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A&E/Joe Lederer

Bates Motel Recap, Episode 2: "Nice Town You Picked, Norma."

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

We open with Norman clicking a flashlight on and off on as he flips through the little black book he found last week. He’s torn away from his makeshift movie when the doorbell rings. Surprise! It’s Black Sheep Bates, AKA older brother Dylan, and he's looking for a place to call home. Neither Norman nor Norma are thrilled about this development, which Norman expresses by getting overprotective about baked goods. “The bread’s gonna get stale,” he glares when Dylan leaves the bag open at breakfast. Dylan is unmoved.

“Why are you here?” Norma asks her eldest son, and he replies that when people are down and out, as he is, they tend to go home. “Although most normal mothers don’t move their home out of state and try and hide it from their own son.” Burn.

Speaking of burns, down at the bus stop, a car comes tearing wildly down the road, crashing just yards from where Bradley, Norman, and the usual gaggle of girls are standing. It’s Bradley’s father’s car, and when Norman yanks the door open, we discover a charred mess of raw meat that is, in fact, Mr. Martin.

When Sheriff Romero (homage to George, perhaps?) and Deputy Shelby arrive on the scene, we learn that Martin owns a warehouse nearby. “Looks like somebody set a fire there. He was trapped inside of it,” Romero explains. He doesn’t get the chance to spill more confidential information because another officer has inconveniently discovered Keith Summers’ abandoned truck in the woods. Romero questions Norma, but she says she hasn’t seen the motel’s former owner. After a lingering look at the truck, she wishes Romero good luck with everything.

“In a town like this, where the hell do you get that kind of money?”

The sweet sounds of Genuwine’s “Pony” comes blaring out of a seedy place called “The Candy Stick.” (If Channing Tatum is watching, he probably just busted a move or two.) Inside, the bleach-blonde half-heartedly caressing a stripper pole seems to be right where she belongs; the guy weeping at the end of the catwalk does not. After he catches Dylan staring at him, weepy guy explains that his boss had been badly burned, probably fatally. He then buys Dylan a drink, flashing a big wad of hundys. “Dude, in a town like this, where the hell do you get that kind of money?” Dylan asks. Later, weepy guy introduces him to a man named Gil, who wants to know if Dylan knows how to use a gun. (He does.) I have a feeling Norman’s brother is about to discover where the cash flows from.

"How’d you get all this money, Norma?”

Dylan returns home in the middle of the night, and Norma is ready for him. “Listen, dumbass, this is not going to stand,” she starts. Dylan retaliates by saying she drove his dad out by “skanking around with Norman’s father.” Norma defends herself, saying she was only 17 when she met Dylan’s dad, so it wasn’t surprising that she later fell in love with Sam.

“Oh yeah?” Dylan asks, “How’d that work out for you?”

“I hate you,” she responds, and her son shrugs. He changes the subject, abruptly wondering how Norma afforded a motel and a new car. She claims it was the settlement from Sam’s death. “He sold insurance and he was well-covered,” she says, lamely. Dylan clearly doesn’t buy it.

"How could a God who made all of this beautiful stuff also make things that are evil?”

A&E/Joe Lederer

The next morning, the mother and son duo of Norma(n) cleans the kitchen floor obsessively, worried about the discovery of Summers’ truck. The doorbell rings, and with it comes a bit of comic relief: “I got it, gang, it’s cool. Don’t stop your Swiffering,” Dylan says, then opens the door to find that Norman’s friend Emma has arrived for the study date she finagled in English class the other day.

Norma, of course, gives Emma the third degree, though not unkindly. Emma explains that she has cystic fibrosis, then gives all of us a little lesson on what it is: “It’s when your lungs create a lot of thick mucus, and it makes it really hard to breathe. Some would say impossible. I’m on a list for a lung transplant. God knows if I’ll ever get one in time,” she says.

“Well, I hope you do,” Norma says, unnecessarily. “What is your life expectancy, Emma?”

“Maybe... 27?” Emma shrugs. Norma looks thoughtful. A companion for Norman who won’t be a long-term competitor? Could anything be more perfect?

