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S2ep9: “The Box”

Original air date: April 28, 2014

This episode has a few turning points from which there may not be any going back, including the uncertainty of whether Norma and Norman’s relationship can ever be fully repaired. There’s also a question of how much Emma will be around at the Bates Motel, since she’s finally had enough of being pushed to the sidelines. But the biggest uncertainty is whether Norman’s going to be rescued in time before something horrible happens to him. The men that kidnapped him seem capable of anything, much worse than locking him in a coffin-like box in the woods. Unfortunately Norman, they have exactly who they were ordered to kidnap.

Norma returns home from George’s in the morning and tip-toes past Norman’s room so she can change out of last night’s clothes. Like she’s been doing with Emma, she asks if Emma’s seen Norman and the answer’s “No.” But the standard answer to any further questions is “No, everything’s fine.” This time, Emma gives it right back to her, even with a note of sarcasm we haven’t seen from her before. And I can’t blame her; it’s been a frustrating and disappointing thing for her to keep being brushed off all season long. Maybe some people would just ignore it, carry on, do their jobs and go home each day–but that’s not who Emma is. She’d too caring and wants to help too much, but it’s gotten her nowhere when it comes to everything going on with the Bates family.
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“I’m not stupid; I know something’s wrong!”

Being locked up in that leaking metal box would do nothing good for anyone’s frame of mind. No matter how much he screams for help, there’s no one to hear him out in those woods–and that box is a lot sturdier than it looks. I’m really worried for him at this point; what if this pushes Norman permanently into that dark place in his mind? Then the future would be extremely bleak for both him and Norma.

“if I went by the letter of the law, this town would be boarded up.”

Romero is determined to find out if Norman murdered Ms. Watson, so he enlists the help of his dad’s former detective partner to administer a polygraph, once Romero can get Norman and Norma to agree to it.

The scene of Norma abruptly dropping the end of the canoe she’s carrying is kind of funny. The canoe looks pretty sturdy, doubtful that hurt it at all. Turns out the phone call she gets is something beyond a worse-case scenario. Nick Ford will kill Norman unless Dylan does what Ford wants.
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“I think your mom’s outside…seems upset…”

Wow, Remo’s sure observant there. When Norma’s this upset, she’s not exactly one for quietness or subtlety. At the Morgan warehouse, I don’t think it’s that cool when Norma puts all the blame on Dylan. He does have a point that Norma was the one who got involved with Nick Ford despite being told repeatedly how dangerous he is.

“He wants me to kill my boss.”

It’s either Zane Morgan or his brother who’ll end up dead. I sure as hell don’t envy Dylan this decision he has to make. He tells Jodi that it’s time to get rid of Zane, and now Jodi may be having second thoughts–the worst possible time to have them. Great.

Emma gets some advice about taking a breather from an unlikely source: Romero. He probably meant it as stepping outside for a few minutes to calm down, but she takes it a different way: maybe it’s time to take a break from the Bates Motel altogehter. I can tell she’s tired of being ignored and taken for granted. Even though the secrets kept from her are terrible ones, it doesn’t make the situation feel any better.

Now Norma has the challenging task of keeping a big secret from Romero, pretending Norman’s just at home sick instead of being kidnapped. She also finally learns the truth that Norman had sex with his teacher the night she was murdered. Yeah, Norman’ definitely not going anywhere since he’s locked up in a box. Norma manages to hold it together long enough to get Romero to agree to come back to the house later, but the next scene with her phone call to Norman made me cry a little, right along with her.
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“I know you can’t hear me right now, but if you ever do…just know that I love you, more than anything on this earth.”

Norman’s meanwhile not doing well, reciting narration from the old movie “Mr. Big”, which I’m sure he and Norma have watched a lot together in the past. Thankfully he’s not in a catatonic trance and snaps back to reality as Nick Ford’s goon squad brings him lunch. Norman makes the mistake of trying to run away, only causing him to get beaten and for the necklace to drop out of his pocket. Oh shit. This is going to get back to Ford, who’s now going to have a personal vendetta against Norman–not just against Norma and Dylan.

