Bates Motel S4 E6 Review: “The Vault”
There’s something we haven’t discussed much about Bates Motel, and I think it’s time. Fans of the film Psycho already know that at the end, the doctor explains that Norman was “already dangerously disturbed at the time” of Mother’s murder. But he also says that Norman didn’t “become” his mother until after he murdered her and her lover. Bates Motel asserts a different reality—that Norman had already become Mother long before he killed her. His therapist now knows this. I like Dr Edwards and don’t want him to die. It seems he’ll have to though, in order for all the Psycho stuff to happen. Okay, let’s get into it. Spoilers for “The Vault” follow.
We open with Norma trying to locate her brother. Is she going to sell him out to Chick, or warn him? Remember, Chick has promised to out her incestuous relationship with Caleb to her new husband. I thought Alex might already know Chick from his dealings in the marijuana business, but no. As Alex leaves for work one morning, Norma marvels at how amazing it is that she’s married to Alex and that they are happy. We find out this week that she even loves him. Of course this is important to the Psycho mythos, since Norman doesn’t just murder his mother. His murder is purportedly over jealousy over her and her lover. Want to know more about this? Hook yourself up with the Psycho IV prequel.
In his latest session, Norman is trapped under a bed while something terrifying is happening. When he comes to, he explains to Dr Edwards that he doesn’t remember how their last session ended. That’s because Mother showed up. We hear the term “dissociative personality disorder” for the first time this week. Edwards wants to help Norman, which is good. If he were a worse doctor (or a worse human being) he’d have probably seen a book deal in this. When Norman finally starts talking about his childhood, he uses words like “average” and “normal.” I’m always amazed at how many clearly dysfunctional people insist that alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, etc were normal. Perhaps they’re common, but so is cancer—that doesn’t make it any less terrible.
Norma meets Chick for lunch and to tell him she doesn’t know where Caleb is. It’s clear that she’s hugely embarrassed and humiliated by the idea of anyone knowing about this part of her past. Norma was four years younger than Caleb. This doesn’t make a big difference to them as adults, but when she’s 11 and her brother is 15? That’s totally rape. Even under the most liberal statutory rape laws, that’s still prosecutable. Even if it weren’t, no adult should be held accountable for what they did to cope as a frightened pre-teen. In the end, Norma isn’t going to set her brother up to be killed. And Chick’s family had very good reasons for beating feet. He needs to shut up, get over it, and buy himself a beard-trimming kit. Caleb also had good reason to beat Chick’s ass—Chick set both he and Dylan up to be murdered.
Speaking of Dylan, he visits Norman at Pineview this week. They have a good talk over a game of croquet. Dylan is moving to Seattle to be with Emma, which is all kinds of amazing. Finally Dylan comes clean about his relationship with Norman’s ex. Norman takes this news well, which he should. Watch for Norman to refer to Sam as “our dad” knowing that none of Norman’s husbands were actually Dylan’s father. Dylan remembers that Sam was a mean ugly drunk. Next, Dylan heads to the Bates home to pack up some things and talk to his mom. Watch for the line, “Did it ever occur to you that if you keep treating people like they’re fragile, that it might keep them from ever getting stronger.” Norman doesn’t know yet that his mom is married to Sheriff Sexypants—and everyone is afraid to tell him. Later, he stumbles on a discovery: the note and stuffed animal left with Norman by Emma’s mom. Oops. He then confirms that Audrey Ellis was indeed registered at the Bates Motel. Oops again.
Norman’s next therapy session is illuminating. He remembers that yes, his father was drunk fairly often. He remembers being afraid of him. What we didn’t expect was that Norman was able to conjure Mother so she could tell “her” story to Doc Edwards. This is, if you’ll pardon the expression, insane. Mother explains that at one point, Norma had every intention of taking her children and leaving. That night, they were on their way but couldn’t leave town because they couldn’t find Dylan. Sam (drunk and armed with a handgun) caught them leaving and dragged them back inside. A terrified Norma tells her son to hide. He does. This leads to a horrifying scene where Norman hides under the bed as his mother get violently raped by his drunken possessive father.
If Norma had called the cops after Sam’s murder, Norman probably wouldn’t have been charged. He was clearly defending her. So when Mother explains to Edwards that Norman “knowing these things” will “kill both of us,” we know she means it. Ditto, “Please doctor…don’t make him remember these things. Or I will have to do something about it.” This is when we realize that Mother is as willing to kill for Norman as Norman was to kill for Norma. Note: After the S1E1 of Bates Motel, fans complained that rape was an overused trope in stories about women. We’ve seen Norma raped twice on this show, and know that Caleb is a repeat offender here.
Downtown, Romero meets with Rebecca and gives her the key to the safe deposit box. She asks how big a cut of the money he wants, and he declines any. Norma’s bridge meeting with Chick is brief and surprising. I really thought she’d shoot him. I might have—because fuck that guy. Norma is many things, but she’s not a cold-blooded killer. Good for her! “I can’t get Caleb killed, and I can’t kill you, so I’m screwed…and now you’re gonna destroy my life. Well just go ahead—just go right the hell ahead!” Norma is used to feeling happy for just long enough for it to crush her when it’s taken away. People whose lives have been nothing but hell often feel this way. Too much happiness fills us with dread—a constant feeling that the other shoe will drop and we’ll lose everything.
Nestor Carbonell is delightful at the end of “The Vault.” As Romero and Norma begin dinner, Chick arrives with the new window. Figuring that the jig is up and Romero will leave her soon, Norma confronts the “window man” while her husband watches, totally confused. “Go ahead tough guy…do your worst…you giant, lame asshole!” Chick reveals nothing. Did he find his humanity? Was he afraid Romero might kick his ass? What workman leaves expensive work behind and asks the recipient to send a check? Immediately, Romero demands, “What the hell?” At this point, I was screaming at Norma to just tell him the truth. She must have heard me, because she did. Romero knows who Caleb is; they had Thanksgiving dinner together. “I’ve never loved anyone enough to feel obligated to be honest with them.” I was concerned that he might “forgive” her, implying that she did something wrong. He doesn’t. It’s a beautiful moment when she says to him, “Go on, pack your bag.” And he says, “Okay. Where are we going?” AWESOME! Romero also knows now that Chick was blackmailing her and threatening to ruin him around town. I don’t think he’s gonna take that lying down.
Romero and Norma are a couple now, a good one. They legit love each other. So it’s gonna be that much sadder later in the season when they both end up dead. I’ve come to love all these characters so much that I want them all to be okay. I want Dylan to get a legit job and live happily ever after with Emma. I want Romero to live. And even though I know what happens to Norma and Norman, in the back of my mind I wish that they’d turn out okay too.
They won’t though.
See you’s next week!