Upstairs, Emma and Norman get to work analyzing William Blake’s “The Tyger.”

“It’s about, how could a God who made all of this beautiful stuff in the world, also make things that are scary and evil? It could work—we could talk about it in terms of famous contemporary murders, like OJ, or Charles Manson,” Emma says. Before we have time to ponder the fact that she’s sitting in the bedroom of a famous contemporary murderer, she spots the black book poking out from under Norman’s mattress and flips through it. “These pictures are amazing,” she says. “Did you draw these?”

Horrified, Norman sputters that he found it and didn’t know know what to do with it when Emma interrupts. “Oh, please. I’ve read a lot of manga, a lot steamier than this,” she says, and asks to borrow it.

"I never said I hadn’t ever seen him.”

Norma rubs lotion on her skin or else she gets the hose again—I mean, she rubs lotion on her legs and we get a glimpse of a massive scar on the inside of her thigh. Doorbell! Bates Motel is like Grand Central Station. Doesn’t anybody text? Sheriff Romero doesn’t, I guess, and he’s there to discuss Summers. A witness says he saw Norma(n) having a “heated” discussion with the missing man, even though Norma said she hadn’t seen him. Then they do a little dance that goes something like this:

Norma: “I didn’t know that you had meant had I ever seen him; I thought you meant recently.”
Romero: “Well, some people might think in the last week as being recently.”
Norma: “Yeah, some people might.”
Romero: “So you’re admitting you did see him.”
Norma: “No, I never said I hadn’t ever seen him, so I’m not admitting anything.”

She also mentions that Summers has disappeared, which the sheriff hasn’t mentioned yet. “You’re implying it,” she says. “No, I believe you’re inferring it,” he responds. Now suspicious, Romero asks to look inside. Norma tells him to come back with a warrant.

"I’m just doing what I need to do.”

Norma’s alone in her car, flipping radio stations as she drives. At first her choice of Everclear’s “Santa Monica” seems like a rather un-Norma choice, but the lyrics are on the nose with the world she’s trying to create for herself and Norman: “We can live beside the ocean / leave the fire behind / swim out past the breakers / watch the world die.”

In order to make that world happen, she has to make this current problem disappear. So she pulls up near Deputy Shelby and calls him over, in full flirtation mode. “Go ahead, slap the handcuffs on,” she says, sticking her arms out the window with a grin. The deputy bites—he apologizes for Romero’s behavior and offers to buy her a cup of coffee. They hit the local cafe where she tells him the sob story of her widowhood and complains some more about the sheriff. “To be fair, I do think that you were inferring that,” Shelby says, smiling.

“Oh no,” Norma says playfully, “We’re back to that again?” and they’re all soft eyes and giggles. Either Shelby has a crush or he’s taking the Good Cop role really seriously. He tells Norma that the sheriff and Summers were boyhood friends, Summers’ disappearance is quite personal. Then he asks her on a date, sort of. A “charming” local festival is taking place that night, and although he can’t officially ask her out on account of her being a suspect in a missing persons case and all, he suggests that they meet there.

Later, Norma runs into Norman’s room wearing her date outfit and wants to know if it looks like she’s trying too hard. “That depends on what you’re trying,” he says.

She admits that the police know they had talked to Summers and that she’s going on a “Goodwill mission” with Deputy Shelby, then strips her top off right in front of him to change to a different shirt, tossing the other shirt on his bed. Norman looks uncomfortable; she rolls her eyes. “Lord, Norman, I’m your mother. It’s not like it’s weird or anything.”

A&E/Joe Lederer

Upset that Norma is going on a date, Norman declares that he’ll go too. She sits down on his bed and threads her arm through his. “It’s not like I’m actually interested in him,” she explains. “I don’t want you to worry about anything. That’s why I’m doing this.” Then she licks her thumb and performs the very mom-like gesture of rubbing a smudge off of his cheek from where she kissed him. Watch out, Norma—this is ultimately how you meet your demise. In the Bloch novel (and the movies) a jealous Norman ends up poisoning his mother and her lover.

