Bates Motel Recap, Episode 8: A Boy and His Dog
As we check into Bates Motel for the week, Mr. Decody is teaching Norman the fine art of taxidermy.
“The art of it is to recreate the beauty of motion in something still. To create life, if you will,” he says.
He gives Norman a little light reading called Master Course in Wildlife Art and Taxidermy by Robert Kennedy. I’m assuming not the Robert Kennedy, but maybe RFK had a side hobby. Actually, I wonder if they’re paying homage to this Robert Kennedy. If you want to go really meta, check out this story about Robert Kennedy performing his taxidermy magic on a Sumatran tiger that once belonged to the more famous Robert Kennedy.
Back to our taxidermist and his eager assistant. Decody tells Norman he’s sorry that his dog died.
“It seems sad to let her go,” Norman responds. “Dishonorable, sort of, to just put her in the ground. I think she was lonely,” Norman says, and since we already know how this tale eventually ends, you have to wonder if that’s what he will be feeling when he eventually mummifies his mother. Norman compliments Decody on his work; in turn, Decody tries to recruit him to help out with the business.
“It’s really quite beautiful work, if you’re at all artistic, which I have a feeling you might be.” Norman is pleased.
At school, Emma hauls herself into a bathroom stall to try to get the terrible coughing fit she’s having under control. As she pauses to use her inhaler, a gaggle of girls come in, gossiping about Norman, calling him pathetic and socially challenged, agreeing that it’s creepy when he stares off into space.
“Like really. Like she would ever have sex with someone like that,” one of the girls snips, and that’s all Emma can stand to hear.
“Well, maybe you better talk to her,” Emma says, coming out of the stall. “Because she did. Sex as in carnal back-and-forth. But you should really get your facts straight before you shoot your mouth off with your demeaning opinions. And you’ve got toilet paper on your shoe.”
Road Tripping and School Skipping
Dylan and Remo, the stars of our new favorite buddy sitcom, are watching the pot field. Remo is engrossed in a Louis L’Amour novel. Dylan’s phone rings. It’s Gil, and he wants Remo and Dylan to go pick up "trimmers" in Fortuna, an overnight trip. Dylan wonders what trimmers are, but Gil tells him to ask Remo, since he’s made the trip about 20 times. Remo just sighs.
At school, Bradley confronts Norman about telling everyone about their little tryst.
At first he denies it, but she informs him about Emma’s bathroom showdown with the White Pine Gossip Girls.
“Listen, it’s just not cool, Norman,” she says. Norman gets slight rageface.
“OK. But why isn’t it?” he demands. “I mean, it happened, right?”
Bradley says it shouldn’t have. “I don’t want people to know. Just—forget it happened,” she says, and Norman nods, but as Bradley turns away, he kind of looks like he wants to puke.
The bell has just rung, but instead of going to class, Norman shoves his hands in his coat pockets and rushes out of the school. Miss Watson, his Language Arts teacher, happened to catch the tail end of the argument and runs out after Norman to see where he’s going.
She warns him—not unkindly—that he can’t just leave school; he’ll get suspended.
“I don’t care!” he yells, and his eyes are welled up with tears.
Miss Watson tries one more time to coax Norman back inside, she takes a step toward him and moves to put her hand on his arm when he shoves her arm away quite forcibly. She’s visibly shaken as Norman sneers at her and walks away.
Norma has purchased herself a cute little housekeeping tunic and she’s pushing a cart full of towels and cleaning supplies that’s a bit overkill for the one guest currently staying at the motel. She knocks on the door of said single guest and says she wasn’t sure when he wanted his room made up.
“You can come in and clean now,” Abernathy tells her.
She says she’ll just come back when he's out, but he insists.
Then he sits back and watches her clean the room. It feels strangely intimate, the way he’s watching her crawl across the bed to remove the dirty sheets. As she’s creeping, he mentions that he heard about the “unpleasant incident” that happened at the motel recently.
“A dog got hit out front,” Norma shrugs, and she pulls this “Aw, shucks” face she makes when she’s trying to pretend like she’s innocent or ignorant.
