"What mommy issues?" Norma asks.
Credit: James Dittiger/A&E

“The Pit” is essentially what could be considered “the calm before the storm.” Granted, by the end of the hour, we’re already ramping up the energy and intensity… but it’s safe to say that the eighth episode of Bates Motel laid some pretty heavy groundwork for the final two hours of the season.

We last left our Bates crew with a mixture of happiness and dread, as Norma’s “last supper” took place. So begins the next morning, where Dylan comes to tell Norma that he’s heading back to the farm. (a.k.a., taking that gun-running job Chick told him about.) It’s sweet watching Dylan interact with Norma, and it also reads kind of like a last goodbye, which worries me. But then again, everything on Bates worries me, mostly because I feel anyone can go at any moment.

After he leaves, Norma goes to wake up Norman, and I will forever love the parallel shots of Norma and Norman lying awake in bed with their different expressions—always in tune, even when they’re not together. She’s as touchy-feely as always, but Norman’s in a strange mood that makes him jumpy and nervous. Before Norma can worry too much about his behavior, however, she gets distracted by construction sounds coming from outside.

Norma (being Norma) flies off the handle, demanding to know why a huge hole is being dug in front of her property. Apparently, it’s a pool (remember, part of the request she had given to Bob Paris when she met with him about the flash drive?) Norma is at first surprised, then excited, only there’s one small problem: There aren’t any papers or blueprints for her to look at. She’s got no idea what this pool is even going to look like, and the workers don’t seem too concerned about that. Norman arrives and throws his own version of a temper tantrum, shouting at Norma as he tries to find out what’s going on. Because, you see, Norman didn’t know Norma went to talk to Bob Paris. Or that she asked him about a pool. She didn’t check with her precious son on such matters, and Norman has again been left out in the cold. The whole conversation is more in tune with how a husband might interact with a wife, not the way a son might interact with his mother, and perhaps Norma should be worried about his behavior. But there are more important things to worry about. You know, like a pool.

Norma calls Bob because she wants to see the designs, but Bob’s out of the office at a “meeting.” That “meeting” is really an abduction of Finnegan, who gets taken and tied up as Bob and his town henchmen try to get him to talk. Bob wants his flash drive, and he’s convinced Norma told him about it when he went to his house. But Bob also needs leverage on her, and needs to know anything she’s told the well-meaning doctor. To his credit, Finnegan tries to hold out and doesn’t budge… until, you know, he gets a nail gun to the foot. Hilariously (except not really) as Bob returns a beat-up, tortured and clearly traumatized Finnegan to his home, Norma is chewing him out over voicemail, because she wants to know what he said to Norman that’s made him act strange. And that’s the least of Norma’s current problems. She’s also found out that the “pool” Bob has given authorization to be built is a hole that is 23 feet deep. Even Norma’s a little suspicious of the fact that a pool should not be that large.

But forget the pool for a moment—let’s talk about Romero. Romero, who decides to go through the trouble of getting Norma’s old car back. Romero, who doesn’t want anything in return, because he can’t stand the thought of Norma being sad. Romero, who also is not buying the fact that Bob is conveniently putting in a pool with no plans, that is also deeper than it should be. But Norma doesn’t care about that at the moment, because she’s got her car back, and Romero is being adorable about it… and we FINALLY get the Normero kiss that we’ve been teased with. Everything is wonderful. (Seriously, Bates fans. Take this moment and revel in it, because later, you’re going to need to remember how to feel happy.)

NEXT: A Boy’s Best Friend Is His Mother

Romero goes straight to Bob to ask him about the pit, but Bob’s not really interesting in talking about the pool. Instead, he’s interesting in knowing if Romero knows all of Norma’s secrets. See, he managed to get a few things out of Finnegan, such as all the stuff that drunk!Norma spilled about who killed her husband. “I had a session with the therapist Norma’s been screwing,” is what he tells Romero, conveniently leaving out the fact that his “session” included torturing someone. The more you know. Bob hits home in a few places by bringing up Norma’s previous affair with his deputy, and then starts hinting at the fact that she’s using Romero. Bob’s motive is clear: He’s essentially tying to turn the tables, and he knows that by hitting at Romero and Norma’s friendship, he can succeed. Romero doesn’t take the bait—he leaves without accepting Bob’s ally offer—but things are definitely heading in a direction I’m not happy with. Suffice it to say that when Romero finally shows up at Norma’s again, she’s in a great mood. They kissed! Romero got her car back! Romero, however, is not in such a great mood. He’s still reeling from what Bob’s told him, and as much as he’s trying not to believe it, he’s decided to give Norma one last shot. He asks her point blank how her husband died, imploring her not to lie, and it’s a test Norma ultimately fails when she gives him the “killed by a shelf” story. Romero leaves disappointed, and the moment breaks my heart.

It’s Norman’s turn to admit a secret in this hour: He tells Norma that he’s been upset about the things Finnegan said to him. I think the thing that is so interesting about Norman, and makes him so complex, is that he’s not necessarily this serial killer with no conscious. He truly doesn’t understand himself sometimes, and in these moments, where he’s genuinely confused and scared at his own thoughts, it’s easy to see why Norma gets so overprotective.

