After a relatively slow start to Season 3, ‘Bates Motel’ has turned into one of the best series on TV right now. The last several episodes have been particularly strong, and this week’s entry continues that streak.
As Norma lies in bed in the morning, Dylan comes to tell her that he’s going to be staying up on the farm for a few days. Actually, Dylan is about to go on his gun run (that will pay him $25,000 – a sum he hopes will help Emma get a much-needed lung transplant), but he doesn’t let Norma in on that. He does tell her that when he gets back, they both need to decide what to do about Norman and his continuing blackouts/mood changes. After Dylan leaves, Norma hears the sound of a bulldozer outside the house. She runs outside to see what’s going on and learns that Bob Paris has arranged for the swimming pool she asked him for to be built in front of the motel… Or has he?
Alex Romero goes to the car dealership where Norma traded in her old Mercedes a few episodes back. He wants to get the car back so he can return it to Norma.
Meanwhile, back at the motel, Norma tries to reach Bob Paris on her cell phone to ask him for the design plans for the pool. But Bob isn’t picking up, and we find out why. He’s kidnapped psychology professor James and demands to know all of Norma Bates’ secrets. James refuses at first, but eventually spills the beans when Bob’s men shoot him in the foot with a nail gun and beat him to a pulp.
While this is going on, Dylan arrives at the cabin to accept his gun running assignment from Chick. Caleb shows up to stop him from going. When Dylan insists that he’s taking the job anyway, Caleb offers to join him on the run.
The construction outside the motel looks less like a swimming pool than simply like a deep pit (hence the title of this week’s episode, ‘The Pit’). Norma asks one of the construction workers how deep the hole is, and he says it’s 23 feet. Alex arrives to return Norma’s car and she kisses him as a thank you. It’s obvious that Alex has feelings for Norma, but it doesn’t look like she’s romantically interested in him.
Alex goes to see Bob Paris and wants to know what the pit is really about. Instead, Bob uses the meeting to pass along some info he’s learned about Norma – particularly that she lied to Alex about what really happened to her late husband. Bob tells Alex that Norman killed his father. Bob goes on to say that Norma is just using him to protect herself and her family, and lets Alex know he’d really like him back on his team – whatever that entails.
Norma orders Norman to put some fencing around the large pit so that guests don’t fall in. Norman ties some rope around plastic chairs to cordon off the hole. It doesn’t look very effective. Emma comes over and stands dangerously close to the pit while telling Norman that she’s no longer interested in him romantically. Was I the only one watching this and thinking that Norman might just push her into the pit? Thankfully, he doesn’t. Instead, he runs back up to the house where he has another one of his reality-altering changes. Viewers now know this is happening when Juno, Norman’s taxidermied dog, comes to life and starts running around.
Alex returns to the Bates’ house that evening and confronts Norma about what really happened to her ex-husband. He tells Norma to think before she answers, because he’s only going to give her one chance to tell him the truth. However, Norma continues to insist that her husband’s death was an accident. Alex says goodbye to her, and the impression is that it’s for good.
After Alex leaves, Norman talks with his mom and confesses that he’s worried he might have sexual feelings for her. Norma laughs it off and insists that it’s normal for a kid going through puberty to have weird urges. They then cuddle together on the bed. Creepy.
Emma goes up to Dylan’s farm to leave him some brownies for when he gets back. No, they don’t have pot in them. While there, she meets Gunner, and gets the chance to tell him that she’s not interested in anything romantic with him anymore, either. He doesn’t say much about the news, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to eat those brownies before Dylan comes back.
Speaking of Dylan, he and Caleb arrive at the exchange spot, but no one is there. They hear a ringing and find a cell phone taped to a nearby telephone booth. The voice on the other end tells them to come further down the road and meet at an abandoned barn. When they get there, a group of men pull guns on them and demand to know where Chick is. As it turns out, they had no intention of ever paying the money and wanted to execute Chick. The leader of the group decides to execute Dylan to send a message to Chick, but Caleb springs into action before the man can shoot Dylan, and shoots him instead. This leads to a gunfight with the other men. Dylan and Caleb are able to get away, but so does at least one other of the group.
Pondering the fact that Norma has lied to him, Alex places a call to the District Attorney. Norma goes to see James at his house, but he’s packed up his car and says that he’s leaving White Pine Bay forever. Before he leaves, he tells Norma that he blabbed to Bob Paris everything he knew about Norman and her.
Rushing back to the house, Norma finds Norman down in the basement and tells him about James and Bob Paris and what they know. Norma leaves, but Norman has another episode in which he sees his mother – albeit a much sexier/sluttier version – still in the room with him. He runs outside and sees his dog Juno run past him and down onto the road. Running down the road to chase after the dog, Norman comes across a stopped car with New York plates. There’s a girl standing in the middle of the road who turns back to look at him… It’s Bradley! Or is Norman just imagining her?
I think I realized for the first time this week that the show-runners and writers of ‘Bates Motel’ could actually kill off Norma Bates and still have Vera Farmiga stick around to play the version that Norman hallucinates. I’m not sure if the series will really go there, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that happened. I’m guessing that Bradley isn’t a hallucination, although considering there’s a 23-foot pit outside the motel right now, this may have not been the best time for her to come back.
Only two episodes remain in this season that will surely be remembered as this series’ best, assuming the final two entries keep the drama coming.