The Strain recap: 'Tainted Love'
History has proven that it’s hard to write interesting and compelling teenage characters on an adult-centered show. Just ask Homeland, The Sopranos, and Smash. In the case of Homeland, the series had some early success with Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor) and her relationship with her father, but once they tried to give the character her own standalone stories, it all crumbled. The series soon left the entire Brody family behind.
Meanwhile, The Strain has never had any success when it comes to Zach. Not only did they feel the need to recast the role after season 1, but the show has continued to build up the character’s significance despite the fact that he’s become one of the worst characters on television. I dare you to find a fan that doesn’t audibly groan every time Zach appears on screen, and the final season prominence of this poorly written teenager isn’t satisfying any The Strain fans left standing.
The Zach-heavy episode “Tainted Love” begins with the group of no-name characters who were previously screwed over by Fet and Charlotte. Sitting by a fire in the South Dakota woods, they’re approached by “Brooks Brothers,” a.k.a Eichhorst, who’s looking for Fet and Quinlan. He has good and bad news. Weirdly, the good news is that Eichhorst is taking their truck, while the bad news is that he only needs one of them to drive it. (I’d argue that might be the good news since he could technically drive it himself and need no one.) The Master’s right-hand man easily takes out two of the three men, making his choice of driver pretty simple.
Meanwhile, up in the other Dakota, Fet and Quinlan’s crew are packing up to leave for the airfield, where the plan is to trade their supplies for a plane. Roman is coming along, but Quinlan doesn’t think Charlotte should, claiming, “Her usefulness has passed.” He’s cold blooded in many ways. “Don’t you dare question her commitment,” argues Fet, to which Quinlan responds, “I’m not…I’m questioning yours.” Fet clearly wants her to come, but he realizes that Charlotte should have some say in the matter (someone took a feminist course at exterminator school). “Hell no,” she laughs when he asks her to come. “You said it was a suicide mission.” Maybe he should have also taken an advertising class. She’d rather head to her dad’s cabin in Montana. “Wait, did you just break up with me?” he asks as she walks away. Long-distance relationships never work in the zombie apocalypse.
For some reason, Quinlan’s 1888 flashback has been deemed important enough that it’s continuing for the second straight week. He’s enjoying his new life, whether it’s playing hide-and-seek with Lydia or going to the theater for date night with Louisa. Well, date night doesn’t go exactly as planned when they come across a few strigoi (I hate when that happens). Upon hearing his son’s name, The Master speaks through one of them, leading Quinlan to quickly snap its neck. The run-in causes Quinlan to leave his new family behind in order to fulfill his “purpose” and defeat The Master. “Do I mean nothing to you?” cries Louisa. He responds, “Quite the opposite. I hope tonight I can repay you in kind.” I don’t know — that makeup looks pretty expensive. Despite Louisa and Lydia’s protests, he heads out.
Now to the moment no one was waiting for: the return of Zach. He’s doing what most teenagers do on first dates: seeing the house where his prospective love interest lived when her parents were killed by the nuclear bomb he set off. You know, the usual. People also really like telling Eph and Zach that the attack on New York wasn’t their fault, even though it’s absolutely their fault. Zach and Abby end up bonding over the fact that they both talk to their dead parents. Yeah, but I’d bet the world’s most powerful vampire isn’t pretending to be her dead mom. Just a hunch.
After a little goodbye kiss on the cheek, Zach gets some love advice from his new father figure. “There’s nothing I haven’t seen when it comes to life…or love,” shares The Master. Eph has had four times more love interests during this series than The Master has, so it might be worth giving your real pops a call on this one, Zach. Eager to see his girl, Zach makes an unannounced stop at Abby’s group home, where he finds her making out with some dude, who happens to also be eating his plums. Oh snap, someone hide the nukes! (Recap continues on page 2)
On the way to find Fet and company, Eichhorst’s driver gets a name — Benjamin. Sorry Benny, but if we know one thing, it’s that getting a name usually leads to getting dead, and soon. In the meantime, Eichhorst and Benji exchange some small talk about topics like Hitler and Native Americans. Eichhorst’s taunts lead Ben to be sneaky and turn on the CB radio. The Nazi vampire discovers this deception, but not before the good guys catch wind of Eichhorst pursuing them. Although Benjen does his best to escape by jumping out of the truck, Eichhorst catches up and kills him. R.I.P. Benjamin. Hopefully, you’ll soon be united with all of the other Strain characters who got a name and then quickly died.
Upon arriving at the airport, the crew is welcomed by gunshots, courtesy of Roman’s buddy, Dooley. This rude greeting and the presence of Quinlan causes a delay, but it doesn’t stop the trade from going down. As they load their nuke onto the plane, Charlotte does her best to convince Fet to abandon the mission and come with her to Montana. Her compelling case is unsuccessful, and she heads off into the sunset — well, the most sunset that’s possible in this dark post-apocalyptic world. “I didn’t let her go because you wanted me to,” Fet tells Quinlan. “I did it for her. She deserves better. Better than me.” Quinlan shocks his partner by responding, “That, Mr. Fet, will be very hard to find, though I don’t doubt her resourcefulness.” A smiling Fet asks, “Did I just hear a compliment in there?” The usually dry vampire cracks, “I like to give one every 100 years or so.” The end of the human race can’t ruin this bromance.
The fun times don’t last long for Quinlan as the story heads back to 1888. He seems to have very quickly found The Master, setting up a father/son showdown. The fight is pretty even until Quinlan has the upper hand and the chance to finish things forever, but he hesitates, giving The Master the chance to rebound and put a knife in his rival. “Perhaps your new family should meet your father,” he declares as he exits. While Quinlan is able to eventually get free, it’s too late, as he arrives home to find Louisa and Lydia have already been turned. He washes off his human makeup and puts an end to their suffering.
Abby finally shows up to work, but I have a feeling she would’ve been better off calling in sick. When she arrives, Zach asks how her boyfriend liked his plums. Not exactly as memorable as Matt Damon wondering about them apples. He proceeds to throw a temper tantrum when what he should be doing is writing his version of He’s Just Not That Into You. “I did everything that I was supposed to,” he whines. “I was nice to you and I gave you all of this stuff.” Someone should take some lessons from Fet. To prove he’s not a kid, he slams a dish to the ground and orders her to clean it up. That will show her! When he won’t let her leave, Abby throws the “little creep” (her words…and my words) against the wall, prompting his pet feeler to come to his defense. Zach ignores her pleas to call it off, and instead, he basically gets in the fetal position as the creature kills the girl. Don’t worry, though, because Abby is sticking around in strigoi form as a special reward from Zach’s “mom.”
Eichhorst drives onto the air field just as Roman, Fet, and Quinlan are jetting off. His attempts to catch the plane are thwarted by Dooley shooting from the command tower, so Eichhorst puts a bullet in him. Then, as he’s turning his attention back to the sky and our boys, he’s shot…by Charlotte. “She proved you wrong,” boasts Fet to Quinlan, who responds, “No, you saved her and us by leaving her behind.” Always a Debbie Downer. New York City, here they (finally) come.
What did you think? Do I need to lighten up on Zach? And if you think so, are you the actor who plays Zach?