The Strain Recap: Dutch Lovin’

David Bradley, right, as Abraham Setrakian. Michael Gibson/FX
The Strain
The Strain
Episode Title
Fort Defiance
Editor’s Rating

If there’s more than one way to skin a cat, there are certainly myriad approaches to fending off human mortality. For Palmer, that meant a deal with the devilish Master, who spared him from gravely infirmed health. No surprise, Abe is a bit more resourceful. (More unexpected is that he’s 94!) Specifically, he’s been absorbing strigoi worms in a solution and dropping the resulting elixir into his eyeballs. Duly, their motivations for maintaining a pulse couldn’t be more opposite. Palmer’s a spiteful muckety-muck who all but sold his soul years ago and feels as if power and infinite life are the least he’s entitled to. Abe, conversely, would love nothing more than to perish and put to rest all the memories of his suffering and heartache, but he refuses to shuffle off until he’s personally seen to it that the Master is toast.

And it is at this juncture, three episodes into season two, that their quests have finally, fatefully collided. While Abe got the best of his counterpart last week, spoiling his food-pantry press conference (and, along with it, plans to assess doomed civilians’ blood types), Eichhorst introduces a new contingency to ensure things run more smoothly. Meet Stoneheart’s new head of security, Bolivar, freshly returned from retrieving the Master’s loam (not without dispatching two nudnik cops first). In Jack Kesy’s first meaty scenes in some time, he gamely steals them by exuding the same cliché rock-star nonchalance that was his trademark while still human. Except Coco, for one, has a funny feeling he’s something other. And in one of the episode’s more stilted scenes, Palmer’s at a loss to explain away Gabe and Eichhorst’s menace.

Besides, who has the time? Adversaries are closing in on Palmer from all corners, some more near than others. Out on Staten Island, Councilwoman Faraldo is boasting about her borough being “plague-free,” even unveiling a trophy fence of beheaded vampires as SI’s welcoming committee/warning for anyone who ferries into St. George Terminal. And on a show that’s asked us to will its Toronto locales into feeling authentically New York and act as if we don’t know Corey Stoll was fitted with a hairpiece, Samantha Mathis’s Staten Island accent still strains (pun intended) credibility. Nonetheless, Faraldo’s a tough cookie, and the mayor sees her as an ostensible beard — someone to go about her business citywide with autonomy while ensuring the public sees them as partners. Fet admires her, too, though he’d make a much more effectual, hands-on co-conspirator. Alas, at the moment he’s all the way in Brooklyn and can’t keep his paws off Dutch, even though her head’s clearly elsewhere after spying a search flier for her ex-girlfriend Nikki. But, hey, it’s the apocalypse, and Fet’ll take a blow job where he can get one, regardless of whether it’s the sensitive thing to do after Dutch was just humiliated by her lesbian lover’s mother. To quote Abe, “I never grow tired of your flirtatious badinage.” (That’s Armenian for "banter," and thank you, Google Translate.)

What, then, of our other sometimes-on suitors, Eph and Nora? It’s been a while since they’ve gotten hot and heavy, but their experiments in the lab are beginning to catch fire. They lost Mrs. McGeever in the trial phase before they could have her transmit their manufactured counter-strain into another strigoi, but her husband, on the other hand, is alert and ready to infect. Who knew the old couple from the storage space would turn into such an asset rather than throwaway corpses within minutes of appearing onscreen? It’s a nice antidote in its own right to the show’s typically cavalier handling of life and death (see: aforementioned nudnik cops).

Contrarily, who’d have guessed (Strain book readers notwithstanding, as always) that Vaun and his crew of renegade strigoi would meet their demise so prematurely? A botched attempt to kidnap Palmer backfired, as the old man blasted his foes with UV light and watched them fry like ants in the sun. Gus, who’d helped them infiltrate Stoneheart HQ, escaped unscathed, begging the question of whether he’s now tasked with overseeing the Ancients and carrying out their part in luring the Master to his demise. And if so, are any of Vaun’s kind left to give him a hand? (It’s so hard to keep track of the body counts by now, breathing or deceased.) Then again, let’s not jump the gun, as Palmer may have opted to pull them from the brink for further interrogation.

Yes, indeed, de facto armies of evildoers and potential heroes are rallying in earnest in pursuit of destruction and preservation, respectively. Meanwhile, Kelly’s still out there guiding her feelers to find Zach, who’s having a temper tantrum and trying to undercut Dad’s agenda at any turn, making him all the more vulnerable to his undead mother’s advances. In fairness, Eph’s been kind of shitty and selfish and can’t really compartmentalize his emotions, which would all make for a compelling character study if the show weren’t ultimately committed to him as protagonist (was this more nuanced in the books?). Nonetheless, Zach’s gotta get his head in the game and realize Dad’s about to cut Mr. McGeever loose so he can transmit an infectious virus to other vamps and, in theory, restore order to the universe. (Don’t they see that there will always be a new vessel and voice, symbolic or otherwise, for hate and inhumanity?!) Just look at Fitzwilliam, who’s finally wised up, ditched Eldritch, and joined his fireman brother (not “brother”) Robin — who, like all firemen, is always helpfully attired in his fireman tee — on Staten Island.

So many moving parts. So much at stake. So much harmless fun, yet so many lapses in logic and wasted words. It’s as if, similar to Abe and Palmer, seasons one and two themselves have at last come together, clashing against and complimenting one another and producing something epically trashy. It’s the Strain, and it is infectious.

Apart from all that:

  • So, Dutch is a Scissor Sisters fan?
  • “I don’t know where I was going with that.” Neither did we, Eph.
  • “You’re here for the right reasons.” Hey, Fet, you’re dropping her at Mrs. Taylor’s Victorian house, not the Bachelor mansion.
  • Per the racist cop reminding Fitzwilliam, “Ya left your civil rights on the other side of the Hudson,” Faraldo’s SI is no sanctuary!
  • For a guy half in the bag, Eph read the Master’s mind like he was Timmy intuiting Lassie.
  • Kowalski and Mikey … got a feeling they’re gonna start enforcing Faraldo’s justice their own way.
  • Nice touch having Abe eat wormlike pasta once revived.
  • Also, I enjoy zesty Abe.
  • Oh, right, Fet and Dutch are gonna seal off a subway tunnel or something.
  • And nope, no ostensible reason for the title of this recap beyond the cheap pun. (Is there ever?)