Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bates Motel: "Hidden"/"Dreams Die First" (Season 5, Episodes 4 & 5)

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"Hidden" opens with the immediate aftermath of Caleb vs. car. Norman, of all people, wants to call the police; this was just a nasty accident and nobody can be prosecuted. Chick begs to differ. They can't explain away the handcuff bruise on Caleb's wrist or his partly-healed head wound. Chick tosses Caleb's body in his trunk and later strips him naked and gives him a Viking funeral out at the lake. Community-minded Norman tosses Caleb's clothes in a local Goodwill bin (after laundering out the blood, of course).

Norman gives some of Mother's old dresses to Madeline from the hardware store (creepy). In turn, she invites Norman over for dinner while her husband is out of town. When they finish eating, Madeline suggests they bake a cake and watch movies. This escalates to making out in her kitchen. Norman, of course, reacts by running out of there like his ass is on fire. It's not because Madeline's a married woman and this is adultery; no, it's because Mother wouldn't like this one bit.

There's also a new sheriff in town and she seems to find something suspicious about Norman. Romero is still hitchhiking his way to White Pine Bay to murder Norman.

Confession: Not only am I remiss in watching the first 4 seasons of Bates Motel, I also have never seen the original version of Psycho. I can't really comment on how true the next episode "Dreams Die First" is to the source material. All I know is that Rihanna's character Marion becomes the victim of the eventual gruesome shower scene. She's also the woman Madeline's husband brought to the motel.

Marion wants to be promoted at her job, which her boss can't do because she doesn't have a college degree. Her lover Sam is deeply in debt, prompting to Marion to leave town with a briefcase full of cash and instructions to meet Sam in White Pine Bay. Marion gets caught in a vicious thunderstorm. The episode ends with her pulling up to the infamous Bates Motel.

In between, there's a side trip to Seattle. Dylan seems to be feeling just slightly guilty about throwing his dad out. He also confesses to Emma that earrings she wears once belonged to Norma. Dylan is worried that Norma could've hurt their mom. (Boy, is he in for nasty surprises if he goes to investigate).

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Strike Team Covers "The Spread" (The Shield: Season 1, Episode 3)

Posting this in honor of the 15th anniversary of The Shield's debut.

Previously on: Vic Mackey, commander of the elite Strike Team, killed the team's rookie Terry Crowley in cold blood. Terry had been planted there to investigate some of Vic's shady tactics. Captain Edgar-veda is working overtime to prove that Vic did it, but with no success, even after grilling Vic's right-hand man Shane. Vic also seems to have an unusually close relationship with an informant, a junkie prostitute named Connie. He even buys her drugs.

Present. Captain Edgar-veda is at the podium in the roll call room, announcing that it's warrant sweep day. Everyone present groans. Each officer has been assigned a list of suspects; word spreads fast on the street, so he estimates they have 3-4 hours to round everyone up. Vic watches the proceedings from upstairs, shooting people with a squirt gun that looks very much like a police-issue 9 mm. Suspects are assigned randomly, meaning a lot of extra driving for the uniforms. Danny looks through her stack and asks if anyone's willing to trade her an Echo Park for Koreatown.

Vic comes downstairs and sees Danny has been assigned a suspect named Virgil. During their last encounter, he swung at Vic in front of a bunch of kids. Vic'll take this warrant. Shane lets Vic know he has a visitor waiting in the lobby. Lem takes the squirt gun from Vic and fires it, shouting, "Police! Freeze, suckers!"

Connie is sitting on what looks like a pew. What is it with these cop shows and deconsecrated churches? Connie is crying. Vic takes her to the Strike Team's clubhouse. Connie tells Vic that one of her johns had a knife, Vic wants to see the damage. He pushes back her hair and helps her take off her faux-leather jacket. There's a cut from one side of Connie's neck to the middle of her back. One of her wrists is bruised. In addition, the john hit Connie and tried to rape her. Connie wrote part of the john's license plate on her hand. With what, I wonder? Vic brings Connie to Dutch, then asks him to take her to the hospital.

