The ongoing rivalry between Dr. Edwards and Dr. Gallinger comes to a violent, upsetting conclusion
Credit: Paul Schiraldi

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”

But if you didn’t hate Everett Gallinger before, his behavior in the scene immediately following his triumph with the medical board will have you seething with rage. He meets Edwards in the courtyard, where the disgraced doctor is waiting, with his shirtsleeves rolled up, preparing for a fight. At this point, who could blame him? Already he has no guarantee he can join his colleagues at the new Knick, he’s been publicly embarrassed by a group of white men who stopped short of telling him he’s inferior to them — and there’s that little issue of Gallinger sabotaging his surgery on D.W. Garrison Carr. Besides, Carr’s speeches have slowly been galvanizing Edwards to take firmer action against those who would subjugate him.

Gallinger’s taunts of how “in the face of intellectual reason, you can’t help but resort to violence,” just reiterate how awful the burgeoning fight for civil rights was at this time. Edwards couldn’t even use “intellectual reason” to win his argument. The widespread racism that permeated society allowed for Gallinger to menacingly inform Edwards that “[Eugenics] is legitimate, and it’s not going away. It is fact.” But as Gallinger even observes, doing physical harm to him will only “improve [his] entire thesis,” which is that Edwards is “like an animal.”

It’s a no-win situation for Edwards, who doesn’t even get to throw one punch before Gallinger is beating the ever-loving stuffing out of him — which includes some targeted whacks on Edwards’ damaged eye — and calling him a “stupid n-word” before walking away.

As if we couldn’t be more sickened by Gallinger’s behavior, we then get to watch him revel in his superiority by making rough love to Eleanor’s sister/replacement, Dorothy Walcott, on the floor of the his dining room. Even more despicable is how he gloats, “I tamed the goddamn beast!” and how Dorothy asks, “Did you go for his eye?” Now we have to worry if Edwards is going to be partially blind by next week.

Although, half-blind is way better than dead, which was the fate of two helpless characters in tonight’s episode. First we have Nurse Lucy Elkins’ father, A.D. Elkins, who was fatally punished for his abusive nature by his vindictive, empowered daughter in what was easily the best scene of the episode. Elkins, who is still paralyzed following his stroke (in a brothel) last week, is visited by his daughter, and her entire speech to him is seen through the pastor’s point of view. Through smiles and hushed tones, Lucy compares the beating she received from her father to the treatment of their old, stubborn mule, Moon Flower (hence the title of tonight’s episode).

Now that Elkins is incapacitated, she will have her comeuppance on the man who hurt her more than anyone else (even Thack): “I won’t be shamed by the likes of you,” she tells her silent, sobbing father. “Or anyone else anymore. What I’ve done, what I will do, is nowhere near the deceitful life you’ve obviously led.”

But even though Lucy gave her father a peaceful death (via lethal injection), she wasn’t going to let him head off to “eternal damnation” without hearing the rest of her confession. He was going to suffer, just the way she suffered, until his dying breath. Not only did she reveal that her affair was with Thack — “You shook the very fingers I begged him to slip inside me so many times” — but she tortured Elkins further by describing their relationship in graphic, wince-inducing detail.

NEXT: We Didn’t Start the Fire — So Who Did?

And Lucy wasn’t letting her father leave this earth without confessing to earning $100 a pop for every time she let Ping Wu suck on her feet, either.

After she bids her father farewell (“Bye, daddy — enjoy your trip”) and walks out of the ward, the view becomes fuzzy before the camera lands back on Elkins’ frightened, near-catatonic face. As we realize that Lucy has done the unthinkable and killed her own father, our thoughts shift immediately to Henry Robertson: Son, you better give this girl everything she asks for, or else you might end up taking a premature trip to hell yourself.

Henry is safe for now, but there is one member of the New York society family who wasn’t so lucky tonight: Patriarch Capt. August Robertson. Cornelia and Henry decide to confront their father over the evidence pegging him responsible for bringing several contagious diseases into the United States. Both siblings are supposed to meet Capt. Robertson at the new Knick construction site, but for whatever reason, Henry is MIA. Cornelia doesn’t wait for her brother to arrive before she starts accusing her father of bribing immigration officials and causing the appearance of Bubonic plague in the country. Capt. Robertson insists to his daughter he has not committed any of the crimes she mentioned, but unfortunately, the shipping tycoon doesn’t get the chance to defend his case.

A fire quickly sweeps through the building, and only Cornelia is able to escape unharmed. As she and Henry (who finally showed up) watch the flames engulf the construction site, they are horrified to see their trapped father leap to his death.

The fire and Capt. Robertson’s death leave us with several questions (and suspects) as we head into next week’s season finale. Did Cornelia’s father set the fire and then commit suicide because he knew his corruption had been discovered? Considering what we saw in the Nicaragua flashback, it is entirely possible he’s been bringing contagious diseases into a multitude of countries for years. Or, was it an act of arson on the part of Herman Barrow, who, after paying his $2,000 fee to the Metropolitan Club, was saddled with an all-new string of bills tonight? His cuckolded wife, Effie, is now blackmailing him to keep her living in style for the next five years — or else she’s going to turn over all of the documentation proving his years of company skimming to the authorities (she was accidentally handed the key to her husband’s safe-deposit box while on a trip to the bank).

Or, was the fire set by Henry, who was conveniently missing from his family’s rendezvous just as the flames began to rise?

Stray observations:

  • It’s sad to see Tom Cleary and Sister Harriet still at odds after last episode’s failed smooch. But, at least their condom-selling business seems to be taking off. Though they could both learn a thing or two from the prostitutes who buy their wares: They then sell them to their johns at a marked-up price.
  • There was also a coda to the Eleanor Gallinger-as-murderer story line tonight. The detective whom we feared might have been poisoned last week turned up alive and well to inform Gallinger that Dr. Cotton’s killer(s) were in fact… his two sons. The Princeton students, having had all of their teeth pulled by dear ol’ dad, had been slowly poisoning Cotton’s food with arsenic. They even confessed to the crime before committing suicide. So Eleanor, while remaining in the mental institution, is at least off the hook as a double-murderess. However, it’s still safe to say she killed Cotton: The detective mentioned how surprised the doctor’s sons were that he had died so quickly.

Episode Recaps

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