Last week, Norman lost favor with his mother after telling Dylan about her scary, sad secret -- but gained it back when he produced for her the sex slave her boyfriend has been keeping chained up. We left things with Norma considering her options, and start this week with the old girl in quite the fugue state. While Emma and Norman watch, concerned, she eventually goes nuts and tries to drive off and confront Zach, but -- after a hilarious trainwreck struggle that gives Emma a close-up view of Bates Family Drama -- they decide to take care of Jiao and avoid the cops at all costs. Without even knowing that Emma's motherless, Norma jumps into super-manipulative mode, welcoming the girl into the family with an ambiguous embrace.
Dylan's murder of Ethan's killer last week earns him a promotion and new partner-in-crime, the intriguing Remo, which ups his confidence so much he decides to storm the Summers boat in search of the missing belt. The boys toss that in the harbor, setting Norma free from Shelby's smothering protection... But while they're gone, he shows up for a little nookie, and Norma is forced to go along with what's played pretty close to yet another violation. When he hears Jiao moving around in the motel, Shelby gets protective again, and with a spaced-out Norma not really protesting properly, he finally comes upon Jiao and chases her off into the woods, presumably killing her.
On the way back from the boat, Dylan puts a bug in Norman's ear about her killing his father, which pushes him further toward moving out -- and when they get home, Norma's so completely out of her mind she can't focus on what to freak out about first: Norman leaving her, or her boyfriend chasing his sex slave through the woods. (Guess which one she settles on!) Shelby returns and takes the entire family hostage up the hill.
A few minutes of unsettling domestic violence, as Shelby implodes, sends Norman into redrum mode, and he attacks him just long enough to set Shelby and Dylan up for a big gunfight that rages through the whole house, before passing out. While the boys chase each other around spraying bullets everywhere, Norma drags the comatose Norman out to the car, where they wait -- keyless and Cujo-like -- for the outcome. Shelby arrives, looking half-past dead, but before he can gun them down he drops: Dylan is the victor. She rewards him with an honest-to-goodness hug and then, while we wait for the cops to come see her latest murder, she tells him -- you guessed it -- the story of what really happened to Norman's dad.
At this point, halfway through the season, you probably already guessed it, but yes: Some hideous middle-class violence sent Norman over the edge that morning six or seven months ago, and he killed Sam Bates with a blunt object before spacing entirely. Norma put Norman to bed, set up the garage-accident, and got in the shower to clean off the blood, which is when the show started.
Following on last week's hair-trigger episode, this week's installment raised the ante considerably, while also reversing the majority of the storylines going into the season's last act. Shelby's dead, Dylan's been accepted into both the WPB crime syndicate and -- provisionally -- the Norman/Norma family unit, we've presumably lost the last remaining sex slave, the only piece of evidence that remains is the carpet sample, and everything's on the table w/r/t Norma and her kids. What could possibly come next?
Next Week: A weird man shows up at the motel, and going by history I'm going to guess that Norma accidentally has some kind of sexual contact with him and then murders him. But now that Dylan has irrevocably -- and explosively -- brought the protective/violent world of men into her house, and she's seen just how far down Norman's stuff goes, maybe she'll start listening to her poor beleaguered kids? Ha, just kidding. Norma's just gonna do Norma. Thank goodness.
Deputy Shelby is, in many ways, the perfect man. Which is how they get you. Nobody's actually a villain in their own movie, and he told Norma Bates a lot of stuff they both wanted passionately to believe -- and he meant it -- but at the end of the day holding murder evidence over your girlfriend's head isn't too far off from keeping her locked up in your basement on heroin, and he had both. Norman and Emma, in solving these twinned mysteries, ended up unraveling everything, and presented one sex slave to the other in a cliffhanger that twisted everything upside down and can only have redoubled Norma's feelings about men, their world, and her place in it.
Emma: "So your mom is in a total fugue state now? Is this normal?"
Norman: "Generally I'm the one who blacks out. I guess we broke her."
Emma: "Must be pretty tough to find out the person you're in love with is a monster."
Norman: "Spoiler alert!"
Emma: "...Oh, there she goes."
Norma goes tearing off, hilariously as ever, and Norman chases her down. The walk to the office from Room 11 is a long one, we know that -- but this chase to the parking lot is impossibly long and impossibly scary, and after watching Norma seethe silently and unmovingly for a good five minutes, somewhat cathartic. At least she's doing something.
Once Norman makes it to her, though, it turns into a whole different crazy struggle, with her peeling out in the gravel and aiming herself like a weapon at Shelby; she locks the doors and Norman dives in -- all eleven gawky feet of him -- for a new and improved Norma Freakout. Now, nothing is as loveable and funny and scary as Norma flipping out, she's physically one of the funniest people in the world, so there are economies of scale in play: Is this funnier than the King Kong fence-climb? Is it funnier than the trip-tropping vehicular evac from last week?
Maybe. It may be. But as they're doing donuts around the BATES MOTEL sign -- literal donuts, okay -- at least we have Emma to marvel at what we're watching, which makes the whole thing funnier but also more comforting: "Holy shit," she says, her passion for Norman and his entire situation growing exponentially with every revolution.