Vic and the Strike Team kick in the door of an apartment where a Virgil and a friend are smoking weed, drinking, and listening to loud rap. A third guy wanders out of the bathroom, asking who turned off the music. Lem instantly recognizes him as Derrick Tripp, a pro basketball player for the New Jersey Nets. The Lakers are playing a home game against New Jersey that night. "You miss the exit for the Staples Center, Derrick?" Vic asks. He reminds him that marijuana is illegal. When Vic pats Derrick down, he finds a gun in the back of his waistband. Derrick claims he has a permit, but darn it all, he left it back in New Jersey.

Vic tells the guys to take the rest of their suspects back to the precinct. Shane thinks it's gonna be a circus when they bring Derrick in. Vic notices a sign across the street advertising furnished apartments for rent. Derrick is always tough when he plays against the Lakers. "How'd you like to change the course of sports history?" asks Vic.

The landlord wants to know what the Strike Team needs an apartment for. Vic explains they're conducting surveillance on the building across the street; they'll be out by tonight. "You gonna break anything? It's a bitch to collect from the city, you know," says the landlord. Vic promises they'll be extra careful. The landlord tells Vic to put the keys in the mailbox when he leaves.

Shane brings in Derrick, who wants to know what the hell is going on. Vic says they're doing him a favor by keeping him out of the limelight. He wants to know if Derrick really did a sneaker commercial in one take. Presumably it involved a slam dunk because Shane thinks "that was some CGI mojo." Derrick is worried about losing sponsors because his contract has a morals clause. Vic will see what he can do about making this go away. He pulls out his phone, pretending he's calling his captain. However, he's really calling his wife.

Vic tells her he just arrested Derrick Tripp on weapons charges. Vic's wife reminds him that they have a parent-teacher conference with their son's teacher that night. Should she bring a change of clothes to work for him? Vic says that would help and Lem has the address. Vic hangs up and turns to Derrick. The captain is a big fan and will be coming down personally to make the charges disappear. Shane smiles and whispers to Vic that he's nuts. Vic thinks that without Derrick's outside shot, the Lakers can't lose. Shane better call his bookie.

Vic talks about Derrick getting mouthy with a ref the season before. "That call was weak," complains Derrick. It looked like a foul to Shane. Lem and Ronnie return with pizzas and 4 basketballs. Lem hands Derrick a Sharpie for an autograph. Vic assures the athlete that the captain will be here any minute. Derrick doesn't usually sign for free; in fact, he charges $150. Vic thinks that's understandable: "A lot of people send their kids up to score. 'Oh, Derrick, please sign this for me.' Then Daddy turns around and scalps it on the Internet." Vic asks Derrick to make out one of the autographs for his son Matt.

Shane thinks it's weak that a guy who makes $15 million a year charges for autographs. Derrick says it's nowhere close to that after taxes, his agent, publicists, managers, etc. Shane guesses that probably still leaves him with $6 million. Must be so hard to live on that. Lem and Ronnie don't notice the tension; they're too busy eating the pizza.

Shane tells Vic that he got Lem and Ronnie in on the action with his bookie. Vic is gonna pass; it's not about the money, it's about Lakers home court advantage for the playoffs. Shane is surprised Derrick can even sign his own name. "What do you care?" asks Vic. Shane wants to know what they're supposed to do about the rest of their warrants. Vic swears he took care of it.

Back at the precinct, a sweaty, puke-covered junkie pushes his way to the front of a long line. He tells the desk sergeant that Vic told him to turn himself in. Nathan the desk sergeant wrinkles his nose: "Line forms over there." Sergeant Nathan gripes to Edgar-veda that he's one guy doing a two-person job. Edgar-veda butters him up; he wouldn't have scheduled warrant sweeps today without his Most Valuable Policeman on duty. An attractive black woman in a business suit arrives, introducing herself as Marsha, Derrick's attorney.

