The Knick: The Bleak Midwinter

TheKnickEp9_01Previously on The Knick: A cocaine shortage sent Thack into serious withdrawal, Gallinger brought a replacement baby home to Eleanor (which went as well as you can expect), and Cornelia and Edwards continued their affair.

Thack is now so desperate he actually breaks into a pharmacy in the dead of night. A beat cop finds him there, just as he’s about to shoot up.

Barrow and Mr Robertson are summoned to the police station, which I’m sure delighted both of them. Barrow tries to play this off as a doctor going to desperate lengths to secure medicine for his patients. After all, Thack is white! White men don’t steal! Unless they work on Wall Street! The captain’s like, ‘yeah, we practically found the guy with a needle in his foot, so we’re pretty sure we know what we’re dealing with.’ Robertson pays the captain off to make the charges go away.

The three men exit the building and Robertson tells Thack that this should make them even. He offers Thack a ride home, but Thack elects to walk. Barrow gets the ride instead.

In the carriage, he and Robertson share a flask and he asks what Robertson and Thack are ‘even’ about now. Instead of answering, Robertson asks if Barrow’s known all along about Thack’s habit. Barrow says he always hoped that Thack wasn’t an addict. Robertson tells him to find a doctor in the hospital who can treat him.

Lucy’s roommate reads a bit in the paper about a doctor having broken into a pharmacy in an attempt to secure medicine for his patients. Lucy immediately realizes this is Thack they’re talking about, even though the man isn’t mentioned by name. Hang on, how did this article get published so quickly? Thack was arrested at 3 AM and now Lucy’s just having breakfast and getting ready for work. Was the reporter hanging around the police station hoping there’d be some tiny, juicy tidbit that could just fill this small hole in the morning edition? Wouldn’t the morning edition already have been put to bed?

Lucy goes right to Thack’s and is let in by her wild-eyed lover, who seems to be working on some serious paranoia along with everything else. She notes that he looks awful and clearly hasn’t eaten or slept. She offers to give him a bath and put him to bed, but he says he has bedbugs and can feel them under his skin. Uh huh. He freaks out, accusing her of being sent by Robertson and Barrow to spy on him and she starts to look a little scared of him. He backs off and, after a pause, she goes to him and asks him what she can do to help. Thack tells her she can secure him cocaine. Lots and lots and lots of cocaine.

Barrow goes to Bunky to see if he can secure some coke for Thack, reminding Bunky that Barrow can’t pay him back if Thack’s out of commission. He can’t? Does Barrow not get a salary if Thack isn’t at work? Bunky agrees to help, telling Barrow to consider this part of his loan. Barrow thanks him, rather grovelingly.

Barrow arrives at the hospital, where he finds Edwards, Bertie, Lucy, and another nurse gossiping about the unnamed subject of that newspaper article. Bertie, unwilling to believe that his hero could be so fallible, tries to insist it must have been some other doctor, but Edwards is sure it was Thack. While I believe that Bertie, being young, might engage in this sort of gossip, I find it hard to believe that Edwards would be so unprofessional as to do this out in the open, and in front of the nurses. Barrow pauses and Edwards starts listing the signs that Thack shows, a subject that’s quickly picked up by Lucy. Barrow asks her to accompany him to his office.

There, he asks her what she knows about Thack’s condition. She tries to claim she knows nothing, so he tiredly tells her that he was the one who pulled him out of the slammer that morning. She drops the pretense and asks if there really isn’t any cocaine. He says there isn’t, almost. He’s got a bit, which he hands to her.

Cornelia arrives, looking like hell and having evidently been crying. She finds Edwards in the clinic and asks him for a word in his office. He joins here there once he’s done with his patient and quickly realizes that she’s pregnant. There’s a heavy moment while they both absorb this, and then he comes over and embraces her happily. She’s surprised by his joy and asks if he wants to keep it. He does. She tells him she wants to as well, but it’s really not possible. A mixed-race baby is not going to fly uptown. They agree to do an abortion.

After she leaves, he splashes some cold water on his face and heads back towards the clinic, only to be waylaid by Gallinger, who starts yelling at him for changing the treatment for one of his patients. Edwards has no time or patience for this, but their argument is derailed by the arrival of Eleanor, who comes floating in, wraith-like, with the pram. ‘I fear it’s another brain fever,’ she tells him dreamily as he hurries over. He glances in the pram and…oh, dear God, that’s…not a live baby. Eleanor tells him he would be proud of her, because she did what she was supposed to do and put its head in an ice bath. Gallinger practically collapses on top of the pram in tears.

Ok, I hate to engage in even tangential victim blaming, but how could Gallinger not secure some sort of help after it became clear that Eleanor was neglecting the baby? A nanny or a nursemaid or something? Historically speaking, a couple of the Gallingers’ class would have had someone anyway, because there’s no way that Eleanor ‘I learned my French at finishing school’ Gallinger is changing and washing her own nappies. They’d have had a nice Irish girl in, mark my words—all the middle and upper-middle class households did. Household help was cheap as chips in those days, which is why so many people had so much of it.

Thack shoots up the coke Lucy’s brought him while she sings a really depressing song. He waits for the drug to take hold, but it doesn’t, because it’s just salt water. So much for the placebo effect. He hurls the vial across the room in frustration and Lucy looks exhausted.

