Dr. John Thackery wasn’t given too much time to mourn the untimely death of his beloved Abigail Alford tonight. This was primarily because his own medical issues have finally caught up with him — and because a good portion of the character’s screen time was eaten up by a flashback to 1894 Nicaragua.
The flashback was cool in the sense that it was interesting to see how exactly Thack ended up working at the Knickerbocker Hospital: While in the Central American country, the mustache-less doctor cut a deal to treat a smallpox outbreak if the Nicaraguan soldiers agreed to release their well-to-do prisoner — one Capt. August Robertson, whom the locals believed responsible for causing the epidemic in the first place. Using his signature innovation, the Philadelphia physician made a vaccine out of smallpox sores, which he then blew up the rainforest-dwellers’ nostrils. In gratitude for saving his life, Robertson offered him a position at the Knick. But the yellow-tinted flashback was also important because while there was no proof of the shipping magnate’s culpability in bringing smallpox into Nicaragua, it was certainly a strong possibility. Given what Cornelia Showalter has uncovered about her father’s business, and what happened at the end of tonight’s episode, Robertson’s history does not work in his favor.
Back in 1901, there is no doubt of Thack’s deep depression in the aftermath of Abby’s death. He’s too involved in his own sorrow to even bid farewell to Zoya and Nika, who take their first steps as separated sisters tonight — and are then adopted by a Missouri family. But with Abby and the formerly conjoined twins out of the way, “Do You Remember Moon Flower?” was able to turn its focus onto Thack’s own health.
After he collapses on the street next to the Knick, Dr. Algernon Edwards and Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr. rush him to see, of all people, Dr. Levi Zinberg, who diagnoses the surgeon with bowel ischemia. Basically, Thack’s intestines are in shreds due to his continued rampant cocaine usage. Thack knows it, and so does Edwards, who glimpsed empty vials in his colleague’s garbage can in an earlier scene. Thack, however, refuses Zinberg’s recommendation of surgery, insisting upon finding an “alternative” treatment. Despite all three doctors’ asserting that there is no medication for this malady, Thack’s resolve is unwavering. The question of his health remains an open one for the rest of the episode, as we won’t get any further answers until next week.
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This is probably for the best, because Edwards has enough on his own plate tonight without having to deal with Thack’s stubborn attitude. After discovering the records of the dozens of vasectomies Dr. Everett Gallinger performed on the “Idiot House” boys last week, Edwards has brought the eugenics-advocating physician up on charges to the New York State Medical Board. Gallinger is furious with Edwards at first, but at the hearing, we get a good, hard look at how different the attitudes among “learned” physicians were back in 1901 — and that Gallinger, as a white male doctor, is untouchable. Edwards doesn’t have a leg to stand on, as all three members of the board are staunch eugenics supporters, dismissing the African-American doctor’s claims that it’s nothing more than “quackery.” The president of the board, a Dr. Phelps, humiliates Edwards, explaining that eugenics is a “very legitimate and necessary study” — so much so, he’s even added it to the curriculum at Columbia University’s medical school.
NEXT: “I won’t be shamed by the likes of you”