The Strain 1.03: “Gone Smooth”

Episode 3, “Gone Smooth”, opens with a truly Extreme Makeover. While sweeping classical music plays in the background, a man who most certainly isn’t a man sets to work affixing a fake nose over the gaping hole in his face. Glues a foam neckpiece over some disturbing folds. Attaches rubber ears and inserts normal dentures over serrated teeth. And adds a layer of healthy flesh tones over his corpse-gray skin. The transformation complete, he adjusts his tailored suit and brushes his shoulders clean with a satisfied smirk.

Of course the man is none other than Herr Eichhorst. Fitting, that a Nazi pretending to be otherwise to the outside world is also a monster pretending to be a man.

At the CDC headquarters, not even the higher ups are sure what happened to the missing bodies. Knowing how inept government agencies can be, they assume that the military has gotten involved and is perhaps mixed up in the cover-up. Not a bad guess, really, except it allows everyone to turn a blind eye to the truth. Thinking the situation out of their hands, Eph’s boss at the center assures him to forget what’s happened. It’s none of their concern any more.

Which, of course, the baddies are betting on. Assure everyone the problem is someone else’s to deal with—that way no one will be watching when the world goes to hell in a handbasket.

Poor Jim is beginning to realize that letting that box go was a bad idea. Guess he never heard a certain story about a lady named Pandora…

Ansel Barbour, the fourth of the unlucky survivors, is glad to be home. Doting wife Anne-Marie frets over his worsening state, though, and she definitely has cause for concern. If my husband came home with bloodshot eyes and bleeding gums, I’d insist he return to the quarantine, media frenzy and personal loneliness be damned.

Exterminator Vasiliy Fet arrives at work to a barrage of calls. Seems the rats of New York have been acting particularly vicious. Though he has a school and a church on his list, his boss orders him to do a house call for an investor—Fet’s none too pleased to do anything for “the Man”, but heads off anyway.

At the hospital, Captain Redfern’s condition is only worsening. Eph orders emergency surgery in an attempt to remove the parasitic worms revealed by the UV lights, and promises Redfern that they’ll do everything to save his life. Yet again I can’t help but feel that if Eph only watched more horror movies, he’d know how futile such promises always are.

During a clandestine meeting at the Stoneheart Group, Jim’s full motivation is revealed: his wife Sophia is dying of cancer and he agreed to look the other way in exchange for money to offset the costs of her treatment. When Jim shows some spirit and threatens to go to the police, Eichhorst skillfully plays off of his desperation. In exchange for his continued compliance, the Stoneheart Group will pull the necessary strings to get Sophia into an experimental drug trial.

As Abraham ominously set up in the pilot: love will be humanity’s downfall.

In court, Abraham plays the ‘doddering old codger’ card to the hilt, successfully getting his trespassing charges cleared. Nora catches up to him outside, knowing he’s perhaps their best bet to unravel the mystery of what happened on the plane. But when he makes it clear that brutal and pragmatic actions are required—the bodies of the dead and anyone who’s come in contact with them must be destroyed—she isn’t wholly convinced, and he promptly dismisses her. “This is pointless. You’re not ready. Until you’re willing to do what needs to be done, you’re of no use to me.”

In a different court room, Eph and Kelly are waiting for the judge’s decision regarding Zack’s custody situation. When Zack himself says he’d prefer to stay with his mom, relegating Eph to a couple weekends a month, Eph is understandably crushed. It’s a great character moment, highlighting how mature and observant Zack is—he knows his dad’s job is too important for him to be a consistent presence in his life. He knows joint custody would keep his dad from his work, and doesn’t want to get in the way of that work.

Work that includes following up on Gary Arnot’s unusual phone call. But when Eph arrives at the house, he finds it seemingly abandoned. Emma’s flight wings are sitting on the counter; which should be impossible as none of the victims’ effects have been released. And if that wasn’t enough of a clue that something’s wrong, there are clumps of hair in the bathtub—a bathtub that looks suspiciously full of blood…

Across town Vasiliy notices some odd vermin behavior. I’m not a trained exterminator or animal behaviorist, but even I know: when the rats are abandoning the city of New York, it might be time for a long vacation away from civilization.

Speaking of strange animal behavior: Ansel’s loyal German shepherd is beginning to show an aversion to her owner. That combined with his sudden urge to drink the bloody water from a raw steak should be setting off some warning bells for the family man. It may be time to absent himself from the house if he has his wife and children’s best interests at heart.

A young hacker stops into Abraham’s pawnshop to deliver the plane’s manifest in exchange for a PS4. I just love the idea that Abraham has a whole network of misfits who run his errands and ferret out information; he’s an elderly, Jewish Sherlock Holmes who has a lifelong grudge against Nazis and vampires (and Nazi vampires).

Gabe Bolivar is trying to prepare for a sound check prior to his big concert scheduled for the night of the eclipse, but he’s encountering some performance issues. Not only is his voice going and hair falling out—seems something else is… um, falling off.

Suddenly the episode title “Gone Smooth” makes an awful lot of sense. Talk about body horror.

Minutes before his scheduled surgery, Captain Redfern suddenly disappears. The team starts searching the hospital, sure someone has kidnapped the ailing pilot. But when Jim finds him in the basement chowing down on some bags of blood, Eph and Co. finally get their first glimpse of the full effect the parasites have on their victims. And when Redfern attacks Nora, Eph has no choice but to ignore his Hippocratic Oath—and bashes the poor guy’s head in with a fire extinguisher.

Good to know Eph has what it takes to lay the smackdown. No doubt he’ll be forced to make similar calls frequently here on out.

Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. You can find her at under the handle “zombres.”

Read all posts by Angie Barry at Criminal Element.


  1. Lauren

    I LOVE the vampire design that was revealed in this episode. The bat nose design made me so happy!

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