For the penultimate episode of Season 2, an episode that seems more invested than setting up the 3rd season than resolving the 2nd, the folks behind The Strain made the clever choice to deep dive into one of the show’s most fascinating characters, the nefarious Mr. Eichhorst. We’ve seen Nazi Eichhorst before, thanks to Setrakian’s flashbacks, and that has been a defining aspect of his characterization, but now for the first time we get to see who he was before he became Herr Eichhorst.
Who he was, was Tommy — a lonely, put-upon radio salesman with too little fire in his gut to close the deal. Insecure, underwhelming, and wholly different from the Eichhorst we know today — yet still believably the same man thanks to Richard Sammel’s continuously excellent performance. While the men of his company looked down on Tommy, leaving him behind to wallow in his shame as they headed off for celebratory drinks, a beautiful young woman in the company showed him kindness, telling him he was a bad salesman because he was meant for better things. When he asks her to dinner, she accepts, and they have a fine time getting to know one another — that is until a Nazi recruiter shows up, orating and wowing Eichhorst by giving him a sense of purpose. Everything he says makes sense, Eichhorst tells his date, after all it was the jews who crashed the financial markets. In possibly the worst foot-in-mouth scenario of all time, it turns out his date is Jewish. Eichhorst tried to backpedal, but the damage is done, she leaves him in the streets after a few harsh words.
In the present day, Eichhorst holds Dutch hostage in his white room of pain and he’s absolutely relishing it. Eating, he tells her, has become a chore, but she will be a genuine treat. He drags in a police officer, pours a bottle of schnapps down the poor guy’s throat, the proceeds to drain him so fast his face goes grey. And now we get a delight I never could have anticipated — drunk Eichhorst! He doesn’t get totally wasted, but he is relaxed, his eyelids begin to droop, he luxuriates in the scent of Dutch’s hair, invading her space with a sense of ownership. “What are you going to do to me?” Dutch asks him. “Everything.” He promises with a delicate but indescribably menacing gesture, just a flick of the wrist really, but Sammel makes the threat implicit.
Meanwhile Fet, Nora and Eph are on the search for Dutch, determined to find an undetected way into the hotel where she’s being held. The team notices that a part of the building has been blocked off — no lights, no TV, nothing. Eichhorst has been hiding under their nose this entire time. Since Fet knows all the architectural secrets of NYC, they head underground to a tunnel that runs below. Before too long they find a door that leads them inside, and up the flights and flights of stairs they go.
Back in the past, Thomas is now a respected Nazi officer (that’s a weird sentence to write), and his one-time date is in trouble with the SS, and her whole family could end up deported if he doesn’t help her. Rather than expose himself to his peers, Eichhorst lies, spinning a tale about how she was fired from the company for stealing. He struts out as she dissolves into panicked tears. Later, as he walks down the street, he sees her and her whole family — hanging by the neck, on public display. Thomas reels, but catches himself when he sees his party members watching. He collects himself, takes a deep drag off his cigarette, and flicks the butt onto her corpse. This is seemingly the moment the Eichhorst we know was born. I give the writers credit here, it’s common writing mistake to dig into the past of a villainous character, the result often ends up softening the bad guy or explaining away his evilness. Instead we get a glimpse at how little Tommy became Eichhorst, but it was him every step of the way. Nothing we see redeems him, it only adds depth to his sins. We see a link in the chain of how the man became a monster, long before he became a vampire.
Up the white room, it seems Eichhorst is hip to old wives tales about porn stars, because he serves Dutch up a plate of pineapple so she will taste better. And this is where things get real icky and uncomfortable. As we all learned in Season 1’s “Gone Smooth”, the Strigoi are a dickless breed, and I always wondered what that meant for a creature like Eichhorst, who is clearly so attached to his humanity. But life…finds a way. Eichhorst comes back into the room and puts bright red lipstick on Dutch. “Take off your pants.” He demands. (Gulp) “Bend over.” (Double gulp) As he kneels down, extending his stinger from inside his throat towards Dutch’s rather exposed form — but mercy, lord have mercy, Dutch picked pepper spray off the dead cop. She blasts Eichhorst in the face, unlocks herself, and blazes out of the room, running down the halls screaming.
Eichhorst recovers quickly, and the chase is on. Dutch hauls ass down a flight of stairs, and another, round and round she goes, with Eichhorst hot on her tail. At the same time Eph Fet and Nora are charging up a staircase of their own. Dutch has just enough of a lead, she could possibly escape. But when she reaches the bottom the wall — every wall — is bricked up, leaving her nowhere to go and nothing to do but cower. Fet reaches a brick wall of his own, hearing Dutch’s screams from the other side. As Eichhorst drags Dutch back up the stairs by her ankle, Fet turns into a “sasquach on drugs” (Kevin Durand’s description). Fortunately he’s got his trusty crow bar and dynamite in hand, and that’s really all he needs to make it through. A silver grenade and a few swinging swords later, Eichhorst disappears around the corner and Dutch jumps into Fet’s big, badass arms. It’s actually petty sweet. Maybe the sweetest moment on the show to date.
