The Strain’s sixth episode, “Occultation,” is filled with omens and apocalyptic foreboding. Characters literally say it feels like the apocalypse several times. Unfortunately for, them, that may not be hyperbole.
In its first six episodes The Strain has done a great job of ratcheting up the tension, though there really hasn’t been a big payoff yet. And there isn’t one in this episode, either. What seems like it might be the endgame actually seems to turn out to be just another step in The Master’s evil vampire master plan. Although it is nice that by the end of this episode every player opposing that plan now finds their backs firmly pushed against the wall, leaving them no choice but to fight back. No more hemming and hawing.
Ready? Here’s the blow-by-blow:
The engine of dread that drives “Occultation” is the occultation itself, a fancy word for an approaching solar eclipse in that will give the victims of the vampire strain a chance to run free through New York City and spread their disease in the day without catching fire.
The first shot of the episode is of the Earth from orbit, showing the moon slide into position for the eclipse while talk radio chatters with people worrying about the apocalyptic dread they feel. One commentator wonders aloud if the eclipse could signal the “end of the world.”
Next we see a closeup of a padded door. It looks very much like the inside of a coffin lid. Eichorst steps through, not bothering to wear the makeup that makes him appear to be his old human self.
There is a pitiful man inside the padded room chained to a concrete block in the middle with a curious indentation on top. The man is naked except for a diaper and is surrounded by junk food wrappers and drink bottles. He begs Eichorst to kill him.
Eichorst calmly says that is what he is doing. He begins slowly turning a crank that winches the man’s chain toward the block until his head is dragged into the indentation and he is arranged helpless on his back, his neck exposed. Eichorst says needs to feed from the man a while longer to keep his strength up and sucks his blood with his stinger.
The FBI is outside Eph’s ex-wife Kelly’s house, looking for Eph. Eph watches secretly from across the street as the FBI talk to Kelly and Kelly’s boyfriend Matt.The FBI leave, correctly concluding Eph would never stay there with the boyfriend in the house.
Vasiliy, the city exterminator and enemy of rats, is at a diner as two men are talking about how rats are pouring through the city “like something Biblical.” Vasiliy says they are being driven from the underground by something big. He shows them a sketch of the infected he saw down there and says to be careful, but the workmen laugh it off.
Gus and Felix are at a boxing gym, where Gus is taking out some of his anger by brutally beating a sparring partner. A messenger from Eichorst appears and flashes a gun, telling Gus he needs to come with him. Gus tells Felix he will end it with Eichorst today and they both go along.
At Kelly’s house Zach is on the internet and sees a news report about the manhunt for Eph. Eph at that moment enters the house. He tells his family that the charges are bogus and that an awful contagion is on the loose. He tries to get Kelly to go to her mother’s house in Vermont, but all he’s getting is an argument.
Matt comes downstairs which adds fuel to the fire. All of Eph’s failings are used against him. Matt throws out his alcoholism. Kelly tells Eph that you can’t outrun a virus, but Eph says “Well, this one you need to try.”
Matt ably demonstrates why should never trust your ex’s new boyfriend when the FBI burst through the door. Matt had secretly called them when Eph entered. They arrest him, which pisses Kelly off and leads to an argument where she calls Matt a “guest” in her house. Matt is heartbroken by the insinuation and says he loves her. Instead of running to Vermont they both angrily decide to go to work and send Zach to school. Missed opportunity number one.
Abraham is working his way through is list of victims of the biological incident on the plane. The house he goes to seems to have been in the middle of a memorial service and dinner that was interrupted when the memorialized came back home alive. Religious candles are set up in a shrine, and there is a half-eaten meal on the table.
In the basement Abraham finds both the deceased and the mourners, even the local Padre, all turned and bitey. He’s able to lop off the original dead guy’s head, but even with his silver nail gun the basement full of infected is too much for him and he starts to have a heart attack. He also drops his heart attack pills.
He barely makes it out alive by running up the basement stairs and into the sunlight, where the infected start to burn and won’t follow. Quick with plan B, Abraham turns the stove gas on in the kitchen and lights one of the religious candles and sets it on top.
Nora wakes to the sound of her mom’s early morning vacuuming. She asks her mother if she remembers the attack on the nursing home the night before, but her mother’s Alzheimer’s has caused her to forget everything but “a nice dinner.” Nora says she wishes she could forget the same way. Jim calls Nora to tell her that Eph has been arrested, but the phone breaks up.
The FBI is now after Nora and shows up at her door. Nora can see them on her security system and stops her mom from opening the door. She begins packing a bag, telling her mom they have to leave.
Abraham is riding in a cab, in such bad shape that a cabbie tells him “Hey! Don’t die in my cab.” Abraham sarcastically thanks him for his concern.
The cabbie is talking about the eclipse, how cellphones aren’t working, and how people are going nuts. He says it seems like “judgement day.”
Abraham is so desperate for assistance he asks the cabby to help him stop it, but the cabbie just says “you can’t fix crazy.”
Gus and Felix meet Eichorst underground, in what looks like a sewer and what Felix superstitiously says seems like one level above hell.
Eichorst says Gus broke the deal when he tried to look in the coffin he was paid to transport and so he must continue to work for Eichhorst. Gus denies it and tries to stand up to Eichorst, but Eichorst says he must pick up and dispose of a body or his mother will be deported. He also throws in $800 so hey, not all bad!
