The Knick – Season 2, Episode 3: “The Best With the Best to Get the Best”

Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 2, Episode 3: “The Best With the Best to Get the Best”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler

* For a review of the previous episode, “You’re No Rose” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Wonderful Surprises” – click here
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After Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) and his shaky hands over Dr. Edwards’ (André Holland) eye in “You’re No Rose”, as well as his interesting rendezvous at the bar with the prostitute, this episode is bound to bring interesting things.
At the start we see Thack in his little office over an open flame. He’s procured a little heroin and cocaine from the medicine locker. He makes himself a nice powder, pops it on the webbing between his thumb and index finger, and BANG – up the nose. This happens several times until he’s obviously had his fix, feeling on the level. Eerie sequence.
Cut to Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) and others listening to a lecture at Mount Sinai from Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson). We get a little tidbit on what they’re calling “adrenaline“, apparently a new extract by a man from Poland. Things are very different for Bertie at the new hospital, used to the ways of The Knickerbocker Hospital. A nurse shares her thoughts with him after everyone has left, believing he hid his true feelings from Zinberg. However, she isn’t even a nurse. She’s doing a story on Zinberg for Collier’s Magazine. Is this the beginning of a new and interesting relationship for Bertram Jr?

Algernon meets with Cornelia (Juliet Rylance), who tells him about the results of the missing body after she and Cleary (Chris Sullivan) dug out the grave of Inspector Speight. There is still a fiery romance between Edwards and the new Mrs. Showalter. Algie says not now, but all she asks is: “When?”
Dr. Gallinger (Eric Johnson) brings his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan) home, her new teeth in tact. Thankfully, as her face in the first episode of this season was looking like something out of a Tim Burton film. Everett and Eleanor’s sister Dorothy (Annabelle Attanasio) have a chat, about the unsuitable nature of Eleanor, now with her appearance on top of everything else, her status as a “baby killer and a madwoman“.
Back at the hospital, Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken) chats up Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) about her excellent bedside manner. But Henry’s also more interested in a relationship with her. She asks about whether or not he’s a good Christian man, and so on. He isn’t, and she tells him he should “most definitely give up the chase“.

Thack gets a call about a dead girl, one he hopes to use for research; her body, that is. She’s been whoring herself out for a fix, sadly. The good doctor gives his “heartfelt sympathies” and assures them he’s trying to save “girls like her“. He wants to find a cure for addiction, to root out the problem. Regardless if it’s a selfish venture at the core, Thackery is trying his best to do something modern.
Cleary is still busy trying to help Harriet (Cara Seymour). The attorney has taken her case on, but stresses Cleary needs to start coming up with more cash, or else he’s through. The court session commences, as her attorney tries his best against a judge whose prejudice is very clear off the top against a woman he considers a killer. Impartial? I think not. In the gallery, Cleary worries more and more with every passing moment.
Dorothy and Everett are trying to get Eleanor back to looking how she did once. The poor woman tells Everett she just wants everything to be right, for him. Although, Everett does seem to still be in love with her. Most of the tension here comes from Dorothy, who worries constantly about how her sister will be received back home.
Meanwhile, Everett heads down into a reunion party filled with pompous, egotistical high class dummies. Naturally they ask about Eleanor who he says is off “visiting family on Long Island“. Over top of everything, Everett hears a man talking boldly about other races, those dangerous to the white-bred upper crust of New York. And so our episode’s title “The Best with the Best to Get the Best” comes out of their talk about eugenics, the go-to ‘science’ of right-wing nutjobs for the last couple centuries.