"She’s not a whore.”

A&E/Joe Lederer

Now we’re back at the Bates abode, where Dylan’s cell phone is ringing. The display says that “The Whore” is calling, which Norman disdainfully announces. Dylan grabs it and answers: “Hi Norma.” After a few seconds of immobile rage, Norman rushes across the kitchen at his brother; fighting ensues. After smashing Norman’s face up against the retro fridge, Dylan threatens Norman: “Don’t you come at me again or I will hurt you bad, do you understand?” Then he turns his back.

Norman spots a meat tenderizer in the dish drainer, calmly picks it up, then tries to drive it into the back of his brother’s skull. Dylan dodges at the last second, so Normie shatters a glass-fronted cabinet instead of cranium, then gets his face tenderized by Dylan’s fists. “She’s not a whore,” Norman says softly, even though Dylan’s no longer in the room.

"An eye for an eye.”

The whore in question is enjoying the Woodchuck Festival with Deputy Shelby, sipping a hot drink and discussing the recent strange events. Shelby acknowledges that White Pine Bay is not what it seems, noting that townspeople who claim to make a living with organic pig farms and artisanal cheese are living in million-dollar homes. “There’s different ways to produce an economy, and it’s not always what it seems,” he explains.

“But surely you can’t allow illegal things, bad things to happen here.” Norma says. The deputy makes a vague reference about how people in town handle things their own way. “An eye for an eye,” he says, referencing the deep-fried Mr. Martin. “It’ll get handled.” Norma looks a bit unsettled.

”Someone did this to these girls, Norman, and we can prove it.”

Emma texts Norman to meet her at her dad’s shop, ASAP. He does. It’s full of taxidermy, which we’ll definitely be revisiting in future episodes. Turns out Emma’s dad is one of the best “taxidermy artists” on the West Coast. “But enough about stuffing dead animals. I’m gonna tell you a little story about real, living things,” she says. She’s translated the text in the black book, and it tells a tale of Chinese farm girls sold into the American sex slave industry. When one of them dies of a drug overdose, the other girls are forced to bury her by a shed in a forest. “Look at this,” she says, flipping to a sketch in the book. “That’s Ladyface. It’s a mountain just outside of White Pine Bay.”

“This is all a little peculiar,” Norman says.

“No. You know what’s peculiar? A 17-year-old boy using the world peculiar,” she says, which is what we were all thinking. Then she plants a kiss on him.

“So you in?” she asks. Norman fails at suppressing the goofy grin on his face, and it’s adorable.

"Just keep the music down.”

At home, Norma is trying to tell Dylan that he needs to leave. “You’re toxic. You’re leaving in the morning,” she says, but Black Sheep has other plans. He says he talked to the insurance people when he was trying to find where Norma had moved, and the agent mentioned what a wonderful husband and father her late husband had been.

“Wouldn’t it be interesting if I told them what life with Sam was really like?” Dylan says. “You know, how you guys got along and all.” Norma smiles, and it’s the rueful smile of a woman who has been outfoxed. “Just keep the music down,” she says.

"We’re connected to something so much larger than ourselves.”

A&E

Norman and Emma are out hiking near Ladyface, trying to find the shed in the sketch. It seems ill-advised, given the way Emma is huffing and coughing. She insists that she’s fine, and the pair venture further into the trees. Eventually, they stumble onto a clearing that’s packed with pot. “Holy crap,” Emma says, as guys with large guns spot them and start to give chase. They run through the forest, eventually finding a hiding space where they can crouch down to let the bad guys pass them. “Don’t even breathe,” Norman tells her as the baddies pass by. Then he realizes he’s talking to a girl with cystic fibrosis. “Sorry.” They take off again and manage to find the shed from the sketches, but there’s no time to investigate—they’ve been spotted again. A few moments later, they arrive back at Emma’s orange VW Beetle. So that pot field wasn’t very far in the forest, was it? You can bet we’ll be seeing more of all of that—the shed, the pot field, the bad guys—in the near future.

