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The Knick: “The Golden Lotus”

By Eleonora Iafano on Oct 12, 2014 to The Knick

Misery loves company. In every corner of this episode, people’s lives were unraveling; despair was potent and uncertainty palpable. Words escape me; I say this in the best possible way to describe it, because this episode did not disappoint. Every action has its share of consequences and the staff at the Knick are finding out just how badly things have become.

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Thackeray, at his lowest level of debauchery, is arrested for stealing cocaine from a pharmacy. If it wasn’t for his very wealthy benefactor, August Robertson, he would’ve been sitting in a dank jail cell somewhere, rotting away. Not only does Augustus pay off the police for being discreet, all debts are paid off between them. One has to wonder a few episodes ago, when Thackeray and Augustus were talking, there was something mentioned that Thackeray had helped Augustus out somehow and it had something to do with South America. If I had to guess, Thackeray helped Augustus by keeping an affair discreet or doing something equally clandestine for Augustus. No matter, now they are even. Thackeray is so far gone into his cocaine habit that he looks awful and there is no limit to what he will do to procure the drugs.

Barrow has his own share of woes, as he cannot procure any cocaine, heroin or morphine for the hospital, due to the war in the Philippines. Going to his loan shark, Bunky, he finds out that he is able to get some drugs. Bunky, being in the business of prostitution, is able to get his hands on a lot of drugs. Perhaps Barrow should have taken the time to check out the quality and the purity of the drugs. He’s also trying to do his best by spin doctoring what really happened to John and by telling staff not to gossip about Dr. Thackeray. This war is causing a lot of stress and anxiety for many people: Barrow needs the drugs for the hospital’s doctors and nurses so that operations can be performed safely; Thackeray needs his drugs because he is an addict and cannot perform without them; Lucy Elkins needs to procure them in order to keep her relationship with John on-going and the rest of the staff need them for the patients for post-operative procedures. It’s frustrating and sad to see Lucy abase herself and for what? A man who is an addict; he cannot possibly love Lucy, he only loves her for feeding into his habit.

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As for Cornelia and Algernon, things have taken a turn for the worse; Cornelia is pregnant and while Algernon is hopeful of them having a child and a future together, this simply isn’t meant to be. You see the shock and fear on Cornelia’s face. The dismay that their cloak and dagger affair will now be brought to light: a pregnancy is proof of their intimacy and to the world of how very wrong their actions were. I am all for true love and for people being together but remember one thing: in the year 1900, it simply was not permissible for a white woman and a black man to fall in love, let alone have a baby together. The shock and scandal that this will cause in Cornelia’s family alone is enough to send people running from the scene. This could also seriously compromise Algernon’s medical career. This does not bode well and Cornelia’s thoughts turn to getting an abortion.

Dr. Gallinger is shown back at work at the Knick and the man does not look well. Given the circumstances that he is still grieving his dead child, while trying to cope with a wife who has some mental health issues and trying to put the pieces of their life back together, it’s no wonder he looks haggard and unkempt. He foolishly thought that adopting a child would bring some life back to his wife and his marriage. During a heated discussion with Algernon about prescribing medication to a patient, Algernon notices Eleanor Gallinger walking into the hospital. She’s brought baby Grace to the Knick and rambles on about how she took her husband’s advice and gave the baby an ice cold bath. The baby is lifeless in the bassinet and this is horrifying. It also confirms what Dr. Gallinger has been dealing with since the death of their first child: Eleanor has suffered a mental collapse and later on in the episode, we see her being removed from their marital home and into an asylum. The look of despair and depression on Gallinger’s face is truly heartbreaking to see. This is a man who had a prominent position at the Knick, had a nice home and wife who was supportive of his career. Now, he is reduced to committing his wife into an insane asylum. This is a terrifying look into how mental health was dealt with back in the 1900s.

