Bates Motel Season 3 Episode 5 – TV Review
This is a powerhouse, storming episode for Norma Bates and Vera Farmiga.
Just like every episode.
Thank you, Bates Motel.
TL;DR The USB is cracked and Norma successfully (for now) blackmails Bob into redesigning the bypass to the motel’s advantage; Norman struggles with reality; Romero’s investigation into Annika and Lindsay’s murders hits walls; Dylan comes clean to Norma about Caleb.
She goes from victory to defeat so quickly. Poor Norma.
Gone are the languishing days of last week’s episode, as the Bates family are back to what they do best: fucking with each other emotionally and somehow wriggling themselves deeper into the underbelly of White Pine Bay. Norma shines this episode as Bob and the Arcanum club harass and intimidate her so she’ll relinquish the USB flash drive. Some flirtation and therapy with tutor guy is a nice distraction, but then Gunner happens upon the USB in its hiding spot and manages to crack the encryption. Dylan passes it on, and despite his urging to simply get rid of it, Norma is intent on blackmailing Bob (it has financial evidence linking several powerful people in White Pine Bay to the drug trade) to get what she wants. Romero, also opposed, reluctantly accompanies her, and Bob surprisingly folds. Yeah, but for how long? Meanwhile, Dylan worries that Norman told Norma about Caleb. Norman thinks he did, but Norma insists that he didn’t, and he had a blackout. Given Norma’s implosive reaction when Dylan makes the reveal later (storming out of the house and leaving the boys), I’d say the latter. Meanwhile, Romero finds his investigation into the prostitutes’ murders going nowhere. And Caleb is offered a drug transporting job by Nosy Neighbour.
Just accept it and go away, Caleb. Stop spooking my Norma.
Thank Paris that Bates Motel has so quickly put a rest to the slackness of last week.
Vera Farmiga gets to chew the scenery and absolutely dominate this episode. Norma goes from getting run off the road, to excitement over the USB, to blasting Romero for his prudishness towards the blackmail, to successfully pulling off the blackmail, to the crushing news of Caleb’s return.
Come for the Vera, stay for the Vera, live for the Vera.
Why I hate this episode:
I fear so much for Bob’s impending rebuttal to Norma’s fucking of him. He rolls over far too easily, and Norma is so swept up in her naive joy over the victory that I’ll bet she won’t be ready when he hits back. As much as I’d love the drama, I love Norma even more.
Norma’s outburst at Romero, claiming he was sexist and was only opposed to her going after Bob because she was a woman, wasn’t totally appreciated. I presume she was just supremely frustrated and would have accused him of anything, but I am obligated to be disappointed by anyone who so blithely plays the Gender Wars card. Even Norma Bates.
Caleb gets some more development of his turmoil over his childhood with Norma. I am warming up to him a little bit, but his bogan, rapist face still irks me. The sooner he accepts Nosy Neighbour’s offer and fucks off, the better.
Oh, and the mystery of whether Norman did tell Norma about Caleb or not held up very well. Until the final scene, where Norma’s undeniable reaction to the news confirms that he mustn’t have told her. It would have been pretty juicy if it turned out Norma had been lying about the blackout just to keep Dylan on her side while the USB was being sorted. Or if they’d at least kept the mystery up a little longer.
But it’s not all bad:
If Norman didn’t talk to Norma, then he must have spoken to Apparition Norma. That’s hot.
Norman also steals a dress from Norma’s closet so he can smell it and hug it and hide it under his bed. That, too, is hot.
Norma’s scenes, as you might have guessed, are the highlights of the episode. Particular mention has to go to her facial expressions during Dylan and Norman’s sit-down revelation about Caleb being back in town. No other actor on television can sell a face drop like Vera Farmiga.
Her outburst at Romero, while sexist, is textbook Norma exasperated/crazy. Her shrieking is so effective that it manages to convince Romero to help with the Bob meeting. And I can’t fault her for that.
When she storms out of the house at the end, she not only packs her shit, but she also makes a point of taking her gun with her. Whether that means she’s going to crash with somebody or kill somebody is yet to be determined. In a perfect world, she’d be going to throw herself in Romero’s strong, guylinered arms. But I suspect she’s going to go see that tutor guy. Who it turns out isn’t only a love interest or prospective therapist: he’s both.
In a shock twist, when Norman comes around to believing he hasn’t already outed Dylan’s relationship with Caleb, Norman offers Dylan emotional support to break the news to Norma. It’s pretty great seeing the brothers united.
An Arcanum Club goon runs Norma off the road to show her they’re serious about getting that USB back. I think she’s most upset that her car has become (even more) janked up.
Norma gets best line of the episode when she’s complaining to Dylan about the Arcanum Club’s treatment of her for having the USB: “What’s wrong with these criminals that they can’t just hang onto their own shit? Like it’s my fault?” That’s truly something special.
Norma plays the blackmailing of Bob pretty well. She lays out exactly what she wants, promises there will be no further extortion down the line, and is adamant that she will not be giving the USB back to him ever, so she doesn’t lose her upper hand. I’m sure Bob has a brutal rebuttal brewing, but damn, that’s some fine blackmailing.
Romero is still trying to tie the Arcanum Club and Bob to the prostitutes’ murders. He almost finds a lead when he tracks down the grunt that dumped Lindsay’s body, but he’s dead. Maybe next episode, Alex.
Caleb has a great reason to GTFO of town. Take it.
Oh, and Norman is appropriately upset at Norma’s decision to leave the house.