TURN: Washington’s Spies Private Woodhull Recap – Previously in Episode 4, Abe and George Washington have different priorities. Simcoe had ordered a bloody massacre that killed Judge Woodhull, among others. Naturally, Abe wants to avenge his father and go after Simcoe. General Washington, on the other hand, must deal, not with personal matters, but with the macrocosm of the American rebellion. General Arnold’s betrayal of the revolution and his allegiance to the British must be dealt with. Abe comes up with a way to accomplish both objectives. He’ll enlist in General Arnold’s newly formed American Legion.
TURN: Washington’s Spies Private Woodhull Recap
TURN: Washington’s Spies Private Woodhull Recap images from amc.com
Kill and Drill
Episode 5 provides a glimpse of military life and drill in the era of muskets and cannon. The drill sergeant gives lessons in the rifle and the bayonet. “This is your Brown Bess (a long gun of that era). It’s loud, flinty, and may not go off,” he proclaims. Then follows a lesson in the reliability of the bayonet.
The troops must learn how to march and follow precise orders. Within the American Legion outfit, and under the command of General Arnold, is Abe Woodhull in the uniform of a redcoat. When Lieutenant Simcoe arrives with his Queen’s Rangers militia Abe must scrunch down so as not to be recognized.
And as in all military operations, there is at least one slacker who is merely along for the ride. Abe becomes acquainted in the barracks with a loquacious lout who is in it only for the eight pence daily pay. “We’ll never see battle,” he believes, because the British military leadership doesn’t trust turncoat Arnold and will keep him from the battlefield.
A well known TV critic described the episode as one lacking in action. But that is not quite true, unless one’s definition of action is limited to pursuit and gun battles. The episode had quite a bit of action in the broader sense of moving the plot forward. Mary Woodhull, for examples, moves to the New Windsor camp, angry at being kept in the dark about husband Abe’s dangerous new mission.
There’s plenty of action in the love boat, too, as the love interests of several characters sustain deep wounds. Having been summoned by a letter from Anna, Selah Strong comes from Philadelphia to check on the conditions in the army. They’re conducting a long distance love affair, and it’s not working very well. Anna sees her docile husband as a gentle and noble soul but her passion lies elsewhere – with Abe. When Selah, sensing that he might lose Anna, asks her to return to Philadelphia with him, the weeping Anna prefers to stay where the action is – with the troops and camp followers at New Windsor.
If Anna is hot for Abe, that leaves Mary out in the cold. Her role was that of the obedient wife, questioning little and accepting much. In this episode, Meegan Warner (as Mary) steps out of that mold and engages in some inspired fireworks. Her fiery capabilities, too often suppressed by script, were certainly evident in a previous episode where she shoots through a window in an attempt to kill Simcoe.
No relationship is more star-crossed than that of General Arnold and Peggy. Arnold previously discovered that Peggy betrayed him with Major Andre. Now they must keep up appearances at a soiree given by General Clinton. There’s plenty of action at that party, and some historical exactitude, when Peggy goes to the lou with a chamberpot handed to her by a servant. We wondered how they did that in billowing hoop skirts and now we got to see it with live action naturalism. Let’s get real, people.
General Clinton’s Soiree
The British often saw themselves as the arbiters of civilization in the colonial wilderness – and it was largely true. In that spirit, General Clinton throws a party to bring everyone together in a harmonious celebration of the Crown’s influence and benevolence toward the colonies.
Only problem is that the colonies are already coming apart. The party itself is fractious, with different elements and personages going in different directions. The gang’s all there, including Cicero who has become General Arnold’s body servant. Cicero pulls Abe to the cloak room and offers his services as a spy. Peggy is in the privy next door and overhears them conspiring.
Some of the gathered aristocrats and army officers are startled to see that lowly Private Woodhull was invited, but there is a reason for his invitation. Colonel Cooke invited him, hoping to convince Abe to take up Judge Woodhull’s old occupation in getting supplies to the British army.
Supplies are a huge problem for Cooke, the army’s chief quartermaster. At the party, Arnold complains that his horses do not have enough hay. Cooke blows him off: “Hay is as scarce for me as it is for you. Don’t speak to me of this again.” Cooke’s disrespect for Arnold is barely hidden.
General Arnold is altogether not having a good time at the party. He and Peggy are sniping at each other, trying to keep up appearances though there is a deep split between them.
“I’m feeling flushed,” Peggy says dispiritedly.
“From the baby?” Arnold asks.
“From this corset,” Peggy says sharply. And when Arnold aims a mild rebuke her way, she fires her sharpest shot. “Are you trying to put me in labor?”
The episode ends with close up reminders that sociopathic Simcoe is a clear and present danger. Two of his rangers stand beside him, rolling their eyes as he sharpens his bayonet. It’s pretty clear, even to that rough war-hardened bunch, that their leader has passed over to the dark side.
“Do you know why I favor a serrated blade? There’s a trick I learned from the Abyssinians. Stick the bayonet, twist the blade, and the notches will pull the intestines right out,” Simcoe intones gleefully.
And then at the end there’s a big surprise for Abe and for fans of the show. Guess which departed British officer is back in America as the newly installed head of British Intelligence.
Other Episodes of TURN Washington’s Spies reviewed on TV Eskimo:
TURN: Washington’s Spies Season 3
TURN: Washington’s Spies Private Woodhull 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 (The Box, Homeland, Billions, The Unusuals, Bull, Secrets in the Walls)
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)
Major Hewlett – Burn Gorman (Jamestown, And Then There Were None, The Man in the High Castle, Game of Thrones, Spies of Warsaw, The Dark Knight Rises, Torchwood, Layer Cake, Bleak House, The Oxford Murders, Pacific Rim)
Col. Jonathan Cooke – Jonny Coyne (Would You Rather, Mom, The Night Of, 11.22.63, Manhattan, Silent Witness, Nightcrawler, The Hangover Part III)
General Henry Clinton – Ralph Brown (Alien 3, Wayne’s World 2, Genius, Legends, Agent Carter, Stoker)
Ms. Barnes – Tina Benko (The Avengers, Flesh and Bone, Brotherhood, Royally, That Awkward Moment)
Abigail – Idara Victor (Mad Men, Rizzoli & Isles, Vegas, The Choir)
Selah Strong – Robert Beitzel (Winter Passing, True Detective, Inside Amy Schumer)
Joseph Sturridge – Dylan Saunders (American Koko, The CLAN, Chicago Fire, A Very Potter Musical)
Cicero – Darren Alford (Same Fruit Different Tree, House of Cards)
Falkoff – Jesse C. Boyd (The Walking Dead, The Originals, Day 5, Sleepy Hollow, The Choice, Constantine)