At the church of A.D. Elkins (Stephen Spinella), the holy ghost is present. He receives the open airing of sins from a man in his congregation, putting a hand to the man’s chest and comforting him. At the same time, Lucy is right there, looking up as if right to God. Most likely thinking of her own sins. Soon enough, she stands to tell them all: “I have a heavy heart. The heart of a sinner.” Her father talks of Satan infecting people, the cure-all, of course, is confession.
Across town at Huber’s Palace Museum, Bertie and the woman from Collier’s – Genevieve (Arielle Goldman) – have a night out together. He tells her of his admiration of her articles. Though, he expresses that “psychiatry is a new field and all things look worse at the beginning“, not wanting everyone to see medicine only in one way, or in a negative sense. Genevieve really wants to do a positive story about medicine. Perhaps this may help Bertie in the long run. Maybe their relationship could bring him a little recognition. Or maybe something else, we’ll see. For now, they talk about her Jewish identity. She hides it, of course, with a name that means “whatever you want her to be“. Bertie is, luckily, a very good man and I don’t think he has any prejudices about race whatsoever, having worked wonderfully with Algernon already at The Knick.
In the bedroom, Cornelia and Phillip (Tom Lipinski) have a rare husband-wife moment, which he makes a remark about in passing. They do have romance, but only a physical one. “That wasnt so bad, was it?” says Philip after they make love. Even if Cornelia seems into it, there’s still the fact of her passion for Algernon; it’s clear when they’re together something steamy happens. Phillip and Cornelia talk about Harriet – the latter thinks she’s a murderer, a child killer, and resents the fact his wife semi-suggests they ought to fund her need for an attorney, the high-class one currently representing her. It’s obvious Phillip is not happy.
An excellent score, as usual, leads Thack into a crowd of people looking for his favourite prostitute. Out in an alley, they bump his cocaine-heroin mixture and fly high together, before a bit of the ole in-and-out. Almost like she is his muse, in a twisted sense. Thack blinks, and then he’s at the door of Abby. She seems in decent shape, if a little rough at the edges.
A.D. is counting his coins. Lucy tells him she feels better after confessing the sin in her heart, that she felt “forgiveness wash over” her. Only her father doesn’t look impressed with her. He is disgusted by her and says what she told him was “the most disgusting sewage” he ever heard. The holy man then beats his daughter, verbally abusing her. After that he gives her the strap, as she bends over in pain. A disgusting hypocrite of a man.

Chickering is trying his best to fit in at Sinai. He and another doctor are testing vaccines on animals; first it’s very simple, only to “cure the sniffles“. They of course talk about Genevieve a little. But Bertie sticks to medicine, giving suggestions and chatting about possibilities, though he tasks suggestions himself.
Likewise, Henry Robertson is trying to break out and do things on his own. Out of the shadow of his father. Henry doesn’t wish to stay “blindly adrift in the 19th century” like his father, and opts for a more interesting future.
Over at The Knick, a surgery led by Dr. Edwards sees Dr. Gallinger back in on operations again. He seems more full of disdain for Edwards with each time they’re together, certainly not helping are the racists he met at the reunion pumping his brain full of eugenics-based thought. Afterwards, the two doctors wash up. Then out of nowhere, Thackery comes for Algernon needing help. Everett is hurt wondering: “Why do you always choose Edwards over me?” He feels Thack owes him for “saving” him. Yet Thackery is more into working with the races now, unlike Gallinger it seems.
In his small office, Thack lays out his ideas on syphilis and temperature, how the disease can be essentially baked away. What I love about this moment is that we see sometimes how certain ideas in medicine are born out of very indifferent situations; John was writing under his lamps one night, and while sweating profusely he also noticed the syphilis culture died in the heat. Amazing writing and I just love that about The Knick. We get little doses of history and moments like this concerning medicine, which makes each episode that much more rich.

Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is trying his hardest to fleece the construction of the new Knick for every dollar possible. The contract is weary, wanting to talk with the board about everything. However, Herman does his best to make sure there’s no communication. Because he is up to his tricks, siphoning off every penny he can. Before leaving the construction site, Jimmy (Happy Anderson) shows up out of nowhere; Herman thought he was dead and in the ground. Tammany Hall wants to see Barrow, and Jimmy tells him it’s now “Mr. James Fester” because he’s “formal now“. Awesome little scene. Watching Herman scared is great because he is a weasel.
In a brief scene, Cornelia leaves a note for Algernon saying she’ll call when she’s free, then they can get together.
More of the weasel in Herman comes out at the whorehouse, where he gets passed over by a prostitute several times. He’s upset that his lady love prostitute under new management hasn’t had enough time for him. Barrow slowly slips further down the hole, with money, with women and prostitutes, with skimming off the top. Is he ever going to get on the level, or out from under the thumb crushing him? Doubtful.

Cleary managed to grease some drugs out of the medicine locker at The Knick. He’s shooting one of his fighters full of it. Except after he surges in the ring a little, the wrestler goes limp, dying right there on the spot.
Immediately we cut to a pig in a cage, lying limp like the fighter. Algernon extracts a thermometer from it. He and Thack are doing more syphilitic studies. They want to see how a raging fever affects the syphilis. Up shows Cleary with a young girl’s corpse, and Thack is off to the races.
In his office, Algernon receives a call. Not the one we thought he’d be getting, though. He runs off quickly to find Opal Edwards (Zaraah Abrahams) at his home – his wife. What? Now, this makes things quite a bit different with both he and Cornelia married, attached, and having the fling of a lifetime together, or hoping to.
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Look forward to the next episode, “Wonderful Surprises”. It will certainly get interesting, more and more, from here on in.

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