The Strain Recap: Blackboard Bungle

Richard Sammel (left) as Thomas Eichorst, Ruta Gedmintas as Dutch Velders. Photo: Michael Gibson/FX
The Strain
The Strain
Episode Title
Dead End
Editor’s Rating

Thomas Eichorst fancies his being enamored with the Nazi party complicated and romantic when, really, it’s simple and pitiful. Even now, as an immortal vampire, he seethes when Dutch suggests that he signed up with the SS because he “couldn’t get laid.” Although, in fairness to Eichorst, it’s not quite that matter-of-fact either. Via flashback to Germany circa 1931, we meet an unconverted “Tommy” Eichorst, who’s bright-eyed but beaten down by his job as a door-to-door radio hawker. In a scene that shamelessly mirrors Michael Shannon’s predicament under the persona of hapless iron salesman George Mueller, it’s painfully evident that Tommy is terrible at his job and an object of mockery to his peers. He barely makes the cut on Triebig Electroch’s mercenary quota blackboard.

But lo, there is light through the darkness of Depression-era despair, and her name is Helga, played by striking German actress Julie Engelbrecht, who, with her blonde flapper do and deep-set features, stands out like an early century Western-European Rosario Dawson. She sees Eichorst as more than some peddler peon, and gladly accepts his request for a date. Over dinner and wine at an enviable Bavarian hall, the two share their individual ambitions and mutual admiration. The only topic they fail to broach is religion. Before they have the chance, a young SS leader (Himmler, we can guess?) commands the room to rally patrons around Hitler’s nascent cause. When the soldier points at Eichorst like a sociopathic Uncle Sam, locks eyes, and decrees, “Germany needs you!” it’s clear he’s found his mark. All Tommy can do while walking Helga home is beam with the epiphany that this is his calling, forgetting to ever consider that the object of his affection might in fact be Jewish. Suffice it to say, she puts the kibosh on their courtship right quick. Ultimately, both Helga and Dutch had Eichorst pegged: He was neither destined for greatness nor beyond a petty grudge. All told, he was catnip for the Führer, as he remains for the Master.

Sadly, getting under Eichorst’s skin proves a tiny and fleeting victory for Ms. Velders. This time, he decides he wants it all — the cause and the concubine. In one of The Strain’s most unsettling scenes yet, he demands Dutch remove her pants, bend over, and spread her legs so that he can better sit beneath her and uncoil his proboscis with the intent to penetrate in some unspeakable way. Except where Helga failed to escape the hangman’s noose 80 years earlier — a fate precipitated by Eichorst refusing to help her evade the Third Reich’s wrath — Dutch was prepared for her predator with good old-fashioned Mace. Only bummer is Eichorst cannily dragged her to a section of the Mayfield Hotel that was sealed off sometime between its ’30s heyday and ’80s renovation. But with his damsel in distress, Fet was on the case, along with Eph and Nora. Thanks to Vasiliy’s obscure architectural expertise and way with TNT, they fast-track it to Eichorst’s hideout, blow up some bricks, and scare him away with a silver grenade.

Tommy could have learned a thing or two from Gus, who successfully pursues the girl and his destiny by bedding Aanya and then transporting the Guptas to safety before he and Angel head off with Eve and Quinlan to slay some strigoi. (A very encouraging prospect for next week, indeed.) Eve’s not exactly impressed by the man Gus introduces as “the Silver Angel,” probably on account of him looking north of 60 and walking with a limp. Frankly, we haven’t been given much reason to be yet either, but it will be interesting to see how acquits himself when the Master zeroes in for some mind games.

Selling Angel short could be foolish, seeing as how well the comparatively Paleolithic Setrakian has endured through decades seeking revenge. Whoulda thunk that after coming oh-so close to conquering the Master and Eichorst on so many occasions, that Rudyard Fonescu would catch him off-guard and foil his quest for the Lumen. It was right there, a tantalizing mere few feet away in this ungrateful man-child’s arms, but Abe (naturally) couldn’t wriggle free from his constraints till after Rudyard skipped out to sell his fabled prize to the highest bidder.

The silver lining (pun very much intended) in all this is that Fonescu wasn’t heading out to meet Eldritch in midtown Manhattan. Rather, he pulled up to Alonso Creem’s latest import-export HQ on Roosevelt Island. It’s anyone guess whether Creem makes a fair trade with his stammering seller or even lets him out breathing, but it’s doubtful Abe would make much effort to spare Rudyard’s life a second time. He just wants that damn book, and if Alonso has any shred of honor, then the good professor may soon possess it. Although if Creem is half as savvy as we suspect (he must be, to have survived and thrived as he has), the bidding war between Setrakian and Palmer may have just been taken up a notch.

There are but two episodes remaining in what has been, it’s reasonable to assert, an uneven but entertaining season. The penultimate chapter is titled “Fallen Light,” which could stand for so many things. Will darkness officially descend over all of New York as the Master’s minions begin to outnumber those of flesh and blood? Is Zach finally turned by his relentless vampire mom, taking whatever was left of Eph’s will to persevere along with it? Or is it more of a metaphor for our protagonists’ increasingly pervasive hopelessness, now that Dutch has been irreversibly violated and they’ve all lost so much and so many but gotten very little back? It’s enough to make someone need some warm comfort amid all this cold, foreboding drama. Schnapps, anyone? 

Apart from all that:

  • I can rewatch Richard Sammel saying “Especially on a cold day” all day.
  • Ditto for when he responds to Dutch’s, “What are you going to do to me?” with, “Everything.”
  • Don’t underestimate Rudyard, Abe! Didn’t you just see the flashback with Eichorst and his sales boss?
  • Hey, if Palmer can get laid, why not Eichorst?
  • Not sure if we’ll see the Guptas again. Or if it matters.
  • Eichorst slicing the pineapple was quite Hannibal-esque.
  • Eichorst, Eichorst, Eichorst!
  • Keep your eyes on the road, Eph.
  • Oh, and the Mayfield is essentially a stand-in for the Waldorf-Astoria.