Welcome back to The Knick. We’ve missed you.
Did you miss us? Did you miss Thack’s waffling between drug-induced delirium and operating-room genius? Did you miss Edwards taking out his frustration from losing a patient in his illicit clinic with his fists? I know you sure as shit missed old timey hookers performing insect-themed strip teases (why stop with a flea infestation when bedbugs were just as likely)!
Tonight’s episode opens with Cleary kicking ass at darts and running a rat-stomping ring. Good news animal lovers: the dumbass goose stepping around the ring-crushing rats, shows up at the Knick later, with what I’m guessing will turn out to be rabies. Bad news parents: it looks like Gallinger gets some fluid from the dude’s sores on his hand and then goes home and plays with his infant. The scenes are subtle, but half the message of tonight’s show focused on germs and what surgeons do with their hands. If I saw what I think I saw, shit may get real next week.
Thack plays a relatively minor role in this episode. He looks in on his nose-less ex-girlfriend. They remember better days: when she still had her face and he did not have so many collapsed veins (cameo by the awesomely bearded Matt Frewer). Her face is still sewn to her arm, and she’s being liberally dosed with mercury steam to help with her headaches. Headaches? The procedure looks brutally painful, with a huge hank of skin wrenched up off her arm. Lucy eavesdrops as they reminisce and then follows Thack to Chinatown. Aw! Someone has a wee crush on her boss!
In the operating theater, Edwards decides to take a stand and stops advising Thack and Gallinger on his special procedure mid-way through. Gallinger backs down and hands the patient over to Edwards while Thack admonishes, “If he dies because of your horseshit, I will stab you in the throat with my father’s Union sword.” Gallinger retaliates by socking Edwards in the jaw, to the amusement of all there. I am happy to report it looks like there will be no redemption story for Edwards, just a long and tedious struggle to force respect from his peers; as would have been the case. He is an amazing character, not just for his ingenuity, but for his flaws as well. This is no saint. This is a man who struggles.
At the end of the day, Edwards finds his father, Robertson’s chauffer, waiting for him at the curb. The Robertson’s are having a party, and Edwards is expected to attend and bring nice white people diversity. Mrs. Robertson is less than thrilled to see him, but the young Miss Robertson is there celebrating her engagement, her awkward, awkward, engagement. Full of secretive sideways glances at Edwards. Uh-oh.
For her part, when not partying with her future husband (and possible illicit boyfriend?) Miss Robertson takes the health inspector to visit her wealthy friends in an effort to figure out why they are succumbing to typhoid. The health inspector is surprisingly astute about germ theory and shakes up a recent widow with invasive questions about her recently deceased husband’s possible infidelity and her “toilet rituals.”
Meanwhile the flea-loving Administrator has discovered an ingenious way to make money off of dead people. Sell the corpse for medical testing, then sell the bereaved family a can of something that resembles ashes and generously concede to halve the cremation fee. If only he didn’t have to contend with Cleary’s greed and, weirdly, his soft spot for young, pregnant girls.
Speaking of single ladies, Sister Harriet has decided she is not going to take Cleary’s shit any more, oh wait it looks like not only will she be taking his shit, but she is going to have to pay for the privilege. His silence will cost her 60 percent of her abortion earnings; but despite the price and his disapproval, he tells the Sister he will hook her up with girls who need help.
Interestingly, Thack calls Harriet in when a woman who tried to give herself a home abortion is brought to the Knick. The Sister knows her anatomy and her way around a surgical table. When the woman dies, Thack uses her body to give an impromptu lesson to Bertie on massaging the heart; from the inside. Bertie’s father is less than impressed by how his diminutive son is treated by his peers.
All told, this was a pitch perfect fish out of water episode. Lucy in Chinatown, Edwards bringing diversity to the operating room and the Robertson’s drawing room, and the health inspector squicking out the rich. How comfortable are you with white guilt and casual racism? Because there is none of the former and tons of the latter this episode. Did I say pitch perfect? Pitch freaking perfect! The episode closes with a crawling sense of (rabies laden) dread.
Fun fact from @AtTheKnick: “In 1900, mercury-infused steam was used to treat migraines.”