The Knick: The Busy Flea Review

The Knick reminds us that VD can cost you a nose. Here is Gerri Mahn's review.

Last week we watched Thack settle in as grand high poobah of the Knickerbocker Hospital. Not an enviable position for a drug addict. Especially since the place is hemorrhaging money and can barely keep the lights on.

This week’s episode starts as Thack reunites with an old flame. A lovely young woman wearing a prosthetic nose comes to see him. She and Thack used to date, before she married and before her husband slept with the ‘syphilitic whore’ working in his office. To his credit, Thack barely bats an eye when he sees her and agrees to help her try to repair the gaping hole where her nose used to be.

Public service announcement to those of you who didn’t know: You can lose your nose to syphilis, so wear a condom.

Sure, today a scalding case of syphilis can be cured. Back then your nose rotted off and you needed to have a piece of skin from your arm grafted onto your face; and that was just to make a covering for the hole. Mmmmm, sexy!

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When he isn’t helping VD-stricken ex-lovers, Thack is elbow deep in dead pigs, trying to perfect a surgical procedure that his unloved colleague, Edwards, not only performed, but wrote about. Too bad for Gallinger he wrote about it in French. Looks like Edwards might be summoned up from his basement clinic sooner than later.

To his credit, Edwards clinic for black patients who were turned away from the Knick has been humming along. He employs the coal men as orderlies and promotes the laundress to surgical nurse. Patients sneak in through the back door on the precept of inquiring after the “washing job.” The problem is that the care Edwards would like to provide does not necessarily match the lifestyle of his working class patients. A man who he operates on one day, comes back the next, having pulled his stitches. Ultimately he ends up bleeding to death. Edwards has the orderlies dump the body somewhere it will eventually be found. Shame, that. The weasely administrator could have found a marvelous use for that cadaver. 

It turns out that other hospitals will pay three times as much money for a corpse and it just so happens that the weasel has access to the morgue. He manages to pay off his creditors, and still has enough money left over for both his wife and his whore. In what had to be the most disturbing scene of the night, we learn that the weasel has some kind of weird fetish which involves a hooker pulling off her clothes while trying to rid herself of an imaginary, busy, flea.

What in the hell?

Speaking of money, it turns out that the Robertson’s know Edwards because he is the son of their family’s maid. Although getting a free ride into Harvard is enough to make you wonder who his father is. But that is a mystery for another episode. Tonight, the big question the Robertson’s face is why rich folk are coming down with typhoid. After all, as the city health inspector points out, that is a poor person’s disease.

Tonight’s episode hit two discordant notes; Sister Harriet takes in a baby girl that was left on the steps of the abbey all the while getting threatened by one of the orderlies. Sort of. His threats are vague, as is this arm of the plot, which seems to be floundering around in the dust. I get the nuns have their own style of healing. I just don’t care, and I don’t find the Sister engaging.

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And then there was the closing scene. See, failure makes Edwards crabby. Crabby enough for another round of fisticuffs. At least I’m pretty sure he got himself into a street brawl; it is hard to tell, what with the camera reverting to “back of the neck cam,” with a filter that reminded me of the shitty resolution I grew up with in the early 1980s. SIGH. Dear Soderbergh, I get this is supposed to be a type of delirium. Could you stop beating me about the head and neck with it?

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4 out of 5