The Knick: Where’s the Dignity?

Image courtesy Cinemax/Anonymous ContentPreviously on The Knick: Thack was regularly stealing away to Chinatown to spend his off hours in an opium-induced haze; Edwards was facing endless racism at work, so it’s just as well he’s apparently kind of a badass; Cleary discovered Harriet’s side business giving abortions to desperate poor women; and Barrow started stealing and selling bodies from the hospital.

Cleary’s evening playing darts at his local is interrupted by some kid, who calls Cleary out to the street. Cleary gives the kid some instructions (we can’t hear what they’re talking about) and then makes his way to the basement of some building nearby, having acquired a sack along the way. The basement is filled with men cheering and placing bets while one guy walks around a ring in the centre. I figured this was some sort of underground cock fighting or boxing thing, but no, this is a bloodsport with a particular New York twist: The guy’s going up against Cleary’s sack full of NYC rats. He starts stomping and kicking them to death, gorily, but then slips in the blood and the rats start chomping on him.

At the Knick, Barrow comes out of his office with a jar full of ashes, which he presents to a recently deceased patient’s wife. Apparently this was the patient whose body he sold last week, and that pig he cut up later is now in this jar which he’s presenting to the widow as her dead husband. She’s confused over the cremation, since she and her husband just bought a cemetery plot, but Barrow lies that this was the man’s dying wish, and as he’s so magnanimous and all, he’s going to cut the cremation fee in half, so she’ll only have to pay him $5. I’d call him an unbelievable asshole, but I totally believe that people like him existed (and still do), so I guess that makes him a believable asshole. I also find myself wondering how many Busy Fleas $5 buys.

Edwards goes to scrub in ahead of the surgery he’s not allowed to participate in, despite being the only doctor who knows how to do it. Thack reminds him of such, but Edwards scrubs in anyway. Thack, what happens if Gallinger gets in over his head and Edwards needs to step in?

Edwards confidently starts walking Gallinger through the procedure, but once they get to the point where the incision’s been made and blood starts pumping out of the aorta, Edwards clams up and refuses to tell them anything else. HAHA! Up yours, asshats. Everyone plays chicken for a few minutes, but then Gallinger steps aside and lets Edwards take over. Which is a good thing, because Gallinger was going to use a less effective wire anyway. Edwards produces the proper wire and quickly finishes the procedure. Looks like the patient is going to be ok. Once he’s done, Gallinger asks if he’s through, and upon receiving confirmation, punches Edwards right in the face. Thack admonishes Gallinger, not for assaulting his co-worker and superior, of course, but for endangering his precious surgeon’s hands. He advises Gallinger to kick Edwards next time. Dick. The men in the gallery laugh. Everyone’s a dick. Except Bertie.

Cornelia meets up with Speight to go call on Mrs Hemming, Cora’s mother and the widow of Daniel the typhoid victim. Speight wastes no time being an absolute asshole, correcting his title with the butler (that’s Inspector Speight, not Mr) and basically accusing Mrs Hemming of having shit-covered hands. Yeah, I can’t see why Cornelia insisted on coming with you, Speight, you’re such a charmer. Also, with the size of the chip on his shoulder, I’m amazed he’s not stuck walking in circles all the time.

Lucy approaches Thack on the ward and quietly asks why he hasn’t gone to check on Abby. He says he’s kept informed by Bertie, but Abby thinks he’s avoiding her.

Speight has no trouble enjoying Mrs H’s coffee, because the water’s been boiled, so it’s safe. But the coffee cups haven’t been, right? Just sayin’. He asks Mrs H some questions about the progress of the disease and whether her husband had travelled recently (Daniel took sick first, then Cora, and no, he hadn’t travelled). Speight straight up asks if Daniel was screwing around on the side, in the rudest possible manner and she tightly tells him there was none of that going on. He asks about the staff, which is pretty huge, and then gets all excited when he’s offered Peach Melba, because he’s only seen ice cream at fancy hotels and restaurants. He goes to help himself but Cornelia points out it hasn’t been cooked, so is it safe? Technically, it has been cooked, actually. The custard base has been, anyway. He reluctantly returns the dessert.

Thack pokes his head into the women’s ward, where Abby is, and flashes back to happier times, when they attended a party with Christiansen and his wife and got well and truly wasted. Thack was reciting The Song of Hiawatha (I believe) while she downs champagne and doesn’t look all that happy to be there. Thack suggests they leave and find another party but Abby looks disturbed and suggests they stay where they are. He says they just want to find a bit more fun, so off they go. The party’s taking place at the Knick—it’s the annual Christmas party. They were in Christiansen’s office, but the rest of the staff is having a grand old time out in the entryway.