Presumably around the same time, Norma drives through town and sees people running. She follows their flight and notices Deputy Shelby on the scene. He waves her on through, right past the blackened remains of a human, still flaming, hanging upside down from a decorative mast. This is what “an eye for an eye” means, and Norma knows it. She starts hyperventilating.

Thoughts:
So, Bates Motel is turning very Twin Peaks, isn’t it?The way the girls are restrained in the “manga” Norman and Emma are investigating seems reminiscent of the way Keith Summers handcuffed and duct-taped Norma in the first episode—and since his family owned the hotel for decades, Summers would have had access to the motel room where Norman discovered the book. But something tells me Summers wasn’t exactly a skilled artist capable of such impressive drawings. So who is?

White Pine Bay: An homage to Bodega Bay from The Birds, perhaps?

Norman’s dad’s name, Sam, also happens to be the name of Marion Crane’s boyfriend in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Similarly, Emma is the name of Norman’s aunt in one of the sequels.

Psst, if you need to catch up, here’s the recap from last week.

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25 Wonderful Facts About It’s a Wonderful Life
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Mary Owen wasn’t welcomed into the world until more than a decade after Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life made its premiere in 1946. But she grew up cherishing the film and getting the inside scoop on its making from its star, Donna Reed—who just so happens to be her mom. Though Reed passed away in 1986, Owen has stood as one of the film’s most dedicated historians, regularly introducing screenings of the ultimate holiday classic, including during its annual run at New York City’s IFC Center. She shared some of her mom’s memories with us to help reveal 25 things you might not have known about It’s a Wonderful Life.

1. IT ALL BEGAN WITH A CHRISTMAS CARD.

After years of unsuccessfully trying to shop his short story, The Greatest Gift, to publishers, Philip Van Doren Stern decided to give the gift of words to his closest friends for the holidays when he printed up 200 copies of the story and sent them out as a 21-page Christmas card. David Hempstead, a producer at RKO Pictures, ended up getting a hold of it, and purchased the movie rights for $10,000.

2. CARY GRANT WAS SET TO STAR IN THE ADAPTATION.

When RKO purchased the rights, they did so with the plan of having Cary Grant in the lead. But, as happens so often in Hollywood, the project went through some ups and downs in the development process. In 1945, after a number of rewrites, RKO sold the movie rights to Frank Capra, who quickly recruited Jimmy Stewart to play George Bailey.

3. DOROTHY PARKER WORKED ON THE SCRIPT.


Getty Images

By the time It’s a Wonderful Life made it into theaters, the story was much different from Stern’s original tale. That’s because more than a half-dozen people contributed to the screenplay, including some of the most acclaimed writers of the time—Dorothy Parker, Dalton Trumbo, Marc Connelly, and Clifford Odets among them.

4. SCREENWRITERS FRANCES GOODRICH AND ALBERT HACKETT WALKED OUT.

Though they’re credited as the film’s screenwriters with Capra, the husband and wife writing duo were not pleased with the treatment they received from Capra. “Frank Capra could be condescending,” Hackett said in an interview, “and you just didn't address Frances as ‘my dear woman.’ When we were pretty far along in the script but not done, our agent called and said, ‘Capra wants to know how soon you'll be finished.’ Frances said, ‘We're finished right now.’ We put our pens down and never went back to it.”

5. CAPRA DIDN’T DO THE BEST JOB OF SELLING THE FILM TO STEWART.

After laying out the plot line of the film for Stewart in a meeting, Capra realized that, “This really doesn’t sound so good, does it?” Stewart recalled in an interview. Stewart’s reply? “Frank: If you want me to be in a picture about a guy that wants to kill himself and an angel comes down named Clarence who can’t swim and I save him, when do we start?”

6. IT WAS DONNA REED’S FIRST STARRING ROLE.


Getty Images

Though Donna Reed was hardly a newcomer when It’s a Wonderful Life rolled around, having appeared in nearly 20 projects previously, the film did mark her first starring role. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role today, but Reed had some serious competition from Jean Arthur. “[Frank Capra] had seen mom in They Were Expendable and liked her,” Mary Owen told Mental Floss. “When Capra met my mother at MGM, he knew she'd be just right for Mary Bailey.”

