S2ep4: “Check-Out”

Original air date: March 24, 2014

In case it isn’t evident, this episode’s title was one of the first things that sparked my idea for this blog’s name.

We pick up after the incest bombshell was dropped in “Caleb“, who turns out to be both Dylan’s dad and Norma’s brother. Poor Dylan; he’s got a lot more of my sympathy now. His often-bad attitude, his tendency to beat up on Norman and his frequent verbal sniping at Norma all seem relatively minor by comparison. They’re also at least a little more forgivable, considering what he has to deal with now. If we thought Dylan felt like an outsider before, he’s sadly the ultimate outsider now, in the sense he’s the product of incest–not only an outsider in his own family but an outsider in society at large. It’s one of the less admirable traits of people in general, but many are likely to shove the children of incest at an arm’s length and refuse to have anything to do with them–like they have some disease that might be contagious. Historically in many societies, the children of incest have been considered just as taboo as the act between their family-member-parents. Even if nothing was their fault. Another version of “the sins of the father being visited onto the sons.”

And nothing is Dylan’s fault; he didn’t ask to be brought into this world any more than Norma wanted to get raped every day, over, and over, for years until Caleb moved out. Now he’s probably going to try to keep this a deep, dark secret from anyone he develops any kind of relationship with, but as we’ve seen (and will see more of) with Norma’s family secrets, these things don’t stay buried forever. They have a tendency to surface when that’s the last thing the Bates family members want to happen.

Emma wakes up in Gunner’s room after a night of drinking, only to find out she’s not the only one who drank too much. Dylan went out on a bender and passed out in his truck. I can’t blame him for trying to drown this piece of news in alcohol. I think a lot of people would, or do something equally reckless. It’s sweetly sad how Norma tucks the covers around him while he’s still passed out in the motel bed. It may be too little too late, considering how much she’s pushed him away his whole life, which makes it that much sadder.

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Not the best thing to say to Emma: “What are you doing here?” Emma’s own feelings of being an outsider are going to escalate too, and that question from Norma does nothing to help. But I figure Norma probably wasn’t thinking through how that sounded and just blurted it out, giving the much more pressing issue on her mind. I do think she should’ve taken Norman with her to go confront Caleb. Norman’s her one constant and one protector. Turns out, Norma can’t go through with it. I think if Norman had gone with her, things would’ve turned out a lot differently as far as this part of their story.

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“How long have you known?…It shakes a lot of things into place.”

The exchange between Dylan and Norman speaks a hell of a lot of volumes on a lot of levels. It’s tough for me to picture Norma sharing that truth with Norman and the two of them laughing at Dylan behind his back about it. I just don’t see it in their natures to do something like that. Norma might’ve gone on about how hatred she might sometimes feel towards Dylan, but making fun of him for being born to her and her brother is too much, and it doesn’t make sense to me anyway. Not when that’s one of the most painful and traumatic experiences of her life.

Oh the irony about Dylan asking Norman “What if you were given a piece of information about yourself…” There is another piece of information about Norman that he doesn’t know, that Norma’s keeping from him. Just like other secrets, it’s going to surface later–which gives me an ominous chill.

“It’s a family matter, Emma. I can’t tell you.”

Emma’s right; she technically isn’t an outsider since she’s spent so much time around the Bates family for the last six months. Even with what they’ve all gone through together in the past, this is one secret that needs to be kept from her. It gives me the feeling it might be the beginning of the end for Emma and the Bates family. Given her nature to always want to help people, she can’t just ignore this and carry on at the motel, acting like everything’s fine.

Dylan confronts his dad with the truth, and he gets more denial–that Norma got pregnant by her high school boyfriend. But Dylan doesn’t believe him. Neither do I.

Norma’s understandably not in the best frame of mind, and the last thing she needs is another social outing with Christine. Throughout all this, she’s said little if anything to Norman–doesn’t want to face him, perhaps? Norman means more to her than anything in the world, and this has to change how he sees her. Possibly she’s afraid to face exactly how that’ll change. Even so, she still lies to him that he knows everything now. Well, maybe everything about her but not everything about himself. So I’ll call it a half-truth. Norman’s also really stepping in as her protector against Caleb. With the scene of him comforting her on her bed, it seems like Norman-and-Norma against the outside world, now more than ever.

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But the outside world won’t be shaken off so easily, and neither will Christine. It’s easy to tell Norma has a brief second of panic when Christine says “I know something about you, Norma Bates”, thinking it’s Caleb and the dark secret that’s still heavy on her mind. But thankfully that’s not the case. Norma looks less than enthused as Christine helps her pick out something to wear, and saying that Norman won’t be around forever is definitely not the right thing to say to Norma.