Back in the present, Thack goes in to actually check on Abby. Lucy looks like she approves. He checks the graft, which is actually a piece of skin from her arm, which is currently attached to her nose area, forcing her to keep her arm up over her head at all times, which must be agony. Thack says everything looks good so far. She tells him not to be so serious, because it doesn’t suit him and makes them both uncomfortable. He sits and tells her that her good attitude will serve her well during the healing process. ‘And for the next few decades,’ she observes. She comments that she knows this isn’t easy for him, but he shrugs that he’s used to this condition. She decides to let that evasion stand and says she really should have stuck with him, despite the stress and the madness of their relationship. He disagrees, though you’d think that the state of her face would be reason enough to say, ‘yeah, you shouldn’t have chosen the other guy.’ Lucy listens on from a bit of a distance.

Barrow has borrowed the ambulance, lying to Cleary that he needed to move some furniture for his wife. Cleary knows this isn’t at all true but doesn’t press the matter, because he’s smart enough and getting a payoff. After Barrow leaves, Harriet pulls Cleary aside and asks him what he keeps going on about with the nasty comments. She threatens to have him fired and he tells her he knows all about her side business. He threatens to spill the beans if she doesn’t split her earnings 60-40 with him. She has no choice but to agree.

Cornelia and Speight leave the Hemmings’s. Speight plans to come back to interview some of the help. Cornelia agrees to arrange it, but refuses to give him a lift downtown.

Edwards leaves the hospital at the end of the day and is met by the sight of the Roberts’s coachman, who is also Edwards’s father. Well, this is an interesting family dynamic. Because Edwards, a highly educated, cultured, and well-travelled doctor would be way above his parents, socially speaking, which is bound to create some issues. You can already see it: he’s clearly not ashamed of his parents, but there’s definitely a divide there, which often happens when a family member has surpassed another in terms of material success and life experiences. It’s not that they don’t still love their relative, it’s just a lot harder to find things in common with them. Anyway, Edwards is being invited to a shindig for Cornelia and her fiancé at the Robertson house that night. Edwards’s dad is clearly very proud of his son and asks if he saved anyone’s life that day. Edwards says he did, not that the others care. His dad basically says he’ll just have to put up with that for a while, before reminiscing about how nice the neighbourhood used to be before the rich people moved uptown and the immigrants moved in and ruined everything. Thack emerges and Edwards Sr asks if he’s the one in charge. Edwards says he is, and he’s as good as everyone says, but Edwards thinks he’s actually better.

Lucy catches Thack before he gets into a cab and thanks him for going to see Abby. He says he was just checking on a patient, and then tells the cabbie to take him to Chinatown.

Ahh, time to see a little of Bertie’s homelife. He still lives with his parents (well, his father, at least) and has a younger sister with whom he’s affectionately close. They’re spending their evening playing a board game while Bertie tells him about the operating room fracas. His sister ignorantly asks if any of Edwards’s colour rubs off, because some idiot friend of hers says that can happen. Their father tells them it’s dinnertime and then asks Bertie how work was. Bertie says that nothing eventful happened.

Edwards stops by the Robertsons’ kitchen to say hello to his mother, who immediately notices his shiner and scolds him briefly for not telephoning to say hi. Edwards says he’s been busy.

Lucy makes her way to Chinatown to track down Thack. That seems like a pretty ballsy thing for a young white woman to do at the time. From what I’ve been given to understand, Chinatown could be a pretty rough place.

Meanwhile, uptown, the party’s getting underway. Captain Robertson calls Edwards over to meet Hobarth Showalter, Cornelia’s future father-in-law, who’s in rubber down in Ecuador. Hobart describes the natives down there as being docile and obedient and super cheap. Edwards chuckles uncomfortably and observes that free or nearly free labour really does change the equation. Not getting it, Hobarth says that it built the pyramids. Well, in that case, I guess slavery’s just fine, right? Robertson suggests that Edwards might find some professional opportunities in Hobarth’s rapidly expanding business.

Lucy lurks across the street from Thack’s opium den and finally goes inside. She spots him, high as a kite, cuddled up next to one of the women. Another woman approaches and asks Lucy if she wants to get high. Lucy gets the hell out of there.

Cornelia’s telling her mother and fiancé, Philip, about some more typhoid cases that have cropped up, along with some amongst the poorer lot. Her mother snobbishly says that Cornelia won’t be consorting with those people (yeah, let them die off, and decrease the surplus population, right?) and Cornelia reminds her that ‘those people’ are 90% of their hospital’s patients.

Mrs R: Yes, but they’re so gross!

Edwards joins them and is introduced to Philip. Mrs R asks if he’s there to see his mother and he replies that he was invited, which she apparently forgot. She takes off so Edwards can make some small talk with the happy couple, during which Philip reveals that he and Cornelia will be moving to San Francisco after the wedding, something she was unaware of. And she doesn’t seem too happy about it, either.

Later, Thomas Edison demos his recording device to the delight of the city’s wealthy. Edwards sidles up to Cornelia and asks if she’s ok. She’s not pleased by this prospective move to San Francisco, since she might as well be moving to another planet.

