Lots of stuff starting to unravel on Bates this week—including at least one plot line I figured would be in play for the whole season. Let’s get to it.
We pick up exactly where we left off last week, with Norma sitting on the motel porch, stunned that her savior Officer Shelby was involved in a sex slave ring. While Emma and Norman are debating about how to handle his unresponsive mother—Emma desperately wants to get her some water—Norma takes off running. She jumps in her car with Norman in hot pursuit. When he can’t yank her out of the driver’s seat, Norman opts to leap through the open passenger window, grabbing the steering wheel. The car is careening wildly around the Bates Motel parking lot; they come dangerously close to taking out that iconic sign. Eventually, the vehicle comes to a halt and Norman tosses the car keys out the window.
“He can’t get away with it. Everybody always gets away with everything and it’s not fair!” Norma half screams, half sobs.
Norman promises her that they’re going to get the bad guy, they just have to do it the right way. This seems to appease her, and everyone calms down.
Elsewhere in town, Dylan is telling Gil about his own bad guy justice. Gil is the same guy who “approved” adding Dylan to the team, so he’s pretty high up on the chain of this operation, if not at the top. Dylan recounts the story of the attack on Ethan; we learn Ethan died at the hospital.
“That’s a loss,” Gil says rather flatly, though his jaw is clenched. He asks if Dylan can ID the guy who did it, and Dylan reports that he already took him out by running him down in Ethan’s truck. “I smacked him with it,” is actually what he said, which is a bit of an understatement. Dylan apologizes and says he realizes that there are a lot of delicate politics to this whole shady business, and he’s very sorry if he screwed something up with his vigilante justice.
On the contrary, Gil is quite pleased.
“You handled things in the moment,” he says. “That’s good work. That means something to me.” Gil then gives Dylan detailed instructions on how to dispose of the murder vehicle. It basically amounts to driving it to a remote area and torching it using copious amounts of gasoline, which Dylan does. As he’s watching it burn, another guy approaches, saying he was sent to pick Dylan up. The two of them are going to be working together from now on.
Turns out “Remo” has been working for Gil for 23 years. Dylan kind of starts nervously rambling about how Remo must know everything since he’s been doing this for decades. Remo cops a weird attitude, getting irritated about their age difference and taking offense when Dylan calls him a seasoned pro. Dylan assumes the attitude is because of his age and inexperience, so he tries to explain that he’ll do his best.
“I’m pretty good at this, OK? I helped Ethan a lot. I pick stuff up fast. You’re not gonna be sorry that I’m working for you.”
“You’re not working for me,” Remo sneers. “I’m working for you.”
At the motel, Norma goes to check on Jiao, the girl from Shelby’s basement. She’s presumably still under the effects of the drugs, because she’s out cold. As Norma pulls the covers up, she examines the bloody marks on Jiao’s wrists and the needle marks in her arm.
Emma is waiting for an update at the house.
“She needs to sleep,” Norma reports, almost tersely. Emma is being pretty persistent about getting Jiao to the police station ASAP; Norman, of course, takes his mother’s side about waiting a bit longer.
Undeterred, Emma demands that they call the FBI “right this second.”
“We’re not going to do that, Emma,” Norma snaps. Emma looks a little taken aback at the sharp tone, which makes Norma realize she needs to try a different tack. She comes up with a semi-convincing story about not wanting to traumatize the poor girl even further, and that when Jiao is feeling a little better, she’ll go down to the motel and “make a case to her” about why they need to go to the police—as if the victim is the one who needs convincing. As she’s saying all of this, she tucks a piece of Emma’s hair behind her ear, very motherly and caring.
Norma walks Emma to her car and asks if she’s okay to drive.
“Should I call your mom and tell her that you’re leaving now?” Translation: “Do I need to make sure that someone is expecting you home in the next few minutes so you don’t decide to make a rogue stop at the police station on your own?” The answer is no.
“I haven’t heard from my mom in 8 years,” Emma responds. “I guess taking care of a kid with CF isn’t the good time it’s cracked up to be.”
“You deserve better. You deserve so much better,” Norma sympathizes, and Emma launches herself at Norma for a huge, needy hug.
Norma hugs her back. It’s almost reluctant at first—a light, one-handed pat on the back. But then she really squeezes Emma tight with both arms and strokes her hair. My guess? Mid-hug, Norma pounced on the opportunity to become a trusted mother figure.