Meanwhile, Claudette hasn't been able to find any other reports of prostitutes being raped at knife point. The partial plate Connie gave them had 600 possible matches. Dutch reports that hooker murders are up on the East Side and the last few had similarities. He's been studying murders in the whole city because "you never know when a disturbing pattern's going to emerge." Claudette thinks she's witnessing a disturbing pattern right now.

Dutch lays several crime scene photos on his partner's desk, all of prostitute murders: one beaten with a pipe, one strangled by hand, and one choked with a rope. Different locations and weapons each time, but each woman was found facedown. "You're stretching, son. Try yoga," says Claudette. Dutch speculates that Connie was meant to be the killer's fourth victim, but she got away. He's taking the information to Edgar-veda and asking for a task force. Claudette warns that he'll just say no. And Claudette is right. Dutch has another strategy: find Connie's attacker and tie him to the other murders.

Danny and Julien bring in a Latino suspect with curly hair. The guy knows he's seen Julien before, hanging around someplace called the Abbey in West Hollywood: "How come you never come in? It's fun." Julien tells the guy he's mistaken.

Connie paces in front of a computer, where Claudette is clicking through mug shots. She whines, "Why can't Vic take care of this?" I'm sure Claudette wishes he would. Connie suddenly recognizes one of the men and points to the mug shot. Claudette clicks on the picture; their suspect is William Greeley. He's only been arrested once for trespassing on federal property as part of an environmental protest. The charge was later dropped.

When Claudette leaves to call for a warrant, Dutch asks about Connie's relationship with Vic. She says they "have a bond that transcends sex." Okie-dokie, whatever that means.

Dutch, Claudette, and a bunch of uniforms raid Greeley's house. They find their illustrious environmentalist au naturale on his couch. Claudette advises him to put some clothes on. In the kitchen, the old-fashioned refrigerator is held shut with a padlock. Dutch calls for bolt cutters, wondering how many heads he'll find in there. When Dutch cuts the lock, he doesn't find heads or other body parts to speak of, just a lot of unlabeled glass jars filled with...something. Dutch doesn't think it looks like mayonnaise. He uncaps a jar and lifts it toward his nose.

From the other room, Greeley shouts, "You keep away from my children!" Alarmed, Dutch drops the jar and it shatters on the floor. Danny and Claudette immediately nope their way out of the kitchen.

Vic goes back to the precinct to meet his wife. Edgar-veda and Derrick's attorney Marsha want a word with him because Derrick was last seen in Vic's custody. Vic explains that Derrick happened to be hanging out with some people who had warrants out. The drugs on scene weren't Derrick's, so he was free to go. Marsha hasn't heard from Derrick all day and neither has anyone else in his inner circle. Vic plays dumb. Connie is back from the hospital. She's Jonesing and edgy; the other detectives won't let her leave. Vic tells her to just chill out.

In interrogation, Greeley insists he'd never hurt anybody. He quit his job as actuary 6 months ago, but has hobbies to occupy his time. Dutch deadpans, "I know. Nice sperm collection." Greeley beams and says, "Thank you."

Back at the apartment, Lem is lying on the couch after gorging himself on pizza, the bottom half of his shirt unbuttoned. Derrick asks again where the captain is. Shane promises he'll be there within an hour. Derrick wants to leave since the charges are getting dropped anyway; he'll leave the captain some tickets at will-call.

You see, Derrick has an important meeting with "one of my little L.A. honeys I bang when I'm in town." Shane thinks she might prefer conjugal visits. "Hey, bring her on down here, man. There's a bedroom," Lem suggests cheerfully. Shane gives him a shut-up-you're-not-helping look. Derrick guesses the place'll do since the girl didn't have a problem with sex in the men's room at Spago's. "Oh, you're a real classy guy," says Shane. For once, I agree with him! Lem helpfully tosses Derrick his cell phone to make his booty call. To protect and serve...

