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Bates Motel “The Deal” 

Photo Credit: James Dittiger/A & E
Photo Credit: James Dittiger/A & E

We’re halfway through the third season, and in tonight’s episode, directed by Nestor Carbonell, it was Norma’s turn to unravel a bit.

After being run off the road by one of Bob’s goons (The Listener‘s Peter Stebbings) and threatened to return the drive, Norma is instead emboldened to hang onto it. Dylan wants her to turn it over to Romero, and then Gunner finds it and cracks it (because he’s handy) and discovers that it holds financial info on the White Pane Bay movers and shakers and their piece of the drug trade–to the tune of $15 million. Dylan reiterates that handing it off to Romero is the best idea.

So she goes to see him, and kicks off the conversation by asking him if she can trust him. He says he’ll do his best. She comes inside and tells him what’s on the drive, and that she wants him to take her to see Bob. He asks her if she’s crazy and she says it’s debatable but beside the point. When he is blunt that it’s a capital bad idea, she rails at him, recounting all of the injustices foisted on her and Norman–from her rape to his kidnapping–since they arrived in this “crummy town” and calls him out that if she were a man there’d be no issue with what she was asking.

Then she tries to storm out on him and she can’t work the deadbolt. She’s close to hysterical and Romero stops her and holds her and says he’ll go. What follows is a sublime meeting with Bob where he smiles at her while she asks for an exit off the bypass to her hotel, two billboards, and a pool and a fence. She adds that if she goes missing, the drive will be released to the FBI. And she tells him he can’t have his drive back but she won’t ask for anything else. And he says OK. I join Romero in being doubtful that actually worked.

While that’s going on, Dylan and Norman reconcile after Norman realizes that he thought he’d told Norma about Caleb but it was a fugue state memory that never happened. That morning, Dylan had spent the night in a bar parking lot, terrified to go home. When Norma calls him to come get her after her accident, he realizes she doesn’t know. He confronts Norman and Norman feels out Norma about what he thinks they discussed and it’s obvious that they didn’t. The he steals away with her dress, sort of embracing his mental fracturing head on.

Dylan returns later that night and tells Norman he’s ready to talk to Norma, and Norman apologizes for raging at him. He offers to stay and help. He’s tearful as he tells Dylan he hates who he was when he wanted to hurt him. They hug and then wait for Norma at the kitchen table. She’s happy, dare I say chipper, until she sees them so serious. She says it can’t be that bad because they’re all there.

Photo Credit: James Dittiger/A & E
Photo Credit: James Dittiger/A & E

Dylan starts talking and tells her how Caleb came back to town, and then stayed, and Norma is quiet, and Norman pleads with her to hear Dylan out–reminding her that Caleb is Dylan’s dad (something Emma says to him when she condemns him for trying to betray Dylan). Norma hears all of it–that Caleb is remorseful and just wants to say so himself, and she quietly gets up and walks out.

Once upstairs, she tears through her closet and bathroom, loading a suitcase. When she breaks a lamp, the boys head upstairs and Norman starts to panic that she can’t leave him. She takes her gun from under the mattress and goes down the stairs and outside to her (now fixed) car and Dylan is desperately trying to hold Norman back. Emma is there and Dylan tells her to go back inside. Norma yells that Dylan will take care of him. Norman breaks free of Dylan’s grip and yells “Mother!” after her as she speeds away.

So, Norma hit every note on the emotional spectrum in one episode–and Vera Farmiga has to have been exhausted when they wrapped it. We didn’t even talk about her weird lunch with her school friend, who admits he’s attracted to her when she asks him, but says he could still counsel her (red flag). Caleb also has his own counsel with Chick, who offers him a $25K job if he wants it. We also have a scene of Caleb’s own breakdown moment as he looks at a childhood photo of him and Norma and then takes out his rage at himself on a tree until Chick stumbles on him.

We also go back to that old adage about showing a gun and then using it, so who will Norma be taking aim at, and who all will feel the blowback when she does? She thinks she’s laid the groundwork to keep her family safe, and then she comes home to find out they’ve betrayed her. Norma’s always run, but she’s always had Norman to run with. Now what? I’d also like to know, at some point in all this, when she cut Dylan loose the first time. Was he 18 or did she leave him with her first husband when she married Norman’s dad?

Photo Credit: James Dittiger/A & E
Photo Credit: James Dittiger/A & E

I loved the blocking in the episode, and all kudos to Carbonell. I always like to see how castmates direct each other, and he’s the first to direct here–he pulled beautiful work out of the boys in their scene together in the basement. You couldn’t help but ache for Norman now that it’s dawning on him that he’s not well, and he can’t fight it or correct it. Freddie Highmore is so fantastic as Norman, and he and Max Thieriot are so great when they get to work together, especially because there’s so much subtext in who Norman and Dylan are to each other and to Norma..

I especially loved the scene in Romero’s house between Norma and Romero as she runs the gamut from defiant to needy, and she misses entirely that Romero has his own world of trouble swirling because of what she’s done. I like that they’ve become sort of fragile allies to each other. We know what he’s capable of, but he does genuinely try to be a good man where she’s concerned.

So many possibilities for what the rest of the season holds. I’m glad we have five left.

Bates Motel repeats at 11 pm/10c and throughout the week, as well as streaming on

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