It’s not working, though. Abernathy knows. He knows about Shelby, he knows about Summers and he knows about the sex trade. He goes on, in a fake incredulous tone of voice, to say how unbelievable it all is.
“You just never know, do you?” he says, watching for her reaction.
“Yeah. I guess you don’t,” she agrees flatly, then promptly knocks the lamp off of the nightstand, shattering it.
As she’s on hands and knees picking up the pieces, Abernathy looms over her, asks if she knew Zach Shelby.
“A little,” Norma admits, then amends it to “Not so much” a few seconds later.
Feeling uncomfortable, she says she has to leave immediately to give Norman a ride somewhere.
But Abernathy’s not dumb. “He’s not here. I saw him leave. School, wasn’t it?”
She tries to make her exit, but he grabs the cart to stop her. Then he takes off two towels, as if that was all he wanted. “We’re good for now,” he tells her.
When Blackmailing Backfires
Norma, who had left Sheriff Romero a message earlier, finally gets in to see him. They’re not quite as chummy as she thought they would be—apparently, just because someone takes the fall for a couple of murders committed by you and your family doesn’t mean you’re BFFs.
After getting a cold stare during her attempt to make small talk, Norma cuts to the chase: When she bought the motel, no one ever mentioned that a bypass was being built that would make her motel obsolete.
“I’m just trying to figure out a way that I can fight this from the inside,” she fishes. Romero is unmoved, so she plows ahead. There’s a seat open on the city planning committee, and she wants Romero to nominate her for it.
“Why would I do that?” he asks, deadpan. Norma was not expecting to meet with resistance.
“Because... I thought you would...” she draws it out, trying to figure out how to word her blackmail attempt. “Because of what we’ve been through. Because we know things about each other,” she says this in a singsongy voice, smiling. The flirtatious act may have worked on Shelby, but Romero isn’t having it.
“We don’t owe each other anything,” he tells her. “We’re not friends. You don’t know me in any social sense. Don’t assume differently just ‘cause I was kind enough to save your ass once.”
Norma drops the act. “The fact is that your deputy was doing all of this right under your nose, and you knew nothing about it.” Romero shuts the door to his office, then turns to Norma.
“Are you trying to say that you have something on me, is that it? Because that really wouldn’t be good for you, okay? I mean, I might have to burn you down to the ground, you know?” he says casually. “Don’t ever try to intimidate me. Don’t walk into my office and ask me for political favors based on nothing. You and I have no connection. We’re not on the same playing field. You don’t know what you’re doing. Go home, Mrs. Bates.”
To cap things off, as Norma is leaving Romero’s office, Norman’s principal calls. They want to discuss Norman’s behavior.
"He is... Emotionally Unusual."
At the Decodys, Norman asks Emma why she told all of the girls that he slept with Bradley.
“It just came up. Sort of,” she says. “I’m sorry.”
For his part, Norman seems fine with that. “Don’t ever tell anyone something I tell you in confidence again, okay?” he says, and it’s a totally calm, rational Norman. Emma agrees, and that’s that.
If only things were going that well during Norma's meeting at school. Norman, it turns out, is going to be suspended for three days. (Is that normal?)
Covering for him, as usual, Norma says that he just wasn’t feeling well.
Miss Watson recounts her version of what happened, saying she put her hand on his arm to lead him back in when he pulled it away “pretty violently.”
“Are you supposed to be putting your hands on the students?” Norma retaliates.
Getting back to the point, the principal says they’re concerned about Norman’s “emotional instability.” They want him to speak to the school psychologist.
“I don’t know if I want him to be doing that,” Norma sighs. When the principal asks her why, she has to stop and think. “I think that he should see a private psychologist. I would like to choose the therapist.”
Miss Watson and Mr. Hudgins think that would be fine, but they’d like the name of the therapist when she gets it. “Mmmhmm, sure,” Norma says, getting up to leave. “Mmmhmm. Okay! Of course. Absolutely. I’ll keep in touch.” She cannot get out the door fast enough, and when she does, she leans against it and swallows hard.