At the precinct, Claudette asks where Greeley was the night before. Greeley basically has no alibi; he lives alone and can't remember whether or not he went out. Dutch asks where Greeley was on December 15th and February 5th, but Greeley can't remember that either. Dutch asks if he knows Kitty Weir or Rosita Pedroza. Greeley doesn't and insists he'd never kill anyone because he's pro-life. So are the people who firebomb abortion clinics during business hours.

Outside, Claudette tells Dutch to rein it in. Dutch opines Greeley is a freak "straight out of an FBI textbook." Claudette doesn't necessarily disagree, but they had planned to use Connie's assault as a building block for the murder cases. Dutch knows Greeley wants to talk. Vic, watching from a doorway, reminds Dutch, "I asked you to find Connie's john, not Jack the Ripper." He wants to jog Greeley's memory, but Claudette says no way. Trick me once, shame on you.

Downstairs, Vic tells Connie that her john's been arrested. She wants to watch the ass-kicking, but she'll have to settle for jail time. Vic offers to let her lie down on the Strike Team's couch. "I can't lie down!" Connie says loudly, attracting the attention of everyone in the squadroom. Edgar-veda looms behind them. Vic manages to herd Connie into the Strike Team's lounge just as his wife arrives, duffle bag and their young son in tow. He quietly promises to take care of Connie's "need."

Vic's greeting of "Hey, hon" is rather strained. His son, Matthew, jumps into his arms. His wife has seen Connie, so Vic says Connie is just part of a case he's working on. Vic's wife hands over the bag. She has to leave now to take Matthew on a playdate. Vic thanks her for the "fresh cape," presumably because Matt thinks he's a superhero---awww.

And the kid isn't far off.
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Meanwhile, somebody knocks on the apartment door. A tall, thin blond with big boobs is on the other side of it. She's wearing a low-cut crop top, a belly chain, and painted-on jeans. She asks if Derrick is around. Derrick comes out of the bedroom and more or less immediately puts his tongue down her throat. Shane is disgusted: "Oh, save it for Spago's." The blond wraps a leg around Derrick, all but humping him in front of 3 strangers. Lem snaps out of his pizza coma to sit up and watch intently.

The girl goes into the bedroom first. Lem wastes no time in exclaiming about how hot she is. Derrick scoffs: "Adriana's a...par." He has a groupie in Seattle who's a birdie. Shane opines both Adriana and Miss Seattle have probably slept with half the league. Derrick hopes they all have earplugs 'cause "he's going in." Just in case nobody at home understood the meaning of that, Derrick adds an obscene gesture. When he closes the bedroom door, Shane mockingly repeats the gesture.

At an apartment complex, Danny and Julien head to their car after unsuccessfully trying to serve a warrant. An older Latina with her hair in curlers flags them down, talking rapidly in Spanish. I took two semesters of it and all I can get out of what she's saying is "music." I guess she's complaining about a loud neighbor. The neighbor in question is their suspect Ricky Harris. Danny gives the woman her business card and in Spanish tells her to call when Ricky comes home.

In the precinct, the Hispanic guy seen earlier continues to harass Julien from the holding cell. He's not a bad person; he just passed a bad check. The warrant is a mistake because he paid the fine and got a suspended sentence. All Julien has to do is call Curly's legal aid lawyer. Curly gets right up to the chainlink of the holding cell, insisting he doesn't belong in here with all these criminals. Danny smacks her nightstick against the fence as a warning to get back.

Upstairs, Greeley is repeating he'd never rape anyone and has never used the services of a prostitute. He doesn't have to because women need him for survival of the species. He explains why men are attracted to large breasts (better for feeding babies) and adds that women respond to his, um, "assets." Claudette saw him naked and wasn't impressed. Greeley tells her penis size is overrated; testicles are "the true seed of male virility." Oh boy, somebody get this guy a seat on Dr. Ruth.

