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Reason Seriously gross grossness.

Photo: Michael Gibson / FX

It's What's Inside That Counts

Two WTF moments stand out as The Strain hits its stride.

I'll forgive a lot of dumb stuff in a genre TV show, especially one that debuted in the summer, if it can give me a few cheap thrills and some genuine WTF moments on a regular basis. It's what kept me on board with The Walking Dead even in the lean, dialogue-heavy weeks of mid-Season Two. No matter how boring things got, some fetid zombies were going to appear and get head-stabbed sooner or later. So far, The Strain has been a mixed bag of bad wigcraft, wooden dialogue, boring-as-shit custody drama, and, on the positive side of the ledger, some differently disgusting vampires than what we're used to and pretty freaky biological horror.

This week's episode, cleverly titled, "It's Not For Everyone," finally feels like the set-ups are coming together in a way that doesn't feel sludgy or clunky. The horror set pieces are legit scary, the characters are behaving not quite as predictably as you might have expected, and best of all, the show delivers this week not one, but two over-the-top, "Holy cats!" moments.

The first is the immediate aftermath of last week's hospital basement attack by pilot Doyle Redfern. He grew a giant blood-sucking mouth nozzle and tried to use it on our CDC heroes, but got clocked in the head repeatedly with a fire extinguisher till dead. This week, Ephraim insists they do an immediate autopsy to find out what this thing is instead of, say, calling every CDC person on the planet to come in and seal the hospital in plastic and nuke everything. Everything about the vampire autopsy is insanely gross, from the face on the body itself:

Screens: FX

Screens: FX

...to the vampire's very detailed innards.

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But what really puts it over the top is when Ephraim decides he needs to pull the proboscis out, and does so, disgustingly, as it extends and extends to about 10 feet as if from a magician's hat, each inch producing sticky, stomach-churning sounds. Even Hobbit Sean Astin's character Jim, tasked with video-capturing the autopsy with an iPhone, can't help from commenting on how gross this whole business is. Apparently, it smells pretty awful, too.

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Later in the episode, when Ephraim and sidekick Nora try to track down the little girl from the plane, Emma Arnot, they're attacked by the pint-sized vampire, who has a similar mouth-based attack to the airline pilot, but not as much strength in the way of tossing enemies across the room. Just when it looks like she's going to eat somebody, octogenarian vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian bursts into the room and beheads her with a sword. Beheading a kid (however undead) on TV is a shocker, all right, but it's the moment after that, when Emma's hose-bearing head and her hand lie together in the frame, both twitching, that it goes from creepy to "Oh boy, that's gonna keep me awake tonight."

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Sure, this episode also had a new hacker character who also happens to be a supermodel (hey, didn't they do that in one of the Transformers movies?), a boring subplot about selling stolen cars to street hoods, lame political machinations, and an old man about to have a liver transplant. But there was also the batshit crazy wife of a new vampire who feeds her annoying, dog-abusing neighbor to her chained-up, shed-dwelling husband. It's not as "WTF!" as the two moments above, but it's still pretty fucked up, and bless this show for not being afraid to pack as much bonkers as it can into one episode. That's all I wanted in the first place.

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