Previously on The Knick: Repeated surgical failures finally got to Dr Christiansen, who committed suicide, leaving his second-in-command, Thack, in charge. He’s forced to hire a new second, a black man, which does not make him happy in the least.
We start by cutting between scenes of Cornelia’s luxurious life in a mansion and Edwards’s crappy life in a gross boardinghouse that clearly caters to black men. Cornelia is wakened by a maid, Edwards is wakened by a roach scuttling across his pillow. Edwards is bugged in line for the bathroom by some other guy with a huge attitude who wants to know where he got those fancy shoes from. Cornelia has breakfast with her parents and admits she feels a bit awkward at the Knick. Her dad reassures her that nobody, not even her brother, thinks as similarly to him as she does and he knows she can handle it. After breakfast, she’s carefully dressed by two maids who take care to make sure she looks perfect. Edwards, also looking perfect (though he clearly had to do it himself) heads into work.
Thack arrives in his office and does his customary shoot up. Breakfast of champions.
Meanwhile, in the ambulance bay, Cleary and his partner unload some seriously bloodied victims of a crane collapse. Good to hear New York’s come so far since 1900. Since Cleary apparently only gets paid for each living body he brings in, he tries to fake that one guy’s still alive, but it doesn’t take long before that’s revealed to be total BS. Barrow wryly observes that Cleary probably already has a stretcher waiting for him. Don’t be silly, Barrow, he’s not coming to collect you, ever. Who would pay him for that? Never one to let an opportunity pass, Cleary collects a ring off the finger of the dead man.
Thack checks out a photo of him and Christiansen and flashes back to his earliest days on the job, when Christiansen showed him his amazing lab and told him how he hopes to make all sorts of incredible discoveries and breakthroughs there. It also comes out that Thack was brought on board by the Robertsons, just like Edwards—he did some work with Cornelia’s father in Nicaragua. Younger Thack was really excited about being part of Christiansen’s crusade to legitimize surgery and take it out of the barbershops, which I think we can all be grateful for. Though it must have been nice to be able to get a shave and a haircut with your appendectomy. Like going to a really gory spa.
In the present, Christiansen’s wife comes to Thack’s office and they talk about how much they miss the late doctor. She says that she tried to distract her husband from the misery of the work and Thack gently tells her that Christiansen started to see the patients as people, which makes the endless parade of death too harrowing for anyone but a complete sociopath to deal with. He reassures her that she did everything right and was a fine wife to Christiansen. She asks how Thack keeps his life and work separate and he tells her he has ways of coping. That’s one way to put it.
Thack and the boys scrub in and perform what appears to be a fairly routine surgery. Chickering fires up the cauterizer that’s now running off the hospital’s brand new electricity, but suddenly the electricity shorts out at the wall, sending a surge that sets the surgical drape on fire (as well as parts of the cauterizer). While the doctors scramble to put the patient out, one of the nurses does what pretty much anyone faced with a fire and lacking a working knowledge of electricity would do: grabs a bucket of water and dumps it over the flaming cauterizer. Thack tries to warn her, but it’s too late. She drops dead. Just another day at the Knick.
Cornelia goes to Barrow’s office and demands to know why $12,000 didn’t get the hospital decent working electricity that doesn’t set patients on fire. Barrow promises to look into the matter personally. Thack comes in and says that incidents like this are not going to help increase confidence in the hospital, as if they hadn’t figured that out already. Cornelia gives Barrow a week to resolve this, warning him not to give the contractor any more money. She then asks where she might find Edwards and Barrow innocently suggests she try the man’s office.
Unsurprisingly, the office is a horrible, dank storeroom down in the basement. Cornelia is outraged, but apparently not outraged enough to remember that her family basically owns this hospital and she can march her ass right upstairs and bitchslap Barrow until he gives Edwards a proper office and work that wouldn’t be considered beneath a first year medical student. Come on, Cornelia, get it together. Edwards shrugs that he expects to be treated this shittily, which doesn’t make it ok and doesn’t mean you should just lie down and take it when you have the power to fight back, but I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t want to be seen as the Robertsons’ pet or something.
