A surprise visitor, an almost-kiss, and a budding romance make up the show's penultimate episode of the season.
Credit: Photo by James Dittiger

The penultimate episode of Bates Motel gave us a set-up that basically confirmed the fact that we know something’s going to happen—we just don’t know what.

We know someone will probably die. Whether or not it’s related, we know that someone probably is going to end up in that pit (come on, how can we not? Plus, we already got Bob’s ominous line of, “don’t slip and fall into your pool, you might never get out.”) But we’re not sure what’s really going to happen, and that uncertainty is what has made Bates so interesting this season. How many times have we watched a scene waiting for the inevitable, only to have nothing happen? In a show that can build the tension and then pull the rug out from underneath us, season 3 has given us a lot less shock factor and a lot more discomfort.

Last week, we ended with Norman stumbling upon Bradley (Nicola Peltz), the former flame who faked her suicide and disappeared. She’s returned because basically, her life is pretty much crap right now. It’s hard living on your own with no support system and no money. So, she doesn’t want to be dead anymore. She wants to come home. Like, she wants to tell her mom that she’s alive and everything, only she’s not quite sure how to do it…which is where Norman comes in. After sneaking her into the motel, Bradley casually drops the idea that Norman should be the one to tell her mother that she’s alive, because Norman has a great quality: He seems sweet and innocent. (Ain’t that the truth.) And since Norman is still easily swayed by his feelings for Bradley, it doesn’t take long for him to agree to her suggestion.

The two stake out Bradley’s house, in which Bradley watches her mother leave and realizes that while she’s been away trying to survive, her mom’s moved on—big time. She’s apparently re-married (or at least seriously dating), and Bradley’s not happy about it. She decides that she needs to go inside and find out what life has been like since she left. As it turns out, that’s not really the best idea. Sure, there’s a nice photo of Bradley pre-disappearance. But everything about her house has changed, and even her old bedroom is gone, replaced by an exercise room. That’s pretty much all it takes for poor Bradley to realize that coming back from the dead just isn’t that easy after all, and now she really is abandoned and alone. I may not have been Bradley’s biggest fan (or the biggest fan of the fact that she was seemingly brought back randomly) but I do feel for her.

While Norman and Bradley re-connect in what is probably the strangest way possible, Norma finds herself on a mission. She makes her way to Bob Paris’ house, mostly to try to convince him that what she told Finnegan was a lie. Bob is still suspicious of Norman, though, even after Norma offers to give him the flash drive—she just wants him to promise her that he won’t bring Norman in. Bob tells her that she doesn’t get to call the shots… and that Romero might be the one to bring him the flash drive before she does. Score one for Bob, because this clearly rattles Norma, and Bob gets to gloat that he might not be the bad guy as much as she thinks he is.

Norma finds Romero and yells at him (in front of all his co-workers, no less) for not answering her calls. She then asks for the flash drive and tells him that she talked to Bob, which Romero seems a bit surprised to hear. But Norma also believes that she’s owed something, so when Romero tells her he’s taken care of it, she gets even more upset. At this point, Romero is pretty much just done, and I can’t say I blame him. He’s kind of gotten the crappy end of every deal this season, right down to being shot.

NEXT: All In The Family…Drama

Norma decides to take matters into her own hands when it comes to protecting her son, and starts digging around in the basement to get rid of Norman’s taxidermy stuff. Norman, naturally, is pissed, which leads the two into another fight where Norman again gets territorial. But here’s the interesting thing: He calls out Norma for being the crazy one, despite the fact that she continually tells Norman he’s a bad person for the things he does. And honestly, Norman is completely correct in his assessment. It’s Norma who’s the root of all their issues, it’s Norma who makes most of the situations worse, and it’s Norma who’s just as crazy as her son. He wants to know how he can be sure it wasn’t his mother who killed his father, which causes Norma to panic even further.

Back at the office, Romero meets the lead investigator analyzing data on the flash drive. The woman, who seems to be fishing for something to implicate Romero (what is it with everything everyone has against Romero?), brings up his mother’s name on the ledger and Romero tries to explain. The woman doesn’t seem to understand, though, because, well…White Pine Bay is not exactly a large town, and Romero’s been the sheriff for a while, so how could he not know about any of the recent drug activities going on?

But wait! Romero’s day is about to get even more stressful. He returns home to find Norma pilfering around in a messy breaking and entering situation, because she’s still obsessed with trying to find a way to protect Norman, all of which centers on having the flash drive for leverage. Romero finally admits he turned it over to the DEA, and Norma realizes she’s pretty much screwed, since she knows Bob will go after her and investigate her husband’s death just to make her life miserable. Romero once again asks Norma to come clean about who killed him, but Norma can’t seem to give a truthful response—or, if it is truthful, Romero’s too upset in his own right to buy it. And believe it or not, the two come so close to actually kissing, despite the fact that Norma is pretty much on the verge of a breakdown and Romero is quite pissed at her. I swear to god, if these two don’t kiss before the end of the season for real, I might throw something at my television set. I have a feeling I won’t be alone.