The Dylan and Remo Show
Remo and Dylan are hanging out at “Mike’s Bar" on their way to retrieve the trimmers. Trimmers, it turns out, are the guys who trim and process the weed in preparation for the final product. (There, you learned something today.)
Remo’s pretty drunk. “Twenty-three years of experience and here I am working for you,” he slurs.
Dylan calls him a pathetic, self-destructive loser, and of course, a fight ensues. Dharma beer bottles get shattered. Yep—it’s not stylized with the traditional black and white logo from Lost, but it’s definitely Dharma beer.
At the end of the battle, both of them are bloodied and bruised. Now that they’ve gotten that out of their systems, they’re—well, not friends, but they’ve at least declared a temporary truce. As Dylan walks a staggering Remo to his room, Remo explains why he’s stopped rising in the company. “I’m not what you would call consistently reliable,” he says. Yeah, that’s definitely a trait you don’t want to mention as a “weakness” during your job interview. We also learn that Remo doesn’t work for Gil. He works for the “Big Boss.”
“Who’s that?” Dylan says.
“You’ll know when you need to know,” Remo responds. Dylan then asks why Remo doesn't just quit the job if he's so unhappy with it.
“There’s no quitting in this job,” Remo says. “You can get fired though. You don’t want that to happen to you. Believe me.”
Fun with Taxidermy
At home, Norman apologizes to his mother about the incident at school, but he refuses to tell her what he was upset about. “It won’t happen again,” is all he’ll say.
“It can’t happen. Because now they want to you to go see a therapist,” she says. “You have to try to fit in, Norman. You can’t go around being so emotional all the time.”
“I know, Mother, and I’m sorry,” he says. “But I do think I fit in. For the most part.”
In the very next breath, he asks for a ride to the Decody’s: “Emma’s dad is teaching me how to do taxidermy!”
Norma’s reaction to that is the same as ours. She agrees to take Norman to the Decody’s, because she’s going in to have a chat with the good taxidermist.
When they get there, Mr. Decody is fitting Juno onto a frame. She asks to speak to him alone.
“I don’t know if this is such a good thing for Norman to be doing. He’s already sort of an unusual boy,” she explains. “I don’t want him getting labeled as a freak or anything.”
Decody is a bit offended. “I don’t think that learning taxidermy necessarily makes one a freak,” he protests. Norma realizes her faux pas and starts backpedaling, kind of hilariously petting the dog. Decody continues to defend Norman’s interest in taxidermy: “He’s good. And he’s good company. We’re not hurting anyone—the animal is already dead. So what’s the harm in letting a young person follow their passion? What could go wrong with that?”
I’ll give you a moment to snort. I’ll still be here when you come back.
Later, as they’re putting staples around Juno’s replacement eyeballs, Norman fawns over his mentor.
“You’re so good,” he says. Decody admits that he quit his hobby while he was married to Emma’s mom, because she didn’t like it. Or him, as it turns out. He took up stuffing carcasses again when Mrs. Decody left.
Norman apologizes for bringing it up, but Decody says not to. He left all of that behind in England, and he has Emma, and that’s what’s important.
Meet the Trimmers
A circle of hippie-looking guys are playing hacky sack when Remo and Dylan pull up. One of the guys has the gall to scold them for being an hour late, which is when Remo tells Dylan that the same dude caused a lot of trouble last year. He recommends ditching the guy, but Dylan won’t bite. Gil said to pick up all of the trimmers, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
Yeah, it doesn’t last long. In the van on the way back to Oregon, the lead hippie is jamming on a guitar because of course he is, when Remo tells him to cut it out.
“You all remember this pusball from last year, right?” lead hippie says. Then he demands to stop for food, and when Remo tells him to wait a few minutes, the hippie says, “Management here seems to think he can tell us when we’re gonna eat.”
“Remo, pull over,” Dylan says.
He points a gun at him and tells him to get out of the van.“Anyone else who thinks this is a democracy, you can get out too.” The hippie has a change of heart, says that anytime they want to stop for food is fine. It’s too little, too late—they leave him on the side of the road.