Claudette goes out of the room and gets more background from her partner. Dutch talked to one of Greeley's old girlfriends. Our sperm collecting pal has a temper and an inoperable brain tumor, a lovely combination. None of which explains why he dumps the bodies facedown. Claudette tells Dutch forget about making a name for himself as a serial killer hunter; they have to corroborate Connie's story. "He wants to tell us," Dutch repeats. Everybody's a broken record today.

Outside the apartment where Derrick is stashed, Vic has just gotten a cell phone call. He answers, irritated, asking why Shane couldn't wait. "Listen to this crap," Shane snaps, holding the phone toward the bedroom. Vic is treated to a series of loud sex noises. He thinks it's funny. Shane doesn't share in his amusement. Derrick asks Shane to call the captain again. Shane looks like he'll go nuts if he hears that question again. I just might too. According to Shane, the only reason Derrick still has teeth is the money he'll be winning on the game.

As Vic hangs up, he hears a woman scream. This time, it's not in the throes of passion. It's terrified, pleading. Vic's cop instincts kick in and he races toward the sound. In what I swear is the same apartment block from the first Karate Kid, a crying woman is pleading with a man to give her baby Evan back. A neighbor shouts that the baby daddy is a crankhead. Well, that's super not-good. Neighbors all over are standing outside watching, but nobody seems to have the courage to step in.

Vic asks calmly, "Why don't you give me Evan?" Crankhead Daddy shouts that the baby is burning up and needs to be cooled down. Vic lies that he's a doctor. Crankhead Daddy sees through him. Suddenly, Crankhead Daddy jumps over the balcony and into the filthy swimming pool below. Mom, hysterical, runs down the stairs. Vic dives into the water, emerging with Evan, who's scared but still alive. I really hope Vic's tetanus shot is up to date. He hands Evan to his mom. Crankhead Daddy hasn't come up for air yet, so Vic goes back underwater.

At the precinct, Sergeant Nathan praises Vic for saving the baby. Crankhead Daddy is put in a holding cell. I bet Vic is glad he thought of asking his wife for fresh clothes; otherwise he'd be in those wet jeans all day. Connie is still pacing in the clubhouse. Vic gives her a rock of crack that he presumably took off the guy he just arrested. He tells her to blow the smoke out the window. He can't have anybody smelling drugs and getting suspicious.

Derrick and Adriana make out some more before they say goodbye. Shane is glaring at them. "Tell the captain he missed me," says Derrick, hand on the doorknob. Shane asks if one of Derrick's sponsors is Viagra. Lem and Ronnie laugh. Derrick is pissed; he has to go to shoot-around practice at 5:00. Shane tells Derrick that he's not going anywhere and their captain isn't available by phone. Derrick has (finally) figured out that there is no captain. He thinks he gave the guys enough: free autographs and a peep show.

Shane drops the n-bomb. Lem and Ronnie don't look so amused anymore. Derrick grabs Lem's phone to call his lawyer. He threatens that Shane's badge will look good next to his Rookie of the Year trophy. Shane tries to grab the phone, but Derrick won't let go. Ronnie and Lem jump out of their seats to stop the fight.

In the clubhouse, Vic lights up a cigar. Yeah, that'll totally cover up the smell of crack. He exits the room. Edgar-veda tells Vic that Baby Evan will be just fine. However, the captain finds it curious that the baby rescue happened in the same apartment building where Derrick was last seen. Vic shrugs that he lost his wallet during the raid and went back to look for it.

Edgar-veda tells him to put the cigar out. He surmises that the Nets will be hurting without Derrick. Vic explains in graphic terms that Derrick is probably just getting it on with a groupie and lost track of time. Edgar-veda relays this message to Marsha in a much more P.C. statement: "He's probably with a female admirer."

Julien opens the cage. It turns out Curly's warrant really was a mistake. He apologizes for the inconvenience. Curly wants Julien's phone number to "thank" him further.

