Spine-tingling suspense is supposed to leave you breathless, uncertain of what's coming next.
Bates Motel Season 5 Episode 3 achieved that over and over again, as an insane game of cat and mouse began with Chick holding the cheese, urging Norman and Mother to make moves they'd find difficult without his presence.
If only we could leap onto one of the many time machines currently available on the telly to find out what in Hades is coming next.
I don't know what your thoughts were after watching, but here were mine:
Did that really happen? WHAT just happened? I want more! Oh my GOD!!!
The action felt so intimate not only in that few characters were involved, but the material was moving beyond measure.
Reactions were all over the map, from being overjoyed at seeing Caleb alive, to wonder at how Chick was manipulating the situation with Norman's insanity so brilliantly, to screams of pain at the short nature of Romero's trip and the similarity between his own and Caleb's (final?) journey.
Can loving Norma Louise really mean the most tragic of all endings must be your fate?
Caleb: So are you going to let me going to let me go Norma. I mean, I'll just leave and I won't bother you again.
Norman: I can't let you go. You know something you're not supposed to know. You know I'm not dead. So we need to figure out what to do with you.
Caleb: What do you mean, "what to do with me"?
Poor Caleb. When he awoke in the basement, he had that singular moment of hope through his bloodied head that his Norma Louise was still alive.
Is it a fate worse than death to be living on through the demented mind of your son while stuffed in a dark room of the basement? All who knew Norma would likely answer yes to that question.
Even Chick, who has somehow placed himself into fictional territory within the world of the family, has come to realize that he's missed out on knowing more about Norma.
What little he did know, he liked. But those who loved her did so with their very souls on the line. Her son cracked down the middle to become his Mother. What, other than he knew, should he have known?
Caleb: What do you want?
Chick: I just want to talk.
Caleb: Talk? About what?
Chick: I unexpectedly found myself caught up in your family's drama. Is that the word? And I don't know anything about you. It's unsettling. Norma. I liked her very much, Caleb. I didn't even know her. I was hoping you could help me out with that, give me some details.
The conversation between Chick and Caleb was rather direct, yet we still didn't get the full story from Caleb about the sex between him and Norma and how Dylan came to be.
Chick: What was it like when you two were children?
Caleb: She was everything to me. My mom was crazy. You know, she would get depressed, lock us in a room for a day, two. No food, no bathroom, and the only thing that got me through all that was being with Norma.
Chick: And when did you two split up?
Caleb: She left when she was 17. She took off with some guy from high school.
Chick: Because you were raping her?
Caleb: Nah. I don't want to talk about that.
Chick: Did you keep in contact after that?
Caleb: Not much. She let me know when Dylan was born, Norman.
It's worth noting Norma was never out of contact with Caleb, and Caleb was happy just knowing she was in the world. Whatever the nature of their bond, it went beyond anything we'd likely be able to understand because of their unique circumstances.
That Caleb still dreams of their childhood in such detail and recalls their relationship so fondly, much as we saw Norma do when she was breathing, only supports the theory that theirs is unlike any story of which we've been familiar.
It breaks my heart that we may never know the truth behind Dylan's arrival, that he will never fully understand from either parent, either under duress or because trauma finally forces it out of Caleb, how he came to be.
Dylan knowing that would have eased a bit of his burden as a father even it was the ugliest beginning he could imagine.
Caleb thought Chick would be able to help him, even if their pasts weren't exactly in sync. Instead, Chick was fully engaged in the ludicrous life of Norman and Mother.
Chick: Hey, Norma? Can I stay here for a little while? I want to look after you guys while, while he's still in the basement.
Mother: I guess so.
Chick: Are you scared of him?
Mother: I try not to be.
Chick: Yeah. Well, I'm here now.
Mother: Thank you, Chick. Good night.
Chick: Goodnight, Norma.
He found a way to interact with both of them, so neither suspected he was insincere. That's the first time Norman has been so far off his game, and the loss of Norma as his mother has become apparent.
