“For Services Rendered,” the seventh episode of the FX vampire drama The Strain, keeps the plot moving along and the growing evil that threatens to swallow New York City growing nicely. But the modern day action is eclipsed, or maybe I should say occulted, by flashbacks that give us insight into the unusual relationship between vampire Thomas Eichorst and vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian.
This episode starts with an introduction to Roger Luss, the husband of plane incident survivor and attorney Joan Luss.
Roger is returning from a trip and stops at an airport bar. There sees his wife on television announcing that she will file a class-action suit about the incident on the plane against Regis Air. Her eyes are already red and bloody even in this footage.
Although he was just looking at a news report that says cell phones are slowed, Roger gets a call from his nanny Neeva who tells him she took the children. Roger is way too tired, however, to drive to Neeva’s home in Yonkers. He demands she bring them to the Luss house in the morning.
He was lucky to get through to Neeta, because when he tries to call Joan his cell service is unavailable thanks to the Citizens for Liberty hackers the bad guys have hired to crash the grid. He also hears horrible screaming outside the bar.
Roger takes a cab to his home in Bronxville, where we see abandoned streets and hear sirens that give Roger an extremely accurate feeling that something is very wrong. Unfortunately for Roger he drew a colorful Croatian cabby that likes to talk in riddles. The cabby tells Roger the neighborhood is deserted because of the eclipse, but won’t elaborate because that would be helpful.
Even cab credit card readers are down, so Roger tries to go inside his house to get cash to pay his stubbornly cryptic cabby. He runs into one of his neighbors, now Strigoi’d. He makes it to the cab and repeatedly yells at the cabby to drive the car as Strigoi close in, but that’d be helpful so instead the cabby pulls a gun, gets out to shoot at the Strigoi and is promptly killed.
Roger runs inside his house where he sees Joan slowly walking toward him in silhouette. He tries to call for help but cell phones are still useless. Joan’s face is revealed and we can see she has seriously let herself go. The teaser ends with her vomiting her stinger at Mr. Luss.
Nora, Abraham, and Eph are going over Abraham’s vampire-killing equipment, which includes silver bullets. Abraham says the fact that silver can hurt the Strigoi was something he learned from his grandmother and has tested many times. Nora drops a little science and says silver interferes with sulfur bonds in bacteria.
There’s a bit of a contest of wills between Abraham and Eph. Eph is for getting the proof out to the public, but Abraham says that options has been cut off by the Strigoi, and they need to kill the Master so his spawn will die.
“That makes no biological sense,” Eph says. Abraham just pulls rank on him, saying he understands this better than Eph and “Logic is not the issue,” but instead Eph’s desire to always be in control. He’s got Eph pegged pretty well for a guy he just met.
The plan is to get to the Master’s nest through his human helpers. Human helpers that include Jim. Eph hates Jim for his betrayal in letting the Master’s coffin through the airport in the first episode, but is convinced to go along with it.
Flashback to the concentration camp and we see Abraham working as a carpenter in the camp workshop, jealously eyeing the silver the Nazis took from their victims. Eichorst enters carrying a beautifully carved Jewish talisman called the Hand of Miriam, which he says he found under one of the bunks. He claims it was carved from oak from the workshop, and that is the property of the Third Reich.
When no one claims credit for the piece he executes a random worker, then says he will shoot them one a time until the perpetrator steps forward. Abraham admits to making it. Instead of punishing Abraham, Eichorst seems intrigued by his skill.
He reads the camp number tattooed on Abraham’s arm aloud, A230385. At no point will Eichorst acknowledged Abraham’s humanity enough to refer to him as anything other than this or “the Jew,” and this is what he refers to him by in the present day as well. He leads him to another room to work on a special project, a familiar-looking large box.
There’s a quick scene of Gus in prison, nude and being strip-searched. He’s screaming about being attacked by a guy with a “six-foot frog tongue” in the last episode, but the guards just think he’s on drugs.
Jim is with his sick wife Sylvia, getting ready to leave the city for Palo Alto. His wife picks up on his nervousness and knows he’s lying about why he wants to go, but it’s kind of hard to explain that you helped a vampire infect a major American city.
Eph and crew show up a Jim’s door, which forces Jim to tell Sylvia the whole story. Angrily, Eph says Jim was bribed “and because of that, an epidemic is now tearing its way through the city.”
Jim wants to help with the plan to stop the master, admitting he was involved in a major way. This makes Sylvia furious.
“I cannot believe you are going to let this self-righteous prick manipulate you with crazy talk about vampires,” she says, and leaves the room.
