Johnny and June. Sonny and Cher. Tina and Ike. These are names need not be spoken with their surnames affixed. These names, however, are seldom seen simply solo. Their pairing elicits thoughts of crazy canards and even crazier music. These were power duos that will go down in the annals of Rock and Roll history together and for very good reason. A very magical thing happens when two contrapuntal voices hit your tympanic membrane. These duets sometimes dissolve, due to infighting, addiction, violence, or simply a lost voice. It is in this eighth episode of What We Do In The Shadows (FX) titled “Collaboration,” that we may be able to bear witness to a feat of nature- capturing lightning in a bottle for a second time.
It’s nightfall, and Laszlo (Matt Berry) has poached a midnight snack in the form of a jogger. He’s punctured the pouch but just when he’s about to stick the straw in, HARK! Some oddly familiar yet rather mellifluous notes fill the air. As informed by his human Capri Sun, “Come On Eileen” is the song in question, and back at the house, Guillermo plays the gang a recording of a song that Laszlo penned in 1852, but Dexy’s Midnight Runners stole in 1982. Of course, back then, it went until its original name of “Chum On Irene” and was about the wife of a local fishmonger. Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) is seemingly peeved as well since she claims her hubby also wrote “For (I’m) A Jolly Good Fellow” and that was only wrested from him.
No time to dither about the past though, as it seems the house suddenly has a guest in the form of a septuagenarian named Benjy Everett. He’s Nandor’s (Kayvan Novak) past Familiar from the 1970s, whose expressed desire to become a vampire gnawed at his Master more than a vampiric Truman Capote would at the bartenders of Studio 54. This left Nandor with no other recourse but to hypnotize his Familiar to forget about the whole thing, ultimately abandoning him at a Delaware rest stop. Through the majesty of Lumosity, memories flooded back and this not-so-spring chicken has come home to roost and collect on a 40-year-old promise: to be made a vampire.
Elsewhere in the house, Laszlo and Nadja dust off some old vinyl and sheet music. Did you know Laszlo was the original architect of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat?” Back then, though, “Stroke, Stroke, Stroke Your Cock” was more en vogue. It wasn’t until he met Nadja though, that his creative juices really shot out of him. Their album Nadja & Laszlo Sing Songs of Love & Terror featured some bangers including but not limited to “Hoop Skirt, Poop Skirt”, “Witches Are Snitches”, “Horse-drawn Carriage Full of Ass” and “Wannabe” (as popularized by the Girls Spice.)
Upon hearing them recite old hits, Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) suggests they hold a showcase to potentially gain a new fanbase with 300 years’ worth of classics. This isn’t because Colin has their best interest in mind, but rather his, as there’s nothing that stirs up boredom and anger than old-timey tunage. As the couple entertains this idea, Colin’s already figuring out which bib to wear to the occasion.
Back in Guillermo’s (Harvey Guillen) room/closet, Benjy looks around a time capsule and is brought back to the days of his youth. He asks his replacement if he can accompany him to the Familiar mixer later. I mean, how could Guillermo deny an old man that used to beat into the very pillow he now rests his head on?
At the monthly Familiar mixer, which is just a place for networking, bitching and hooking up, a plethora of robins to their bat-men and women fill the room, all ages. Just as Guillermo’s being thirstily hit on by Karen (Rakhee Morzaria), he spots Celeste (Greta Lee), a Familiar he used to help dispatch of bodies when her Master, a 12-year-old girl (really 162) went a little HAM. Celeste is holding court, now being granted the gift of everlasting life. Yes, she’s a vampire and though she greets “Elmo” warmly (in sentiment, not body temperature), he is a bit more than livid… He is heated!
Celeste looks like an IG vampire and vapes blood. She rolls with a cadre of Familiars, as she promises a more swift and friendly way of turning them, within a matter of 8 months tops. This is to build a new vampire community, built not on archaic ways of apprenticeship or subservience, but rather trust and exploration… and Guillermo wants a ticket to ride. The only problem? The cost of admission is no Master.
As Nadja and Laszlo noodle around with a few song ideas, something is amiss. They fear they might be a bit too contemporary, but then again their paean to 1936 Olympics may not have aged equally as well. Back to the drawing board.
Already annoyed with his thirsty blast from the past, Nandor casts Benjy away as Guillermo arrives with a stick in his craw. As he’s asked in the past, Guillermo would like a final word on whether his Master will ever turn him. Though he skirts the conversation, he’s confronted with his Familiar telling him he may have a better deal and this is relationship dynamics at its finest. Though only one is human, they both have feelings and Nandor tells his bestie to take the opportunity, bereft of emotion. Clearly, there are things left unsaid and their only parting gift is hurt feelings.
Onto bigger and better things, right? At Celeste’s residence, Guillermo is greeted by not only a welcoming group of Familiars, including Sam the Cat from that one time he had to be put in a boiler room with other familiars awaiting their Master’s fate at the fangs of a tribunal. Spoiler alert… the digs are fucking PLUSH! Walls adorning her Master’s friends, including Warhol adorn the walls in this nouveau riche palace. This is a safe space, where the addressing of “Master” is fucking verboten and everyone is encouraged to pursue personal growth before they are turned. Oh, and Shake Shack is not a luxury but a promise. Where do I sign with my blood?
At the house, where Nandor remembers why he got rid of Benjy in the first place, Nadja and Laszlo try recapturing some of that old high with a jaunty piece about the Lindbergh kidnapping. There’s a reason they haven’t collaborated in decades. They are two egoists than have a hard time just getting their shit tight and Colin picks up on this. He wants the occasional energy shot and suggests them shoehorn in some new material to break the monotony of just the hits. Oh, Colin.
Having spent what seems an interminable amount with Benjy has Nandor reassessing the way he’s treated, Guillermo. The guy is more able-bodied and isn’t as intent on becoming of a vampire… right? He pays a nicely garbed out Guillermo visit in his flat and realizes that his Familiar is with others that have taken advantage of them. He has better lodgings and people that are in his spot. They got a drop of paradise that was lost. So Nandor relents and leaves.
Colin’s set Nadja & Laszlo up for the success of failure, as they are performing their horrible songs in front of an audience. They’ve already an ode to making love in Staten Island.
What happens when Familiars stop being polite and start being real? The commander of the party stalls and suggests an orgy!
At the open mic, the duet is sinking faster than a lead balloon. Songs exalting bat transformation, being horny for sex and cellular advancements aren’t winning their crowd over, which has Colin Robinson lit up like a fucking Bally’s pinball machine.
De-robed and then freshly robed, the gang is about to get into shenanigans when suddenly Celeste’s Master bangs on the door, then bangs down the door. It turns out they were never going to be vampires, as she is a Familiar and only wanted a moment in that glory. Hmm. The only turning these guys had in the cards was turning up, turning in and turning out food.
Bedlam is the only mattress the three vampires sleep on and bloodshed paints those white walls. It could be considered art. Guillermo escapes with Sam as per Celeste’s request and books the fuck out of there.
As the crowd grows uglier with every song Nadja and Laszlo have, even with a disco number ode to Laszlo, they have one last card up their billowy sleeves. This is “The Seafaring Song of 1792” which eerily what the Beach Boys inherited (read: stole) for “Kokomo.” Much to their dismay, the crowd sings along.
Ultimately, as Guillermo releases Sam to his freedom, Nandor swoops in and accepts Guillermo’s stipulations for coming back.
The only thing I don’t feel bad about is Benjy left off at a rest stop… which is being a bat and some rest for the wicked.