Question: Do we really believe it was the plan all along for Eph on ‘The Strain’ to dramatically shave his head a season and a half into the show, or do we think star Corey Stoll just got sick of wearing that ridiculous wig?
We’ll get to that in a minute. First, the episode opens with a S.W.A.T. raid on an apartment building to clear it of vampires. These are Councilwoman Feraldo’s thugs, obviously. While they go in with guns blazing and don’t have too much trouble with the run-of-the-mill vampires, the Li’l Feelers are way too fast as they skitter up walls and attack from above. A couple of cops get taken out.
Eph goes to a gay bar, in the back room of which is a guy who can hook him up with fake IDs so he can get out of town. (Remember, Eph is still a fugitive.) Nothing about this plan makes a lot of sense. Eph wants the IDs before he even has a picture to put in them, and says he’ll change his appearance later. That’s not how you get a quality fake, Eph.
Setrakian does some illicit backroom dealings of his own. He visits a black market dealer in stolen goods to see if he’s come across any old books lately. Setrakian offers expensive watches from his pawn shop in exchange. Mr. Creem, the dealer, tries to rip him off and steal the watches, but Setrakian’s sword-cane comes in handy to straighten out the situation. Although Creem doesn’t have the Occido Lumen that Setrakian is looking for, he sends Setrakian on to another guy who specializes in rare books.
Eph returns to home base to collect Nora and Zach for his trip to Washington, D.C., where he hopes to find a way to mass-manufacture and distribute his vampire plague. Whiny Zach moans about how he doesn’t wanna go. He wants to stay so he can get murdered by his vampire mommy. Nora offers to stay behind with the kid. This mission in D.C. is something Eph can get done quicker on his own, anyway.
In preparation for his trip, Eph decides to change his appearance. He shaves off his wig to reveal that, underneath… OMG, he’s the villain from ‘Ant-Man’! It goes without saying that he looks a lot better bald. What he doesn’t look like is very different than he did before. He still looks like Eph, but with a shaved head. This is his brilliant disguise?
After learning that Fet has been arrested for blowing up the subway tunnel, Dutch and Nora go to the police station to see if they can bail him out. Once there, they meet Councilwoman Feraldo. Surprise, surprise, she’s not always the uber-bitch she comes across as in speeches or meetings with the mayor. She’s very concerned with quarantining the sick to keep the healthy safe, and is impressed when Nora explains to her how the vampire infection is spread by worms, and demonstrates a quick way to diagnose that with black-light. She asks Nora to take a look at her nephew, who hasn’t been feeling well and has a giant lump in his throat. Sure enough, he’s infected. Feraldo has a good cry when Nora helps her euthanize the boy.
Fet gets released and – another surprise – he and Dutch actually make friends with the head S.W.A.T. cop. The men bond over their mutual fondness for being badasses and killing stuff. Fet teaches the cop about how silver and UV light are deadly to vamps, and the cop asks him to come along to help him clear out that apartment building from the beginning of the episode.
Eph goes to the Amtrak station to hop on a train reserved for government personnel. His shaved head and fake ID are a perfect disguise that gets him right past security. He even says he’s from the CDC; he just makes up a different name while everything else about him still says “I’m Ephraim Goodweather, fugitive from justice.” On the train, he gets a bunch of beers from the diner car to indulge his drinking problem, and chats up an Energy Department lawyer who might possibly recognize him. More importantly, he almost gets spotted by his old boss, Barnes.
Fet, Dutch and the S.W.A.T. cop have a grand old time killing vamps in the apartment building, especially when they find a nest in the elevator shaft and Fet tosses in a silver grenade to vaporize them all.
After his adventure at the black market, Setrakian finds himself stalked through the city by Fitzwilliam, Eldritch Palmer’s former manservant, who says that he’s ready to help.
Speaking of Palmer, he takes his protégé/hopeful love interest Coco to a fancy restaurant where the wealthy in the city can still pretend that everything is still normal in the world. “Denial is a special privilege of the rich,” Palmer explains before he’s interrupted by a Catholic Cardinal, who hints that he may have located the Occido Lumen. Later, Palmer and Coco return to his office in the Stoneheart building and dance in front of an open window, outside of which a building across the street is burning to the ground. What a romantic moment.
Back on the train, Eph gets drunker and drunker – and as a consequence acts sketchier and sketchier. He tries to hide in a bathroom for a while, but eventually runs directly into Barnes in an otherwise empty car. Barnes says that he’ll let Eph go and won’t report him, but drunk Eph doesn’t trust him. They fight, and Eph straight-up murders Barnes by tossing him off the train. This is the first time he’s killed someone who wasn’t a vampire.
Eventually, the train gets to D.C., and Eph slips by security again even as Barnes’ assistant raises a fuss to the police about her missing boss. The city appears to be 100% normal, no sign of vampire apocalypse at all.
The episode then ends at a small airport in Newark, where a private jet has landed without authorization. As the pilots bluff the airport authorities, something escapes the plane and tears through a fence. Shortly afterwards, we discover that this is a new vampire ninja commando, who meets up with a seemingly normal woman in a car waiting for him. I take it this guy’s here to replace Vonn?
All in all, this is a better than average episode of ‘The Strain’, with at least two moments of genuine (if perhaps unintentional) hilarity – Eph pretending to shave his wig, and Eph tossing his boss off the train. That may not be much, but I’ll take it.