It’s official: Norma Bates has cracked.
And Norma Bates has been through a lot, as she explains in this episode. She’s had her son stuffed in a box and left to die underground. She’s had her family compromised. She’s had her motel business jeopardized. Basically, she’s had terrible overall luck since arriving in White Pine Bay. Still, there’s only so much you can take before you crumble, and Norma’s definitely there. I’m just surprised it took her this long.
Remember last week when I mentioned Dylan had a pretty horrible, no good, terrible, very bad day? Norma seems to be the recipient of that mantle in this hour, which begins with her being driven off the road rather brutally. (Well, really, it begins with Dylan having passed out in his truck, in the parking lot of a beer store, but we’ll go back to that in a bit.) Norma’s car is ruined, she’s sore, and even the cows aren’t sympathetic. If that’s not depressing, I don’t know what is.
The car that caused her accident backtracks, and Norma yells at its driver—an ominous looking man in a long black coat. (Because long black coats always help your case.) While she threatens to call 911, the man tells her she should call Bob Paris, because she has something that belongs to him. Norma, at this point, is still clueless about the fact Bob wants the flash drive… not that the man believes her. Meanwhile, Emma—who seems to have calmed down from her anger at Norman’s refusal to sleep with her—is waiting when Norman wakes up confused and angry. He immediately tells Emma about Caleb and to her credit, Emma doesn’t add that she already knows about his presence. Instead, she asks very logically (and a little bluntly) if he had to tell Norma about him. Of course, Norman responds. Because he raped her. Emma’s not really buying Norman’s anger-revenge binge, but then again, Emma slowly might be realizing Norman isn’t exactly as sane as he should be when it comes to things concerning his mother. Dylan shows up and Norman actually apologizes for spilling the beans, right before Dylan is called to pick up Norma at the ER. And as Dylan tries to apologize, he realizes that Norma actually has no idea about Caleb. Which means something isn’t adding up.
Norma tells Dylan about being run off the road, about Bob Paris, and tells him that they wanted her to give up what she’s been hiding. Dylan insists again they need to get the flash drive to Romero, but Norma still won’t agree to that, and starts to break down. Norman’s getting worse, she doesn’t know how to handle him, she has no financial support, the motel’s in danger of going under.. .basically, the flash drive is the only thing she has that provides her with some sense of impending help. Vera Farmiga is just golden in this role, so much so that when she loses it, you can absolutely feel the intensity.
Dylan confronts Norman about the fact that he didn’t tell Norma, but just like Annika, Norman is convinced he’s told her. Dylan decides that at this point, he’s just going to man up and just tell Norma about Caleb himself. And points for Dylan for taking one more step in coming clean, turning over a new leaf in his attempt to find a family he’s realized he needs. But Norman is still feeling confused about what’s happened the previous night, and so he asks Norma about her clothes. Because Norma was definitely wearing a blue and white dress, the one that Norman likes so much, when she left the house that morning. (A blue and white dress, everyone. Not a blue and gold dress. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.) Norma tells him that he had another black out, but Norman admits he doesn’t remember anything.
It’s okay, though. Because Norma will always be there. Nothing bad can ever happen while Norma’s around, right? (Remember this statement.) After retreating upstairs, Norman finds himself in Norma’s closet, looking through her clothes. He finds the dress he was talking about earlier and has an uncomfortably creepy moment with it, before shoving it under his bed when Norma calls him for dinner (fastest cook time ever, by the way.)
NEXT: What happens in White Pine Bay stays in White Pine Bay
Let’s take a look at how the other inhabitants of the town are faring, shall we? Because Romero’s day isn’t looking much better than Norma’s. He meets with an older man who’s fishing, trying to do his own fishing for information on Lindsey, the girl who was found in the lake. The man tells him that a few days ago he came across Clay DuFont, who apparently told him he was bird watching, though he lacked the appropriate gear to corroborate that lie. Romero’s a little annoyed at the fact that the man didn’t say anything about this before. Well, nobody asked him. I feel like this is a normal issue on Bates.
Romero meets with Bob at a restaurant, interrupting his dinner with Marcus rather awkwardly. Actually, this whole conversation is awkward, at least, before it turns tense. Bob finally does reveal that he’s looking for the flash drive, though he won’t tell Romero what’s on it. He encourages Romero to go back and get the object from Norma, subtly threatening him by implying he knows that the two are close. It’s clear that every action that is being taken is happening so that Romero can be pushed out of town in the most convenient way possible, and given that we’re almost halfway through the season, I imagine there’s a bigger showdown coming at some point down the line.
As for Caleb, who is still reeling from last episode’s confrontations, he’s taking his aggression out on an unfortunate tree. I guess that’s one way to do therapy. His wallowing is interrupted by Chick, who offers him some boar jerky. Because, well…“life is shit. There’s only one thing that makes it better: Boar. Jerky.” (I think we all need to invest in Chick’s way of thinking, though I’d advise you to insert whatever your comfort food is in the “boar jerky” slot. Me? Ben & Jerry’s [discontinued] Dublin Mudslide.) Chick really does have boar jerky on him, but he ends up offering whiskey instead, and that’s an offer Caleb is more comfortable with. Whiskey turns into pot (which Caleb is also fine with) and the moment is a kind of cool mini Sons of Anarchy reunion with just the two of them in a scene together. Chick offers him a shady job as a driver where the pay is good, but it’s not without risk—Caleb looks like man who can handle risks, though. He turns it down, determined to try to turn over a new leaf with his son. Good man, Caleb. I have a feeling he’s going to end up taking that job, but it’s nice to have the moment of serenity.
