Cornelia tackles Typhoid Mary to Speight's delight, and Thackery encounters a "mouldy rogue."
Credit: Mary Cybulski/Cinemax

Reading Jeff Labrecque’s listicle about Hollywood’s top actor-director pairings—and running across No. 10, Channing Tatum and Steven Soderbergh—gets a person thinking about where The Knick hovers in Soderbergh’s constellation of entertainment offerings. The Knick‘s 87 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating puts it somewhere behind Traffic (for which Soderbergh won a Best Director Oscar) and above Contagion. That the show falls between two such notable ensemble works shouldn’t be a surprise, since one of The Knick‘s greatest strengths is its collection of diverse, engaging performances—from Owen’s mercurial Thackery to André Holland’s continually tested Edwards and Juliet Rylance’s quietly defiant Cornelia.

In “Start Calling Me Dad,” the Knick gang begins tying off threads left dangling in episode 5. For one, Thackery returns to his old tricks with a weekend-long bender of drugs, medical experiments, and prostitutes (not necessarily in that order). Naturally, it facilitates his biggest triumph to date: the solution to the placenta previa deaths. His episode 5 bicycle ride must have gotten his brain wheels turning—not to mention his libido. (He and his “experiment” subjects indulge in a few “breaks” over the weekend.) The breakthrough is so big that he calls Chickering in the wee hours to join him. It seems like a way for Thackery to draw the younger doctor into his debauchery—but with their findings, they’re later able to save the life of a lovely young mother and her baby. Thackery calls it the Christiansen-Thackery-Chickering Placental Repair, and coauthors a paper on it with Chickering.

Cornelia is high on life when she brings down Typhoid Mary—literally tackling the woman—after Speight deduces that the contagion is being spread through peach melba made by a freelance cook. They track her to a boarding house and interrogate her there. The woman seems fit, and takes exception to the idea that she’s the source of the outbreak—spitting in Speight’s face and making a run for it when he threatens her with arrest. Prim socialite Cornelia lunges at Mary and is dragged down the hall, to Speight’s absolute delight.

What does Cornelia receive as reward for saving New York from a large-scale typhoid outbreak? Her fiancé’s dad, over to play cards with his son and her father, walks in on her undressing for bed later that night and stops just shy of directly telling her she’s expected to sleep with him. Cornelia’s confusion, fear, and, finally, disgust are palpable. “Mr. Showalter,” she calls him. “Dad,” he says, and takes his leave of her. She trembles at a development far more heinous than any of us could have imagined—one that smacks of the medieval concept of droit du seigneur (the “right of the lord”). Cornelia will surely make a run for it, right? Right?

NEXT: The Gallinger baby succumbs

Along these lines: A factory supervisor has raped a female employee, and Cleary brings Sister Harriet by to rectify the situation with one of her $8 abortions. Cleary admits that part of the reason he’s helping is that he grew up in an orphanage with abusive nuns—no child should have to endure the physical abuse he did. He knows Harry’s a good nun, and gives her a swig on his flask.

She needs it after the day she’s had, advising and then consoling the Gallingers as their baby Lillian succumbs to meningitis. At the wake, Mrs. Gallinger shows signs of delusion, believing that God will bring her baby back. Sister Harriet pulls Dr. Gallinger aside and encourages him to consider taking in an orphan baby girl to keep the “wave of melancholia” from engulfing his house. A disconsolate mother may be swayed by the work of caring for another child, Harry advises.

Barrow buys a used X-ray machine for $2,000. Anyone else betting he’ll ask Capt. Robertson for $3,000, pass the equipment off as new, and pocket the difference?

The despicable sense of entitlement exhibited by white male society in The Knick extends to our Dr. Thackery, who, when he discovers Edwards’ makeshift basement clinic late one night, shuts the operation down, shooing clearly ailing patients out into the darkness. If these patients were white, Edwards argues, there wouldn’t be a question of their care at The Knick. Thackery claims it’s not about race, but about negligence—unregistered patients, unsterile conditions, untrained personnel, etc. Whatever lets you sleep at night, Doc.

Thackery then notices some unfamiliar equipment in the corner and asks what it is. Edwards demonstrates the electric suctioning equipment. “That’s not the only thing I’ve come up with down here,” he says, showing Thackery his solution for the inguinal hernia and describing the benefits of the silver-wire suture. Thackery is listening: “This is good. This is better than good…You just make sure you keep that door locked, so that no one else stumbles in here.” Edwards’ hernia findings will be the new standard hernia procedure at The Knick. Edwards wants to be published—and wants Thackery to coauthor. He also wants to work upstairs in his official capacity as deputy chief of surgery.

Thackery extends a hand: “Dr. Edwards, may I officially welcome you to the Knick?”

Finally. Score one for Edwards. Let’s hope it sticks.

Shakespeare Watch

1. Thackery throws out some Rosalind from As You Like It: “Believe then, if you please, that I can do strange things.” Rosalind was talking about being a magician. He’s talking about being a scientist and inventor—and possibly a whoremonger.

2. A medical supply salesman tries to get Thackery to sell some snake oil with his name and face on the bottle. “Doctor Thackery’s Rejuvenation Liniment” treats all manner of afflictions. Thackery asks for some time to think about it. How much time? “Until hell freezes over,” Thackery says. “In the meantime, would you be so kind as to stick your head firmly up your ass?” He tops it off with a line from Henry IV: “Away, you mouldy rogue, away.”

Episode Recaps

The Knick
Clive Owen and Steven Soderbergh team up for this 1900s medical drama.
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