And so Norman comes out with it: He thinks he’s sexually attracted to her. A normal response to this would be for a mother to think about what this means in terms of everything that’s happened in their relationship so far. But Norma Bates is far from normal. And Norma’s response is to give a (rather decent and informative) speech about how Norman’s feelings are completely valid. He’s confused! He’s developing sexually! I mean, doesn’t everyone have feelings about their mother at 18? But then Norma takes things one step further, telling Norman she doesn’t want him to ever second-guess their relationship. “We are solid. We love each other.” We tend to put a lot of focus on Norman’s behavior, but it’s really Norma who is the catalyst of a lot of his issues. And right now, Norma, you are not helping this situation.

The next moment is one of the first times I have truly reacted in terms of Norma and Norman’s relationship, which says a lot given the fact that there are things on this show that have pushed the envelope. Norma tells him never to let anyone’s words come between them, because their relationship is “the only thing that’s real.” The two end up cuddling in bed together the way a boyfriend and girlfriend might: complete with the giggly, romantic way of holding each other. There’s no kissing and no awkward touching beyond nuzzling noses, but Bates is certainly going there.

At the farm, Chick is helping Dylan load up the truck for his ride. It’s clear that Dylan is nervous—for all his bravado and previous law breaking, New!Dylan seems a little uncertain with doing something that could land him back in hot water. Caleb seems to sense that his son isn’t quite prepared, but Dylan is resolute in his decision to get the money for Emma’s transplant. And since Caleb can’t talk him out of it, he decides to go with him.

NEXT: A Surprise Return

As the Bates men make their father/son drive, Caleb admits to Dylan he’s going to leave town again when the barn is finished. He knows Norman will never accept him because of what he did to Norma, and he also knows he can’t ask Norma to take him in. During a pit stop, Caleb hides a gun under the truck. Dylan, meanwhile, uses the time to place a call to Emma, so he can let her know that he’ll be away for a few days. The whole conversation is cute, albeit a little awkward as the two clearly like each other, but both are trying to pretend it’s not THAT kind of liking each other. And Dylan even assures Caleb that Emma’s not his girlfriend. I’ll believe it, because I believe in Dylan’s reformed good heart, but you can’t deny they’re not attracted to each other in some way.

Nonetheless, the conversation with Dylan seems to be Emma’s breaking point, and also the push she needs to realize how normal people act in a relationship. She approaches Norman, who is still on edge and angrily putting up some sort of makeshift fencing around the pit. And maybe this isn’t the best time to approach her boyfriend about something like this, but Emma does it anyway. She gives the whole patented speech and tells him that she was there the night of his blackout. She also adds that she’s felt increasingly uncomfortable because Norman hasn’t really been there… that it’s always seemed like he’s been with someone else. This comment, more than any other, seems to rattle Norman’s psyche. He bolts back to the house where he locks himself in his room with the company of Vision!Juno. You remember Juno, don’t you? The dog that was killed in the first season? The one that’s totally, completely dead?

Dylan and Caleb finally arrive at the place where they’re supposed to make the exchange, and at this point, it’s pretty clear that there was no way that Dylan would have been able to do this by himself. It also turns out that Caleb had a right to be worried about Chick’s mission. The guys that they’re doing the exchange with have beef with Chick, and were planning to kill him. But since Chick didn’t come, Dylan and Caleb are the lucky recipients of his bullets. For awhile, it does look like things are going to go south, but Caleb finds a use for the gun he had hidden earlier and both manage to escape the firefight. Something tells me this is not going to end well, though.

Norma catches Finnegan right as he’s getting the hell out of town, though she does manage to stop him enough to ask what happened. Look: no matter who you are, if you get involved with Norma Bates, you just have a terrible, terrible life. Finnegan learned this the hard way, and now, Norma has lost everyone: Finnegan, Romero, Dylan (who isn’t there), and Norman, who isn’t really all there either…

Norma storms downstairs and interrupts Norman’s taxidermy because she realizes she, too, has a secret to admit—she needs to come clean about what happened the night she left and what she told Finnegan. Norman is absolutely livid that Norma would violate him like that, and the two end up in an angry screaming match that brings the tension to an entirely new level. Norma finally snaps in the wake of frustration of having to deal with Norman, shouting, “You’re going to kill me, Norman!” And as Vera Farmiga realizes the weight of the words that she’s just yelled at her son, we as the audience feel a chill, because we know what the outcome of this story will be.

Norma leaves in distress, only to be replaced by Vision!Norma, who reassures her darling boy that it’s them against the world. She’s dressed in the skimpy outfit Norman likes so much and she almost goes so far as to kiss him, but Norman runs away before the vision can go any further. His desperation (following Juno, the Dog Who Isn’t Really There) leads him to run until he sees a car stopped in the middle of the road, along with a girl standing in the street. And no, the girl is not another vision.

Hello, Bradley. Long time, no see.

Bates Bits:

  • Is it just me, or did Norman steal a glance at Norma’s butt when she looked out the window at the beginning of the episode?
  • Emma going to the farm was a nice way for her to have a one-on-one conversation with Gunner. He’s kind of not sure how to react toward her, though—especially when she tells him she’s not looking for a romantic relationship right now while leaving Dylan a “thank you” present of non-pot brownies and a flower.
  • I’m glad that Caleb finally opened up about his warrant (related to a run he did with someone that he beat up), though the fact that Dylan and Caleb keep getting closer makes me worry that one of them isn’t going to survive.
  • Romero calling the DA: I’m hoping he was calling to get some intel on Norma’s story, to find out once and for all what happened to her husband. Or maybe I’m just too trusting of Romero actually liking Norma too much to turn on her. Prove me right, Romero!

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