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'The Strain' recap: 'The Born'

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Michael Gibson/FX

The Strain

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
David Bradley, Corey Stoll, Mia Maestro
Drama, Horror, Thriller

As shocking as the deaths of “Identity” were—and how big of a setback they represented—“The Born” is much less concerned with looking back than it is with resolutely looking forward. Sure, Fitzwilliam is name checked, and Eph has to recover from a harrowing shootout, but the focus on “The Born” centers around its titular character.

“The Born” is another name for Quinlan, who is also known as The Barbarian Gladiator or the Knight Demon of Sicily… he’s essentially looking to compete with Daenerys Targaryen for most ridiculous number of names on TV. But Quinlan has garnered so many names over the years because he’s essentially a being of mythic proportions who has a history long enough to warrant it.

“The Born” first introduces Quinlan via a story being narrated by Abraham. Quinlan is a Roman gladiator, but his skin complexion is much paler than someone who fights in the beating sun all day should be. That’s because he’s a strigoi—or at least, partially strigoi, as a Roman senator looking to sponsor him reveals. He’s half-human, half-strigoi (let’s not even begin to imagine how that worked out), and for the moment, he’s interested in understanding mankind. The senator offers him that very chance by providing him with some shiny weaponry for battle.

Quinlan, with his bone-handled sword, has made his presence known in current day as well. His hunt for the Master has led him toward Abraham, who is on a similar mission with Fet. Using information from the dearly departed Fitzwilliam about land Palmer was buying, they make their way to a Stoneheart-purchased piece of land. And here they strike gold, discovering the ground where Kelly’s feelers were born, as well as the Master’s current resting place.

Though Abraham and Fet would be strigoi food for the feelers, they’re not alone—Quinlan has followed them thanks to information from the Ancients. (All of this he reveals in front of Fet, who has NO idea who or what an “Ancient” is. Look forward to that conversation with the group next week.) He fights off the feelers with perhaps the most badass entrance on the show yet, slashing his sword and spraying his bullets with seemingly reckless but clearly measured intent.

Quinlan is willing to save them because they have the same goal: killing the Master. The Demon Barbarian has been hunting him for centuries, even visiting Sardu’s village from the season premiere, only to be left empty handed. But he knew then that the Master was afraid of him, and know there is another who he fears: Abraham. The Master has never had to willingly change form until Abraham injured him, making him a very attractive alliance member.

And right now that alliance is of paramount importance, because the Master, unlike Elvis, has not left the building. Quinlan goes off to find him, with Abraham following close behind, and Fet fulfilling his Wile E. Coyote position and setting dynamite around the facility. (He has the construction workers on the scene call in a bomb threat, and when they ask from whom, he waves a few sticks of dynamite in their face. And it looks like they got the message to evacuate as they all scramble for safety.

Quinlan faces off with the Master, now in Bolivar’s body and Eichhorst by his side. The standoff becomes a proper duel as Abraham joins Quinlan’s side, but the Master tempts Quinlan’s anger by promising to make him scream like his mother (ASIDE: I don’t read the books and haven’t gone down a Wikipedia hole deep enough to know, but it certainly sounds like we’re watching a father/son fight at the moment. Regardless, I not only loved Quinlan’s presence in the episode but also how he was depicted both in the present day and past. Despite some of season 2’s missteps, this definitely feels like one of the better additions. END OF ASIDE). The Born attempts to strike him down, but Fet’s explosives ignite, bringing a portion of the building down and preventing Quinlan from reaching the Master.

NEXT: Eph drunkenly stumbles home and sets his sights on Palmer. [pagebreak]

Not only does he escape, but the Master has caused a rift in what could be the most threatening team fighting against him. Quinlan blames Abraham for allowing the Master to escape, which throws a strigoi-sized wrench in the middle of what could be a tremendously powerful alliance. And it’s all thanks to Fet choosing his love of dynamite over his love of humanity being saved, I guess.

But can you fully blame a guy whose judgment is clouded by relationship problems? (When it comes to the fate of the world, YES.) Before taking on the Master, Fet had spent the last day or so at odds with Dutch. The two discovered Dutch’s roommate/more-than-roommate Nikki is still alive. She’s been holed up after spraining her ankle after the gas station hold-up last season, living out her days alone. Dutch invites her back to the gang’s hideout, and Fet’s jealousy immediately begins to bubble up to the surface.

He does a terrible job of hiding it too. Fet treats Nikki with pure bitterness, his envy showing at every turn. Dutch recognizes it quickly, choosing to stay behind with Nikki while Fet goes off with Abraham—the two could certainly use some space, but Fet isn’t for a moment considering the obviously conflicting emotions battling it out inside Dutch. She wants to still care for Fet, but she also wants to help someone she was close to for a much longer time.

Yet even when Fet leaves the two of them alone, they have little time to reconnect, as Eph returns, drunk and injured from his perilous journey to the nation’s capital. Dutch and Nikki welcome the inebriated and indignant doctor back home and settle him down for a nap (before which he reveals the nature of Fet and Dutch’s relationship to Nikki).

He awakens to Nora, who helps patch his wounds up while filling him in on their church battle with Kelly. Encouraged by Nora, he tries to smooth things over with Zack, who learns once again that his father is not an infallible being. The mission to Washington, D.C., went south, but he promises to keep Zack safe, even as his mother’s sense of love has been warped in the strigoi phase of her life. Zack realizes his dad and promises don’t exactly mix well together, of course, so he continues his tutelage under Abraham, learning about who and what Quinlan is in this fight.

Eph could care less about a new player like Quinlan, though. Hell, even the Master has been knocked down a few pegs on Eph’s hierarchy of enemies. His number one target, he explains to Fet in a recently rare moment of camaraderie between the two, is the man who stopped him from completing his mission, the man who impeded his plans to save the country, Eldritch Palmer. And there’s only one thing to do with an enemy he has such animosity for—kill him.

He may want to strike sooner rather than later as, like Fet, Palmer is consumed by his love. Unlike Fet, things seem to be going better for Palmer and Coco. He’s wined and dined her, offered her a cushy position from which to watch the world burn, and it seems she has begun to fall for him.

She asks to see his bedroom, conveniently located above his office, where, after episodes of seemingly one-sided flirting and polite non-rebuking of that flirtation, Coco kisses Palmer. Despite his protests that he’s too old to be the man she deserves, she tells him to shut up and takes a dive into romantic waters that could mean much more than giving her heart over to someone. It could mean giving her life to him, too. If Eph is looking for a way to hit Palmer where it hurts most, he may want to start looking into Coco’s security detail.