Norma’s forced to pretend it doesn’t matter when Emma gives her two weeks’ notice, a scene that’s also painful because it’s still more secrets that Norma has to keep from her. But it does matter, way more than Norma lets on. She calls Ford’s office to let him know they’re doing just what he wants, but it might be too late.

Norman’s scared and traumatized to the point of having a hallucination of Norma being there and assuring him it’s all going to be okay, a departure from the first vision he had of her in “Midnight.” She’s being his sweet and loving mother instead of telling him someone needs to die. No matter how angry he was at her for concealing a major truth from him, he still turns to mental images of her in this time of trauma.
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“Everybody’s mother lives inside them.”

I don’t know about every last person, but this is an irrefutable truth with Norman and Norma. The visions he’s having of her are also giving us a chilling glimpse of a possible future–one where these visions of her will be all he has left. And that just might be because of something he does.

*I had to stop writing for a little while here. This scene made me cry all over again.

Even with the fight over Norma keeping that big secret from him, Norman still loves her. More than anything. She will always be with him.

Meanwhile, Dylan finds out killing Zane is not going to be a quick or easy job. Zane has a cadre of his own bodyguards around him and wants Dylan’s gun taken away. Zane might be a trigger-happy nutcase, but he’s still got the wherewithal to develop suspicion of Dylan and who’s side he might be on. Dylan gets the point that he has to choose between Jodi and Zane, making the situation that much more impossible. There is one good idea that comes out of this meeting: getting Nick Ford off the map.

“It’s George.”

“Oh shit.”

Yeah, George has to show up at the most inopportune time when Norma’s trying to deal with the kidnapping as best she’s able to. With that two-word reaction, I can tell Norma’s not happy with her impulsive, reactive decision to sleep with George, She’s probably also thinking now he’ll be that much tougher to get rid of. Like I’ve said from the beginning of the whole George-scenario, romance is not in the cards for Norma and him. Not now, and likely not ever. Well, especially not ever–once she lets him have it about what she really thinks. I’m sure it’s from the pent-up stress and fear over Norman, but Norma lets George have it all the same:

“You want to know why you don’t get me? You come from a world of people who aren’t even real!”
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Not a great move, and Norma’s attempt at an apology does nothing to take those words back. Emma sees the whole thing from the parking lot, and it’s sweet that she went back to comfort Norma even with how much Emma’s been shut out.

Dylan goes to Nick Ford’s house and ends up killing him after a scuffle. Ford was getting ready to take Dylan outside and shoot him, but Dylan hit him across the face with a fireplace poker. Unfortunately Ford’s dead before he can tell where he’s keeping Norman. Two steps forward and one step back, here as well.

Norma’s asleep on Norman’s bed when Romero pounding on the front door wakes her up. He refuses to leave without talking to Norman, and now he gets the truth that Nick Ford kidnapped him to force Dylan to kill someone. Now she just has to trust that the sheriff will take care of it.

If it’s possible, Norman’s in even worse shape after so long in the box–shivering and soaking wet in the cold rain. I feel awful for him and just want him to get rescued before he gets pneumonia! Or has a permanent mental breakdown. Speaking of retreating inside his own head, memories of what really happened with Ms. Watson are starting to finally come to the surface. He had sex with her while he was blacked out and in that dark headspace–the reason he didn’t remember that or cutting her throat right after. The morphing images of Norman’s and Norma’s faces are so terrifying yet so beautiful at the same time in this flashback.

Norman jolts awake, still trapped in the box–and now trapped with the terrible memory of what he did. He never wanted to hurt anyone, but now he’s figured out the truth on his own–of what he can do when he blacks out. How in the hell is this otherwise sweet boy going to handle this horrid thing about himself? Maybe he’ll gain some understanding of why Norma tried to keep this from him, but regardless–it’s a truth that could likely shatter anyone.

Because these last three season 2 episodes are collectively an emotional swan-dive off a cliff, they’re all getting 5 out of 5 blue hearts:
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One more: “The Immutable Truth”