The Strain 1.07: “For Services Rendered”

“For Services Rendered” kicks off on an eerie note: Joan Luss’s husband (who looks remarkably like a Cylon from the Battlestar Galactica reboot) arrives at his country club to find the place abandoned. Largely unfazed, he helps himself to an after-flight martini, which is interrupted by a phone call from nanny Neeva. Worried about Joan’s deteriorating condition, she’s taken the children to her own apartment in Yonkers. Mr. Luss isn’t all that concerned—not even when a distant scream echoes in the night.

You don’t really realize just how scary random noises around empty buildings are until it’s thrown directly in your face. Talk about the shivers.

Ignoring Neeva’s warnings, Luss returns home to find that his gardener is looking decidedly unwell. When Franco springs into attack, and the cabbie falls prey to another vamp, Luss runs for the safety of the house. Only to find that home is no longer safe, when devoted wife Joan emerges covered in blood.

Proving old adages are often correct: lawyers truly are blood-sucking creatures of the night.

Back at the pawn shop, Abraham is doing his best to convince Eph and Nora that killing the Master is the best way to stop the spreading plague. As a man of science, Eph knows that doesn’t make much sense biologically: how can a parasitic plague be curtailed by killing only one of the infected? But Abraham knows his enemy—he’s followed his own scientific method in testing all of the old myths and has learned what definitively works.

Flashing back to Abraham’s time in the concentration camp, it’s shown that his beliefs have always played a huge part in his survival. When Eichhorst discovers a finely carved Hand of Miriam hidden in the barracks, Abraham confesses his handiwork to spare his fellow inmates. And quite unexpectedly finds himself given a new job: carving the giant box that becomes the Master’s resting place.

This is some great commentary on exploitation, adding a final layer of injustice to the brutal, inhumane treatment heaped onto Abraham. The Nazis—and the Master—have already stripped away his family, freedom, and dignity. Forcing him to carve the most ornate coffin in the world for the monster behind everything is just the icing on the crap cake.

In present-day New York, Gus is suffering the indignity of a full-body search. Of course his protests about rampaging undead coroners and worm-filled blood are met with skepticism and condescension, as well as the assumption that he must be high on something.

Boy, aren’t those cops going to be sorry when they realize they should have listened to him instead of profiling and dismissing him.

Samwise’s sick wife Sylvia is questioning his sudden desire to flee the city when Eph and Co. arrive with a chance for him to atone for his recent mistakes. Refusing to accept that a) her husband did such things and b) that Eph’s story of vampires is at all true, Sylvia packs up and tells him he has to decide who’s more important to him.

Harsh, lady. I mean, Jim messed up real bad, but at least he wasn’t doing it out of sheer nastiness. And the guy totally helped Frodo get the Ring to Mordor, so I think you might want to cut him some slack.

Meanwhile, Neeva’s daughter Sebastiane has lost patience with her mother’s (well-founded) fears, and insists that they take the children home. She reminds her mother that she’s an employee, not part of their family, and is confident that her nursing background will help Joan Luss if she’s truly as ill as her mother believes.

But I’m pretty sure most nursing courses skip the Treatment of Undead, Violent, and Bloodthirsty Patients course on the syllabus.

At the Stoneheart Group, Eldritch has an unexpected voicemail to play for Herr Eichhorst: Jim Kent demanding $100,000 in exchange for Redfern’s body, which he claims was never destroyed. Eichhorst immediately smells a trap, suspecting Abraham is involved.

In the county lock-up, Felix isn’t feeling too hot. Those pesky worms sure are tiny workaholics, getting straight down to the business of converting humans into monsters. Gus does his best to look after his friend, but no amount of physical strength or intimidation tactics will help. Now it’s only a matter of time…

Back in the long-gone and already happened, a young Abraham faces a drunken Eichhorst, who doesn’t seem too incredibly upset by the boom of nearby bombs. When Abraham asserts that “the Third Reich is in its death throes”, that doesn’t perturb him, either. Eichhorst has already found a new Führer, one who can actually deliver on the promise of an eternal empire.

The conversation between jailor and jailed takes a turn for the philosophical when Eichhorst asserts that Abraham is not so much a victim as a hypocrite. He claims that if Abraham was truly brave and truly believed, he would have made a stand and died rather than suffer his current indignities.

He even goes so far as to test his hypothesis, laying down his gun and offering his prisoner a chance to shoot him dead, with the knowledge that doing so would be his own death sentence. When Abraham refuses to rise to the bait, Eichhorst smiles and alludes to the great Edmund Burke quotation (“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”) with a sneered, “It’s so much easier to do nothing. Safer.”

It’s a masterful bit of victim-blaming, shaming Abraham for his own (necessary) survival tactics while implying that Eichhorst himself is not a true villain—he’s simply part of a whole that has been allowed to treat humans so poorly through the inaction of society.

Hmmm: that sounds awfully familiar. Sort of like a more contemporary situation currently unfolding, where the people in power are turning a blind eye to an escalating death toll…

It’s not a very happy homecoming for the Luss children. They find dad bleeding to death in the living room and mom skittering across the floor like some rabid crab. In protecting the kids, Sebastiane suffers a nasty cut. As we all know by now that’s as good as a death sentence.

And while The Creature Formerly Known As Joan Luss has to keep to the shadows, there’s no easy route of escape. So the group barricade themselves in a glass-fronted room. That can’t withstand hungry vamps for long—this is exactly why I don’t believe in using glass doors in interior decorating.

The train station trap doesn’t go quite as planned, as was only to be expected. After a tense confrontation with a surprisingly stalwart Samwise, Eichhorst double-times it to the subway below. Eph and Nora give chase, only to promptly lose him. And Abraham, Eichhorst’s true target, is left to face his old abuser once again on an empty train platform. One very old, very sick man against an immortal, hellish monster.

It looks like it could be curtains for Abe—until the cavalry arrives in the form of Eph and Co., prompting Eichhorst to leap onto a passing train. After one last parting quip, of course: “I’ll give you one more day, Jew. For services rendered.”

Upon reflection, this episode is aptly titled. There are several comments on the nature of servitude and employment, exploitation and high prices paid, Faustian bargains and transgressions.

There’s Abraham’s narrative, with Eichhorst commandeering his talents at gunpoint. At the Stoneheart Group, we have the relationship between Palmer and his devoted assistant Fitzwilliams, which see-saws between a pseudo father-son fondness and an air of indentured servitude. For the particular services he’s rendered, Jim now feels compelled to do whatever he can to make things up to Eph and repair the damage he’s caused.

And then we have poor, poor Neeva, who wanted only to protect the children left in her charge. When a mysterious—and most definitely not human—figure with a high-powered, stake-shooting gun arrives at the Luss home just in time to put down the attacking vampires, it looks as though the kind-hearted nanny’s prayers have been answered. …Except she then has to watch as her own daughter is coldly put down with a stake to the eye.

“Do not touch her,” the enigmatic figure orders. “She is corrupted.”

Which, yeah, was totally true, and it was something that needed to be done. But that’s a pretty shitty severance package.

Next week’s burning questions: who’s the dude with the hoodie and stake gun? Will Gus have what it takes to take down old friend Felix when he starts to get a little too frisky with his tongue? And just where the heck is my handsome exterminator badass Vasiliy? Even if we don’t get all the answers, things are looking good for more mayhem and carnage. Don’t mind me while I click my heels in glee—especially following the news that we’re definitely getting a Season 2. Bring on more vampire madness, I say!


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 Livejournal.com under the handle “zombres.”

Read all posts by Angie Barry at Criminal Element.

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