Oh, The Strain. You did it again. You wasted most of another episode — the one before the season finale this time — and had me ready to lose my mind at your continued dawdling. But then you redeemed the whole damn thing with the greatest characters of 2014. Again!

After last week's semi-climactic non-battle against the Master, Team Vampire Hunter heads back to Setrakian's shop for a non-deserved rest. They don't start making a new plan to fight the Master; in fact, if Dutch didn't return with a grand plan to broadcast a warning about the vampire plague, I wonder if they'd all just take naps like Setrakian.

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But Dutch does return with a plan, specifically to hack into the Emergency Alert System (I have no idea how realistic her plan actually is, but since it has to be more plausible than her "breaking the internet," I'm rolling with it). Amidst some Fet-flirting, Dutch sets it up and Eph manages to broadcast a warning and some photos of vampires with their face-tentacles exposed before the feed is cut; if this has any effect on the larger populace, I assume we'll have to wait until next season to see it.

Meanwhile, Setrakian passes the time with some flashbacks. They begin promisingly, with 40-something Setrakian in Albania asking locals if they've seen any giant albinos with pointy ears and giant fish lips (I kid, I kid). Unfortunately, at that point Setrakian returns home to his wife Miriam to tell her he's going to finish the fight so they can live in peace forever; of course this means it's a trap, and Eichorst infects Miriam while Setrakian is playing vampire-hunter, forcing him to kill her when he gets home. He cuts out her heart, though, to remind him of how he is not winning this war.

This takes up a shocking 2/3rds of the episode, at which point Eichorst and an extremely well-dressed vampire posse stormn Setrakian's shop. Ridiculously, the Goth Vampire — yes, him, absent these last seven or eight episodes? — makes the first sortie, breaking in through a window to kill Nora's mom, as if The Strain finally remembered he existed and threw him in as if to justify all the time we spent with him in the first few episodes.

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The crew manages to flee down into the shop's basement and barricade themselves. Of course Setrakian has a secret back door, so they all arm themselves and head out… Well, after Nora beheads her mother to keep her from turning, and then Setrakian says goodbye to Miriam's heart. Actually, given that the shop has been invaded by vampires who are trying to break in, Nora and Setrakian take their sweet-ass time saying goodbye to their loved ones and getting the hell out, which robs the scene of most of its excitement. (And let's not pretend that the scene where Nora beheads her mom has any impact other than blissful relief for finally getting rid of her load of a character.)

This is serviceably average episode of The Strain, although it is galling that the show still apparently has so little story to tell it can waste this much time in the second-to-last episode. Luckily, the Spec Ops Vampire Ninja Squad finally returns to save the fucking day.

Here's how awesome the SOVNS is — they can force me to watch 10 minutes of Gus bullshit and I don't mind at all as long as they pop up in his little storyline. Specifically, Gus wants to steal a bunch of guns and hijacks one of the car-theft ring dudes to take him to a place where he stores guns. This eventually culminates in Gus shooting a lock on a shipping container that is inexplicably full of vampires, but then SOVNS arrives, kills the vamps, grabs Gus, throws a bag over his head, gets in a black van and drives off. None of this makes any sense and I can't even imagine why they want Gus, but I will happily take the Spec Ops Vampire Ninja Squad's awesome insanity over the predictable tedium of the rest of the characters any day.

So where are we going into the finale? Eph, Nora, Fet, Setrakian, Dutch and Zach are on the run and don't seem to have a plan. The world at large has been warned about the vampires, although somehow New York City has failed to wise up about the vampire apocalypse happening all around them. The Master and Eichorst have at least a thousand vampire minions, including Kelly. And I have no idea what Team Vampire Hunter is going to do now — or even what they think they're going to do. Hopefully the Spec Ops Vampire Ninja Squad will be involved, if only tangentially.

Basically, with the exception of Eph's warning (which shouldn't have been necessary, given that landline phones and TV and shit still work, as do vehicles and basic communication) and Kelly getting infected, neither side has really achieved anything since the season's mid-way point, which is not good. Not just for them, but for the show — I'd love to say the series has been building to an action-packed season finale, but there's not been any building going on. That doesn't mean the finale won't be awesome, but I'm genuinely worried it'll be as uneventful as most of the other episodes have been.

Assorted Musings:

• Oh, and the Master gives Eldritch some vampire juice and it makes him better. But he doesn't give him blood or a worm, and the preview for the season finale has Eldritch bitching about being healed but not immortal. I would love if this delay had some kind of story purpose, but I suspect it's just about making the development take up more time.

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• Dutch's plan made me realize that obviously TVs have been working all this time. And yet somehow the internet was the sole component that has kept the entire populace informed about major plagues and mass killings? Sigh.

• If I was watching TV and Eph's awkward warning came on, I would think it was fake as shit. Hell, I thought it was fake as shit watching it in the episode, and I technically knew it was the truth.

• The scene where Eph starts freaking out about Setrakian's desire to continue fighting the Master was so bizarre. I had never even assumed it was anything other than the heat of battle, the fact that battle the Master is Setrakian's life-long goal, and the fact that Eph completely fucked up their chance to kill the Master. Basically, I figured Setrakian had all sorts of legit reasons to let his emotion get the best of him back there. But Eph talks about it like Setrakian is completely and irrevocably insane… and then the show confirms Eph is in the right when it make Setrakian apologize to the group! So, so weird.