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