As the wheel turns…
The fourth episode of the second season of Bates Motel is perhaps the most intricately plotted yet. Entitled, “Check-Out”, the focus is on Caleb, Norma’s brother who appeared in White Pine Bay at the end of the first episode. But he’s merely a spoke on which a wheel of other characters turns.
Dylan suffers shock from the revelation in last week’s cliffhanger that Caleb is his father. Norma suffers pain from the past being dredged up. Norman is caught in the middle, experiencing doubt about whom to believe. And Cody pushes Norman to an emotional breaking point. Business as usual at Bates Motel…
Did Caleb truly abuse and rape Norma repeatedly while they were growing up? Is Dylan the product of this incestuous relationship? That’s what Norma believes. She’s so upset about it, she can’t even face Caleb when she tries. Instead, she sits in the car crying when she drives to see him. When Dylan later tells her that Caleb denies the allegation, she responds that he didn’t know. She says she never told anyone about it. “I had no power to stop him. I wanted to tell him to leave me alone.”
Before Caleb becomes aware of Norma’s accusation, he finds Dylan and invites him to go fishing. Dylan replies, “I can’t talk to you; you had sex with my mother.” When he denies it, Dylan asks, “You saying my mom’s a liar?” Caleb tells Dylan that Norma “got knocked up in high school; that’s your dad”.
Confused, Dylan has two subsequent encounters with Norma. “What do you want from me?” he asks. When she tells him to put it behind him, he responds, “We have to live with consequences. I’m a consequence. How can I put me behind me?” Later, he tells Norma that he’s moving out. “You used me to get out of the house. You brought me into the world using me.” It sounds like Dylan tends to believe Caleb more than Norma.
Simultaneous to this drama, Norman confides in Cody (after refusing Emma’s offer to listen). She goads him to do something about Caleb. He’s reluctant, even up to the moment they drive to his motel with a tire iron. When he ultimately can’t go through with it, he raises the weapon toward Cody. But when he eavesdrops upon Dylan and Norma’s second encounter, Norman experiences familiar flashbacks and confronts Caleb.
Let’s pause for a moment. There isn’t a lot of development between mother and son in this episode; however, during a key scene when he’s comforting her on her bed, he seems a little too comfortable with her, which makes the entire situation uncomfortable for us. I even squirm a little when he later zips up her dress. These scenes reinforce their bond and to what extent Norman will go to protect her.
There’s a wonderful set of scenes for both characters which run parallel to each other. Both are asked loaded questions to which they respond with silence. For Norman, Cody asks him, “You actually love your mom, don’t you.” For Norma, Dylan asks her, “Why did you have me?” Then, a scene with Norma being dropped off in front of the Bates house by George is mirrored in a scene with Norman being dropped off in front of the Bates house by Cody. Each takes a sad trip up the long stairs to a creepy house that will soon be haunted by equally creepy memories.
Even with the intricate Caleb story unfolding, there is a little time left to advance other stories. Emma grows closer to Cupcake Boy after waking up with him the morning after Bradley’s memorial at the beach. Norma grows closer to George as he expresses sympathy about the impending bypass project. Even Sheriff Romero gets some action, first issuing a warning to Zane, “I can be a nice guy until I break you”, then, in the episodes closing scene, realizing Zane is not going to heed the warning.
Overall, “Check-Out” would have been an above average episode. However, during Norman’s confrontation with Caleb, he snaps in a way we’ve not yet seen. Let’s just say his “condition” is getting worse. And the picture of what we all know happens in the movie on which the series is based becomes a lot more clear. This event takes the episode to a higher level. So much drama… how can it be sustained?