A villain is slowly being introduced to the world of The Knick: As typhoid fever makes the rounds, Cornelia Robertson—notably, not a doctor—calls it out as a matter of real concern. Not yet considered an epidemic—Inspector Speight has some investigating to do before we start applying labels—typhoid catches Cornelia's attention because while it usually lays waste to impoverished, incredibly unhygienic housing projects, it's begun to target affluent households throughout the city. As Speight notes, it "jumps around"—like a flea. Could the disease be the titular vermin in the "The Busy Flea"?
Or is the flea Dr. Edwards, who does some impressive hopping himself this episode?
Primum non nocere—Latin for "first, do no harm"—is one of the first ethics lessons medical students get. In The Knick's third episode, the doctors do no harm, for the most part—except for Edwards, who finds himself having a hot streak of missteps. Last week on The Knick, it seemed that answers were just waiting to be snatched out of the air. Edwards grabbed his chance to create a clinic for black patients. He lied, schemed, stole, conspired, snuck around—all for the greater good. But things keep getting in the way of Edwards' plan to save the world one hernia at a time. This time around, his patient dies—a traumatic experience that poor, brilliant, put-upon Algernon Edwards will not soon forget.
Things are going better for Dr. Thackery. At the head of the episode, he almost inadvertently turns away an ailing former love, Mrs. Abigail Alford (Jennifer Ferrin), with his brusque manner. But after he realizes who the patient is, he changes tunes, outlining how he would replace her nose—eaten away by syphilis—and restore some normalcy to her life.
Later, during the skin graft surgery, Thackery's inner tiger emerges when mouthy Nurse Baker provides running commentary on Mrs. Alford's lifestyle. "Nurse Baker, another word from you about anything but the job at hand, and I will sew your mouth and nostrils shut and happily watch you asphyxiate," he snarls. Young Nurse Elkins, no longer hiding from Thackery, barely hides her smile.
Cornelia wants the fearsome doctor to operate on little Cora Hemming (Victoria Leigh), a child with typhoid from whose affluent father recently died of the fever. When Cora takes a turn for the worst—her intestines are perforated—Thackery is reluctant to act because she's so far gone. If the procedure doesn't kill her, her quality of life will still suffer greatly. Cornelia insists he try to save the girl's life. No pressure, though.
NEXT: We smell bacon