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A&E/Joe Lederer

Bates Motel Recap: Episode 1, "First You Dream, Then You Die"

A&E/Joe Lederer
A&E/Joe Lederer

Prequels are always a little iffy. For every The Godfather 2, there are at least a couple of Dumb and Dumberers. Couple the difficult feat of pulling off a decent prequel with the near-impossible task of pleasing a bunch of avid Hitchcock fans, and you start to understand the challenges Carlton Cuse and Co. face with Bates Motel. Luckily, they seem to be up for it. Hopefully you are too: I’m going to start recapping the show as it airs while giving you a little history of the original Psycho as we go. Here goes!

"Norman. Honey, I'm So Sorry."

“Oh, you’re gonna live with your mother?”
“Well, just for the first year...”

Appropriately, that’s the first bit of dialogue we hear on Bates Motel. Then the camera pans away from the Cary Grant movie and zooms in on an eyeball. Meet Norman Bates, who will one day stab Marion Crane to death in a shower and leave her similarly staring off into space.

But for now, he’s just a teenager - a teenager who senses a disturbance in the Force. After leaving his room and finding picture frames awry, an iron puffing steam and a pot boiling over on the stove, young Norman searches the house and discovers his father lying in a puddle of blood in the garage.

Back to the bathroom, which will be a recurring theme. Norman pounds on the door and begs his mother to open it, which she eventually does, looking totally unruffled by her son’s panic. “It’s dad. He’s - Hurry,” Norman implores her, but she does nothing of the sort. Instead, Mrs. Bates smirks slightly and wanders out of the bathroom with all the urgency of a hungover DMV employee.

Norma Bates doesn’t seem even remotely surprised to find her husband leaking vital fluids all over the garage floor. “Honey, I’m so sorry,” she says, and then rocks her nearly adult son like a baby. I mean... maybe at least pretend to check for a pulse??

"We Own a Motel, Norman Bates!"

A&E/Joe Lederer

Six months later, the Bates family of two pulls up to the retro-looking “Seafairer Motel." Welcome to the Bates' fresh start. Norma grabs her son by the hand and takes him on a tour of the iconic house that came with the motel, skipping around and flopping down on a bed, swinging her legs girlishly. While nothing inappropriate is actually happening, something just feels amiss.

The next morning, Norman, ear buds firmly in place, is waiting at the bus stop when a gaggle of girls clad in leggings and short skirts approach him. Scriiiiiitch. That’s the sound of a record coming to an abrupt halt. This is a modern day tale? This feels a little disorienting, which I suspect is by design. Norman and his mother are living in a world that doesn’t feel quite right to the rest of us, from the ramshackle house to their retro way of dressing. Even the car is straight out of 1960 Psycho.

They coax Norman into a friend’s car; a girl named Bradley grabs Norman’s iPhone and programs her number into it. “If you have any questions at school, you call me,” she says, because that’s totally how your first day at a new school works. As the BMW drives off, the license plate reveals that Norma and Norman have moved to Oregon, just a bit up the coast from the novel’s fictional location of Fairvale, California.

Back at home, Mrs. Bates stops hacking at raw meat to answer her cell phone. It's Dylan, the black sheep Bates. “So you thought it was OK not to tell your own son that you moved?" he asks. "What if I was hurt? What if I was in the hospital? What if I needed you?" After he requests some cash, Norma hangs up on him.

"My Mom's Just a Little Impulsive."

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At school, Norman’s teacher-slash-adviser wonders why he does well on tests but not in class. “Is something wrong at home?” she asks. “My mom’s just a little... impulsive,” Norman says, then rushes to explain that he adores his mom's rash decisions. Miss Watson advises Norman to become part of the community by trying out for a sport. “What about track? You look like a runner,” she says, eyeing him up and down. He decides to attend tryouts after school, which means he incurs the wrath of his slightly slurring mother when he gets home.

As Norman gives Mrs. Bates the parental permission slip for track, she whips out her RSVP to the pity party. “We just bought a motel. How do you expect me to get it up and running without your help? You’re putting me in a tough spot here.” As Norman starts to backpedal, she lays it on thicker: “It’s fine. It’s OK! I’ll just do everything myself the way I always do.” She scribbles her name on the slip, declares herself not hungry, then slinks out of the room to lick her wounds.

"Everything in This House is Mine."

Daylight. While Norman is beating a rug (that’s not a euphemism), Keith Summers, housing market victim, wanders up and starts loudly lamenting how he lost the property. His great-grandfather built the house and his grandfather added the hotel in the ‘50s. “And that’s my grandmother’s rug,” he adds, emotionally. It is a nice rug.

Though Norma tries to sympathize with his misfortune, the convo doesn’t go well. She ends up threatening to call the police (or shoot him) if he returns. “Go ahead, call the police. I go fishing with half of them,” Summers spits, then tears off in his dented truck. “He’s just some pathetic drunk loser slob, honey," Norma tells her son. "He’s not going to bother us anymore.” That knock on the door you just heard is foreshadowing. It wants to be the first to book a room at the Bates Motel.