Meanwhile, Caleb is, for lack of a better word, pissed at Chick for putting him and Dylan in danger with the gun run. To make matters worse, Chick doesn’t even believe Caleb’s story about how they almost died and the two end up in a nasty brawl in which Caleb gets beat up pretty bad. He tells Dylan that he’s leaving so that the police don’t come looking for him, but that he should go to Norma and stay safe there until things blow over.

Dylan doesn’t completely go back to Norma, though…at least, not right away. He goes to Emma’s dad and drops off the money (all $50,000 of it) that he was able to get, though he still hasn’t actually told Emma herself what he’s done. This, combined with the sweet conversation Dylan and Emma have when he goes to visit her in her house, seems like it bodes somewhat badly for Dylan’s future on the show, what with everything being set up too nicely for an exit. But I’m trying not to get too pessimistic. I’m also far more on board with Dylan and Emma than I thought I would be a few episodes ago, but Max Thieriot and Olivia Cooke are really selling their chemistry in my opinion. And on a show where everyone is just this shade of crazy, it’s nice to have a bit of normal attraction.

Caleb shows up at the motel while Norma is (in true Norma fashion) standing by the huge pit and screaming obscenities at the world. He’s leaving, but wants to drop off a guitar for Dylan, and he ends up admitting to Norma what happened the night Norman found him when he first came back—how he slipped into his trance, but as Norma. I’m pretty sure at this point, Norma just doesn’t know what to do with this information. She knows her son has issues. She’s seen them firsthand and has had pretty much all her family members spell out the strange, insane things he’s done. And yet she seems to have some denial that it’s bad enough to really get out of hand. We can almost see her spiraling, and the slow downfall of a journey Vera Farmiga has taken us with this character over the past three seasons so far is really spectacular.

NEXT: Norman almost takes a big step

Norman visits Bradley in her room, and Bradley tells her she’s decided to leave…and then proposes he should go with her. We know Norman won’t actually run away and leave Norma, but Bradley reminds him of the time that he showed up on her doorstep and told her that he loved her, which is enough to push Norman’s feelings over the edge. It probably doesn’t help that Bradley’s definitely leading him on because of her feelings. Bradley’s like Norma, in a way: she’s broken and abandoned and wants to be loved, which is part of the reason why she starts making out with Norman. And for the second time this season, Norman comes very, very close to having sex (he gets closer with Bradley than he did with Emma). It’s interesting to note that this season has shown us Norman getting closer and closer to a sexual encounter with all the women in his life (including Norma), and when Norman cuts the moment short, it made me wonder if this “next step” is what we’re going to get in the season finale. The question then, is, who will the encounter be with—and will Norman see himself sleeping with his own mother in some way?

That’s certainly the direction I thought we were heading when Norman pulled away from Bradley because he had another vision of Norma, though this time, it’s just Norma sitting and watching him from the side of the bed. Still, it freaks him out enough to run away, only to have Vision!Norma meet him outside the motel. What I love about these visions and the way that they’re executed is that most of the time, you’re not sure what’s actually real. You know that Norma is probably not really there, especially when she’s in places she clearly shouldn’t be, but when the two are together in a situation like they are outside the motel, you start to question your own sanity. Is Norma really telling Norman all of this? Who really has control on the situation? It’s not until we pull away and it’s clear that Norma IS imaginary that we’re allowed to confirm our thoughts, and often, that doesn’t happen until the very end of the scene.

Vision!Norma tries to convince Norman that Bradley is a problem, and that they don’t need any more trouble. And clearly, the last thing Norman wants to do is upset his mother. I half expected the episode to end with Bradley getting murdered, but Norman specifically walks into the house, and I’m not naïve enough to think this won’t be an issue next week. Maybe Bradley will be the one who ends up in the pit? Granted, it would be a little disappointing if they brought the character back for no other reason than to have Norman kill his old love, but on this show, anything’s possible.

Bates Bits:

  • Apparently being crazy makes you attractive on this show…Norma and Norman seem to only be at their most passionate when they’re both at their most insane.
  • “We’re just going to trash all these things that are beautiful?” Yes, Norman. All these beautiful dead animals.
  • I’m glad that Dylan seems to realize that the pool isn’t…well…a pool. At least someone in the Bates household has enough of a brain to think about what that could possibly mean.

We have one last episode remaining until the season finale, and whether or not someone gets a visit from the Grim Reaper, one thing’s for sure—there’s going to be a heck of a lot left up in the air at the end of next week’s hour. The floor is yours, readers: Drop your predictions for the finale in the comments below!

Episode Recaps

Bates Motel
  • TV Show
  • 5