Meanwhile, Norman ends up with Cody’s phone number written on his arm. This proves to be very helpful later on. He also gets a glance at Norma with her black dress unzipped before he goes into her bedroom and zips her up. This whole situation with Caleb in town seems to be drawing them even closer together, in several ways. I can’t help but wonder for a second what might’ve happened if they hadn’t heard the door slam as Dylan came home, since Norman starting to lean in even closer. Once again, there goes that unique mix of sweet and vaguely unsettling that is Norman and Norma’s relationship.

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“How can I put this behind me? It’s me.”

Touche’ No matter how strong Dylan can try to be and move on from this, he’ll indeed never escape it. Norma might mean well by saying that, but it’s not going to work. It feels like the best thing might be for Dylan to put some distance between himself, Norman and Norma.

Norman gets the door when George shows up, and it’s obvious he’s still feeling especially protective of Norma…possibly even..a little jealous? “What time do you think you’ll be back?” seems more like something Norma would say to him when he was going out, not the other way around. George should probably tread lightly and not ever do anything to upset Norma…or else.

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Norman then gets to take the frustration and stress out on the set-building, and he then has to defend Norma against Cody. She genuinely finds it remarkable that Norman actually loves his mom, once he tells her the general story about Caleb–without going into specifics. Going to confront (and maybe beat up) Caleb themselves is initially Cody’s idea, though things really end up going wrong. Pent-up stress is a very bad thing for Norman.

It’s salt in an open wound for Norma as she has to sit through Christine’s husband Peter’s enthusiasm over the bypass road. That is an asshat thing to do on his part. George is pretty nice to her about it though.

“It’s your superpower: a tire iron.” I have to give it to Cody; she’s pretty damn fearless about going after a grown man with a tire iron, even if only to scare him. But then things start to get quite dark, creepy and graphic in Norman’s head. He starts having flashbacks of a teenage Caleb bending Norma over and raping her in the bathroom. How could he know that detailed image? Just his imagination? Or does he possibly have some mental/emotional link with Norma that’s so strong he can have flashbacks of her actual memories? It’s not definite or clear which theory is the right one, but the possibility almost seems…a bit supernatural to me. Either way, it’s the best choice for them to leave before running into Caleb.

The drive home with Norma and George is awkward, and dating is understandably the furthest thing from Norma’s mind. It looks like Emma’s faring better than George is in the love department, and that should provide her with a welcome distraction from being kept out of the Bates family secrets.

Sadly, Norma’s not in the best emotional state by far. The outing with Christine’s family has made things seem even worse, instead of allowing her to forget them for a while. She gets the news that Dylan’s moving out, which is the best thing–regardless of the cruel parting words between them. Norman gets home without being in the greatest frame of mind, either. All in the midst of a heart-wrenching exchange of the truth between Norma and Dylan, and it spurs Norman to go back to Caleb.

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The ending scene is one of the most frightening and disturbing; it’s still difficult for me to watch. It’s the first time we see Norman actually channel Norma, saying to Caleb everything that she couldn’t say to him herself. In a way, the effect is even scarier than a bloody murder scene would be. We see Norman through Caleb’s eyes–as crazy, but at the same time we experience how Norman’s giving Norma a voice where she has none. Even though it’s that uncontrollable dark side of him that’s talking, the words are coming out all the same. I still hold my breath when Norman pulls the knife on Caleb; we’re getting a good look at what may well be the future Norman Bates here, and it’s spine-chiling.

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Another thing that gets revealed in this shocker of an episode ending: Caleb’s dark side. When cornered, he can turn into a monster, despite how sincere and nice he seemed to Dylan in the very beginning. Was that mostly an act? It’s hard to tell for sure, because Caleb makes a permanent exit from the season. After he roughs up Norman and leaves him shut in a dark vacated motel room. Shutting the light off on his way out: final insult to injury.

This episode is full of intense twists and turns, running us the audience through emotional spectrums with hardly a pause for breath: 5 out of 5 blue hearts:



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What’s this whole experience done to Norman? Could it possibly push him further into that dark place permanently? If not for Cody’s number on his arm, who knows how long it would’ve taken him to come out of that trance and get home. Outside of Norma and Dylan, she’s the only person who’s getting an up-close-and-personal look at the black-outs and their aftermath. More of this waits for us in “The Escape Artist”

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