7. MARY OWEN IS NOT NAMED AFTER MARY BAILEY.

Before you ask whether Owen was named after her mom’s much beloved It’s a Wonderful Life character, “The answer is no,” says Owen. “I was named after my great grandmother, Mary Mullenger.”

8. BEULAH BONDI WAS A PRO AT PLAYING STEWART’S MOM.

Beulah Bondi, who plays Mrs. Bailey, didn’t need a lot of rehearsal to play Jimmy Stewart’s mom. She had done it three times previously—in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts, and Vivacious Lady—and once later on The Jimmy Stewart Show: The Identity Crisis.

9. CAPRA, REED, AND STEWART HAVE ALL CALLED IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE THEIR FAVORITE MOVIE.


Liberty Films

Though their collective filmographies consist of a couple hundred movies, Capra, Reed, and Stewart have all cited It’s a Wonderful Life as their favorite movie. In his autobiography, The Name Above the Title, Capra took that praise even one step further, writing: “I thought it was the greatest film I ever made. Better yet, I thought it was the greatest film anybody ever made.”

10. THE MOVIE BOMBED AT THE BOX OFFICE.

Though it has become a quintessential American classic, It’s a Wonderful Life was not an immediate hit with audiences. In fact, it put Capra $525,000 in the hole, which left him scrambling to finance his production company’s next picture, State of the Union.

11. A COPYRIGHT LAPSE AIDED THE FILM’S POPULARITY.

Though it didn’t make much of a dent at the box office, It’s a Wonderful Life found a whole new life on television—particularly when its copyright lapsed in 1974, making it available royalty-free to anyone who wanted to show it for the next 20 years. (Which would explain why it was on television all the time during the holiday season.) The free-for-all ended in 1994.

12. THE ROCK THAT BROKE THE WINDOW OF THE GRANVILLE HOUSE WAS ALL REAL.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

Though Capra had a stuntman at the ready in order to shoot out the window of the Granville House in a scene that required Donna Reed to throw a rock through it, it was all a waste of money. “Mom threw the rock herself that broke the window in the Granville House,” Owen says. “On the first try.”

13. IT TOOK TWO MONTHS TO BUILD BEDFORD FALLS.

Shot on a budget of $3.7 million (which was a lot by mid-1940s standards), Bedford Falls—which covered a full four acres of RKO’s Encino Ranch—was one of the most elaborate movie sets ever built up to that time, with 75 stores and buildings, 20 fully-grown oak trees, factories, residential areas, and a 300-yard-long Main Street.

14. SENECA FALLS, NEW YORK IS “THE REAL BEDFORD FALLS.”

Though Bedford Falls is a fictitious place, the town of Seneca Falls, New York swears that it's the real-life inspiration for George Bailey’s charming hometown. And each year they program a full lineup of holiday-themed events to put locals (and yuletide visitors) into the holiday spirit.

15. THE GYM FLOOR-TURNED-SWIMMING POOL WAS REAL.

Though the bulk of the film was filmed on pre-built sets, the dance at the gym was filmed on location at Beverly Hills High School. And the retractable floor was no set piece. Better known as the Swim Gym, the school is currently in the process of restoring the landmark filming location.

16. ALFALFA IS THE TEENAGER BEHIND THAT SWIMMING POOL PRANK.

Though he’s uncredited in the part, if Freddie Othello—the little prankster who pushes the button that opens the pool that swallows George and Mary up—looks familiar, that’s because he is played by Carl Switzer, a.k.a. Alfalfa of The Little Rascals.

17. DONNA REED WON $50 FROM LIONEL BARRYMORE ... FOR MILKING A COW.

Though she was a Hollywood icon, Donna Reed—born Donnabelle Mullenger—was a farm girl at heart who came to Los Angeles by way of Denison, Iowa. Lionel Barrymore (a.k.a. Mr. Potter) didn’t believe it. “So he bet $50 that she couldn't milk a cow,” recalls Owen. “She said it was the easiest $50 she ever made.”

18. THE FILM WAS SHOT DURING A HEAT WAVE.

It may be an iconic Christmas movie, but It’s a Wonderful Life was actually shot in the summer of 1946—in the midst of a heat wave, no less. At one point, Capra had to shut filming down for a day because of the sky-high temperatures—which also explains why Stewart is clearly sweating in key moments of the film.

19. CAPRA ENGINEERED A NEW KIND OF MOVIE SNOW.

Capra—who trained as an engineer—and special effects supervisor Russell Shearman engineered a new type of artificial snow for the film. At the time, painted cornflakes were the most common form of fake snow, but they posed a bit of an audio problem for Capra. So he and Shearman opted to mix foamite (the stuff you find in fire extinguishers) with sugar and water to create a less noisy option.

20. THE MOVIE WASN’T REQUIRED VIEWING IN REED’S HOUSEHOLD.

Though It’s a Wonderful Life is a staple of many family holiday movie marathons, that wasn’t the case in Reed’s home. In fact, Owen herself didn’t see the film until three decades after its release. “I saw it in the late 1970s at the Nuart Theatre in L.A. and loved it,” she says.

21. ZUZU DIDN’T SEE THE FILM UNTIL 1980.

Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu in the film, didn’t see the film until 1980. “I never took the time to see the movie,” she told Detroit’s WWJ in 2013. “I never just sat down and watched the film.”

22. THE FBI SAW THE FILM. THEY DIDN’T LIKE IT.

In 1947, the FBI issued a memo noting the film as a potential “Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry,” citing its “rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘Scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.”

23. THE MOVIE’S BERT AND ERNIE HAVE NO RELATION TO SESAME STREET.

Yes, the cop and cab driver in It’s a Wonderful Life are named Bert and Ernie, respectively. But Jim Henson’s longtime writing partner, Jerry Juhl, insists that it’s by coincidence only that they share their names with Sesame Street’s stripe-shirted buds. “I was the head writer for the Muppets for 36 years and one of the original writers on Sesame Street,” Juhl told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000. “The rumor about It's a Wonderful Life has persisted over the years. I was not present at the naming, but I was always positive [the rumor] was incorrect. Despite his many talents, Jim had no memory for details like this. He knew the movie, of course, but would not have remembered the cop and the cab driver. I was not able to confirm this with Jim before he died, but shortly thereafter I spoke to Jon Stone, Sesame Street's first producer and head writer and a man largely responsible for the show's format … He assured me that Ernie and Bert were named one day when he and Jim were studying the prototype puppets. They decided that one of them looked like an Ernie, and the other one looked like a Bert. The movie character names are purely coincidental.”

24. SOME PEOPLE ARE ANXIOUS FOR A SEQUEL.

Well, two people: Producers Allen J. Schwalb and Bob Farnsworth, who announced in 2013 that they would be continuing the story with a sequel, It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story, which they planned for a 2015 release. It didn’t take long for Paramount, which owns the copyright, to step in and assure furious fans of the original film that “No project relating to It’s a Wonderful Life can proceed without a license from Paramount. To date, these individuals have not obtained any of the necessary rights, and we would take all appropriate steps to protect those rights.”

25. THE FILM’S ENDURING LEGACY WAS SURPRISING TO CAPRA.

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen," Capra said of the film’s classic status. "The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud… but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”

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Listen to What Darth Vader Sounded Like On the Star Wars Set
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The voice of Darth Vader, provided by James Earl Jones, is one of the most iconic aspects of the original Star Wars movies. But James Earl Jones wasn't the actor wearing that outfit—it was British actor David Prowse, who was cast in part because he was huge (reportedly 6'5" and a former body-building champion).

George Lucas always intended to replace Prowse's voice, but it's still a bit of a shock to hear a muffled British voice coming out of Darth Vader's helmet. Here's video showing what Darth Vader sounded like on the set before James Earl Jones re-recorded the dialogue.

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