Abraham has Jim describe the German he dealt with, which confirms to him they’re dealing with Eichorst.
Abraham says his history with Eichorst is “long, complicated,” and that Eichorst was still human when they met, but “just as monstrous.”
We’re back at the camp. Eichorst comes to check on the coffin and visit the man he only calls A230385. He compliments Abraham’s work and asks him if it brings enjoyment.
Abraham says that takes his mind off the camp, and “In that sense I suppose it’s pleasurable.”
Eichorst said he was never good with his hands. He had to steal another boy’s project to pass middle school woodworking.
Abraham says we all have different talents, and says he’s sure Eichorst did not rise to his position through sheer luck. His words drip with contempt.
Eichorst ignores the disgust and agree. He says managing people is his talent. Picking the right person for the right job as he did with the construction of the box, and says he wishes he had more like Abraham.
Abraham again eyes the silver.
Neeva is cooking breakfast for Joan and Roger Luss’s kids, who desperately want to go home.
Neeva’s knows there’s bad stuff going on there and has no intention of doing it, but her daughter Sebastiane is a bit of a bitch and overwhelms her mother in an argument about it, convincing her that they have to do what Mr. Luss says.
Sebastiane calms her mother a bit, saying that she is a nurse and if Joan Luss is sick she’ll know what to do.
Eldritch Palmer is at his compound, getting an infusion of a drug cocktail that includes steroids. His manservant Fitzwilliams jokes that the side effects include weight gain, which would be a good thing in Palmer’s case. But Palmer is preoccupied with worrying about what will happen if his body rejects his recent liver transplant.
Eichorst enters at that moment and says he hopes that won’t happen, because they are all fond of Eldritch. It does not sound sincere.
He dismissively waves Fitzwilliams out, but Fitzwilliams is reluctant to go. Eldritch says manservant is very protective and has been with him since birth. His parents worked for Eldritch’s mother and father. Eichorst laments that the tradition of essentially owning people is no longer followed these days.
Eldritch says plan is working perfectly, everyone focused on Citizens for Liberty cyberattacks, except for one wrinkle. He plays Eichorst a voicemail from Jim saying he never destroyed the body of the plane pilot Redfern (technically true, they just dumped it into a river), and that he wants $100,000 cash to return it.
Eichorst immediately figures out that the plan is a bluff and that “the Jew” is behind it.
Gus in is jail, in an orange jumpsuit. He’s in general population with Felix, who is in lying on the floor in terrible shape and seems to be dying. Some dick won’t let Gus put Felix on a bench, so Gus kicks his ass. Felix thinks he’s being punished for what they did.
Gus tries to get help for Felix, a prison guard claims a paramedic will come when he has time and adds “Now shut up or you’ll be needing him too.”
Eph, Nora, Jim, and Abraham are outside, preparing to put their plan in action. Jim is still trying to convince Sylvia he did it all to protect her, but Sylvia is unswayed and drives away. It looks like Jim’s desire to keep Sylvia has cost him her in the end.
Abraham gives Jim a silver knife. Jim says he was hoping for something in the gun family. Abraham says silver is more effective, but, um, silver bullets? It’s pretty clear Jim is just the bait in this trap.
We see a flashback of Abraham picking the lock to the area with the silver and stealing a silver knife. He has to quickly close the door and relock it as Eichorst enters, drunk and chummy, and says Abraham needs to pick up the pace. Eichorst says he assumes the urgency is from the Russian artillery we can hear in the background, but says the box will be finished.
Eichorst asks Abraham where he comes from. He says he was born in Armenia, but his family settled in Romania. Varsolt. Drunk Eichorst says he traveled through there and saw the preserved Roman castle. While peeing in a corner of the room he talks about how the castle passed through the hands of many empires. Russian artillery shakes the building.
He asks if the German empire will outlast its predecessors. Abraham says the Third Reich is in its death throws.
“Very likely,” Eichorst agrees. “But suppose a new Reich rose from the ashes of this one. Led by a new Fuhrer who was able to deliver everything Hitler promised and more?”
This leads to a philosophical argument where Abraham says it would be a sad day for humanity, but Eichorst argues that a strong leader is what the people actually want.
Eichorst says Hitler was elected democratically. Abraham says he was elected because the people were terrified.
“Yes, terrified of democracy!” Eichorst exclaims
Eichorst says that after the chaos that followed World War I they realized Plato was right, the republic can only be led by a philosopher king with the wisdom to look after the needs of the many.