Being a resourceful girl, she goes to Wu to ask him what he can get for her. He pours her some tea and tells her that the opium supply is pretty low. As she goes to leave, he notes that she has a very dainty foot. He tells her that during sex, a man’s pleasure is increased by having his concubine put her foot in his mouth. Ew. He offers her opium and $100 if she does this for him. This whole plotline’s starting to veer quickly into Requiem for a Dream territory, no? Apparently, he’s only asking to have her foot in his mouth, not to actually have sex with her, for those curious about the details of this deal.

Harriet finds Cornelia crying on the steps of the orphanage and assumes it’s because of the latest Gallinger tragedy. ‘Two little girls in as many months,’ Harriet sighs. Wait, hold up here a sec: Lillian died in the summertime. It was definitely hot out, so either it was summer or a serious Indian summer, which typically only lasts until mid-October at the latest (except nowadays). These last two episodes have been in the dead of winter—there’s snow on the ground and everything, and New York City almost never gets snow before January. Did climate change hit New York in a huge way in 1900? Because I don’t see how these weather patterns are possible otherwise. Also, I’m betting Harriet really regrets not hauling ass out of the Gallinger house with that baby as soon as Eleanor freaked out when she arrived with the kid.

Cornelia asks if Harriet finds comfort in her faith and Harriet says it’s hard when you’ve seen as many dead babies as she has. She adds that all she can do is pray for them, especially the unbaptized ones, ‘wherever they may go.’ Cornelia’s surprised that infants don’t get a free pass right into heaven, which they definitely should, but far be it for a church to follow logic or show much mercy.

Thack collects some bottles from the garbage, then does a little chemistry in his kitchen with whatever’s left in them. His experiment is unsuccessful, however. He once again throws things in frustration. And right on cue, Lucy arrives with opium and lamb chops. He asks how she knew where to get it (the drugs, not the chops) and she confesses to having followed him to Wu’s once. He guesses Wu took a liking to her and says he hopes she didn’t have to put her foot in the guy’s mouth to pay for it. I see Thack is familiar with the man’s methods. She helps him prep the opium and he smokes up. He asks her how she paid for it and she lies that she traded her bike for it.

The next day, Bertie meets Edwards on the ward and learns that it’s just the two of them in today. They go to see their first patient, Mr Oates. Edwards asks him to open his eyes, warning him that he’s going to be looking at a black man. Oates doesn’t care. Hey, finally, a non racist! The man has cataracts and will need surgery.

Aftewrards, Bertie runs into Lucy, who tells him she’s going to see if Thack needs anything. He notes that she seems really concerned about Thack, and should he be jealous? He’s only half kidding, clearly. He tells her that Barrow’s looking for him.

She waits outside Barrow’s office and can overhear his conversation with Cleary about how the army’s requisitioned all the coke at the German hospital, ready to ship it down to Cuba. Cleary clears out and Barrow calls Lucy in. She tells him that the drugs were just salt water. He takes that news quite calmly. I’m guessing he’s not surprised to hear that Bunky screwed him over.

Thack goes to Luff and offers to peddle that snake oil of his, but Luff has moved on and found another doctor. Probably one who doesn’t break into pharmacies after hours. He clearly knows what Thack’s really there for and tells him his narcotics supply has been cut off along with everyone else’s. Thack, getting really desperate, asks if he can have an advance on the money he’ll make with Luff when they go into business together someday. Luff turns him down, because that’s never going to happen now that Thack’s revealed himself to be a seriously hot mess.

Lucy makes her way to the German hospital, where she easily lies to the matron in charge that she’s been sent from the nursing school. The matron tells her to scrub in and report to the main surgery. Lucy asks where the drug dispensary is, in case she needs to fetch something. Matron directs her, and Lucy makes a beeline for it, rifling through drawers and cabinets until she finds the precious vials of cocaine she came for. She hides them under her cloak just before matron catches her and asks what she’s doing. Lucy claims the doctor asked for some supplies. Matron thinks she’s lying, so Lucy hauls ass out of there. She’s definitely resourceful, I’ll give her that.

Edwards takes Cornelia down to the Clandestine Clinic and prepares to do the procedure on her. She asks him some questions about it as she undresses, and as she lies down on the mattress she asks why he won’t look at her. He does, but it’s clearly too painful, and he turns away and tells her he can’t do this, because he can’t destroy his own child. Cornelia begs him, for both their sakes. He suggests they run away to Europe, where people are far more tolerant, but she tells him that there’s nowhere in the world tolerant enough for a mixed-race couple and their child in 1900. She tells him they have no choice, but he still can’t perform. He says he’s sorry and she bursts into tears, weeping helplessly, because let’s face it, she’s the one who’s going to have to bear this particular burden and deal with the fallout.

Eleanor paces back and forth in her dining room, dressed in her petticoat, humming. Men arrive, put her in a straitjacket, and take her away as her husband looks on in agony. He doles out some chloroform to calm her and she’s removed. He sinks down in a chair, crying. Man. He’s kind of a racist dick and all, but I still feel really, really badly for this guy.

Lucy delivers the coke to Thack. Lucy, you idiot, don’t give him all of it at once! Keep it at your place or something and dole it out slowly, you don’t know how long this stuff has to last! Thack, of course, is incredibly grateful and kisses her before going to fetch a needle. Lucy takes it and shoots him up, which I guess is now their version of foreplay. As she does so, he tells her how amazing and resourceful and beautiful and wonderful she is. The cocaine starts to do its work and he begins initiating sex. She suggests they pour some coke on his penis, but instead he suggests she get the dousing. She agrees, and gasps in pleasure as she feels it. Great, that’s what the city needs, another addict during a shortage.



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