Uh, that was amazing. And they tell you right up front, following up on last week's semi-cliffhanger: Sheriff Romero checks out the scene (Dylan has just killed Shelby after he took the entire family hostage), gets everybody inside, and then constructs a narrative that removes all blame entirely from Norma, Norman and -- to his adorable big-boy-badass disgust -- even Dylan.
I mean, he makes himself the hero of it, but considering you're the Sheriff of a town without laws, I can imagine it's best to nip shit in the bud. Like you feel weird buying condoms and you throw trashy magazines on the pile, but if you're buying, I don't know, lice shampoo, suddenly a couple boxes of condoms wouldn't be so embarrassing as a distraction technique: This is my metaphor for how Romero can say, "Yeah, we had a sex-slave ring and people keep dying at Norma's house, but it's all over now, shut up." I'll just take this lice shampoo, and some uh, gum, and this bottle of lube. What.
The teaser ends with Norma and Norman pretty much totally ignoring Dylan in their relief at being free of six episodes' worth of horrors, like the assholes they are, but next morning Norma's all about working Dylan's mommy issues. Right up until he tells her he's still moving out, even with the knowledge that Norman killed his father and is out of his gourd, at which point she turns back into her usual amazing self.
Under the house, Norman finds... Like sixteen dead Chinese girls! Just kidding, he finds a dog. That he names Juno -- which is after all just another name for "Mother," by way of "Goddess" -- and who, over the course of the episode, manages to symbolize every other lady on the show: First, she's a stray like Emma that Norman has accidentally brought to the house; then, she's Norma as Norman attempts to Petit Prince his way into their good graces; and finally, she's Bradley, when Norman and his creepy Nice Guy ways end up getting the dog run over... At which point he connects the dots back to Emma's dad, the taxidermist, with a chilling little shout about how taxidermy is the next best thing to life. (Norma, are you listening? You in danger, girl.)
Norma's of course phenomenal in this episode, taking Emma on a road trip to soothe her mommy issues and Norman's Bradley-related shitty behavior, and then engaging in some (what can only be called) "hijinks," as they spy on Bradley and Norma finally learns it was Bradley, not Emma, that swiped his v-card. (Emma is, of course, in it to win it" At this point the whole family's got her head so spun I think a teamup against Norman sounds just as likely as anything else, given how much shit Norma's pulling on her even when she's not being out-and-out manipulative.) In the end, a huge fight about how Norman is not ready for a girl like Bradley -- and that, just in case, Norma has hired Emma to be a constant presence at the motel -- that sends her into her requisite physical-comedy freakout and him off for a huge (500) Days Of Summer blowout declaration of love.
You know I have no patience for that shit, and Bradley doesn't either. She tries half-assedly to explain to him the obvious fact that she was explicitly hooking up with him out of nothing but desperation, and he tears off into the night. But because B.Rad is a great girl, she goes running after him... Just in time for a meeting with Mother, who is busy giving Norman a talking-to (her literal words coming out of his literal mouth!) and who seems just about ready to murder her for Norman, when Bradley throws her arms around him, in tearful apology. It's like you can actually see her hugging Mother out of his body, it's freakin' amazing. Highmore, you're amazing.
So after Bradley turns him back human -- which, I know I always say I cry, but I mean that shit was beautifully done, just wonderfully written, and directed, and acted -- he arrives at the motel just in time to see his new dog get run over, thanks to his careful taming of her, and the episode ends with a fairly terrified-of-his-intensity Norma pulling the car around so they can take the bitch to Professor Quirrell.
(Did I mention the incredibly fucking uncomfortable -- kitchen, of all places -- scene in which Norma tries to explain the ways sexual intercourse, the physical act of love, causes women to be overcome by possessive and emotionally consuming waves of oxytocin, while caressing her own breasts? Because that sure as shit happened and it was totally weird: And exactly what's going on with Norman.)
(Or for another f'rinstance, the scene where Norma and Emma watch Bradley do yoga while hiding Father Dowling-style behind a brick pillar, and Norma imagines Bradley blowing her son in such vivid detail that I actually had to take a fresh-air break because I can't even handle that shit, and -- sometimes we need reminding -- I am not even his mommy? Just a concerned bystander who wants to give him many hugs.)
(Or the fact that both of these things happen after Norma walks in on Norman masturbating and doesn't even bother trying to play it off? Because it was subtle, for any other mommy, but you know Norma's crazy ass sat right down on the bed next to him like a regular Chatty Cathy and held his hand while he desperately tried to lose his boner, and eventually gave it the side-eye as she was leaving, as if the boner were the uninvited party.)