The poor kid is so far gone. He continues to be awake and active for hours the rest of us would find prohibitive to our health. Combine that with the fact his brain isn't working properly and you'd think he'd be on the verge of collapse.
Perhaps that's why Chick volunteered to both sides of his psyche to stick around the house. Maybe he's genuinely concerned for the kid's well-being. Then again, maybe he just wants to become a writer so badly that he's willing to take the chance rattling the chains of a madman.
He sees himself as a viewer of the action, a scientist of sorts, unable to step in and shake the foundation of what's about to happen. Whether it's for the story or because Chick himself is mad and considers himself invisible, who knows?
Leaving Caleb alone meant only one thing: Mother would have to kill him. Except even Norman as Mother knew her well enough that she could never kill Caleb.
That was such an interesting development, and a perfect conundrum for the Mother/Norman scenario to play out. Norman has never murdered anyone, so even taking the life of someone he intensely dislikes wouldn't make sense to him.
Freeing Caleb sent shockwaves through his muddled brain, and the two sides started battling it out fighting to kill Caleb before he fled.
You guys, Caleb was finally taken down by texting and driving!!! Seriously. It was coming, and the car approaching was screaming that it would murder Caleb, but REALLY???
Can Caleb pull out of that one? I've seen people knocked flat harder than that by cars and they've gotten back up and walked away. The caveat is they weren't formerly chained up in a dank, dark basement after having been bonked over the head.
My mind says Caleb doesn't stand a chance, but my heart is begging for him to have yet another.
If he receives one, though, there is no reason for Dylan to return.
Can Norman hide the death of Dylan's mother and father from him? He can't continue burying bodies, never to tell his brother his entire family is dropping like flies. I suspect Caleb's death will lead to Dylan's homecoming.
Oh, Emma is so going to wish she had allowed Caleb to stay and been done with it. Secrets don't work. We've already been through that.
What about Romero, you ask? Oh good Lord.
Talk about a quick escape story.
Knowing he's still the man I love is what made the result (temporary, I'm sure) so terribly stunning. The look of concern and pain on Romero's face when Jason was begging for his life was pure Romero.
He didn't have time to tell the guy his recent history, but if he did, he would have. Delivering that kind of distress to anybody, especially after what he's been through, just isn't the Alex Romero trademark.
My hope for the farmhouse incident is the gun was loaded with rock salt or rice. Guess who has been googling? While it sure looked like Romero was bloodied up, it's pretty common for people guarding their houses with shotguns to use something nonlethal as noted.
The wound wouldn't be devastating and wouldn't keep a man on a mission down for long. He'd need to be bandaged up and would sure as hell be shocked at what just went down, but other than that, alright.
Fingers crossed, right?
Now. Onto the important stuff. Only once has an actor from Bates Motel been nominated for an Emmy. Vera Farmiga, Outstanding Lead Actress, 2013. This season the envelopes need to be more freely stuffed.
Freddie Highmore is doing a bang up job as someone suffering severe psychosis. My favorite moment of his affectation as Mother was when Mother admitted to Chick how happy she was she didn't have to hide every time he came into the house any longer.
The tilt of his head, the lilt of his voice, all of it was so perfectly delivered.
Ryan Hurst has been entertaining as Chick since he first aired, but in Chick's attempts to deal with Norman and Mother, he's getting an opportunity to do so much more. He borders on confident or somewhat flustered breath by breath.
Kenny Johnson as Caleb trying to come to terms with the fact his life is probably over at the same hands who killed his sister, swinging from fight or flight or just give up and die.
Finally, Farmiga has had to step into an entirely new role as Mother, one that resembles a couple she knew so well. She's not Norma, nor is she the Mother who Norman conjured when Norma was alive. She's morphed yet again, this time with a hint of Highmore's Norman in play.
Everything about Bates Motel is firing on all cylinders. We're speeding to the finish line with the wind rushing through our hair and huge grins on our faces, even when the material could make us feel miserable and sad that it's coming to an end.
Your turn! Share your thoughts on all things Bates related and hopes for what's next. Be sure to watch Bates Motel online if you're behind. And remind us...why are you behind?
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.