Norma might actually be the only one who’s at least getting some improvement in her day. She ends up at a diner after Finnegan not-so-casually flirts with her while she’s waiting for the bus after class. He tells her about his path to become a psychologist, and Norma is so endeared by this honesty that she actually takes the step to ask for help—but not before asking if he’s attracted to her. Poor Norma. You gotta consider that she’s probably never had any man who’s really normal (aside from maybe Romero) look at her before. And then this nice, sweet therapist comes along, with all the intentions of doing the right thing. Finnegan confirms that despite his attraction toward Norma, it won’t be a problem during their therapy sessions.
And Norman? He decides to join up with Dylan to tell Norma about Caleb, and the brothers share a really genuine bonding moment in the basement, a.k.a. Norman’s taxidermy headquarters. Norman seems to recognize something is wrong with him and the way he’s acting, and tells Dylan he doesn’t like that person. He doesn’t want to be a little boy anymore, protected by Norma. He wants to be a man—a good man, despite his issues. It’s really interesting to see how both Norma and Norman are starting to grow apart in their own ways, even though they’re becoming closer without realizing it.
NEXT: Let’s Make a Deal… With Norma Bates
Trust Gunner—who’s keeping watch on the farm—to be the one to find the flash drive. And trust Gunner to also be the one who breaks its encryptions. Basically, Gunner’s pirating of movies and television is a model that we should all follow, except probably not, because we’d probably end up in jail. But he does find out what’s on it, which is apparently a financial ledger splitting up an investment return of at least $15 million. Which is essentially illegal revenue from the drug trade. (Now Annika’s words to Norma make sense.) Since the information on the flash drive is something that could put half the rich people in White Pine Bay into prison, Norma sees it as leverage. But Dylan still sees it as a threat, and his words to Norma about how much it means that he finally has a family are what ultimately cause her to relent and agree to telling Romero.
Unfortunately for Norma, she shows up at Romero’s house at possibly the most awkward time, as he’s just found out that Clay DuFont is dead. Norma tells him about the flash drive and what’s on it, but she’s not handing it over so easily. Because Norma may have her issues, but Norma is smart. And Norma knows that as long as she has something important, she can wield its power for all that its worth. She tells Romero to take her to see Bob so she can tell him she has it, and reveals that she’s going to use it to ask for favors. And, well… Romero’s not exactly on board with this. In the same way Norma has tried to protect her son, he wants to protect the woman he’s come to care about, because he knows exactly what’s going to happen if he sends her into the lion’s den that is Bob Paris.
What follows is (in my opinion) one of the best Norma Bates scenes of season 3, comparable to “Norma blows up at the town hall meeting” explosion. She essentially breaks down in front of Romero and starts going off about how everyone has treated her since she’s come to town. She even goes so far as to accuse that if she was one of the powerful men in town, and not a mother, Romero would not try to be coddling her like a child and also would trust her judgment better. And yeah, Norma might not be the most mentally stable person sometimes, or the best role model as a mother. But as a woman who loves seeing strong females on my television shows, I am so proud to see someone like Norma standing up for herself, when she has been treated like crap for all the reasons she listed. I’m continually impressed with how the show’s writers choose to shape this character.
Romero ends up agreeing to go with her and the two share another almost kiss, which just makes me want their relationship to happen even more. And to be honest, Norma’s confrontation with Bob isn’t terrible, despite her nervousness and her shaky negotiation skills. Granted, it’s filled with the classic Norma Bates rambling, and Romero’s faces make the moment feel lighter than it probably should be. Norma’s conditions? She wants a billboard for her motel by the bypass, that leads to a two lane highway that leads to the hotel. (And a pool. With a fence. Of course.) She refuses to give over the flash drive, and threatens him with the fact that even if he kills her, she’ll make sure that there’s someone who knows all its secrets and can turn it over to the FBI. Surprisingly, Bob, for all his smarminess, seems pretty easy-going about it. Norma’s relieved, but we know this can’t—and won’t—end well.
Still, she comes home in a pretty good mood, which we know is soon going to be all but destroyed by Dylan’s confession. She seems to take the news about Caleb okay at first, especially when Dylan starts in on how sorry she is. And then all hell breaks loose. She freaks out, goes upstairs, and grabs everything she can from her room (including her gun), stuffing it all into a suitcase as if she’s just been told she’s being pursued. Norman and Dylan don’t really know what to do with themselves, though Norman is having a hard time handling his mother’s actions, especially as she bolts from the house with the parting words of “your brother will look after you.”
After all, Dylan did want a family. Turns out he got the most dysfunctional one possible.
- Emma didn’t have a lot to do in this episode, but it’s worth noting that she observed both Norma’s breakdown at the end of the episode, as well as the conversation about Caleb between Norma and Dylan. The show is doing a lot to make Emma the witness to a lot of important moments, and one could argue that she’s being kept on the sidelines, but I think it’s interesting. It’s kind of allowing her to shape her own thoughts, and I have a feeling that this “outsider” type of detachment is going to become extremely important in future episodes. And yes, I do think we’re building toward a big Emma moment, one that will be critical for her character.
- Norma Bates line of the night: “What’s wrong with these criminals that they can’t just hang on to their own shit?”