In other storylines, Bradley is pretty into Dylan (and vice versa), which means any positive Masculine Presence Points he's gaining with Norma are going to end up draining out of the Norman side of the house, if you see what I mean. Which is so sad, because he loves them both, but especially Norman. He also tries to talk Norma through her post-post-post traumatic disorder stuff -- sometimes Norma can kind of act out in a manic way, did you know? -- with Shelby's death, to no avail, and ends up the only person concerned about the titular Man In #9:
A very odd sex-slaver (played by the vulpine Jere Burns, who apparently has no real interest in aging) whose one billion red flags Norma seems determined to ignore because he's a paying customer, which -- after a kindly fellow business owner points out that she's now the owner of a "rape-slash-murder motel" after all -- is vastly more important to her usual delusional narcissism concepts about reality.
So between protecting everybody from this guy with an unknown agenda (obviously his agenda is shooting Chinese girls full of heroin and selling their bodies) and trying to warn Norman off Bradley (who actually has no agenda, besides just being Bradley, and assuming that Nice Guys understand that women are people, which is a dumb and wrong agenda to have because Nice Guys are the Worst) Dylan is pretty much just the all-around cock-block of the week. No good deed unpunished, although I shudder to think what'll happen when Norman walks in him nailing her, which they both seem pretty set on happening.
So. Best episode yet? I think so, but it had all the things I personally like: Norma's wacky physicality breaking up devastating/inappropriate family dynamics, Emma totally game to juggle Norma's fifty pounds of crazy, everybody talking about how great and yet totally vague Bradley is, Dylan being a goddamn trooper like always, Romero playing the situation exactly right, that amazingly complex intertwining of emotional and plot arcs twisting around each other, hilarious Norma manipulations, those parts where Norman's eyes will occasionally go completely black like he is a demon, and best of all: The parts where you want to physically rip through the screen and save every, every, every single one of them.
Next Week: Norma finally has to admit that surprise, Obvious Sex-Slave Dude is obviously a sex-slave dude, who has managed to score a blackout deal -- the whole motel -- for one week out of every eight. The tense peace with Romero can't last too long, Remo's gotta show back up, and psychosexually speaking, Norman's shit with Miss Watson (now that Bradley is no longer the primary object) is set to escalate into crazytown... And presumably Juno gets what's comin' to her.
Norman produced for his mother the very same Asian sex slave he'd been convinced her boyfriend was keeping in the basement, and then -- long story short -- her boyfriend died.
Dylan hands his gun over easily to Romero when he arrives and the Sheriff confirms his Deputy is dead, and then just when they're all screwing their eyes shut tight waiting for the thunder to come -- except for Norman, who is still basically out of it -- he tells them all to head up to the house.
Norma wraps up telling Romero the entire first six episodes, except for the part where Norman killed her husband to begin with, but including the entire sordid awful story with Summers and the belt and the carpet and the girl. It was deliciously excruciating to live through at the time, but on reflection I guess you can see how quickly you could tell it.
Norma goes a little haywire -- "So that's the whole story, so you know everything now, I have nothing more to tell you, that's the entire truth, you know it all" -- and Romero waits for her to eventually wind down. Good luck with that, mister.
Romero: "Here's the story. I've been suspicious of Shelby for a while, and kind of thought he might have killed Keith and thrown him in the bay, and he was hiding one of these girls on Keith's boat and I was getting closer and closer -- a hero, a hunter, an uncoverer of life's darker mysteries..."
Dylan: "Ugh, for real? Men really are the worst, Norma."
Norma/n: "Shh! Dylan, this is scintillating. A fascinating tale of derring-do. That saves our asses."
Romero: "...Just then! Knowing Romero was on the case, Shelby tried to move the girl and after a manhunt in which I did not call backup, because I do not need backup, we had ourselves a showdown. I killed Zach Shelby with this gun right here..."
Dylan: "Fucking A. That is my gun. I did all of this you're talking about. Also, why did I get shot in the arm in this story?"
Romero: "Meh. You got in the way..."
Norma/n: "You do tend to do that."
Romero: "...In the way of my justice."
Norman: "What about Jiao? Isn't she off dead in the woods somewhere?"
Romero: "I guess. That happened before I got here. And killed Zach Shelby. With my enormous penis."
Norma/n: "This is the best story we have ever heard."