As mother and son listen to the Rolling Stones on a record player, the doorbell rings. It’s the gaggle of girls, and they want to know if Norman is available for a study session. Mrs. Bates shuts it down, citing lots of unpacking and “things” to do. Norman's none too happy about this and storms upstairs to immediately sneak out.

While the girls take him to a party that involves black lights, awkward teenage flirting (”You’re kinda weird. Weird-good.”) and a whole bunch of sticky icky, Summers returns to his family’s homestead. Norma screams for Norman, who isn't there, of course. It should be noted that Vera Farmiga, as Norma, has an amazing “Normaaaaaaaan” scream. Summers sees that no help is coming and handcuffs Norma to the kitchen table. “This house is mine, and everything in this house is mine,” he says, and rips her underwear off. Enter Norman, who clocks the rapist on the back of the head with an old fashioned iron, knocking him out cold.

As Norman goes to get a medical kit, Summers comes to and starts lurching back toward his victim. “You liked it,” he says with a sloppy grin, and that’s all the motivation Norma needs to slice him up like a side of beef. She stabs him over and over and over, the same technique her son will use a few years down the road. 

"Norma and Norman... That's Unusual."

A&E/Joe Lederer

Although it was self defense, Norma refuses to let Norman call the police, fearing that their “fresh start” will suffer. “Who is gonna book a room in the rape-slash-murder motel?” she wisely points out. They decide to temporarily dump the body in one of the motel bathtubs until they figure out how to dispose of it, but leave a conspicuous bloody stain on the carpet as they're doing it. The only thing to do, Norma decides, is to rip up the carpet in several of the rooms and pretend they’re renovating. Right now. Even though it’s midnight. As Norman rips up the carpet, he discovers a little black book hidden beneath. He flips through it and sees some sketches of naked girls, and, as most 17-year-old boys would do, tucks it away for later perusal.

The motel lights attract the attention of the town deputy and the sheriff, who is - surprise! - Nestor Carbonell, AKA the ageless Richard Alpert from Lost. This gives me hope that other Losties will pop up. Waaaaaaaaalt as Norman’s new BFF? Anyone?

Norma is mostly convincing when she explains that she and her 17-year-old son Norman are just remodeling. “Norma and Norman...” the sheriff notes with a bit of a smirk. “That’s unusual.” Norma shrugs and says that boys often take their fathers' names, then turns to leave. That’s when Richard Alpert notices the bandage on her hand. Suspicious, he asks to look around, then comes dangerously close to discovering the corpse in the tub when he goes to take a leak. Having satisfied both urges, the sheriff and his deputy leave.

"I'm the Worst Mother in the World."


A&E/Joe Lederer

In the school cafeteria the next day, Norman looks down and notices a splotch of blood on his Chuck Taylors. He runs off to puke, and when he pulls his head out of the trash can, a girl hauling an oxygen tank is staring at him. She offers him a mint, explaining that the meds she takes for her cystic fibrosis make her a vomiting expert. “Do you have some sort of chronic illness?” she asks hopefully. Norman says no, and, looking a little disappointed, the girl introduces herself as Emma.

The Bateses head out on a rowboat to dispose of Keith Summers, whose corpse has been weighed down with chains. Also weighing the rowboat down: Norma’s recent discovery that the city is building a new bypass on the far side of town, rendering her real estate investment worthless. “I bought a motel that no one is ever gonna know is even there,” she pouts. “I’m the worst mother in the world.”

Norman plays right into her wallowing. “Mom, you’re everything. Everything to me," he says. "I don’t ever want to live in a world without you. You’re my family. My whole family, my whole life, my whole self. You always have been. It’s like there’s a cord between our hearts.” She calls him out on quoting Jane Eyre, but the lovefest continues. “It’s you and me. It’s always been you and me. We belong to each other,” he says, and then the duo celebrates their totally platonic love for one another by pitching a bloated corpse over the side of the boat.

Alone in his room, Norman takes a closer look at that sketchbook. The drawings are pretty twisted, including girls chained up in bathrooms and one victim receiving an injection in her arm. He quickly stuffs the book under his pillow when his mother opens the door to announce that she has a surprise for him: the new Bates Motel sign is up, and so is her outlook. “As long as we’re together, then nothing bad can really happen. Right Norman?” “Right, mother,” he responds, and that slightly creepy look on his face is nothing compared to the next disturbing scene: A real-life version of one of the drawings from the sketchbook. It would seem that Norma and Norman Bates aren’t the weirdest people in White Pine Bay.

Quotes of the Episode:

“I think people who are different don’t know they’re different because they have nothing to compare it to.” - Norman

“What are we supposed to do, clean this up with paper towels and spray cleaner?!” - Norman

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10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for more than 40 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guardaldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother, Linus, however, is still a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGG.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of whatever holiday they’re celebrating. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

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Shout! Factory
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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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