'The Strain' recap: Little spider kids, major haircuts in 'Quick and Painless'

'The Strain' recap: Little spider kids, major haircuts in 'Quick and Painless'
Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) and Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas) hunt for strigoi on "The Strain" episode "Quick and Painless." (Michael Gibson / FX)

At long last, we have an answer for one of the central mysteries of the hit FX thriller, "The Strain."

No, we still don't know the dark origins of the strigoi or how humans will be able to rid the world of these parasitic blood-draining monsters once and for all.


Nor do we understand exactly what's in store for our hero Scooby gang or the New York populace in general.

But we get why Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather was wearing that much-maligned toupee: So he could whip it off, here in Season 2, and become a completely different, allegedly incognito person!

Well, he's the same hotheaded fugitive with the distinctive, handsome mug, of course. But the fact that he's now hiding in plain sight, or "hiding in plain sight," is part of the narrative of this vampire drama.

Co-creator Guillermo del Toro and showrunner Carlton Cuse had said shortly after the series’ launch last summer that the hair, or “hair,” was an intentional ruse, a mask or a piece of set dressing, if you will.

They confirmed that at the Television Critics Assn. tour last week, saying that this week's episode was the penultimate time to end the long national nightmare that was Wig Gate.

If you buy that explanation, then they were always planning to let Stoll go au naturel, to alter his character's appearance at a pivotal point so he could fly under the radar, as they've suggested.

Or maybe they were responding to the immediate wave of social media criticism last year about sticking a rug on the famously bald actor. Everyone hated the hairpiece, or so they said on Twitter.

Stoll himself, speaking at the same event on Friday, said he's glad to be rid of those luscious locks because they proved to be "a distraction" for the audience.

I was always fairly ambivalent about that 'do, but now it's gone. A moment of silence for Goodweather's bushy mane.

That's a big moment in this week's episode, dubbed "Quick and Painless," which probably doesn't refer to Eph's alcohol-drenched self-shearing. Another significant thing? He kills a dude, his corrupt former boss, by shoving him out of a moving train. So, that happened.

Also, Season 3! FX has formally picked up the show for another season, and the creators said they have plans for five, if all goes as planned.

"Quick and Painless," relatively light on the grotesque and gory meter, is about both coming together and separating, as I see it. Eph talks his way out of the city, with a fake government ID in hand, and travels to Washington D.C. to try to convince someone – anyone! – that he can quash Vampocalypse 2015. Left behind: his colleague and love interest Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) and his bratty kid, Zach (Max Charles).

The anti-viral potion that he and Nora made needs to be mass-produced, he plans to tell his contacts, and used as a biological weapon against the infected. Will he be able to stop chugging brews long enough to bend the right ears?

On the flip side, some key alliances are forged as fortification in the epic humans-versus-bloodsuckers battle. Stoneheart refugee Reggie Fitzwilliam, as predicted, comes looking for the Scoobies with a simple declaration: "I'm ready to help." Fitzwilliam!!!

And there’s seemingly good news on the local law enforcement front. Nora, Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) and Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas) make friends with tough-as-nails city councilwoman Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) and her taskmaster cops.

Say, aren't they the same goons who roughed up Fet and arrested him for dynamiting the Carroll Street subway tunnel? Yes they are, but apologies are offered and accepted and intel exchanged about killing the undead. Common cause and all.

Nora even shines her handy UV light onto a bunch of folks at the police station, separating the untouched from the corrupted. Unfortunately, Feraldo's nephew falls into the latter camp, and Nora gives him a fat dose of morphine to end his life (and give the episode its name).

She may look gorgeous and seem tenderhearted, but remember, Nora offed her own mom last season. And as Maestro said Friday at TCA, Nora is "more determined, ready to fight, ready to kill," this season. The no-nonsense Feraldo, aka the Hammer, could learn a thing or two from this formerly mild-mannered scientist, and now the two women are forever linked.

And speaking of budding relationships, Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) and his Gal Friday appear to be an item now. I'm stifling the gag reflex over here – anybody with me?

Palmer is walking on air, dancing and sipping cocktails with the lovely Coco Marchand (Lizzie Brochere) while hinting at girlfriend status. Enjoy it now, codger, because it will not last.

And as a cliffhanger, a shadowy new figure emerges on the scene. Who is that creature that flew through restricted airspace and landed at a private airport in New Jersey? My bet is it's Quinlan, the vigilante vampire from the bestselling novels on which the series is based. Someone has to take over for the flash-fried Vaun, after all.

On to the brass tacks:

Setrakian and the thieves: Holocaust survivor and lifelong vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian (the incomparable David Bradley) has tricks, and designer bling, up his sleeve. He visits a black market trader in search of the Occido Lumen, the ancient text that's supposed to hold all the strigoi secrets.

After drawing his mighty silver-forged sword on one of the tough guys, he makes himself clear. He'll trade a fistful of pricey watches for the book, which, honestly doesn't seem like the kind of occult swag that these gangsters would have. Top thief Alonso Creem (Jamie Hector) promises to unearth it, though.

Setrakian's not the only one on the trail of the Lumen, of course. Palmer, out to dinner at a tony restaurant with Marchand, bumps into a high-ranking Catholic cardinal who may have a line on that very same sought-after tome.

Cardinal MacNamara, seemingly escaped from "The Tudors," is into "historic collectibles," Marchand learns as she continues to get more and more suspicious of Palmer's sleazy "friends." She tucks away this new piece of info, but it doesn't stop her from putting the moves on Palmer later in the evening. Again, I shudder!

Side note here about story inconsistency: there's a full-blown plague in the city, with the undead running amok and killing at will. (Except on Staten Island!) And every few episodes we see life appearing to go on uninterrupted – upscale neighborhoods are intact, folks go about their business, cops still stop and frisk (though they're really unhappy with the results).

At least Palmer and Marchand address it in this hour as they're seated among white tablecloths and bejeweled diners. "Denial is a special privilege of the rich," Palmer says. OK, so that covers one date night.

By far the best action comes from, not surprisingly, Fet and Dutch teaming with the NYPD to go in search of "the little spider kids," infesting a Brooklyn apartment building.

The Scoobies haven't yet come into contact with the Feelers, and Fet is immediately intrigued by the prospect of a new kind of vermin to exterminate. The cops were rightly creeped out by Kelly Goodweather's pre-pubescent helpers, and invite Fet and Dutch along on a high-rise-clearing run.

Dutch gets to yell, "Fire in the hole!" as she drops a silver-filled grenade onto an elevator shaft full of resting vampires, and Fet uses his handy rebar to stab a strigoi hiding in a crawl space. (Great scene, by the way, with a horrifying shot from the stigoi-cam of Fet peering into a hole in the wall. Look out, Fet!)

They don't find the spider kids, though, who are quickly closing in on Kelly's dear one, Zach. Cue ominous music and cold chills down spine.


Since Eph can't stay out of trouble, even with his new "look," his commute to Washington is filled with drama. He's nearly recognized (!) several times, and then he runs into Dr. Everett Barnes (Daniel Kash), his former boss at the Centers for Disease Control and now the ineffectual head of Health and Human Services.


They tussle, and Eph says he has a plan to end the contagion but needs his freedom to put it into place. Barnes agrees and then quickly pulls a double cross and a knuckle sandwich, telling Eph that he "needs to be on the right side." Translation: follow his lead and sell out to the Master and his minions.

That guy's a jerk right to the end, which comes courtesy of a sliding door on that speeding train and a hearty shove from Eph. Hey, desperate times.

Now the real work starts for Eph, the ostensible voice of reason and the father of the only strigoi-annihilating serum. Check back next week to chart his progress.