This offer he can’t refuse makes Gus angry. Eichorst seems impressed with Gus’s love for his mother, the same way one might be impressed with a novel biological function of an insect.
Eichorst says he finds it fascinating how people never admit that love also “binds, chokes and strangles.” It’s a satisfying echo of how the entire vampire plan is based around love and the assumption that the infected will return to their loved ones.
Gus attacks Eichorst. The same vicious punches he used in the boxing ring only smear Eichorst’s makeup. Felix tries to shoot Eichorst but he ducks the bullet with superhuman speed. The pair are easily manhandled and forced to participate in the plan to steal the body.
Eph is in an FBI interrogation room, where two FBI agents are using harsh tactics to try to get Eph to admit he killed Doyle Redfern, the pilot from the plane that started the original incident. They have video stills that show Eph dragging the body from when he and the others performed an autopsy on Redfern.
Eph asks the FBI guy to text his son and says they need to attack the vampires in the daylight, but just gets a slap to the face for his efforts.
Gus and Felix are picked up to go get the body. The driver is Jim, still working for Eichorst despite appearing to try to help Eph and Nora earlier. Dun, dun, dun. He’s a complicated guy, that Jim.
Nora is running aimlessly through the city as the eclipse approaches. Her mother is confused, complaining and difficult to handle. She decides to go to Abraham’s pawn shop for help and looks up the address in a phone book. A paper phone book, which she finds hanging off a payphone. In New York City in 2014. Surely a miracle that proves she is divinely protected.
Vasiliy comes back to his office to find it empty and no one there interested in his desire to talk about the house that Abraham blew up. He checks the phone of Lauretta, the cute secretary he bantered with in earlier episodes, finds a picture of her with her daughter on it. Not a good sign when a minor character suddenly gets a bit of humanizing attention.
Vasiliy heads to an electronically locked back room to get the strongest poisons he can find, but inside he finds his boss, turned and feral. Vasiliy defeats him by opening a blind. The sun burns the infected to death.
Vasiliy hears whimpering and heads to another part of the room, where he finds the secretary hiding and in the process of turning. With only a mild look of regret and the practical lack of hesitation of someone accustomed to the deaths of vermin he coldly opens the blind on her, too.
Eph has now told the FBI the whole story. They don’t believe a word of it. So he switches tactics and begins lying, telling them he wants to take them to where he hid the bodies of the plane victims.
Kelly is drinking wine with a supportive friend. She worries about both Eph and Matt and admits she let Matt move in so early to hurt Eph. Supportive friend is supportive, though, and says “divorce is a streetfight” and drops a hint that Eph has been sleeping with Nora. But she also does say Kelly should head to Vermont if that’s what she wants, holding out one last hope that Kelly will make the right decision. But it’s just missed opportunity number two.
Gus, Jim, and Felix have the infected body and are going to dispose of it by dumping it in a river. But Felix is curious and opens the body bag, which causes a stinger to fall out. Jim is furious. They close it up and throw the bag in the river.
Vasiliy goes home to his parent’s house, where we find out that Vasiliy is ethnically Ukrainian. Vasiliy’s father has just completed a huge manuscript on Ukrainian architecture. Vasiliy father is ashamed his son turned down a chance to study architecture to become a “ratcatcher” and that seems to be the source of much of the tension between them.
Vasily begs his father to take his mother and get out of the city, saying some “horrible strain” is spreading. Always a bit cheesy when a show works its name into the script.
His father thinks his mind has been warped by his job. He ask Vasiliy to stay, for his mother. Vasiliy asks him to go, for Vasiliy. Doesn’t seem like he’s going to go. No one in this episode seems to take the advice to go.
Which brings us to Kelly and Zach, who are watching the eclipse through special glasses and talking about what they should do. Do they decide to go to Vermont like sensible people? No, this is a horror show. Kelly decides they need a little “normalcy” and they stay. Missed opportunity three, you’re out.
The eclipse begins. Everything turns orange and dreadful. Eph and the two FBI men are stuck in traffic when they see a bloated and monstrous Bennett, the Manhattan medical examiner who was overcome by infected in the first episode. Bennett is taking advantage of the eclipse to rampage through the street and rip people out of cars. The FBI guys try to stop him and are both brutally killed, but they do manage to drive Bennett off.
Before the FBI guy who slapped Eph dies, Eph convinces him to give Eph his keys. Eph unlocks the handcuffs, says he sorry but he warned him, and runs off.
Matt is at work. He can’t text Kelly because the phones aren’t working. A co-worker rushes into the room with a throat injury. Matt runs out into the hall and sees two infected working together at the end and goes after them.
Gus and Felix are walking through an alley. Felix is, understandably, a bit freaked out by the day’s events. Suddenly Bennett runs through and attacks them. Gus manages to kill Bennett, but one of the worms from his blood attaches to Felix’s hand. Gus is just about to pull it off when two cops rush into the alley and arrest him.
The eclipse fades away. We see Eph show up at Abraham’s pawn shop. Nora and her mother are there and Eph hugs Nora.
Abraham is pleased to have some help.
“You’re both ready,” Abraham says. “Good. I have a new plan.” End of episode.