Spiraling because of his drug dependency, Thackery finds he has a friend in Wu.
Credit: Mary Cybulski/Cinemax
S1 E8
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The Knick indulges in some vices in its latest, which should maybe be called “Working It a Lot,” because there’s a whole lot of bad behavior, sexytime, and sass this week in the period drama. Nurse Elkins’ corruption by charismatic Dr. Thackery is complete; she now whines for cocaine to be incorporated into their sex act. In their pillow talk afterward, she reveals that her father is a preacher and would condemn her for her sins of the flesh. Thackery: “Sex, pleasure, immodesty, us here now—this is no sin.” Lucy: “Will you be there on Judgment Day to make my case then?” Him: “God’s not watching.”

He may not be, but others are—that is, watching Thackery’s rapid descent into withdrawal when the city’s cocaine supplies are cut off by the Philippine-American War, in which Capt. Robertson’s ships, including those carrying medical supplies, are being sunk. Thackery sweats and shakes through his day, complaining to the pharmaceutical rep on the board about the patients’ need for the drug. Later, Thackery twitches through the meeting of the Metropolitan Surgical Society, where he is to give his presentation of Edwards’ hernia paper. Thackery is so out of sorts that he steps away from the speaker area to shoot up in the basement, but then returns so wound up—where did Lucy find this stuff?—that he races through his presentation on the procedure, which he exclaims to be “probably the biggest advance in inguinal hernia surgery in the past 100 years.” In the audience, Dr. Chickering Sr. eyeballs Thackery, who oddly refuses to take questions, then sits and fidgets through the introduction of the next speaker, Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson), and has trouble focusing on the presentation for Zinberg’s Intrascope.

At a cocktail party later, Chickering Sr. approaches when the Knick team disbands: “Dr. Thackery. I was hoping for a word, but by the looks of you, an examination might be more in order.” Thackery plays it off as overwork. Chickering tells him he has Bertram in his “thrall,” and he has to let him go. Chickering suggests that Zinberg would be a better mentor. Thackery says Bertie has great talent and that he’s invested too much in him. Chickering Sr.: “Whatever you have ‘invested’ in the boy, I can assure you I have infinitely more.” Chickering Sr. has generally come off as a snob and a hardass, but it now seems that he pretty much had Thackery’s number all along. Nothing like living up to low expectations—except there’s still the pesky fact that Thackery is a brilliant and innovative surgeon. He vows to show that Chickering Sr. and won’t rest until his next presentation, on the placenta previa procedure, eclipses whatever that secretive Zinberg has planned.

Speight has news for Cornelia: Typhoid Mary has petitioned a judge to release her from quarantine—after Cornelia’s heroic tackle, you’d think Mary would see the gravity of the situation. She’s proven to be a carrier, but her lawyer will argue that she’s being wrongfully imprisoned.

But first, before Cornelia resumes her pursuit of the typhoid issue, she engages in her secret affair with Edwards. Cornelia insists that Jesse (the family chauffeur and Edwards’ dad) go home. She says she’s going to be working for 7 more hours. Instead, she hires a cab to take her Edwards’ hotel. The cab driver advises against it, the hotel guests look at her funny, but she’s all smiles as she knocks and locks lips with Edwards when he answers. As naked Cornelia smokes a cigarette in the afterglow, they joke about how she works late a lot these days, she goes out so frequently, and she just can’t seem to quench her thirst for knowledge and cultural enrichment. Then Edwards: “Aren’t you scared—of what we’re doing?” She: “I’m only scared we won’t be able to stop.” His face: Erm, yeah, that might actually be a problem.

End Knick romantic interlude No. 2.

NEXT: Typhoid Mary is released, Speight curses a blue streak

Back on the typhoid case, Cornelia attends the Mallon hearing. Mary argues that she’s being held like a criminal. On the stand, she says, “I’m in the pink…Do I look sick to you?” The judge replies no. Chickering Jr. testifies that she can still be a carrier—the concept of a carrier being asymptomatic is new, however, Chickering admits—and that 18 cases of typhoid developed in homes where she worked. The judge makes arguments on behalf of Typhoid Mary, causing Chickering Jr. to lose his temper and tell him that maybe if he’d gone to medical school instead of law school, he’d know what he was talking about. Cornelia cringes. Walking out of the courthouse, Mary tells them to go “f— yourselves.” In one of the more impressive expletive-laced tirades seen on television recently, Speight replies: “Go wash yourself! At least your f—ing hand when … you take a s–t, so you don’t kill someone with your s–t-filled cooking!” He apologizes to Cornelia, but she says no need: Mary is filthy and deserves every bit of it.

And we all learn a lesson about respecting those signs in public restrooms that remind employees to wash their hands before returning to work.

Speaking of working it, Barrow has shifted into full-hustle mode, stopping by Capt. Robertson’s place for a good verbal smackdown. “It’s not writing a check that irks me; it’s the unceasing assumption that I always will,” Robertson says. Smarm now in overdrive, Barrow goes to the Catholic Church to seek funds. Amidst rich furnishings, the archbishop says it’s not going to happen. In the end, Barrow fires two black furnace workers to come up with the funds for—what was it he was seeking funds for again? The cocaine Thackery’s been bleating about, or is he looking to line his pockets again? A little bit of both, surely.

Presumably out of his mind because of his drug withdrawal, Thackery takes strychnine—strychnine!—before surgery on an oral abscess. During surgery, he begins to lose focus. He notes to the surgical theater that it’s critical not to puncture the mass and release the ray fungus—obviously he’s going to puncture the mass and release the ray fungus. Fortunately, he steps away, complaining of a headache, and Edwards takes over. Whew. Ray fungus threat level: green. Dr. Thackery then visits his favorite drug den. Ping Wu (Perry Yung) approaches with a loaded pipe and says, in a soft and scratchy voice, that he’ll add it to the bill. Thackery makes a crack about how if he’d known he’d be charged, he might’ve let Wu die (instead of doing that emergency tracheotomy on him). Wu says he can’t be killed, but then, “I will not forget what you did for me. You will always have a friend in Wu.” Thackery tells the prostitute attending him that he wants her to keep shoving the pipe in his face and firing it up every time he comes around from the previous one. In his opium haze, he dreams of Christensen’s suicide.

A few Knick odds and ends:

As Chickerings Jr. and Sr. walk and talk, Jr. tells Sr. that, besides the respect and education he gets at the Knick, he’s in love with Nurse Lucy Elkins—another reason he wants to stay. Sr. says that if he marries her, she’ll not be a nurse for long, and Jr. will then have no excuse. Wonder what Lucy would say about all this shipping. Wonder what the Chickerings would say about Lucy’s new nocturnal habits.

Sister Harriet introduces Gallinger to the orphan baby girl, Grace. “‘Grace’ is perfect,” he says when Sister Harriet suggests that he and Eleanor might change it. “Let’s hope that Eleanor falls for her as quickly as I have.” Somehow thinking that’s not going to happen. Later at the Gallinger house, Eleanor becomes hysterical and tells Harriet to get the baby away before they “infect it.” Gallinger takes baby Grace and forces her into Eleanor’s arms. (The baby actress seems none too pleased about performing this scene.)

Typhoid Mary shows up at an employment agency applying under her married name. She flat out denies being Typhoid Mary. Lying on your resume is one thing—a very bad thing—but then there’s lying about being the source of a plague.

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