Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Bates Motel: "Bad Blood" (Season 5, Episode 3)

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In a Twitter video posted yesterday, Kenny Johnson promised this episode would be an "out of the park home run." Bates Motel did not disappoint. In fact, I'm pretty sure that ball hasn't even landed yet.

When we last left the Haunted Mansion, Norman had just whacked Caleb over the head with a shovel while dressed as Norma. Chick witnessed this and seemed more fascinated than disturbed. Norman, still acting as Norma, handcuffed Caleb to a post in the basement.

Norman woke up in Norma's room with no recollection of Caleb even being in the house. Chick brought Norman breakfast in bed and refreshed his memory on that. He spent the rest of the episode playing along with Norman's delusions about Norman being alive/and or Norman himself being Norma.

Chick also pays a visit to the basement, playing amateur psychiatrist to Caleb, whose head injury makes him by turns loopy and weepy. Caleb tells Chick how Mama Calhoun used to lock him and Norma in their bedroom, sometimes for a couple of days at a stretch. It was always okay, though, because they had each other. That goes a long way toward explaining how things worked out.

Chick asks, "When did you two break up?", a bizarre question to ask of siblings on any other show. Caleb says Norma left when she was 17 and married one of her high school classmates; he had no idea she was pregnant with Dylan. When Chick inquires about Norma alleging rape, Caleb as good as confesses by saying he doesn't want to talk about it.

Norma and Norman spend most of the episode debating on whether to kill Caleb. Mother says yes, Norman says no, but we all know Mother is always right. Norman goes downstairs and puts a revolver to his uncle's head. Caleb doesn't seem to care if his nephew pulls the trigger; in fact, he tells Norman to get on with it. Instead, Norman uncuffs Caleb, telling him to run away and never return a la Scar from The Lion King.

While all this is going on, Romero escapes his transfer to another prison with the classic "I have to pee" scam. He knocks out and cuffs the U.S. Marshal escorting him, then carjacks a customer at the gas station. When that car runs out of gas (?), Romero pushes it down a hill in a wooded area. His attempt to steal a farmer's station wagon is thwarted by the farmer's young, shotgun-toting daughter. Will he survive his wounds?

Unbeknownst to Norman and Norma, Chick has been secretly recording all the crazy stuff going on. (Last week in the bar, he was scribbling in a notebook). Chick plans on turning Norman's story into a book. While running errands for our young serial killer, he buys a typewriter. You know it's bad when the guy who raped and impregnated his own sister is the most normal person in the house.

Freed from the basement, Caleb sprints down the deserted road, screaming for help. Chick gets a text from Norman and takes his eyes off the road for a second, only to look up and see Caleb. Chick slams on the brakes, but it's too late. He smashes right into Caleb! Next week, Norman and Chick will have to deal with dumping the body of Norma's brother/baby daddy.

Even though I haven't seen the previous 4 seasons straight through, I have to say Caleb was an interesting character. His (major) mental issues weren't entirely his fault; he just wanted to be loved and looked for that affection in a very wrong place. Rejected by everyone else, Caleb sought refuge with Norma again, only to find out her son killed her, stuffed her body in a freezer for a while, and then mummified her. The scene where he hallucinates that Norman really is Norma was heartbreaking stuff ("I love you, Norma Louise").

It takes an exceptionally talented actor to make someone like Caleb even remotely likable. Bates Motel showrunners knew what they were doing when they cast Kenny Johnson. Even with his dark past, Caleb had moments of being charming and almost sweet. Take for example the season premiere. Emma kicked him out, but he still promised to do the dishes after his midnight snack; Caleb even folded the blankets before he left. Nevertheless, you don't forget who Caleb really is or what he's done. I'd put this performance on the same level as Johnny Depp's portrayal of Sweeney Todd.

RIP Caleb. I hardly knew ya.

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