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‘Bates Motel’ Recap: Did Rihanna Survive Her Visit? (SPOILERS)

Variety logo Variety 3/28/2017 Debra Birnbaum

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Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched episode 6 of season 5 of “Bates Motel,” titled “Marion.” 

That famous shower. The soaring music. The water swirling down the drain.

And then…. “Screw this s–t.”

With those three words, Rihanna’s Marion Crane upended the storied “Psycho” mythology — and got out of that famous “Bates Motel” shower with nary a scratch. “It always made me laugh in editing every single time,” says executive producer Kerry Ehrin.

Instead, the victim at the other end of Norman Bates’ (Freddie Highmore) bloody knife turned out to be Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) — unrepentant philanderer and psychological substitute for Norman’s father, who we learned that yes, Norman did in fact kill.

When Marion finally finds out from Norman that the man she thought was her boyfriend actually has a wife, she escapes from him — and the murderous motel-owner — with her suitcase full of cash, leaving Sam to face the ultimate punishment in her place.

“Oh, Mother,” cries out Norman. “What have I done?”

Here, Ehrin and executive producer Carlton Cuse answer that question — and preview what’s ahead for the rest of the A&E drama’s final season.

Was it always your intention not to have Marion die?

Ehrin: No, we worked a long time on those two episodes and breaking that story. We tried out every possible scenario. We landed on the one that got us the most excited in the room and had the most impact, and both honored “Psycho” and pushed the story we were telling in “Bates Motel.” It’s telling the story of Norman and what’s going on inside of him and pushed it to a great place by having him kill Sam, who in many ways is a psychological stand-in for his own father.

Cuse: There was no way to redefine Marion Crane as a modern empowered woman if we killed her in the shower.

So has Marion escaped safely? Have we seen the last of her?

Ehrin: Yes, we have.

How much did you want to pay homage to the original, and how much did you want the scene to stand on its own? What instructions did you give to the director? 

Cuse: Phil Abraham made his own decisions. He’s a brilliant visualist. He’s not a only a superb director but he was also the DP for “The Sopranos.” Here’s a guy who really understood camerawork. We gave him latitude to decide to what degree he wanted to imitate the original sequence and to what degree he wanted to embellish and modify. I think he came up with a great balance.

The most striking difference is that it’s in color — which makes the murder really much more graphic and horrific.

Ehrin: That’s absolutely true. In certain respects, it has a reality to it.

It’s certainly real for Norman, who’s the most self-aware he’s ever been about his own state of mind.

Ehrin: Completely more aware. It’s an evolution in the story and in his relationship with Mother. While she’s a person created inside his own brain, it’s a very real relationship. It’s become more of a new deal at the end of (episode) six, a new deal where he’s going to be treated as an adult in the relationship and how that’s going to work out. Can they really trust each other? Is there a still a huge pull of control underneath? That’s part of the story.

Will he be getting more violent now?

Cuse: Yes. I think that the thing about this episode is that it’s very intentional that Norman kills Sam as Norman and not in drag (as Mother). He’s conscious of his action. That represents a real evolution for the character. The character is caught between his increasingly violent tendencies and desires and his own perception of the world spinning out of control. That’s clearly advancing toward a culminating act in the finale. I’m speaking vaguely to not spoil anything, but Norman is definitely progressing towards the end of the season.

Ehrin: He’s running out of places to hide psychologically. He understands now. He gets it. That’s a whole new ball game for him — what that looks like, how he’s going to handle that. what he’s going to want to do with that, good or bad.

And Dylan (Max Theriot) finally now knows that Norma is dead. Will he be coming to town?

Cuse: Dylan definitely is going to be more involved in the story as we go forward for sure.

Will we see more elements of “Psycho” in future episodes?

Cuse: I would say that there’s more of an intentional homage in this storyline than there is anywhere else this season. I’m sure people will read other stuff into it going forward. But we want to tell our story. We don’t want the viewer to be thinking that they’re watching a remake. We want the viewer to be engaged in our story and not be viewing it through the prism of “is this in or out of the movie?” We tried to be pretty discreet about what we borrowed from the original.

And Carlton, how did you enjoy your Hitchcock moment in last week’s episode?

Cuse: It was pretty fun, although slightly complicated by the fact that I wasn’t thinking the situation through. I was going to have to be wearing these trooper sunglasses which meant I had to ditch my prescription glasses. So I was driving that cop car with myopia, trying to hit the mark and not crash into Rihanna and give her whiplash. That’s what was basically going through my mind — and trying to remember my lines. It was a great jolt of terror and adrenaline. It was fun but nerve-wracking.

Any chance we’ll see you again?

Cuse: Finito. No mas. (Laughs.) It was fun to do but it was a little bit like if someone says, “Hey, do you want to shoot around with the Lakers?” It seems really thrilling. but then you get there and it’s massively intimidating. Because the actors are on our show are so good, I don’t want to be responsible for dragging down the median average.

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