As for Setrakian, he wakes from being knocked out last week to find he’s been tied to a chair. And the man who knocked him out is none other than Rudyard Fonescu, the child from the orphanage, who admits he owes Setrakian his life, but knows the book is too valuable to simply hand it off. Setrakian tries to talk some sense into him, telling him the fate of the human race is in his hands, but that only irritates Fonescu more. He has other buyers interested, and he knows that the man with the book is the man with the power. He leaves Setrakian behind, and takes a cab to meet his buyer…no, not Elidrich Palmer — Alonso Creem! “Who?” You may ask, well, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s been a while and he had a small part. If you recall, Alonso was the entrepeneurial gang member in Season 1 who was unwittingly transporting shipping crates full of Strigoi into the city. Thanks for nothin’, Alonso. He also had a shootout with Gus. Now he’s got his hands on the Lumen and whether he’s set to use it for good or bad means, remains to be seen.
And then there’s Gus. Holy shit, can you believe it? Gus and Dutch are finally allowed to be in the same episode. Unfortunately, he has almost nothing to do. Nothing but get busy, that is! He and Anya finally seal the deal (with the door wide open?! I guess one of them’s an exhibitionist). Right after, it’s time for the Guptas to leave NYC behind. Gus tells Anya that the would have worked, just not now, and he’ll come find her when this is all over. But for now Gus has an allegiance to Quinlan, and that means he has to fight. Gus escorts them to the quarantine check point, demanding a promise from Angel to keep them safe. Angel promises he will, walks them throgh the checkpoint, then immediately comes back. They’re safe, he says, and he wants to fight too. I don’t really know how that’s going to work out with his busted knee, but Angel and Gus are finally a duo. They get in the car, chaperoned by Quinlan’s mysterious human lady friend, and head off to take down the Master.
Episode Rating: ★★★★
Dutch: “What are you going to do to me?” Eichhorst: “Everything.” Me: *Shudder*
Eichhorst: “Take off your pants.” (Insert: Screaming in Fear Emoji)
- Eichhorst: “Pineapple as a seasoning is exquisite.”
- That rescue hug/jump/kiss between Fet and Dutch was pretty D’awww. I hope they resolve the Nikki nonsense this season. Unless she’s hiding some nefarious motives, there hasn’t been any reason to bring her back or any payoff from her presence.
From the Set
I had the opportunity to visit the set of The Strain in Toronto earlier this year, so as a bonus, I’ll be providing some pertinent quotes from the cast and crew as the season goes on.
- Shout out to Ruta Gedmintas for being a true professional. We visited the set during the filming of “Dead End”, which means that when she spoke to us, she was coming down off of some emotionally intense scene work. She could not have been lovelier.
- Ruta Gedmintas on filming her torture scene: “Having that collar on my neck for 16 hours on Friday was quite intense, and there is a lot of physical stuff and I’m dragged around and we’ve got all these armadillo casts of my back, but it’s so much fun. I’m bruised and battered and have to go to physio. It is challenging but it’s what I do this job for is to have new experience, and when are you ever gonna get dragged up a flight of stairs enjoyably. When they did the test on me, I was just laughing, they’re like you know you are going to act scared when you do it. Wheee! It has been challenging and it’s pretty disgusting those scenes. I think they’ll be really good, Richard is so good and he’s so creepy. He’s so not like that in life, as well. We’d be dancing in between the scenes because it got so creepy that we’d have to sing and dance to just be normal people again because it was so dark. I went home and watched like 5 episodes of Friends, because I needed to not think about the horrible stuff. But I think it’s going to be really good, it’s really definitely horror movie creepy.
- Guillermo del Toro on the origin of the pineapple feeding. “I just thought the idea of Eichhorst being a connoisseur, he’s so refined and elegant I thought well – I remember an old porn story where they said porn actors eat only pineapple [laughs] for reasons of interaction, and I thought this guy would probably feed his victims only certain vitamins and juices so the flavor is a little better.”
Richard Sammel on bonding with Gedmintas in the White Room: “As a normal human being, as I suppose I am, you reprehend those scenes because you go into regions where you hardly go. And then you ask yourself, how are you going to do that in a believable way? But in terms of the actor I am, that’s exactly where I want to go, not only into perversion, into places where you normally do not go, even in a positive way, not just explore human weakness or being or states of mind.
The good thing with it is — for me there were two good things. First of all that I rely and have big trust in the team and in my comrades and in the production and in the writers; there is a kind of protected area…For me the other thing that was really good is to work with Ruta because. As the bad guy you never hang out with the team. That’s shit! And here we had some really intense things coming up which brought us both together, not only on a personal level, because of course we have dinner together and stuff like that, but on a professional level. We sat together; we’re thinking about the scenes; we’re brainstorming and rehearsing and stuff like that, and then, little by little, you get to a more intimate relationship where you deal with those very crucial stuff. And we come out of this White Room as real friends, you know? That’s a good thing.”