Norma Never Learns
Norma pulls up to the motel to find Abernathy leaving. Naturally, she follows him in her car and discovers that he’s going to search Keith Summers’ boat. Shouldn’t that thing have been seized by now? Or considered a crime scene, at least?
Norma gets out and follows Abernathy on foot, and I am feeling less and less sorry for her. She knows what he’s looking for at this point—how can following him on foot, in the dark, alone, be even remotely safe? Will this woman never learn?
Not today. Abernathy catches her following him.
“Where’d you hide it?” he asks in the tone of voice like you’d ask your toddler where she hid the remote.
She denies hiding anything, knowing anything, but of course Abernathy knows better.
“You think I’m just going to walk away from this?” he asks her. “I’m not some moron like Keith Summers. He was the bottom rung. I’m on the top. You understand?”
Norma found Norman a therapist, as promised.
“Tell me a little bit about losing your father, Norman,” the therapist says.
Unsurprisingly, Norma jumps in before Norman can even finish a sentence.
The therapist tries again.
“Can you talk to me about how it felt to move from the home where you lived with your dad to a whole new town?”
Norma jumps in again. “It was sad. He was sad. We were both sad.”
“Sad,” Norman agrees.
Norma pays the therapist and says she’ll schedule something in the future. He asks to talk to her privately.
“I think it might be helpful if I saw Norman on his own next time.”
Norma, of course, isn’t comfortable with that. The therapist suggests that perhaps she needs a little therapy of her own, based on her need to control everything.
“People who feel like they need to be in control often feel out of control on the inside. Do you ever feel that way?” he asks her.
Norma goes on a long rant about how she feels extremely in control of her life. She doesn’t feel powerless. Ever. And to prove this point, she drives home to the motel and pounds on the door of room number nine. When Abernathy opens the door, she flings all of his cash in his face and tells him to get out.
“You didn’t just do that, did you?” he says.“You need to dial it down, right now, Norma, before I get truly annoyed.”
“I’m not afraid of you. You have no power over me,” she tells him, and gives him five minutes to get out of her motel.
“You wanna play? We’ll play,” he says, and the awesome thing is that it’s not menacing in the traditional sense at all. When you read that line, it sounds like something he would growl at her, doesn’t it? But he doesn’t. It’s more sing-songy, the “I guess we’ll try it your way!” tone of someone who thinks they’re teaching a lesson by letting the person fail first.
A few minutes later, Abernathy loads a suitcase into his trunk and leaves.
Norman and Emma Make Up
At the Decodys, Norman is petting his dog, which looks exactly like a life-sized version of one of those disturbing scented wax stuffed animals.
“Can we talk?” Emma says. She’s feeling bad that Norman thinks she was gossiping about him. She says she heard the girls talking rudely about Norman and Bradley, and she couldn’t handle it. “I think you are so special, and so much better than any of them.”
“I feel safe with you,” she continues.“You are my friend, and I don’t want to mess that up, or lose you. I don’t have many real friends.”
“It’s okay, Emma,” Norman says. “I’m sorry I was mad.” They hug. Awww.
Then Mr. Decody walks in and ruins it.
Norma Almost Sleeps with Shelby Again
Norma is cleaning Room Number Nine when a van pulls up. It’s Remo and Dylan with the trimmers, and they want seven rooms for them for the next two weeks. Between this and getting rid of Abernathy, Norma is elated—so much, in fact, that she invites Dylan out for dinner. He agrees, and she goes up to the house to change clothes.
She’s just stripped down to a tank top when she notices that someone is in her bed. It’s Zack Shelby, complete with autopsy scar, bullet wounds, missing eye and all. Oh, and there's a deputy badge pinned to his bare chest.
“Normaaaaaan!!!!” she screams, because that’s Norma's first reaction to everything. And also because they want to get their money’s worth out of that scream. I’m surprised they don’t make her do it every episode.
And that, Motel guests, is where we end this week. Only two episodes left!