Meanwhile, Claudette asks Greeley about his sperm collection. "So many people waste it," Greeley sighs. That is disgusting. He explains that his tumor may render him impotent, so he needs to save sperm so he can pass on his "essence." Hasn't this guy ever heard of a sperm bank? Greeley asks Dutch to step out for a minute. Dutch refuses, but Claudette says it's okay.

Edgar-veda advises Danny to apply for a sergeant's position. He'll write her a recommendation if she passes the exam; that way, she'll get a post immediately. He'd like her to be a leader. Danny knows his game: "You mean you'd like to promote a woman." Edgar-veda tells her that it's not how you get there, it's what you do when given the chance. Danny will think about it.

Danny and Julien go back to Ricky Harris's apartment building. She advises him not to get in the habit of doing favors for arrestees. Danny knocks on the door with her nightstick, calling that she has a warrant for Ricky. When she nudges the door open, Ricky is sitting in his living room with a bunch of shady-looking guys who'd be right at home on Sons of Anarchy.

Ricky and friends get belligerent, so Danny calls for backup. One of the guys heads for the couch, the cushions of which are sitting suspiciously high. Danny warns him that she'll blow his brains out if he moves. She orders the men to the floor. Julien checks under the couch cushions and finds a collection of automatic weapons.

Shane is still roughing up Derrick. The basketball player now has a dirty sock shoved in his mouth (probably Shane's). "What good's your 15 mil now, asshole?" Shane taunts. Lem points out that it's only $6 million. Just then, Vic arrives, demanding to know what they're doing. He knocks the sock out of Derrick's mouth. Cue Derrick screaming that he'll have all their badges: "When you can fill 200,000 seats at $200 a pop, then you'll get the cash and the Grade-A tail. Until then, drag your lily-white ass back home to Simi Valley!"

At this, Shane gets so incensed he draws his gun, informing Derrick that he lives in Hollywood. Vic walks Shane into the bedroom. Shane insists that Derrick needs to learn a lesson. "By doing what? Executing him?" Vic asks, incredulous. Shane gives him a meaningful look: "Well, why not? I mean, isn't that what we do now? We killed...a cop." Shane's eyes go wet at the last sentence. Vic repeats the story he gave Internal Affairs: Lem and Ronnie didn't clear the room, which enabled Two-Time to shoot Terry. He tells Shane to never bring up Terry again.

Back in interrogation, Greeley thinks Dutch could learn a lot from Claudette's maternal nature. Claudette is, in fact, the mother of two adult daughters. One is a teacher and the other is a newspaper reporter. Greeley wonders if Claudette ever thought of having more kids. She chuckles that it would have to be soon. First, she needs a man who's compassionate, responsible, and honest. Talk about 3 strikes with one pitch.

Greeley offers to give Claudette a son. She wants to know where he was last night. Greeley admits to picking up Connie. He got angry and cut her because she tried to make him wear a condom. He swears he never used a knife before. Claudette asks how many women there have been. "You'll make 12," he whispers. Greeley is sure his rape victims will forgive him once they're pregnant with his babies. He insists again that he didn't kill any prostitutes or anyone else.

Greeley asks Claudette when they can consummate their relationship. "Oh, that's not gonna happen," says Claudette. He orders Claudette to give him access to her lady parts and tries to grab her skirt. Dutch and Edgar-veda, who've been watching via closed-circuit TV, hurry to the rescue. Claudette has the situation handled via a swift kick to Greeley's crotch. Edgar-veda asks if she's okay. "The bigger they are..." mutters Claudette. Beautiful parting shot!

On their way out of the precinct, Danny tells Dutch about Edgar-veda wanting her to take the sergeant's exam. She's reluctant because she's not a good test taker. She asks if Dutch could be her tutor. Dutch agrees.

