Deconstructing 'Bates Motel': Carlton Cuse on Jake and Norma's Battle
Plus what's the deal with Romero? The executive producer breaks down the episode in THR's weekly postmortem.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Monday's "A Boy and His Dog" episode of A&E's Bates Motel.]
A&E's Bates Motel continued its creeptastic fashion of ending nearly all of its episodes with a terrifying ending this week when Jake (Jere Burns) leaves a reminder of Norma's (Vera Farmiga) recent past for the motel's new owner.
After being forced to check out early, Norma receives surprise of a lifetime when she discovers Deputy Shelby's post-autopsy and decomposing body left in her bed -- a likely sign that Jake is unhappy with Norma's unwillingness to continue all of Keith's (illegal) businesses.
Making matters worse, Norma turns to Romero (Nestor Carbonell) in an attempt to block the planned highway that would render the Bates Motel obsolete. However, she finds he's not only unwilling to help, but instead he effectively threatens her if she attempts to use the information she has over him against the White Pine Bay sheriff.
Meanwhile, Norman's (Freddie Highmore) behavior continues to send red flags to nearly everyone -- including his school administrators and therapist -- save for Emma and her father, Will, who begins teaching him the art of taxidermy.
So what's Jake's business in White Pine Bay? How will Norma respond to his haunting message? Is there a connection between Romero and Jake? The Hollywood Reporter caught up with EP Carlton Cuse to break down the episode in our weekly postmortem series Deconstructing Bates Motel.
The Hollywood Reporter: What an ending: Shelby's decomposing body waiting for Norma in her room after Jake checks out. What kind of message is Jake trying to send to her?
Carlton Cuse: Who says Jake put the body there? Maybe he reanimated. Maybe Shelby is a zombie. No, actually he's not. Too bad! That would be a very different show -- but a cool one (laughs).
THR: How much power does Jake have in White Pine Bay in order to obtain Shelby's body?
Cuse: It's not about power, it's about creepiness. He just dug the guy up. That takes a certain personality type.
THR: Jake is very much looking for something that he believes Norma is aware of. Is he looking for the sketchbook?
Cuse: The mystery of what Jake is looking for is very important. Even more importantly, he starts to suspect Norma is the one person who has what he wants and this has potentially terrible consequences for Norma.
THR: What will Jake and Norma's next interaction look like?
Cuse: Jake is not a guy who takes no for an answer -- from anybody. The more resistance he meets from Norma, the more force he has to apply to the situation.
THR: What's the nature of Jake's relationship with Romero? Considering Romero covered up Shelby's involvement in the sex ring, might they know one another?
Cuse: They might know each other and they might not. One of the big mysteries hanging over the rest of the season is what kind of guy is Romero? Is he good? Is he bad? Does he like to salsa dance? (Laughs.) We will learn a lot more about two out of those three questions before the end of the season.
THR: What kind of role does Romero have with the city planning commission? Could he and Jake both be connected to keeping the highway as far away from the motel for a reason?
Cuse: I like the way you think. It may or may not have anything to do with the highway, but I'm glad you are still thinking about that. It's cool that you are considering the multiple motives Jake might have for what he's up to.
THR: Norman's teacher sees first-hand that he's "emotionally unusual." How will we see her attempt to help or monitor him?
Cuse: Miss Watson has taken an unusual level of interest in Norman. But this puts her in a direct line of conflict with Norma. Norman is torn between the pulls of these women who act on him in very different ways.
THR: Will Norman's interest in taxidermy at this age help or hurt him?
Cuse: As far as I know -- unlike smoking of alcohol consumption -- there is no age limit on taxidermy. It's actually a clever ploy on our part so that we can have an entire line of Bates Motel squirrels, rabbits and birds to sell as consumer products (laughs).
THR: Norman and Emma's friendship may be the closest thing to normal he has going in his life. How will that relationship evolve in the final two episodes of the season?
Cuse: We love Emma and Olivia Cooke as an actor has knocked the part out of the park. Emma is in increasingly important part of the story. We can say no more.
THR: Norma said she was done with therapy. Considering everything that's going on -- and how spot-on his control assessment of her was -- could we see her consider going back?
Cuse: I would hope that Norma would see that additional therapy might have some value for her. That's an obtuse way of saying, yes, more therapy is in the future.
THR: Dylan is turning out to be quite the savior for Norma. How will her involvement in the town's drug ring continue beyond housing the trimmers?
Cuse: They are the migrant farm workers of the pot industry. They travel from locale to locale trimming, processing and packaging the weed. It seemed like a great idea to [executive producer] Kerry [Ehrin] and me that they would be the first batch of guests. Very ironic given Norma's vision of what her life as a motel owner would look like.
What did you think of Monday's Bates Motel? Hit the comments below with your theories about Jake. Bates Motel airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E.
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