Checking into The Knick 1.04: “Where’s the Dignity”

As Nurse Lucy Elkins learned in Episode 4 of The Knick “Where’s the Dignity”, it’s one thing to occasionally shoot up heroin in the private confines of your home and office, but it’s a completely different beast when you’re traveling to a seedy brothel to get your high.

We’ve already discussed Dr. Thackery’s secret drug addiction at length, knowing that Nurse Elkins was privy to a glimpse into his behavior. But in what’s clearly becoming a romantic crush, Nurse Elkins decided to tail Thackery after he shadily hopped in a cab. And so, add one more secret to the mix: Nurse Elkins knows where Thackery goes after work. The only question is if she’ll try and save him, or use her knowledge to further herself. I’m guessing she’s going to try and play doctor on the doctor.

Up until now, Bertie has had one job: don’t be a shit. In a hospital filled with morally-compromised doctors, Bertie is the only one who hasn’t made us shake our head. So it’s about time we learn a little more about him. Following in the elitist footsteps of wealthy characters from previous episodes, Bertie’s father is disgusted that his son would relegate himself to working at The Knick and saving its poor patients. This contempt boils over after an uncomfortable round of biological experimentation where Thackery insists Bertie hand-pump a recently-deceased patient’s heart. Bertie’s father sees this as a violation of the dead man’s dignity, sees Thackery as a hack, and wants his son to work in the upscale hospitals in the city. But Thackery isn’t a hack, and Bertie knows that. The disappointed father trope is an oft-used one, and I hope that the writers do away with it sooner rather than later. I love watching The Knick because it shows the forgotten problems of a society technologically advanced enough to experience electricity, but at the same time, unable to experience antibiotics. People have been disappointing their fathers for a long time, let’s focus on something different.

Elsewhere, we caught up with Cleary and Sister Harriet where all cards are finally out on the table. Sister Harriet’s moonlit abortions are a secret no more, but as Cleary insists, if she wants to prevent more people from finding out, she’ll have to pay him off. Cleary’s a pragmatic man and his only goal is to make more money, so it’s not surprising he’s willing to blackmail her. And I don’t doubt he would have taken everything and anything from Sister Harriet—that’s the type of character the writers have led me to believe he is. But in an emergency call that is a little too on the nose for my tastes, Cleary walks in on a woman who had attempted to administer a self-abortion. Cue the epiphany. So as Cleary and Sister Harriet watch over the makeshift funeral for the dead woman, we see a new deal struck. It will be interesting to see how these two characters play out in relation to each other. Cleary  has already changed more in four episodes than I thought possible.

Everything else that happened in this episode paled in comparison to Algernon and his giant balls. Coming into “Where’s the Dignity”, we knew Algernon was the only surgeon at The Knick who could properly operate on an aneurism. The text outlining the procedure was written by him, in a French medical journal. Thackery might be a bigot, but he’s no fool. He can’t completely keep Algernon out of the surgical theater. But there’s still no way in hell that Algernon will physically perform the surgery. Thus, Algernon is ordered to explain the procedure to Dr. Gallinger as he operates. Algernon agrees…for a bit. But as the patient lies with his heart exposed and Dr. Gallinger wrist-deep in his chest, Algernon stops giving instructions. Just stops! Algernon knows he has leverage, and if he just gives up the secrets to the surgery, he’ll be unnecessary at The Knick. So as Dr. Gallinger eventually concedes, but not before punching Algernon in the face. (Two things: surgeons shouldn’t punch, their hands are too important. And Algernon sure gets in a lot of fights.)

Algernon’s relationship with the Robertsons provides the ultimate job security.

Next week, I foresee much more screen time for the vile Herman Barrow and his rising debts, as well as some more Thackery/Algernon tensions. Hopefully we’ll also catch another glimpse of Thomas Edison, who made a brief appearance in this episode. Perhaps Edison’s technologies will find their way to The Knick. Is it next Friday yet?

Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element who graduated from Marist College. He spends his time obsessing equally over the Game of Thrones series and the New York Giants, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.


  1. Veronica Gorton

    Joe, again another great review! I hope Algernon beats the crap out of Gallinger! Important hands or not, that guy needs a lesson! And we know he can fight. I couldn’t believe Thackery telling Gallinger not to use his hands, next time to kick him and the laughter from the gallery. ( it was as actually a woman, not a man who they operated on and then did the heart hand pump on). Cleary is like Barrow to me. They’re both out for themselves. But you’re right, Cleary is showing a bit more humanity. I couldn’t believe Cornelia’s mother! She acted like Algernon wasn’t an invited guest. She told him his mom was in the kitchen, because that was surely the reason he was there, all dressed up!! I’ve got the crazy idea that maybe Algernon was Mr. Robertsons “love child”? Maybe? And poor Lucy, she seems to have it bad for Thackery. I love reading your posts on this show. Keep up the great work!!!

  2. Joe Brosnan

    Thanks, Veronica! I actually have had the same feelings about Algernon being a secret love child! We’ll see if that pans out; it would explain both Cornelia’s mother’s iciness and her father’s guidance. As for Cleary, he’s definitely out for himself. And if he were in charge of an entire hospital’s finances, I’m sure he’d be getting into similar trouble. But him and Sister Harriet offer a nice break from the depressing walls of the Knick. I can’t stand Cleary, I wish someone would punch him next. Thanks for reading!

  3. Veronica Gorton

    I like Sister Harriet. You’re right, both she and Cleary do give us a nice diversion from all the, well, just plain foulness of the Knick. Glad to know I’m not the only one wondering about the connection Algernon might have with the Robertson family. I read one of your other posts on the Knick and saw that guy trying to pull you into an argument. Way to keep your cool! You do an AWESOME job! Don’t let anyone bring you down, you’re posts are very much appreciated!

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