Covert operations intensify on both sides of the Revolutionary War in “False Flag,” Episode 203 of “TURN: Washington’s Spies” on AMC.
General George Washington (Ian Kahn) praises a “wonderfully detailed” report from the Culper spy ring regarding Redcoat military maneuvers in New York City. But he dismisses as “unclear” a four-word message from Philadelphia accusing General Charles Lee (Brian T. Finney) of treason.
“I beg your pardon sir, but this is clear as day,” exclaims Maj. Ben Tallmadge (Seth Numrich), head of American intelligence. “Gen. Lee is a traitor!”
“The spirits of the men are lifted after our victory at Saratoga,” Washington calmly replies. “Now is not the time to disparage a fellow general.”
Ben refuses to drop the matter, however. A patrol under his command was “butchered” in an ambush and Ben suspects Lee tipped off the British.
To set a trap, Ben forges a letter from Gen. Horatio Gates (David Bryan Jackson) to Lee calling for Washington’s immediate ouster. Lee’s response will likely be damning, Ben predicts, and he’s correct.
“Washington will not go. He must be pushed,” Lee wrote. “If the Congress will not rid us of this demigod, I pray a higher power will intervene!”
Rather than directing his wrath at Lee, however, Washington blames Tallmadge for actions that could discredit the Colonial troops.
“America’s future depends on this army,” Washington emphasizes. “If we fight ourselves, we will appear to be divided and disorganized,” thus keeping France on the sidelines.
“Versailles is watching, waiting to see if we are a worthy ally,” Washington continues. “Exposing treachery in our highest ranks proves that we are not!”
Tallmadge’s counterpart for the Redcoats is Maj. John André (JJ Feild), who targets embittered American Gen. Benedict Arnold (Owain Yeoman) as a potential British asset. Arnold bravely rallied his soldiers at Saratoga. Yet other generals claimed credit for the triumph while Arnold suffered an excruciating leg wound.
André’s scheme for Arnold requires the assistance of beautiful socialite Peggy Shippen (Ksenia Solo). Arnold fondly remembers the time he resided at the Shippen mansion in Philadelphia. Accordingly, André asks Peggy to pen a letter to Arnold inquiring about his health.
“A young woman of marrying age writing to a bachelor and a traitor to the crown?” Peggy asks in a huff. But that’s just a bit of playacting, for Peggy complies with André’s request.
Meanwhile, American spy Abe Woodhull (Jamie Bell) carries on his charade of studying law in New York City while actually journeying there to observe Redcoat army and naval forces.
He also pretends to be on a mission for Maj. Richard Hewlett (Burn Gorman), commander of the British garrison in Setauket. Woodhull is supposedly tracking down the Sons of Liberty, a shadowy band of insurgents. But Woodhull’s “intel” is useless.
“I feed him false names, dead ends. I get real names and real numbers for Washington,” Woodhull reveals to a flabbergasted Anna Strong (Heather Lind), his former lover and fellow spy.
“If he finds out you’re lying,” Strong says of Hewlett, “you’re dead!”
To closely monitor the British officer, Hewlett announces that she’ll accept his offer of “friendship” – much to Woodhull’s chagrin.
Finally, Judge Richard Woodhull (Kevin R. McNally) becomes suspicious when he sees his son Abe and Hewlett conversing late at night. While searching Hewlett’s office for clues, Richard Woodhull is caught in the act.
“How dare you invade my privacy,” Hewlett barks before regaining his composure and admitting that Abe is helping him “root out rebels in New York.” Now Richard asks a favor.
“Don’t tell him that I know,” the judge says, thus stoking mistrust between father and son.