Two very different clandestine relationships are developing at The Knick this week.
Thackery has developed a deep interest in Nurse Elkins over the season, an interest she reciprocated. Now that they’ve advanced their relationship to a sexual level, the question arises: will Thackery remain interested? He’s a man who seeks ever greater methods of diverting himself. Can Nurse Elkins hold his interest? If this week’s episode is anything to go by, Lucy will hold John’s interest as long as she can get him drugs.
Meantime, Edwards and Cornelia have been seeing a lot of each other in hotel rooms. Unlike Thackery and Lucy, Algie and Cornelia have a love that goes years back, even though they’ve only recently begun to explore it. Whereas John seems to have a level of experience (and professional seniority) that puts Lucy in a vulnerable position, Cornelia and Algie grew up together, and trust each other without doubt. There is no question of exploitation on either of their parts. The danger they face is not one of betrayal, but one of discovery. For daring to sleep with a white woman of privilege, a black man could face not only censure, but lynching, in 1900. Cornelia stands to lose her wealth, her family, and her friends, as well as the relative independence that her wealth buys her. Cornelia’s family has sponsored Algie’s studies and career. It is safe to assume they would see this relationship as a betrayal.
Individually, each of the characters is facing personal challenges. Thackery struggles to be the man, the renowned doctor, that people expect him to be. This is proving harder and harder for him, as his access to drugs has been broken by the war in the Philippines. He attends a medical conference, and his paper is eclipsed by a new device developed by Dr. Zinberg. It is notable that Zinberg states that he longs for people to build on his work, to surpass him for the benefit of all. Thackery responds that he has never wanted to be surpassed. This is very revealing from a man who argued with Mr. Chickering about the nobility of Bertie’s work at The Knick. John wants to break medical frontiers because of his innate curiosity and because of his need to build his own reputation, NOT because of an altruistic desire to see medicine progress in the service of mankind.
Meanwhile, Bertie continues his pursuit of Nurse Elkins, unaware of her relationship with Thackery. He even goes so far as to reveal his feelings for the girl to his father. Will he discover that she’s sleeping with his hero Thackery? Would this cause him to want to leave The Knick for Dr. Zinberg’s practice?
Bertie has been working on the Mary Mallon case. He goes to court with Cornelia and Inspector Speight to give testimony regarding Mary’s status as an asymptomatic carrier of Typhoid. Not understanding the science, the judge frees Mary from quarantine, and she quickly goes on to seek employment as a cook under an assumed name. The spread of typhoid, it seems, will continue in New York.
Gallinger is having trouble moving on from the loss of his daughter, but not for lack of trying. He has accepted Sister Harriet’s advice and arranged to bring a small orphaned baby into his home. His wife, however, is having none of it. Obsessed with her dead child, she neglects the new member of the family. Where will Dr. Gallinger go from here? How can he re-build his life without his wife’s help?
Overall, “Working Late a Lot” seems very much like a connective episode, a filler. After last week’s exciting riot, siege, and subsequent hook-ups, this episode feels like a bit of a letdown. On the other hand, it can also be seen as the quiet before the next storm. Thackery is becoming ever more erratic and sloppy due to his addiction. As I did in my last review, I would like to take a moment to compliment Soderbergh’s direction. Where last time I praised his sparse use of the close-up, this week was entirely focused on Clive Owen’s face. Even when others were speaking, the focus was always on Thackery as he lost control of his façade. Brilliantly, the director revealed actors in certain scenes by voice only, as he did during the diagnosis of the man with the bloated face. The visual and thematic center of the episode was John. With two episodes left, I suspect Thack and the others may find their lives unraveling very soon.