Here’s a little lesson in Murder 101 for my readers: if you’re going to kill a guy, especially if it’s in self defense after being violently attacked and you’re not Buffalo Bill, you don’t keep a souvenir. You don’t keep a memento from the corpse. You don’t, like Norman Bates, keep the dead guy’s belt. The police will invariably find it and you’ll be in hot water.
However, if you do keep the belt of the dead guy you’ve killed you’ll then have to pray very hard for one thing: that A) you can get romantically involved with one of the cops investigating the case and B) that cop is also helping run a human trafficking ring so you can turn the tables and paint him into a corner, if necessary. That’s what Norma, Norman, and Dylan succeeded in doing in “The Truth,” an episode that felt like a midseason finale in the way it swiftly wrapped up a lot of the biggest narrative strands of the season thus far — except that this is cable so we’ll have a brand new Bates Motel episode waiting for us next week. I hope you’re watching how it’s done, Network TV.
“The Truth” opened with Norma in a psychotic rage over the Chinese sex slave Norman presented to her. It proved that her boyfriend Shelby had been involved in the sex trafficking ring Norman and Emma had been investigating and that she had been woefully misguided in trying to pursue a romance with him. She got in her car half-cocked and tried to speed off for, in all likelihood, a violent showdown. Norman grabbed onto her car door as she tried to motor away, but she couldn’t shake him off. He jumped through the window, took her keys out of the ignition and through them away. Blind with fury, she said that she just wanted to talk to Shelby. Norman knew better. The main thing was that his Mom was so tired of seeing people get away with s**t. But to take down Shelby, you’d need a little bit more finesse.
So Norma calmed down pretty fast. So quickly in fact that she figured out how to manipulate Emma into not going to the police about Shelby. That wouldn’t be good, after all. Even with his sex slavery, he still had Keith Sommers’ belt and could destroy Norma and her son. Norma convinced Emma that they should let the poor girl rest until she’d truly be ready to go to the police, and in the meantime they’d keep her in one of the cabins. And to seal the deal Norma bonded with her over her past. Emma said that her mom had abandoned her, leading Norma to return that “she deserved better.” Emma practically jumped into her arms for a hug. How bad of a home life do you have to have to want to be a part of the Bates family?
Dylan quickly become an MVP when it comes to finding and eliminating evidence. He had a feeling that since Shelby and Keith Sommers had obviously worked together in the human trafficking ring, that maybe Shelby was keeping the latter’s belt on Sommers’ old boat. So he and Norman went down to the docks and broke in. Dylan always has to stir the pot, however, so he told Norman he thinks his mother killed his father. Why else did they pick up and leave without any word?
Back at the Bates Motel, Shelby showed up. And he was itchin’ for a little action from Norma. This put Norma in an impossible position: have sex with a man she despises just to stall for time…or what? So they start to have sex. But then Shelby heard water moving through the pipes of the motel, meaning that somebody else was staying there. And Norma had been saying that the place was vacant. Curious. He walked from cabin to cabin and finally stopped at the one the poor sex slave was staying in. He shouted, “Police!” And the girl came running out. She fled into the woods and Shelby got a shot off at her before Norma could intercede. We don’t know if she was hit. Neither did Shelby, so he ran into the woods after her. As soon as he left, Norman and Dylan returned, and Dylan announced that Norman was coming to live with him. A boy’s best friend may be his mother, but that boy needed to get away. Of course, before they could get any further with this, Shelby returned, gun drawn, and walked everybody up to the house for a little chat.
Shelby is obviously a psychopath. He sat everyone down around the kitchen table and started saying things like “Why are you making me do this to you?” as he was pointing his gun at Norman’s head. He then decided he would beat up Norma for the fun of it, and the son began to go into one of his detached-from-reality episodes. To Norman all went quiet. The only thing he knew was that his mother was in danger. So he charged into Shelby like a madman, allowing Dylan to grab his gun. Before long Dylan and Shelby were having a gunfight all throughout the house. Dylan managed to shoot Shelby in the leg, but he ran out of clips, meaning he’d have to run upstairs to get more. Shelby followed him up that famous staircase Arbogast will one day ascend, and we half expected that someone — Dylan? Norman? — would come charging out and stab Shelby on the stairs. That didn’t happen.
Norma and Norman made it to their car. Norman had suffered some kind of head injury and was zoned out. Finally, Mother called the police. They’d get help…although I don’t know how kindly they’ll take having to shoot at one of their own. The bigger problem was that Norma had forgotten her car keys, so they were stuck motionless in a getaway vehicle that wouldn’t provide any getaway. And just then Shelby came stumbling out of the house after a few exchanges of gunfire. He got to their car, raised his gun…and collapsed before he could get off a shot. The crisis was over. Well, all except that they’re going to have to explain the presence of this dead cop on their property and convince the police that Shelby was part of this organized crime ring when their key piece of evidence, the sex slave, was nowhere to be found.
Dylan wanted to tell the cops everything, including about what happened to Keith Sommers. He really believed, also, that Norma had killed Sam Bates. So Norma decided to level with him. Sam was beating her brutally one day, and finally Norman just had enough. He went into one of his “zones,” just like he did when he charged into Shelby and knocked Sam unconscious with a blender so hard that it killed him. (The fact that he likes to kill people with a blender makes him a spiritual cousin of Mark Moses’ Paul Young from Desperate Housewives, with Sam as Mrs. Huber.) Norman never even knew what he’d done. And based on what he’d just seen Norman do in the fight with Shelby, Dylan believed her.
Let the cover-up commence!
Is this show moving fast or what? Are you excited for where it’s going right now? And how do you think they’ll explain all of this to the police?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt