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'Bates Motel' recap: Monster in a box

Season 2 | Episode 9 | “The Box” | Aired Apr 28, 2014

Somebody took Norman! Thugs beat him in the rain. Thunder rumbles. They throw Norman in a hole, and he protests: There’s been a mistake — they can’t mean him!

Norma does the walk of shame, coming home after dawn, stale in last night’s clothes and the scent of George lingering like a halo. That’s just a guess — I don’t have Smell-O-Vision. Norman’s not home, Ms. Bates. She runs to his animal death den in the basement, then to the motel. Emma hasn’t seen him, but she wants in on the Bates family secrets that everyone works so hard to hide.

Norman yells for help in his tight, dank prison, bleeding in his attempts to escape.

Norma thinks Norman is just avoiding her and leaves threatening messages. That’ll be embarrassing later.

Sheriff Romero consults with his pop’s old law enforcement partner, Declan (Francis X. McCarthy), now a polygraph expert. Romero is calling in a favor: Test this kid to see if he committed a murder. It’s not just about righting a wrong. “I have to know what happened,” Romero says.

Nick Ford finally calls Norma with demands: Convince Dylan to do what’s required (kill Zane), and you’ll get Norman back safe. “Why’s Norman with you?” asks clueless Norma. She storms over to Pot HQ, insisting that Dylan do whatever Nick wants him to do — she’ll even help. “He wants me to kill my boss,” Dylan says. Norma: So be it. That’s some rash decision-making on Norma’s part.


Dylan visits Jodi at her bucolic estate: OK, I’m ready to kill your brother. Jodi: Mmmm,  ‘K.

Sheriff Romero hunts for Norman, pouncing on Norma after she drives up. He’s sick, she says. Can’t get out of bed, she says. In this moment, Norma shows what a skilled liar she is, and it gets worse: Romero breaks down and tells her about Norman’s semen being the second sample found in Blair Watson, that he had sex with her very soon before she died. Norma slips, slides, sidesteps and wiggles away from Romero and his hard truth-telling. He’s sick, she says. Can’t get out of bed, she says.

Inside, she collapses to the ground, hyperventilating. She dials her phone and leaves another message for Norman, but this one is heartbreaking, as her pain, loss and helplessness spill out into a voice message that may never be heard. She loves him so much, she says, “more than anything on this Earth or in heaven — know that.”

Duct-taped Norman, meanwhile, passes time monologuing from Frank Capra’s 1941 film Meet John Doe: “I’m gonna talk about us — the average guys, the John Does. If anybody should ask you what the average John Doe is like, you couldn’t tell him because he’s a million and one things. He’s Mr. Big and Mr. Small, he’s simple and he’s wise, he’s inherently honest but he’s got a streak of larceny in his heart.” Three Thugs & a Shotgun food truck pulls up. Norman flops up to take the meal. When the brutes all conveniently turn their backs for one to accept a call from the boss, Norman takes off running. When they catch him, Miss Watson’s obit and pearls drop. The head thug is Nick Ford’s right hand. He knew the boss’s daughter. Poop, meet fan.

Emma gives her two weeks’ notice at the motel. She practically pleads with Norma not to accept her resignation, but Norma barely hesitates in accepting it. What’s Norma thinking? 1) She doesn’t want Emma all up in her business anymore. 2) People who get close to this family often get dead, too. 3) There’s so much drama right now, she can’t deal with this teen’s emotional turmoil. 4) A sandwich would be nice. 5) All of the above (especially the sandwich).


Inside, Norma dials Nick Ford and leaves a message that they’re doing exactly as he asked. Thug No. 1 hands over Blair’s pearls and the obit to her daddy.

Bugs invade Norman’s box, then he hallucinates that Norma, in a sepia haze, is speaking soothingly to him. “I love you, Mother.”


Dylan arrives at Zane’s place with some groceries. All of Zane’s henchmen are there too, however, and they disarm Dylan. Zane strongly advises Dylan not to choose Jodi over him to run the business, then sends him packing with a message to Jodi that Nick Ford must be eliminated.

George shows up at the motel with flowers for Norma. Mistake. Norma has had more people pushing her emotional pressure points today than she can handle, so even someone poking around in her pleasure center pushes her over the edge. Good thing Emma stuck around in the parking lot spying on Norma, because when the blowup happens, she’s there to lend Norma a shoulder.

At Nick Ford’s mansion, Dylan confesses that he couldn’t kill Zane, but he can tell Nick where to find him. When it becomes apparent that they have reached an impasse, Nick pulls a gun, but Dylan fights the man and emerges victorious after swinging a fireplace poker at Nick’s head. Is it fatal? We don’t yet know. But it’s clear now that Norman will not be found so easily.

Norma wakes to her doorbell ringing and someone banging on the door. It’s Romero. The sheriff busts into the house looking for Norman, prompting Norma to confess absolutely everything — even the part about Dylan having to kill someone. Romero gets that steely look. He’s on it. Norma bleats that she trusts him, and having Norma’s sincere trust is pretty huge. Can Romero live up to it?

Norman shivers as the rain pounds down into his box. He dreams of Miss Watson. He remembers everything — that he hallucinated that his mother was there, that she convinced him to kill Miss Watson, that Miss Watson came on to him and that he slit her throat while he had sex with her. Norman breaks from his reverie with a start. He now knows the monster he becomes when he blacks out. And he howls.

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