As Norman looks a little uncomfortable, Norma goes in for the kill. “You’re very brave. Had I been lucky enough to have a daughter, I would have wanted her to be exactly like you.”
“I just want to do the right thing,” Emma says.
“I know honey, and we will. Tomorrow.” She’s so syrupy sweet, honey is practically oozing from her pores. As soon as Emma leaves the parking lot, the “concerned” expression drops from Norma’s face, replaced by one of steely determination.
Norma is primping upstairs in her bedroom, getting ready to go over to Shelby’s house to look for the belt while he’s asleep. She suddenly apologizes to Norman for not believing him about the girl in Shelby’s basement, which makes Norman flash back to that original conversation—you know, the one where his mother told him that he sometimes lived in an alternate reality that didn’t exist? That one.
“Is there something wrong with me?” Norman asks. Norma says no, of course not, that was just something she said in the heat of the moment.
Norma is in the process of evading the question when Dylan pops up behind them. Norman immediately fills him in on the latest—they found the sex slave girl on Summers’ boat, and Emma is “hell-bent” on taking her to the cops in the morning.
“If you turn him in, then he’s gonna turn in Norma,” Dylan says. “Take me to the boat. Don’t go anywhere. Don’t talk to anybody, and don’t do anything until we get back. We’re gonna get that belt. And you can wipe that lipstick off.”
On the way to the docks, Dylan tells Norman he got the beach bungalow and starts making the case for Norman to move in. Norman declines to comment.
Once they get to the boat, the brothers ransack everything. As they’re looking through cabinets and peeking in closets—with their bare hands, mind you, which seems like a bad idea when dealing with a cop who has access to fingerprinting equipment—Dylan abruptly asks Norman how he thinks his father died.
“You know. This huge shelf in the garage fell over on him,” Norman says.
“You really believe that? Pretty freak accident,” Dylan scoffs. “I think she killed him, if you ask me. She hated him. She was miserable.”
Norman, of course, says that it’s not possible. His mother would never have killed his father. As Dylan starts talking about insurance money, though, Norman doesn’t look like he stands quite so firm on that statement.
“She’s insane,” Dylan continues. “Dangerous, even. You need to see that.”
Just then, he jimmies open a panel in the ceiling. The missing belt miraculously drops from the sky and lands at their feet. “Stick with me, kid,” Dylan says, satisfied.
They pitch the belt into the harbor. Norman worries that the belt is going to float to the surface, much like Summers’ hand did.
“I promise no one’s ever gonna see this thing again,” Dylan swears, and that sounds like foreshadowing to me. “Now let’s go home and pack up your stuff.”
At the Bates home, Norma hears someone pull up and runs outside, thinking it’s her sons, returning with good news. It’s not. It’s Shelby, and he’s on her like white on rice. She recoils, then tries to distract him with several excuses, telling him that they were trying to be careful not to be seen together, that her sons would be home soon, etc. He suggests going down to the motel. “You’re not gonna turn me away tonight,” he growls, and Norma reluctantly gives in.
Once they’re in the motel room, however, Norma can’t hide the fact that she’s not into it. Shelby calls her out on it. “I’m just worried about Norman,” she bluffs. “I’m sorry. Can we start again?” She starts to muster up her acting skills when Shelby hears running water.
“Who’s staying here?” Shelby asks, and Norma replies that no one is—it’s an old motel, and it’s probably just some weird plumbing issue.
“No. There’s somebody here,” Shelby insists, then grabs his gun, runs outside and starts pounding on doors. Jiao is in the shower—never a good omen in the Norman Bates canon—and misses the part where he yells “Police!” She only hears the knocking, so puts on a robe and opens the door, probably expecting to see one of her rescuers. It’s quite the opposite. When she sees Shelby, she screams and runs into the woods.
Shelby tries to shoot her, but Norma shoves him, throwing off his shot. He throws her against the wall and calls her a bitch, then takes off running after the girl. As Norma sits there crying, her sons pull up, triumphant about the belt.
After updating her on that situation, Dylan doesn’t give her time to respond. “Norman and I are going to the house and pack up his stuff. He’s leaving with me tonight. He’s not living with you anymore,” he says.