One good thing to come out of the party for Edwards is a tip from Hobarth about a man who’s selling vacuums. The man demos one for Edwards, who asks if it could be modified to suck blood. The guy’s a little thrown but figures it could be. Edwards orders one up. For 1900 that seems like a surprisingly good vacuum. Most of them needed two people operating them, one pumping by hand and the other actually directing the hose.

It’s take your father to work day! Bertie’s dad has come along to watch his son work the clinic and speak a little Yiddish to a woman with pneumonia. His dad doesn’t look like he approves. There’s an uproar at the door as two men bring in their friend, who tells them he can’t move his neck. Edwards and Bertie hop to, but Gallinger actually pushes them out of the way so he can see the man. Bertie diagnoses meningitis and notices some bites on the man’s arms and legs. This is the rat guy from the beginning. Turns out, letting yourself get nibbled on by NYC rats is not such a great idea.

Later, Gallinger tends to the man, who’s on the ward. When he turns away, Edwards checks the man’s chart, which of course pisses off Gallinger. Edwards quietly asks if Gallinger wants to take another swing at him. Gallinger decides not to, which is a shame, because I’d kind of like to see Edwards hand him his own ass. Instead, Gallinger picks up the chart, which Edwards placed on the bed, brushing against the patient’s leg momentarily. He returns the chart to its spot hanging from the headboard and then heads home.

Cornelia goes to the maternity part of the hospital, where Harriet and one of the other nuns are cuddling the little foundling girl. There’s some discussion of naming the child, and then Harriet asks for some cash for more supplies.

Gallinger returns home, where his wife’s just setting out dinner. She hands him the baby and goes to fuss with the table, asking if Edwards has apologized for interfering the previous day. Clearly she’s gotten a pretty whitewashed version of what happened, not that I’m surprised. Gallinger snarls that Edwards is now checking up on his work like some kind of schoolmaster. He plans to just stay the course until Edwards gets tired of being marginilised and leaves. He sits down to play with the baby and gives her his finger to chew on. Oh, god, that baby’s going to die, isn’t she? Really, a dead baby storyline? I’d better prepare some nightmare fuel antidote. I should have some leftover from watching the episode of Masters of Sex last year where Libby miscarried at 6 months. I was about 5 months pregnant at the time.

Cleary and his partner arrive at some tenement to find a young woman in bed, bleeding heavily. They quickly load her up and rush her to the Knick. She’s taken into the operating theatre, where Thack and Harriet get to work. Harriet immediately notes that there’s too much blood for this to just be a miscarriage. It’s a self-induced abortion. The woman swiftly dies. Cleary and Bertie’s father both watch. Thack figures that, since she’s dead, he may as well do a little experimenting. He cuts open her chest, reaches in, and manually pumps her heart. Cleary looks horrified and leaves. Thack invites Bertie to have a try, which he does. Thack figures this could come in useful someday.

Later, Bertie and his dad leave for the evening. Bertie asks if his dad was shocked and his father says he wasn’t, because he started out in a place much more horror-filled than this one, but he did it and worked up so his son wouldn’t have to subject himself to this sort of thing. He calls Thack a butcher and a showman and accuses Bertie of wasting his life working with poor people and letting people call him Bertie. He insists that Bertie is a surgeon and should be addressed at all times as Dr Bertram Chickering, Jr. Anyone who had ‘disapproving dad’ on their TV Tropes bingo card can go ahead and scratch that one off.

Barrow and Edwards run into each other near the morgue and their conversation goes a little like this:

‘Wow, it’s kind of awkward, running into each other like this!’

‘Yes, it certainly is! Let’s have a few moments of stilted conversation before I go into the morgue to totally not steal a body!’

‘Yes, let’s, before I totally don’t go check on the secret clinic for black people I set up in the basement!’

‘Excellent! Have a good night!’

‘Yeah, you too!’

Barrow goes into the morgue and pulls out the very recently dead girl, but Cleary interrupts his body snatching and firmly tells him that the girl belongs to him.’ Barrow tries to make a deal to split the profits from the body selling, but Cleary stands firm, and since he’s a big, strapping guy and Barrow’s…not, Cleary wins out. Barrow leaves and Cleary takes the necklace from around the girl’s neck.

He then goes and collects Harriet, telling her they’re going for a little field trip.

They go to the Potter’s Field, where the girl’s being buried. Cleary’s first job was digging graves here. He tells her that the girl had nobody, which she thinks is sad. Cleary does too. There was no reason for the girl to die, and he doesn’t want to see more like her, so he offers to find the girls who need help and send Harriet their way. It’ll still be a 60-40 split on the money, though. He hasn’t completely changed character here. He asks her to say a prayer for the girl and Harriet complies.

Edwards wheels his new bloodsucker into the Clandestine Clinic.

Lucy leaves for the night, running across Thack, who bids her goodnight, gets in a cab, and, I believe, goes home.

One thought on “The Knick: Where’s the Dignity?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.