They don’t have quite the same connotation as the proverbial white hat, but now that Dr. John Thackery is back to wearing the white shoes, it feels like a new energy has been injected back into the Knickerbocker Hospital.
But aside from the loose Olivia Pope similarities in color preference, it’s a different kind of energy this time. Now that Thack is clean (though not sober — he’s still throwing back the whiskey), he is determined to spend his days researching the cause of addiction instead of resuming his surgical duties. This brash decision isn’t taken kindly by the hospital board, especially the holier-than-thou archbishop, who declares Thack’s project “absurd,” deeming addiction as nothing more than “a failure of personal morality.” Even though most of the board shares the archbishop’s opinion, Thack knows the right language to use in this case — which is the only useful dialect when it comes to securing advances at the Knick: money. Once he discovers a cure for addiction, he promises the Knick will become “the leading hospital in treating the epidemic — and we can charge handsomely for that treatment.”
Thack may have been briefly channeling a familiar White House fixer throughout his impassioned speech to the board, but his return to the Knick puts him in more of a Season 7A Don Draper role than anything else. He’s back as chief of surgery, but heavily censured: He has to seek approval for medications he prescribes, and he must subject himself to regular examinations to ensure no new track marks have popped up on his skin. And for all his grand assurances about unraveling the mysteries of addiction, Thack brings himself down several notches by admitting to Capt. Robertson and the board that he has “no idea” where to begin with his research.
This is the ideal moment for Nurse Lucy Elkins to stride into Thack’s reclaimed office only to have her giddy grin wiped right off her face the second she tries reaching out to her returned lover. This breakup was inevitable as soon as we heard Lucy’s naïve voice-over last week (if not immediately after Thack checked into Cromartie), though it doesn’t look like their intimacy will be ending anytime soon: Guess who’s been assigned to check the good doctor for needle marks?
“Because I know all your hiding places,” mutters the girl who once injected cocaine into Thack’s penis.
But there is one thing that Thack didn’t count on when he got clean: That his skills in the operating room would be affected. After noticing that Algernon Edwards was relinquishing surgeries to Everett Gallinger (a.k.a. the biggest racist in the entire hospital) and sneaking eye drops, Thack called him out on his damaged peeper. With their history of shared secrets, Edwards realizes Thack is the only doctor who can try out his experimental surgery (dude’s got detailed sketches and everything!) — with Edwards himself as the guinea pig. Except before he even makes it into the surgical theater, Thack is spooked by more visions of the little girl from last week (a couple of vivid flashbacks confirmed the child as the one he killed during last season’s failed blood transfusion), a mysterious clanging sound and the sight of blood pouring out of the sink taps.
Anyone hoping for some elaborate knife-to-the-eyeball action in this scene had to make do with a large needle being injected right into Edwards’s sclera. The sight of Thack’s unsteady hand was enough to make the Clockwork Orange-eye-clamped patient cancel the procedure at the last second.
But the day wasn’t a total loss. While drowning his sorrows at a local dance hall, Thack reconnects with Kate, a hooker with whom he decidedly didn’t dance earlier in the episode (he opted for an alleyway quickie instead). Kate, as it turns out, likes to do cocaine and heroin — at the same time, one in each arm. “Cocaine takes the bottom off the heroin, and the heroin takes the top off the cocaine,” she explains. “They dance beautifully together,” she purrs. “Until the cocaine wears off,” interjects Thack. “That’s when you find out if you got the amounts wrong,” says Kate. Instead of being tempted by this alluring cocktail, Thack realizes he may have a breakthrough in his nascent addiction research, because he knows that uneven amounts could lead to death. Looks like this discovery may just be Thack’s new version of a drug high.
NEXT: Cornelia’s grave discovery