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The Knick “Where’s the Dignity” 

Photo Credit: Mary Cybulski/Cinemax
Photo Credit: Mary Cybulski/Cinemax

Algernon Edwards is a very smart man. Not only is he the first “negro” doctor at The Knickerbocker, but he may be the only black doctor in all of New York in 1900. There are some who seem to genuinely admire and/or respect Algernon, but he also has to deal with quite a few people’s constant attempts (and even from those who like him) to undermine him and “put him in his place.” It’s exhausting and infuriating to watch. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for a man like him to really deal with everyday prejudice, disrespect and contempt at that time. On top of that, he’s got to constantly prove he has what it takes to be Thackery’s number two. The only people who seems to have any faith in him are the Captain and Cornelia. So when Thackery tells Edwards not to even bother scrubbing in for the procedure he’s talking Gallinger through, we know he’s got something up his sleeve – or around his finger, more accurately.

Gallinger performs the procedure as Edwards talks him through it. It’s interesting though, because Gallinger seems hesitant. Edwards’ instructions are clear and easy to follow, but Gallinger seems to be waiting for Thackery to either take the lead or take over. When Edwards clams up as the patient is bleeding out, Gallinger thinks he can wait out his bluff. But he blinks and Edwards steps in to take over. Even more interesting, is that he uses a silver wire instead of a cooper one for the galvanic procedure. He says he wouldn’t have let them make that mistake during the surgery – and I believe him – but Gallinger is angry enough to take a swing at Edwards. Not only does he not get reprimanded, which isn’t a surprise, but Thackery makes a joke of it. That does seem to surprise Edwards, but the surgery’s gallery is filled with white men. Did he really expect any other reaction? Despite that, I wonder if Thack is losing faith in his heir apparent. Even Gallinger’s wife worries that Gallinger might fall out of favor.

While Edwards has to deal with blatant and obvious racism and discrimination from most of his colleagues, one place I’m sure he doesn’t expect it as much is at the Robertson’s house. But not only does Mrs. Robertson assume he’s there to visit his mother, but he’s definitely getting some hostile vibes from Phillip’s father as well. I like that Edwards not-so-subtly challenges his perception of slave labor. Just because Mr. Showalter is making the natives in South America work for next to nothing doesn’t make what he’s doing right. And he clearly doesn’t appreciate that a black man is commenting on his business practices. But the biggest surprise to come out of that evening is when Phillip tells Algernon that he and Cornelia will be moving west after they’re married – which is clearly news to Cornelia. Although her father really does seem to respect the work she does at The Knick, she’ll always be “just” a woman. I guess Cornelia doesn’t get a say in where they live.

Photo Credit: Mary Cybulski/Cinemax
Photo Credit: Mary Cybulski/Cinemax

We finally get a peek at Cleary’s humanity in “Where’s the Dignity.” Since there’s money to be made from the service Sister Harriet provides, Cleary wants his cut. He’ll take 60% for his troubles or he’ll talk. Harry doesn’t have much of a choice, but their arrangement changes after Cleary’s interaction with a terrified young woman in the back of his ambulance. She tried to perform an abortion on herself, but couldn’t get the bleeding to stop on her own. At the hospital Thackery is able to locate the source of the bleed with Harry’s help, but they can’t save her. Since she’s already dead, Thack tries something on her he’s been wanting to test and has Bertie try it as well. He gently massages the heart and is able to produce a pulse from that. But as soon as they stop, so does the pulse.

Bertie’s father, who had been watching the procedure, is horrified. Also a doctor, he tells his son he worked hard to get out of practicing at hospitals like The Knick to give his son better opportunities. He hates that Bertie worships Thackery and that he allows his colleagues to call him anything other that Dr. Bertram Chickering, Jr. Bertie thinks the nickname is a show of affection, but Dr. Bertram Chickering, Sr. thinks it’s a form of disrespect.

If we’re gonna talk about disrespect, we’ve got to discuss Speight. That man’s lack of manners is appalling, even by today’s standards. I think he’s asking really important questions of Mrs. Hemming, but the way he goes about it is so rude. I love that he must refuse an offer of ice cream – after Cornelia makes a comment – because of his earlier behavior. He deserves it. I do like that he won’t share any theories on the cause of the Typhoid outbreak yet. He has so much more work to do before he can determine that. I don’t know if he’s just being petty in not talking to Cornelia. I’d like to think he’s being responsible, but I doubt that’s the reason.

Photo Credit: Mary Cybulski/Cinemax
Photo Credit: Mary Cybulski/Cinemax

And what’s going on with Lucy? She knows Thackery’s an addict, but I feel like she’s more than merely curious about him and his life outside the hospital. Does she have a crush? Even though she knows what a mess he is? She tells him Abby thinks he’s avoiding her. When he goes to visit his patient, he dismisses Lucy but she stay close enough to eavesdrop. Later she thanks him for the visit, but Thackery tells her he didn’t do it for her. When Lucy overhears where he’s headed for the evening, she follows him and discovers him passed out in an opium den and from what we’ve seen so far this season, he goes there every night. Is this the end of Lucy’s curiosity or will she try to find out even more about him, try to insinuate herself into his life? I hope she’s careful because he could easily draw her into something very dangerous.

Other Developments

  • I love that Edwards wants to find a way to use an electric vacuum during surgeries. It’s so smart. But he’s got to try it out first and there certainly isn’t any electricity in his office.
  • Barrow is so shady, which is not news. But it’s funny how to tries to play it off when Cleary barges in on him taking stock of a fresh corpse. Cleary is adamant that body of the young woman he brought in is his.
  • Thackery acknowledges that he wasn’t right for Abby, but they both know she moved on with the wrong man.

The Knick airs Fridays at 10/9c on Cinemax.

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