‘Bates Motel’ 5.03 Recap: “Fast… Aim True… Right through the Brain”

‘Bates Motel’ is the type of show where not much can happen in an episode and you still come away from it entertained, because the actors involved are so good at what they do. We get such an episode this week.

As I surmised in last week’s recap, Caleb wasn’t killed by Norman, but merely knocked unconscious. As I also predicted (because, frankly, what else are you going to do with him?), Norman handcuffed Caleb to a pipe in the basement and is holding him prisoner. As Caleb regains consciousness, he first thinks he sees and hears Norma talking to him, but soon realizes that it’s Norman (still wearing a wig, dress and heels – although far from passable as a female). Naturally, Caleb begs to be set free, but Norman/Norma says that he/she needs to figure out what to do with him.

Waiting upstairs is Chick, who – as I also predicted last week and which we’ll find out later in this episode – has his own motives for siding with Norman. He asks “Norma” if he can stay in the house and promises to keep her secret (which, in Norman’s eyes, is that his mother is still alive, but the reality is that she’s a preserved corpse in the basement). Later on, the three of them (Norman sees Norma there, but obviously Chick does not) have a dinner and it’s agreed that Chick can stay if he helps fix the place up, starting with the window Caleb smashed when he broke into the house.

As for why Chick wants to stick (sorry for the alliteration) around the Bates household, he’s planning to write a book about Norman. Never mind that this guy is an ex-drug dealer and has never (before this season) shown any signs that he can string a sentence together. This week, he moves past jotting notes down and starts recording conversations between himself and Norman via a pocket tape recorder. At the end of this episode, he picks up an old typewriter at an antiques store in town, opting for the old-fashioned route over a laptop computer. The fact that Chick is writing a book probably means his character gets to survive the season – unless, of course, someone else finds all his notes/recordings and writes their own novel.

Alex Romero finally gets his prison transfer. He’s loaded up into an SUV along with both a male and a female officer. Along the route, they stop to get gas and Alex asks if he can use the restroom. Once inside, he asks the male officer to remove his handcuffs, which he (stupidly) does. Of course, this gives Alex a chance to get the jump on him, take his weapon, and make the officer cuff himself to the sink. Alex then exits into the parking lot, where he hijacks the vehicle of a customer and forces him at gunpoint to drive him out of there. Once they’re safely away from civilization, Alex has him pull over and strands the guy in the middle of nowhere. Romero doesn’t get too far, however, before the car is stopped by a flat tire and he has to ditch the vehicle by pushing it off a short cliff and out of sight. I’m not sure why Alex is afraid to keep driving until the car won’t go anymore. It’s not like he has to worry about additional car damage.

Anyway, Alex eventually makes his way to a farmhouse, where he tries to steal a station wagon but is stopped by a young boy with a shotgun. The boy says he’s going to go get his mother, which is a hint to viewers that she’s a single mom. In trying to explain his way out of it, Alex winds up getting (accidentally) shot in the chest by the kid. This is all we see of Alex this week, but I think what happens next is pretty obvious. Since the plotline for this final season can’t allow Alex to get back to White Pine Bay to confront Norman until the final episode(s), he’ll spend the next few weeks being nursed back to health by the boy and his mother (basically, a retread of the Harrison Ford flick ‘Witness’). No doubt, he’ll fall in love with the mom and try to hide the fact that he’s an escaped prisoner.

Back in White Pine Bay, Madeleine brings some cookies to the Bates’ house and Norman walks her down to the motel. She tells him all about how she and her husband are growing distant. She asks Norman if they can be friends, and Norman tells her that she reminds him of his mother. Any normal girl would run after hearing this, but not this gal, who finds it endearing.

Norman returns to the house to the sounds of Caleb screaming for him in the basement. Given his multiple personality disorder, the fact that Caleb is chained up in the house is news to Norman. He has a conversation with Norma, who gives him a gun and insists that he needs to kill Caleb for her. Norman goes down to the basement to do so, but can’t bring himself to shoot him. Instead, he frees Caleb and chases him out of the house by firing gunshots into the air. Norma grabs the gun from Norman and continues the chase. Caleb runs out onto the highway and gets hit by a car driven by Chick, who was on his way back to the Bates’ residence after purchasing his typewriter.

Episode Verdict

This time around, I assume that Caleb is dead. He got hit pretty darn hard by Chick’s car. I didn’t get into all the details above, but much of this episode is spent with Caleb expressing both his love and his regret about his relationship with his sister, Norma. The episode very much feels like a swan song for the character and actor Kenny Johnson.

Freddie Highmore continues to impress as Norman. How this young actor hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy yet for this role is anyone’s guess, but I hope he’s not ignored after this season. He’s been great to watch.

Aside from the death of Caleb (assuming that’s true), not a lot happens this week – just more setup for stuff that will happen as this season progresses. I’m not thrilled with the Alex Romero storyline, but it seems like the show-runners have sort of written themselves into a corner with him. The character really can’t interact with Norman again until the series’ climax.

Even worse off story-wise are the Dylan and Emma characters, who don’t even appear in this episode, even though both actors still have credits at the beginning indicating that they’re technically still series regulars.

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