Vic pulls up to a corner where a street preacher is probably proclaiming the end of the world. (Again, I can't speak Spanish). Derrick doesn't even know where they are. "Well, that's your problem," shrugs Vic. He asks why Derrick would risk his livelihood to hang out with a bunch of thugs. Derrick says those guys were his friends before he made it big. Vic offers some sound advice: "If they were your boys, pull them up, instead of them letting them drag you down." He tells Derrick he's only a few short subway stops from the Staples Center. As soon as he gets out of Vic's truck, Derrick is mobbed by fans.

Sergeant Nathan goes to Edgar-veda's office to announce he put in his retirement papers. He offers to stay on for 2 more weeks to train his replacement; Sergeant Nathan has a system. Edgar-veda says that won't be necessary. They'll muddle through somehow.

Vic praises Claudette for kicking the pervert's ass. She says they wouldn't have found him if not for Dutch. "But you were the closer," Vic points out.

Julien visits Curly at his apartment and tells him that he isn't gay. Curly wasn't gay either until he admitted it to himself. He strokes Julien's face and invites him in.

Matthew's teacher tells Vic and his wife that she's concerned. Matthew isn't socializing well. Vic says a lot of kids go through a shyness phase and grow out of it. The teacher isn't sure it's that simple. She suggests they take Matthew to a developmental pediatrician or possibly a neurologist.

Vic's drive home is silent except for the radio sports update. The Lakers won the game 101-71, clinching home court advantage in the playoffs: "Derrick Tripp was a no-show after getting stuck in traffic returning from a charity event." Is that what they're calling it now? The announcer finishes with: "Only in L.A." End of episode.

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.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bates Motel: "Dark Paradise"/"The Convergence of the Twain" (Season 5, Episodes 1 & 2)

Full disclosure: I have not seen every single episode of this show (not even close). I tried to get into it back in 2013, but was so confused/off-put by Norma still dressing like it's 1955 while Norman has an iPod. The background information I know is cobbled together from the episodes I've watched intermittently and "previously on" segments. Spoiler alerts for this whole thing.
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Season 5 begins on a nice, sunny day. Norman wakes up in Mother's room and goes downstairs to find she's whipped up a lovely breakfast for them. They chitchat about Norman redecorating the motel rooms and such. The scene changes; the kitchen is really an utter disaster and there's no food on the table. It seems that last season ended with Norman murdering Mommy Dearest, taxidermying her corpse, and stuffing it in the basement. In Norman's mind, Norma is merely pretending to be dead and can't leave the house because of that. Norma, of course, is bitter and resentful.

When Norman goes to the hardware store to buy paint, he's intrigued by the blond female employee who dresses a hell of a lot like Mom. He realizes he has a stranger's wallet and almost uses it to pay. I have more than a slight suspicion he's been murdering the guests. Norman is quick to let everyone in town know he's adjusting to life without Norma quite nicely, thank you very much.

Norman has taken over the managerial duties of the motel. David Davidson (tell me that's not an alias) tries to rent a room for a few hours. "We're not that kind of establishment," Norman says haughtily. (No, just the kind where the occasional guest is murdered and the manager spies on guests having sex with their mistresses).

Meanwhile, Norman's older, illegitimate half-brother Dylan has gotten the hell out of White Pine Bay. He lives in Seattle, has a real job (last I saw he was starting his own pot farm), and is married to Emma. I remember her as the cystic fibrosis patient from Season 1 who lost her virginity to Dylan. She's no longer sick and the couple has a baby. Dylan throws a wholesome suburban barbecue to celebrate Emma's birthday.

An unexpected visitor turns up on their porch: Dylan's uncle/father Caleb (Kenny Johnson), who's flat broke after running into God knows what trouble in Canada. Is it cool if he crashes on their couch for a while? They let him in. Caleb asks to hold his granddaughter/great-niece Katie, revealing that he's done some Facebook-stalking to see her pictures.