Gallinger’s wife, Eleanor—played by the same actress who plays Mabel Thompson on Boardwalk Empire, which I find slightly disconcerting—arrives at the hospital with their baby for a lunch date. After insisting on taking a quick picture of her husband (which he’s uncomfortable with but obeys) she chats with Thack, who comes out to cutely greet her and the baby (who is totally adorable). Eleanor makes no bones about her disappointment at her husband being passed over for the deputy chief position, and Thack agrees that it sucked enormously but Gallinger will get it eventually. She invites Thack to join them for lunch, but he has other business.
He goes to Barrow and tells him they need more cadavers to practice on. Barrow tells him that there’s too much competition from other hospitals and medical schools, and though he’s scoured every asylum and prison in New York, he’s come up empty-handed. Thack doesn’t want to hear it, insisting that Barrow come through. Barrow suggests he try some of the pigs they have out back.
The surgeons go to see two patients with aortic aneurysms. As they discuss the cases, the lights flicker overhead, annoying the hell out of Thack. Non-surgical interventions haven’t worked for these two men. The lights go off and Barrow comes in to tell everyone they’re going to get it fixed. Thack tells him to do it that day or he’s going to do something about it himself. He goes back to discussing the case, telling the other men they have to do surgery on the second patient, who’s faring pretty badly. Unfortunately, said surgery has a 100% failure rate. Edwards suggests they try a galvanic procedure he and another doctor worked on in Paris, which had a 60% success rate. Thack, being kind of a dick who apparently cares less about his patients than about pettily keeping his new hire from doing anything useful, refuses to even consider it. Thack then goes to the wall, grabs a fire axe, and attacks the generator. Well, that’s not going to help the flickering lights at all. That also seems a bit stupid considering he just saw someone die after treating the electrical works poorly.
Barrow gets the contractor into his office and we quickly learn—surprise!—that the work was shoddy because Barrow stole most of the $12K and the contractor therefore did a shitty job. The contractor threatens to tell anyone who comes after him about Barrow’s theft, so Barrow swallows hard and asks the man how much he wants to fix this. $1000. Barrow counteroffers $800, claiming that’s all he has left, because he’s currently in deep with some dangerous people. Man, what’s this guy been doing, gambling? Living in some massive mansion? The contractor demands $900 by the end of the day and Barrow agrees.
Chickering finds Edwards in the hospital’s ER (I guess), stitching up some little girl’s arm. Edwards accuses him of coming over to monitor him, which Chickering denies before complimenting Edwards’s sutures. The girl’s uptight mother asks if Edwards needs to touch her daughter quite so much, presumably afraid she’s going to catch a case of the blacks from her doctor. Edwards calmly informs her that stitches don’t just appear by magic, so yeah, he does. Chickering asks about the neighbourhood Edwards lives in and, like a typical upper-middle-class person who’s been protected from danger their whole lives, kind of excitedly asks if everything he’s heard about that hellhole is true. Yes, apparently, it is. Chickering says he’s been thinking of going to a dance hall there, on the recommendation of a friend. Edwards: ‘yeah, your friend has VD now. Stick to the safer pursuits, kid.’ Chickering is called away for a surgery and Edwards notices a black woman speaking to the check-in nurse. He finishes up with the little girl and, when he goes to get a dressing, sees the woman leaving. He asks where she’s going and she says she’s been sent to the black infirmary. New York, New York, a wonderful town!
Edwards returns to his basement and looks around, taking in all the abandoned beds and things down there, and seems to get an idea. He sets about transforming the space into a (literal) underground clinic. Beats just sitting around counting the rats and spiders.
