Mrs. Bates Goes to Washington… Well, White Pine Bay
The sixth episode of Bates Motel (season two) revolves mostly around two plots: Norma’s quest to get the expired Lee Bermin’s seat on the city council and Norman’s increasing instability. While Norma seems to be normalizing a bit, gaining the respect (if not the fear) of the townsfolk, Norman experiences an entire range of emotions, each one increasingly darker.
The episode (“Plunge”) opens with Norma reading the day’s headlines about Bermin’s death. Feeling her relationship with Nick Ford may have had something to do with his death, she tries to sever the relationship. Ford calls the death “sad and convenient”. “I’d never say convenient,” Norma replies. “Then you are either lying or ignorant.” While it seems she makes her intentions clear, we later learn that once associated with the bad guy, always associated with the bad guy.
Christine encourages Norma to run for Bermin’s seat and offers George’s guidance. (So, George is back after being absent from last week’s episode. However, Caleb, Norma’s brother, is apparently both gone and forgotten.) George used to be a corporate lawyer and can give Norma political advice. But it all comes down to chemistry, instead. He tells her all her research is not going to get her the seat. “There’s a force about you. You have to let that show. You’re the best part.”
Norman seems a little upset when his mother tells him that George helped her prepare and he acts passive-aggressive about it. “He’s right. You should listen to George.” Later he says, “Good luck, Mother. They’d be lucky to have you on their stupid council.” He’s more concerned with reminding her that his driving test is in the morning.
Lo and behold, after an interview with the mayor, Norma gets the seat. He tells her that she runs “with all the right people,” referring to Christine, George… and Nick Ford. He doesn’t appear very happy about it; he obviously was given no choice in the matter. But I don’t think Norma cares how she got the seat, as long as she can use it to help stall the bypass project.
Meanwhile, Norman continues to be influenced by Cody. At the beginning of the episode, this seems to give him joy. They blow off tech for the community musical to spend the afternoon at the swimming hole. However, when they go to her house to steal liquor, they must hide from her father in the closet and he has flashbacks about Norma protecting him from his father in a closet when he was a child. This induces another blackout.
When Emma pushes herself too far at the swimming hole, Norman erupts in anger. He yells at Cody, “She’s not a toy for you to play with!” He apparently cares for Emma a great deal, admitting, “I lost it a bit. I hope I didn’t embarrass you. Did I overreact?” She replies, “You seemed upset… as if you were upset about someone you cared about.” He says, “It seemed normal,” to which she responds (as she’s done before), “I don’t know what normal means.”
The events at the swimming hole awaken Cody’s conscience and she decides to share what she knows about his condition with Emma. She asks if Norman is “all right.” Emma responds, “He’s sensitive and emotional.” When Cody reveals that Norman has blacked out twice in front of her and told her it’s happened more than that (“Kind of like sleepwalking”), Emma feels like she must tell Norman, which, of course, is the last thing Norman wants to happen.
Timing is everything and Norma puts an end to Norman’s driving test by asking the instructor if someone who has blackouts can get a license (nope, not for three more years). Do you think this upsets Norman? After nearly crashing the car on the way home, he gets out and yells at Norma, “Go home Mother. You can’t keep me locked up forever. Since I can’t drive, I’ll walk.”
He proceeds to walk to Cody’s and confront her about tattling on him. Their argument wakes her father, Norman gets punched in the face, there’s a scuffle and… someone takes a tumble down the stairs.
The only other plot in this episode involves Dylan. As if addressing one of my concerns from last week, we learn that Jodi, Zane’s mysterious sister, had Dylan taken to a hospital outside White Pine Bay after he was hit by a car. That’s why none of the other characters seemed to be aware of the “accident”. That’s unlike Bates Motel to solidify one of its fuzzy details.
Anyway, we learn more about Jodi. Her parents started the business by growing an “awesome” strain of marijuana that everyone wanted to buy. She’s definitely running the show and regrets putting Zane in charge of the local operation. So she wants Dylan to be her eyes and ears, to basically run things without Zane knowing. I imagine Dylan is eager to help out since she prepares him exotic elixirs and crawls into bed with him.
I feel like “Plunge” is just an average episode of Bates Motel. I suppose it’s a “rebuilding” episode, laying the groundwork for future developments. But it lacks a signature scene, or even a single line that stands out. It’s not horrible, no episode has been; however, it’s a definite low point for the season. I’ll take an “average” episode of Bates Motel, though, over a bad episode of any other show.
That’s because we still get those little moments filled with meaning. We get Romero telling Norma that people can see through her upstairs window at night. We get inappropriate rolling around on the bed between mother and son. And we get Norma running down the steps faster than anyone ever has when Cody drives up with music blaring. These scenes alternatively hint at what we all know is coming, while sometimes actually building on what has happened before.
And it’s these little moments that make me smile. I guess it’s not such a bad thing when a show consistently delivers them. On the other hand, I also get impatient when a show doesn’t deliver more.