After six episodes of crazy, nonstop Keith Summers/Zach Shelby drama and scandal, Bates Motel dialed back the fast-paced story for an episode focused almost solely on character drama. Though not much happened plot-wise, the episode featured plenty of introspective Norman drama while hinting at new mysteries arriving in the second half of the season, including a strange new motel resident who may or may not (but let’s be honest, probably will) be conducting illegal “sales” out of the motel, and a stray dog Norman briefly befriends before the dog’s untimely demise (taxidermy, anyone?). Anyway, time to discuss!
Picking up almost immediately where the last episode ended, the cold open found Sheriff Romero arriving at the motel to find Norma pulling Norman (who had finally snapped out of his trance) out of the car, Dylan stumbling, injured, from the house with a gun in his hand and Deputy Zach Shelby lying dead on the stairs. Looking at Norma, Sheriff Romero said, “We’d better talk.” And talk they did. Norma told Sheriff Romero everything, including the truth about Keith Summers’s death. Then, surprising everyone, Sheriff Romero decided to fabricate an entirely new story, one which conveniently explained away the deaths of Keith and Shelby while making himself look the hero. In the new, fake story, Romero suspected Shelby of corruption, a violent confrontation between Keith and Shelby resulted in Keith’s death, Shelby hid the trafficked girl on Keith’s boat, and, when Shelby attempted to move the girl, a showdown occurred on the Bates’ property resulting in Shelby’s death at the Sheriff’s hand. The trafficked girl had been killed by Shelby in the woods before the Sheriff arrived. Dylan, outraged, demanded to know how he’d explain his injury, to which the Sheriff simply responded “You got in the way.” Romero left, and Norma and Norman shared a relieved hug so uncomfortably intimate that Dylan looked away with a weirded-out expression on his face.
The next morning, Norman is sleeping with Bradley again when Norma knocks on his bedroom door, interrupting. But, no, Norman was simply dreaming, and he’s alone. Norma is incredibly cheerful, opening Norman’s blinds and humming with the birds outside, because the motel’s opening in a week’s time. Her good mood quickly sours when Norman reminds her that no one’s made a reservation yet.
Norma sends Norman outside to fix the lattice beneath the porch, where Norman finds a mangy stray dog hiding. Inside, Dylan walks into the kitchen to find Norma making him breakfast. Dylan is suspicious of his mother’s niceness and informs her that he’s still moving out, as soon as his arm heals. “Even after everything I told you about your brother?” Norma demands, and Dylan insists he doesn’t think he’d be of much help. Too bad, because Dylan’s the only normal member of the family and would undoubtedly be a good influence on Norman. Maybe his mind will change in time; we’ll see.
As Dylan’s taking out the trash, an odd man wearing dark sunglasses pulls up in a black car and rolls his window down. After the man asks about the Seafairer Motel, Dylan informs her the motel has new owners and Keith Summers has died. The man immediately leaves.
Later, Norma stops by a local restaurant and asks if the manager will display brochures of the motel for promotion, and Norma volunteers to do the same for the restaurant at the motel. The restaurant manager refuses, because, despite Sheriff Romero’s official story, rumors are still circulating around town about the scandal at the Bates’, and the motel’s reputation is already tainted. Upset, Norma returns to the motel and dumps the restaurant’s pamphlets in the trash before noticing someone attempting to enter one of the motel rooms. The man, whom Dylan had met while taking out the trash, informed Norma that he’d had a standing room reservation with Keith Summers. After introducing himself as Jake Abernathy, he asked, very adamantly, for a key to Room 9. Norma obliged. Dylan arrived, and, after learning that Norma had forgotten, offered to get the man’s information. Abernathy rather reluctantly handed his driver’s license to Dylan, and, instead of a credit card, paid fully in cash (which he had a substantial stack of). Clearly this man had some sort of business arrangement with Keith Summers, possibly involving human trafficking, but whatever “sales” business he claims to be involved in will likely turn into a whole new scandal for the Bates Motel to face.