The boys are performing their surgery on the aortic aneurism, which absolutely nobody is expecting this guy to survive. They give it the old college try, but they fail. As they clean up, Thack tells Gallinger to buck up, because they have another patient who needs surgery soon. Chickering suggests they try Edwards’s solution, and Thack’s willing to consider it, but Gallinger, still being a racist dick, suggest that, instead, they just read the paper that’s been published about the procedure. There’s a doctor over on 5th Ave who gets all the European journals. Chickering points out that that particular doctor will probably be reluctant to just hand over his journals to the competition, so Thack tells the boys to be creative.
Barrow returns to his office to find a pair of toughs, who inform him he’s late on his ‘weekly’. Barrow starts to sweat and weasel his way out, but they’re not having it. They order him to come see ‘Bunky’ by midnight.
A well-to-do mother tends her sick daughter, while in the next room her husband is attended by a doctor, who tells the woman she needs to call an ambulance.
Father and daughter are taken to the Knick, where Cornelia goes to see the woman—apparently the family is friends with hers. The child and father have typhoid, which was unusual amongst the upper classes at the time. The mother’s still well, but the little girl’s in a bad way. Cornelia promises they’ll get all the best care.
Edwards goes to the black infirmary to find out about the woman who was turned away from the Knick and learns she was there and signed the registry, but she had to leave untreated to go to work. Edwards takes down her details.
Thack’s working late in his office. Lucy comes by to drop off some patient records and he sits her down to have a chat. He kind of apologises for the dick shootup the other day, explaining that she found him in a bad state because he changed his routine and screwed up his regimen. She asks why he needs it and he basically says he needs it to keep the horrors of the hospital out of his private life. He asks her not to tell anyone what she saw and she promises not to.
‘Get creative’ has been interpreted to mean ‘ask Clearly to help the surgeons break into the other doctor’s office.’ Luckily for them, this is something Cleary does fairly regularly, in order to steal. Chickering and Gallinger go through journals while Cleary checks out the doctor’s collection of photographs of medical anomalies. Chickering finds what they’re looking for, but, astonishingly enough for a doctor working in Paris, it’s written in French.
Edwards brings his new patient, Ida, to his clinic, where he shoots her up with a bit of cocaine before treating her arm.
Cleary’s out getting drunk, and in the course of the evening, he ends up starting a brawl with one of the other men at the pub. In the midst of the fight, he sees a woman—I think it’s Sister Harriet out of habit—get out of a cab and walk purposefully into a building down the street. He follows her. Inside, she knocks on a door and tells the woman who answers that she’s there for Nora. She is allowed in.
Inside, Nora tells Harriet that she’s pregnant and really, really can’t have another baby right now. Harriet gently reassures her that everything will be all right and that God will surely forgive her for what she’s about to do.
Afterwards, she washes her hands in a sink in the hallway as Cleary watches from afar.
Edwards is finishing up with Ida, telling her to come see him if she has any more problems. She mentions that her brother-in-law’s having trouble with his eye, so can he come? He certainly can—come one, come all!
Barrow goes to see the aforementioned Bunky and tell him he doesn’t have the money he owes. Bunky, of course, does not take this lying down. He gives Barrow two days to pay his weekly and removes a tooth to prove that he means business. His goons watch, grinning ghoulishly.
Back at his boardinghouse, Edwards runs into the guy who clearly has issues with someone who’s better dressed and better educated than he is. The guy tries to get rough with Edwards, which turns out to be quite a mistake, because Edwards is kind of a badass who delivers one hell of a beatdown. I found that strangely satisfying. As the other man lies there gasping on the floor, Edwards goes into his room, retrieves a bottle of something (shoe polish, maybe?) and places it on the man’s chest.
Thack is spending his evening at his favourite opium den. One of the women there brings him a razor and warm water so he can look presentable before heading off to work. On his way out, he grabs an orange and pays the proprietor for four bowls (!!!). The owner tells him that oranges aren’t free, so Thack puts it back down on the table and heads for the door. The woman who brought him water asks if he’ll be back that night and he says he will, because where else would he go? Man, that’s sad.