Later that night, Emma wakes up because Caleb is making as much noise as possible while helping himself to half her birthday cake. Caught red-handed, he mumbles an apology; he was just too hungry to sleep. Had it been any other show, Emma might've joined him for a slice.

Emma owes a debt to Caleb that she can never repay; it seems he spent almost everything he had on a lung transplant that saved Emma's life. This allowed her to become a wife and mother, two things she never thought possible. Caleb is all "aw, shucks, you never need to thank me for that." In almost the same breath, Emma tells Caleb he needs to get the hell out of their house. She knows her husband Dylan is the byproduct of Caleb impregnating his own sister Norma.

Former sheriff Alex Romero is still in prison on some kind of frame job. He can't wait to get out and seek revenge on Norman.

The second episode "The Convergence of Twain" cranks the intensity up to 11. Norman is disappointed to learn his hardware store crush Madeline is married. Hoping to ease the hurt, Madeline offers to take Norman on a double date with her friend Joanne. Norman instantly recognizes Madeline's husband Sam as last week's "David Davidson." Sam, a real charmer, threatens to kick Norman's scrawny ass if he tells Madeline about his adultery.

Norma meddles, confronting her son about Joanne in the restaurant bathroom. She asks if he's gonna be "one of those guys" that dates someone just like his mother. At the end of the date, Norman gives Joanne the brush-off. Mother knows best, after all.

Oh yeah, Alex picked a fight in prison and purposely lost. He was able to convince the warden it's too dangerous behind bars for an ex-cop, so he'll be getting out soon.

There's another interesting scene where Norma pouts about not being able to leave the house. To pass the time, she uses language-learning software on Norman's computer to teach herself French. Among useful phrases like "The cherry is red," Norma practices saying, "The traitor was hung." First of all, it's "hanged." Second of all, why is that phrase even in the program?

Emma and Dylan seem surprised to find neatly folded blankets and a note from Caleb on their couch, even though Emma kicked him out last episode. Caleb drifts back to White Pine Bay to visit Norma. While checking into a different motel, the clerk informs him that Norma committed suicide a while back. Caleb is sure it's impossible; he was just visiting Norma's other son and he didn't mention that.

Caleb goes to the cemetery, where, sure enough, he finds a headstone with Norma's name on it. There's also an extremely long, flowery epitaph signed "Norman." Caleb falls apart, sobbing and hugging the tombstone. As bizarre and twisted as his relationship with Norma was, I felt really bad for Caleb. He and Norma grew up with crazy, abusive parents; the siblings could only rely on each other. (That in no way excuses what Caleb eventually did). Now rejected by his son and new daughter-in-law, Caleb has nobody to turn to. Whoever you are, that's a sad situation to be in.

After composing himself, Caleb goes to what I call the Haunted Mansion in search of his other nephew. The pile of dirty dishes in the sink and dust everywhere further convince him that his sister is dead. Curiously, it appears as though somebody is sleeping in Norma's room while Norman's bed is neatly made. Caleb also finds taxidermy books and gets spooked enough to leave.

Caleb drowns his sorrows at a local bar. Chick, played by fellow Sons of Anarchy alum Ryan Hurst, expresses disgust about Caleb's incestuous relationship with Norma and almost gets strangled for it. Caleb is adamant she wouldn't have committed suicide; he had warned her that Norman might snap. Why, oh why, didn't she listen?

Loaded up on liquid courage, Caleb takes a taxi back to the motel. He stalks the halls of the old house, screaming for Norman. He makes it to the basement and discovers Norma's body. Stealth mode Norman creeps up behind his uncle, clocks him over the head, and knocks him unconscious. Also, Norman is wearing a blond wig and a particularly hideous dress of Mother's.

Seeing the first 2 episodes of Season 5 has really made me want to go back and catch up on all the littler details I might be missing. The second episode in particular had a great, old-school horror movie feel to it. I was literally on the edge of my couch, shouting, "No! Don't go in the basement, you idiot!" I think Chick summed up the situation best: "Holy shit."

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