TheKnickEp9_04News of what Eleanor had done to the baby spreads around the Knick like wildfire. Sister Harriet and Cornelia (who is pregnant and scared) have a chat about the souls of dead babies and children. Religion and fear went hand in hand back in 1900 and Sister Harriet laments that she does not know if all the children are welcomed into heaven. Given the fact that Sister Harriet and Cleary have been working secretly to help women have safe abortions, she muses that perhaps she herself may not be welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven by God. This scene, although short, was vital for two reasons: it exposes the idea of babies (wanted or otherwise) not having souls and secondly, Cornelia will most likely be asking for Sister Harriet’s discretion and help later on down the road, to get rid of her unwanted pregnancy.

By the time Cornelia realizes what her only option is, it’s too late: in the darkness of Algernon’s medical clinic, she lays there stunned and terrified because Algenon will not preform the dilation and cutterage. He cannot bring himself to kill his own child. She is in deep despair; she knows that she cannot have his child and the fact that she is a white woman who is engaged to another man, the scandal alone will ruin her family. While Augustus is a man ahead of his time, he would still be very upset to learn what transpired between his daughter and Algernon. The family would face financial and social ruin and no respectable man would want to be with Cornelia Robertson after the scandal breaks out. You just know that in her desperation, Cornelia will turn to Sister Harriet for help. What bothers me about this scene is that here are two characters at the Knick that I have come to admire and like, and yet, as adults, they were very irresponsible. I mean, come on Algernon! You’re a doctor, for Pete’s sake! Surely, you could have gotten your hands on some birth control for yourself or for Cornelia?! The fact that back in 1900, that a woman was dependent on a male doctor to obtain an abortion is another thing that bothers me. I even said to my husband last week that she was going to get pregnant and it wasn’t going to end well. This is going to drive a very large wedge between the two lovers. I only hope that Cornelia gets the help she needs and that nobody finds out what she had to do. I’m not sure how Algernon will feel about Cornelia after she gets an abortion. He’ll either become a ruthless man with more pent up rage or maybe, just maybe he’ll think of the plight he put her in and maybe change into a compassionate man who will help restore prestige and medical expertise to the Knick, seeing as how John Thackeray is on a terrible downward spiral.

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Lucy Elkins has also been a character that I liked from the get go but now, she seems totally lost. She’s stealing to give John drugs. She’s also using drugs herself, which will eventually lead to her downfall. John and Lucy are not in a relationship. It is a sickly codependency that they have which each other. They will not be happy together. They’ll only ruin each other. She first goes to the opium den and tries to get some drugs for John. She speaks with the man in charge who hints that he can get her the opium, for a price. If she were to “do a favor” for him, he would give her some vials of opium, plus $100 Yankee dollars. All she needs to do is sleep with him and while in the act, she has to place her “Golden Lotus” (her dainty foot) inside his mouth. Apparently, this is a pleasurable act that enhances the man’s sexual experience to a heightened degree. Ugh. Disgusting and abhorrent. However, we all find out that Lucy must have gone ahead with the exchange, as she ended up getting the drugs for John. John coolly asks Lucy where she got the drugs from and did she have to do something with her Golden Lotus for them. Being the debauched man he is, I wasn’t surprised he said that to Lucy. Being the resourceful gal she is, Lucy decides to obtain more drugs for John. Venturing to a German hospital (where there are lots of drugs), Lucy pretends to be a nurse on call, when the reality is she steals a lot of cocaine and needles. She runs out of there, but not before being chased down. She ends up at John’s house and guess what happens next? The two end up doing the drugs together and begin to kiss passionately. I see nothing but despair, heartache and ruination for a lot of people at the Knick. Here is the Episode 10 preview.

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  • saraoscuro

    That was an excellent review of the episode, thanks :-)

  • saraoscuro

    That was an excellent review of the episode, thanks :-)

  • Eleonora Iafano

    Thank you for letting me know! I’ll ask the editor to go in and fix my article. I don’t know why I thought it was Algenon in the first place? Thank you for the clarification.

  • FAN Kate Winslet CBE

    It is spelled Algernon, not Algenon. A few of those typos are in the review.










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