The big flashback gives us a glimpse of Ford, courtesy of a digitally de-aged Hopkins, looking like his Elephant Man self, some half-built hosts, and a few familiar faces in the background of laboratory shots -- spot Peter Abernathy, loaded with Arnold's "bicameral mind" code that will eventually drive him off the deep end -- but no introduction to Arnold, making his role in the company, and his eventual demise, all the more mysterious. Ford reveals that he died in the park after a long stretch of reclusive behavior. "[Arnold's] personal life was marked with tragedy," he says. "He put all his life into work." By the end, he was only speaking to hosts. Arnold's death was marked an accident, but Ford doesn't buy it. "He was very, very careful."
Did Ford, wanting the spotlight and feeling threatened by the potential of robotic humanity, play a part in his partner's death? Or is he vengeful towards the robots, leaking an aggression built up over a lifetime of watching them get away with murder? Are the "reveries" a step towards the future of artificial intelligence or a step backwards to the past, when the robots were simpler and Arnold was still around? Ford does love to sit in the dank Delos Corporation basement and talk to Old Bill, a relic from another era. Whatever happened to Arnold, Ford still carries around with him as ammunition against his successors.
"The Stray" gives us one major clue to unraveling Arnold's mystery: as Bernard returns to work, Ford stops him to remind him: the hosts are not real. "You mustn't make Arnold's mistake," he says, acknowledging that the death of Bernard's son weighs heavily on his colleague. Having seen Bernard's private conversations with Dolores, we know Ford's on to something. The grieving scientist wants something more out of the robots, just like Arnold.
The minutiae of "The Stray" frame Robert Ford as a possible villain for Westworld Season 1, or at least the adversary for the humanizing robots. His fears may also be the key to a pervading mystery: why are the robots screaming out for Arnold? Here's a heady proposition: if Bernard believes the hosts possess true consciousness, then he may also see a way to "bring back" his son. And as Ford hints, he may not be the first to dream of the possibility; what if his old pal Arnold not only treasured the robots as friends, but used them to rewind the clock on a "personal life marked with tragedy"? Maybe Dolores was built in the vision of his daughter. Maybe Peter was his father. And if Arnold died in the park, maybe he met his own maker and somehow became his final creation, a ghost in a machine.
It's far out, but not out of the realm of possibility for a show that's opened 18 cans of worms in the span of three hours. Human nature is at the core of Westworld, perhaps even more than we can possibly imagine.