“Shelby’s here. He found the girl in the motel room and she ran off into the woods. He’s there right now chasing after her,” she says, tonelessly. There’s no urgency to her voice, and judging by the way her expression changed when Dylan dropped the beachhouse bombshell, the sex slave in the woods being hunted like game is definitely not Norma’s biggest concern right now.
“Norman, is what he just said true?”
“Yeah, I mean, if Shelby’s here, don’t we need to do something?” Norman says, alarmed.
“Answer me,” she demands. “Why would you do that, Norman?”
“We need to go, okay?” says Dylan, the voice of reason. “Let’s get in the truck.”
“I’m not gonna get in the truck!” Norma yells. “I don’t care if Shelby comes back and kills me. Why would you do that? Norman, why? Why?” Now she’s starting to cry, and Norman decides he needs to know the truth: he asks if she killed his father.
Her expression softens. “No honey. I didn’t.”
While they’ve been hashing this family drama out, Shelby apparently took care of his prey, because he’s back, and he’s got a gun on them. The corrupt cop directs them all up to the house to have a little chat.
Once they’re all settled around the kitchen table like the Golden Girls, Norma tries to convince Shelby that none of them are going to blow his cover. “Just shut up,” he tells her, then turns on Norman. “This is all your fault.” He shoves the barrel of his gun right up against Norman’s temple and cocks it. “This is a nightmare, what you’re making me do, here, Norma,” he says, and she assures him again that they won’t talk. “You’re just a lying bitch,” he yells, and slaps her across the face. Ummm, this is not how Blanche and Dorothy would have handled this kitchen pow-wow. For starters, someone forgot the cheesecake.
As his mother is getting smacked around, Norman’s hazy Psycho-vision is coming back. When Shelby hits her again, Norman leaps across the room at him. The impact knocks the gun out of Shelby’s hand, freeing it up to throw Norman through a glass cabinet. Dylan recovers the dropped weapon, but Shelby still has one on him. The pair stalk through the house like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, scarring up the antiques with bullets. Norma throws herself over Norman, who’s knocked out cold in the kitchen.
Shelby gets shot in the leg and Dylan gets shot in the arm. Shelby’s injury is worse, though, and Dylan is just about to finish him off when he runs out of bullets. He runs upstairs to retrieve more bullets from under a bed. While Shelby limps up the stairs after him, Norma drags Norman outside, stopping to grab her purse. He finally comes to on the porch, just as Norma is calling 911. Together, they hobble to the car, where Norma discovers that her keys are definitely not in her purse. She thinks she left them upstairs in the bedroom—the same bedroom that’s currently lighting up with gunshots. Then there’s silence. Seconds later, a figure comes hobbling out the front door. It’s Shelby.
As he comes into the light, we realize that he’s been shot through one eye. He’s pretty damn determined to take Norma out as his last act on Earth, though. He raises the gun, points it at her—and falls over, dead.
Dylan comes outside, and Norma hugs him, probably for the first time since he was a toddler. “You’re safe,” he tells her.
She says she called the cops, then wonders what they’re going to tell them.
“We’re going to tell them the truth, Norma,” Dylan says. “I’m done with this. I’m done with the craziness and the stories. I’m gonna tell them everything I know.”
She says that he doesn’t know the whole truth, then proceeds to tell him exactly what happened the night Norman’s dad died.
While Norman was in the kitchen making himself a delicious beverage in the blender, his parents were having a heated fight about money. As the fight escalated, Sam slapped Norma in the face. Without even thinking, Norman dumped the smoothie down the drain, then used the empty blender container to clock his father in the back of the head (“[clang]” is what the closed captioning says).
Immediately after the skull-crushing blow, Norman retreated somewhere into his brain and refused to come out. Even as his mother begged him to answer, Norman stared at nothing, said nothing. She took him to his room, then dragged Sam out to the garage and pulled a shelf full of paint cans down on him.
We know what happens next—Norman came to, remembered that his parents were fighting and ran out to find them. He discovered his father dead in the garage, then ran to the bathroom to alert his mother, who, of course, already knew.
“Sam’s death was an accident, that’s what he believes,” Norma finishes telling Dylan.
Norma says she doesn’t know what’s wrong with him, but she intends to protect him. “You can either get out of my way, or you can help me,” she says, and a cop car pulls up behind an unblinking Norman, illuminating the bloody wound on his scalp.