“Unless you are a Jew,” Abraham says sarcastically.
Eichorst is offended, says Abraham takes it all too personally. He says Abraham is not morally superior, he eagerly threw up his hands to become a carpenter for the Reich.
“I had no choice,” Abraham says.
“Yes you have. But you’re afraid of the choice. The eternity,” Eichorst says.
Eichorst says he wants to make it clearer and sets both the carpenter’s hammer and his own pistol on the box. He puts his arms back and says if Abraham is quick enough he can grab his pistol. He’s going to die anyway when the trains stop, Eichorst says.
Abraham does not grab the pistol.
“It’s much easier to do nothing isn’t it? Eichorst asks. “Safer.”
Abraham returns to work.
“If that god you believe in really exists, what do you suppose he would think of you?” Eichorst asks.
Sebastiane got her way, so Neeva takes the kids back to the Luss house. An abandoned cab in front is a bad sign, but the kids stupidly run inside before Neeva can stop them.
They see vomit on the floor where Roger was infected, then see Roger himself in bad shape on the floor of another room.
Joan surprises them and tries to take a bite, but Sebastiane, but Sebastiane grabs her stinger in mid-attack. The Strigoi seem to have plot-dependent stingers, quick and deadly when facing a red shirt, slow and easy to deflect when someone important is involved.
Despite her ninja move, Sebastiane suffers a small cut on her hand.
The women and the kids barricade themselves in a room. Unfortunately the Luss mansion seems to have walls mostly made of glass and this room is no exception.
Eph, Jim, Abraham and Nora are at Grand Central Station for the ransom fakeout, trying to appear incognito. Eph is wearing a surgical mask, which doesn’t seem unusual because as the plague worsens and more people get sick they are becoming a common accessory.
Eichhorst meets Jim and says he knows they were lying about Redfern and asks where Abraham is. Jim is “on the wrong side of history,” he says, adding Jim could be part of glorious new order. He also says he’s condemning his wife to a slow lingering death.
When Jim doesn’t cooperate, Eichorst grabs him and says in a spooky, inhumanly deep voice ”I could drink you right here. Turn you.” There’s a growl in there.
Jim says there are too many cops around.
“Then I guess you’ve made your decision. Consider your wife dead,” Eichorst says.
They try to follow Eichorst as a group. He’s very quick, efficient and German about getting around.
The cat and mouse game doesn’t go well and they lose Eichorst almost immediately in the subway tunnels. Jim catches up with Eph and Nora and says Eichorst knows it’s a trap and is looking for Abraham.
Above, Abraham tries to hide on a subway car, where notices a lot of the people on board seem to be sick.
He gets off and Eichorst is waiting.
“Fitting we should end our journey where it began, on a train platform,” Eichorst says.
Abraham says this time he has the weapon and draws his silver blade. He tries to slash Eichorst with it but he dodges with inhuman quickness.
Eichorst says it is Sardu’s sword and says the Master will be pleased to get it back. The reference to Sardu was a nice touch for fans of the source material who might be disappointed that the Sardu sequence hasn’t been adapted, at least not yet.
Abraham says Eichorst is following a “false messiah” as horrific as the last one.
Eichorst goes in for the bite, but Eph shows up just in time to shoot the Strigoi in the leg with a silver bullet. Yeah, it would have saved a lot of trouble to give one of those to Jim.
“I give you another day of life, Jew. For services rendered,” Eichorst says, then jumps on the side of a speeding subway car, digs his nails into the steel, and is carried away.
Cuts to a flashback of Eichorst in the workshop teasing Abraham with a wurst sandwich. He says “C’mon, take it. You earned it.”
Abraham is clearly disgusted, but also starving. He takes the sandwhich
The camera pulls out and we see the Master’s finished box.
“It’s magnificent,” Eichorst says, as Abraham greedily devours the sandwich.
Neeva is praying but it doesn’t help. Joan and another Strigoi break into the room. Again, it was glass, so it wasn’t hard.
Just when it looks like the end crossbow bolts are fired through the brains of both Joan and the other Strigoi.
There are several men in black military uniforms outside the room. All of their faces are covered except for the leader, who looks like a Strigoi himself but slightly more lizard-like.
The leader calmly and compassionately asks if anyone was hurt. He looks over Neeva and both the kids in turn and then turns his attention to Sebastiane and her scratch.
He lets Neeva and the kids go join the soldiers, but asks Sebastiane to hold back for a second. Then he coldly shoots her in the head with his crossbow and warns the others not to touch her.
“She is corrupted,” the leader says. End of episode.