The eighth episode of Turn begins with a sequence of Abe Woodhull (Jamie Bell) and Anna Strong (Heather Lind) dressing themselves for their errands in British-occupied New York City. By the end of the episode those same neckcloths and shirts and corsets will come off for both of them.
Anna has traveled to New York to retrieve her Patriot husband, Selah (Robert Beitzel), from the Jersey prison ship at the cost of all his property. But when she reaches that ship, the royal authorities tell her that Selah has died. We viewers know that he hasn’t. Instead, we see Selah being included in a prisoner-of-war exchange under the name of Samuel Tallmadge, younger brother of Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge (Seth Numrich).
Most of this episode then cuts back and forth between two fields of action. One is the aftermath of that prisoner exchange as Maj. Robert Rogers (Angus MacFadyen) tries to use it to kill his nemesis Tallmadge, Selah, Lt. Caleb Brewster (Daniel Henshall), or any other American who gets in his way. Eventually this breach of a flag of truce comes to the attention of the military authorities in New York.
Meanwhile, one of those superiors, Maj. John Andre, is hosting a supper party for fellow officers with some of the city’s finest prostitutes as entertainment. Abe wheedles an invitation out of the colonel to whom he’s selling his farm’s vegetables and pork. Anna dresses and paints herself up as a prostitute to sneak in. Both are after sensitive information from Andre’s office.
Together Abe and Anna steal a codebook from Andre, but the real drama of this episode is how the old tension between them works out. Abe finally reveals the source of his paralyzing guilt: how his older brother was killed as a British army officer putting down a riot over the Liberty Pole near King’s College (now Columbia).
In fact, the Liberty Pole riots took place five years before the war, and no British army officer died in pre-Revolutionary political violence. Once again, the creators of Turn have remixed some historical facts into more dramatic fiction. Likewise, Maj. Hewlett (Burn Gorman) and Capt. Simcoe (Samuel Roukin) are searching for a “petition” naming Selah Strong as delegate to the rebel New York Provincial Congress, which is not how petitions worked in the 1770s.
The end of this episode leaves several threads pointing forward. Now that Rogers has seen Tallmadge up close and widened his target list, what will he do next? Will the Setauket authorities find that petition? How can Abe and Anna get Andre’s codebook to Tallmadge, and what will the Continental authorities make of it? And, most important for this week’s drama, what will happen when Anna finds Selah still alive and back home?