Anyway, poor Norman remains stubbornly hung up on Bradley after their one-night stand, despite her repeatedly blowing him off and everyone else’s insistence that the two aren’t even remotely together romantically. While picking up supplies, Norman and Dylan run into Bradley in the parking lot. After an awkward conversation, Bradley walks away, but not before exchanging a glance with Dylan. Maybe I’m building this into something it’s not, but the glance seemed loaded with the potential for a future relationship of some sort. Could be wishful thinking, but you never know with this show.
That night, Norma is woken up by a banging noise coming from the kitchen. When she investigates, the house and yard are empty. Hmm. The next day, Emma stops by to see Norman, but Norman has no desire to see her and tells Norma to inform Emma that he’s sick. Emma clearly doesn’t buy this and, crying, begins to leave the house. Norma, taking pity, invites Emma into town with her to buy curtain sheers and have lunch. On the drive, Emma brings up Bradley and Norma drills her for information. Emma knows where Bradley is, because she does yoga beside her father’s shop, and offers to show her to Norma. The two spy on Bradley, whom Norma recognizes, and Norma has a quick, highly sexualized mental image of Norman and Bradley hooking up. The mental-image scene was short, but highly creepy and incestuous.
Back at the motel, Norma catches Norman feeding the dog (now named Juno) and chides him. As the two are doing dishes, Norman begs his mother to let him keep the dog, and Norma eventually relents. However, Norma quickly changes the subject to sex, which, as suspected, is extremely awkward and weird (even more so than a normal mother/son sex talk because it’s the Bateses). Norma warns Norman away from sleeping with Bradley (a girl Norma doesn’t particularly like because she visited Norman a day after the Bateses moved in) by telling him about the chemicals released in a woman’s body during and after sex that affect the woman’s mind. When Norman insists he really likes Bradley, and their relationship isn’t just a fling, Norma informs him that she’s hired Emma to work part-time around the motel. Angry with his mother for interfering with his life and attempting to control who he dates, Norman storms out and heads to Bradley’s.
When Norman rings Bradley’s doorbell, she attempts to blow him off once again, but Norman is adamant that they talk about their relationship. After Norman confesses that he has feelings for Bradley and feels a connection between them, Bradley tells Norman that those feelings aren’t reciprocated. After making a comment that she shouldn’t have slept with “someone like [Norman]”, Norman gets angry and leaves. Bradley follows, and we hear Norman repeating his mother’s reasons for not trusting a girl like Bradley to himself. Bradley catches up to Norman, who begins to go into one of his trances. I was afraid he was going to hurt her, but after saying “You’re not a nice girl,” Bradley apologizes and hugs him. Norman calms and snaps out of it. Disaster averted.
At the motel, Jake stops by the lobby, startling Norma, and compliments her on the motel. The two exchange a polite conversation before Jake asks to resume the standing room reservation he had with Keith. The man needs not only Room 9, but the entire block of rooms surrounding Room 9, for the first week of every other month. And, as he claims, he (and his “business partners”) like privacy, so the rooms don’t need to be cleaned for the entire week. Not at all weird, Mr. Abernathy. Norma, rightfully suspicious, asks if the man’s business is illegal, and he laughingly replies that it isn’t. Sure.
Lastly, Norman arrives home from Bradley’s. Juno barks across the street when she sees him, but, after encouraging her to come to him, Norman spots headlights down the road. Panicking, he yells at Juno to stay, but it’s too late–Juno has already started crossing and is hit by the car. Already upset over his exchange with Bradley, Norman freaks out, insisting Emma’s dad can save the dead dog. His frantic yelling even appears to scare Norma, and the episode ends with Norman confessing that he was wrong about everything and Norma running to get the car.
Bates Motel has been one of my absolute favorite new shows this season, with each episode consistently delivering great story and character material. This episode, though not as stuffed plot-wise, gave the audience a reprieve from the ongoing action and allowed us to delve farther into Norman’s increasingly psychotic mind. As a big fan of character-driven stories, these types of episodes are gold for me, and Norman Bates is an excellent character to study and watch onscreen. A great episode, all around, and I can’t wait to discover more about Jake Abernathy, and hopefully see the beginnings of Norman’s taxidermy obsession.