV Eskimo:
TURN: Washington’s Spies Season 3
TURN: Washington’s Spies The Black Hole of Calcutta Season 4 Episode 2 Recap characters and cast include:
Abraham Woodhull – Jamie Bell (Snowpiercer, King Kong, Jumper, The Adventures of Tintin, Billy Elliot)
Ben Talmadge – Seth Numrich (Private Romeo, Gravity, How to Kill a Mockingbird)
Caleb Brewster – Daniel Henshall (The Babadook, These Final Hours, The Snowtown Murders)
Mary Woodhull – Meegan Warner
Judge Richard Woodhull – Kevin McNally
Anna Strong – Heather Lind (Boardwalk Empire, Demolition, Mistress America)
Lt. John Simcoe – Samuel Roukin
General George Washington – Ian Kahn
Benedict Arnold – Owain Yeoman (The Mentalist, Troy, American Sniper)
Peggy Shippen – Ksenia Solo (Black Swan, Orphan Black, Lost Girl)
Robert Townsend – Nick Westrate (Ricki and the Flash, Care, Beach Pillows)
Hercules Mulligan – Kelly AuCoin (Billions, The Americans, Drunk Parents, The Wizard of Lies, The Blacklist, The Slap, House of Cards)
Mrs. Barnes – Tina Benko (The Avengers, That Awkward Moment, Vinyl, Flesh and Bone, The Good Wife, Brotherhood)
Col. Jonathan Cooke – Jonny Coyne (Mom, Salem, The Night Of, 11.22.63, Manhattan)