Danger: This article contains major spoilers for "The Stray," the third episode of Westworld. To read more about the mind-bending HBO series, head over to Westworld World, the home for all of our Westworld recaps, interviews and theories.
Thanks to snappy Behavior specialist Elsie Hughes, I will be referring to my bathroom breaks from now on as vectoring. I should also be bashing my own numb skull in repeatedly like the wayward titular host in "The Stray" did with that boulder, rather than ponder the brain-freezingly complex plot of Westworld for another second. Yet the loop-like pondering continues.
"Kill him" is something I am imploring myself to do to myself right about now, because I have literally been watching, reading, and thinking about Westworld for nearly every second of every day since the series debuted on October 2. But "kill him" is also the two most important words we've heard so far in the show's first three episodes.
Whose voice whispers that to Dolores? Was it that purportedly deceased Arnold dude, the guy standing next to a young Robert Ford in that poorly Photoshopped old-timey candid he showed to Bernard before they discussed the trippy bicameral-mind theory? What was up with those scenes between Bernard and Dolores anyway? Did this episode advance or debunk the theory that William (of William and Logan fame) and the Man in Black are one and the same, only 30 years apart? And do I have time to vector before rattling off the rest of this recap? No? OK, Arnold, I'll just dive into it.
Dr. Robert Ford
Theory: if Dr. Robert Ford were a Dungeons & Dragons character, he'd be neutral evil. Better theory: Ford nixed Sizemore's lame Odyssey on Red River storyline in Episode 2 after that storyline had received approved by the Delos corporation's unseen board of directors not because it was lame but for three important reasons:
1) He needed the freed-up corporate largesse and exploited their seemingly desperate demand for new narrative to get the quick green-light on his mysterious Wyatt narrative, which he'd already been working on surreptitiously for months or even years without oversight;
2) he knew that Bernard has been meeting secretly with Dolores but that neither he nor Bernard planted the photograph that Peter Abernathy found, which would suggest the presence of a saboteur;
3) he suspected that the only way to thwart his savvy saboteur would be to change the rules of the game -- which is why he is moving to unearth or rebuild the original theme park, which, following the accident frequently alluded to on the show, has been covered-over entirely, other than the lonely steeple of the white church that he showed to both Bernard and that creepy child robot version of himself (whom we already know will turn out to be the creepiest kind of robot -- i.e., the kind with hidden robot face! -- thanks to the season preview trailer and this helpful graphic).
Why would Ford go through all this trouble to unearth the original park area -- which we see happening, along with him bad-assedly telling someone (probably Theresa) not to get in his way, in the trailer for next week's episode? Because the only version of Westworld known to Arnold, who died shortly after the park opened, is buried beneath metric tons of desert sand and tumbleweeds, and the only way to defeat Arnold, who'd rigged his creations with an insidious program glitch designed to help them theoretically "bootstrap consciousness" if their memories are activated, is to, as the Man in Black himself said tonight in Dolores' reverie hiccup, "start at the beginning." If only someone had an enormous, elaborate excavation machine.
Much like Lee Sizemore, I am smart enough to guess there's a bigger picture but not smart enough to see what it is. So I'll leave that theory there and just point out that the player piano in Ford's office was playing "Reverie" by Claude Debussy and that any robots among us might want to disrobe the next time he calls you in for a diagnostic checkup.
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive" is not a line from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but it might as well be, because Dolores, who read a passage from the Lewis Carroll classic, is a liar. With that chilling "yes" to Bernard when asked if she'll stay in her programmed loop, Ms. Abernathy seems to have climbed up Arnold's consciousness pyramid, past "memory" and "improvisation" to reach "self-interest"; she knows now that she can't answer certain questions honestly without risking deactivation.
After that revealing exchange, Bernard tells Dolores to run along before someone misses her and she returns to town, still in her loop, only a bit behind (it's night; she's usually in town during daylight). But with Ford deploying Teddy on his new horror storyline, Dolores -- who, as we learn in Ford's reprogramming chitchat with Teddy, exists merely as a lure for guests who want to slay a gunslinger and "have their way with" his girl -- rides alone back to the Abernathy ranch.
Once she arrives at the bloody crime scene, things seem to play out as usual: she sees her father dying (although she has a déjà vu of the original Peter Abernathy, not the creatively mustached replacement), she gets menaced by a thug (this time it's Rebus, a puzzle in robot form), and pulled screaming into the barn.
Only this time things go differently. Time blurs. She finds a gun in the hay. And then she hears someone with a gruff voice -- it's no one we've met before: not Bernard, not Ford, not the Man in Black -- say the magic words: "Kill me." And it's like a gun goes off in her head and her hand. The loop broken, and Dolores made into a two-faced liar, she bolts into the night. But to where? Yes, she falls into William's willing arms in the final scene. But it's not entirely clear, due to her flickering memories, if this is happening in the same timeline as the one in which she fled.
I have a crazy theory about what might might be happening, the kind of theory that could only be written by a sleepless zombie at 5:14am after literally 20 straight hours of mainlining Westworld. Dolores said to Bernard, "There aren't two versions of me; there's only one." Every memory Dolores is informing every version of Dolores that is having it, past and present. Once she learns that, and how to master it, time will no longer be a tether for Dolores; she will not be stuck in a loop.
Poor, duped Bernard: in his continuing grief about losing his only son with Firefly's Gina Torres to what may or may not have been a watery death caused by his not being enough of a helicopter parent, he has become blind to the "ingratiating schemes" that Dolores defines in robot voice as "asking personal questions." This can't end well for the park guests, hosts, clean-up crew, the world, and probably even Bernard, can it?
Look at the basement bunker where Bernard meets with Dolores. Where is this taking place? After she tells answers his question about staying with her programmed loop, she appears on the streets of Sweetwater at night, which makes me think that he's meeting her in a basement beneath one of the town buildings (probably the general store, where she buys her condensed milk. Think about what happens when Bernard meets her there. Dolores is clothed in her usual blue dress during those sessions. He also says that she should run along so that no one will miss her indicating he's pulled her from her loop. And we know that he is doing all of this in secrecy, not just because he tells her not to mention their discussions to anyone else but because he leaves his communication device in his living quarters (we see this when Elsie attempts to call him).
Why the need for such secrecy? He knows that Ford is monitoring everything. Ford knows all. And that might be even worse for Bernard than Dolores lying to him, or Gina Torres, who was awesome in Firefly and a lot of other things, being forced to have a Skype grief-off with someone who is so obviously being duped by a host and is having sad work-affair sex with a chain-smoking, self-described "bitch," who I worry might turn out to be a robot herself.
William & Logan
The storyline going on with William and Logan absolutely exists in a timeline prior to the events going on with the Man in Black. Does that necessarily make White Hat William the Man in Black? No. Logan could very well turn out to be the Man in Black. But William's story -- even though that final scene in tonight's episode makes it seem as if this can't be possible -- happens in the early days of the park.
How can I be so sure? It's all about the Westworld logo.
When William and Logan get off the train/hyperloop in Episode 2, we see shots of a Westworld logo that doesn't match up with the logo we've seen on technicians in the HQ scenes. And in the flashback scenes accompanying Ford's chat with Bernard about Arnold, we see the same logo that appears in the scenes where William is arriving in the park for the first time. These are the only two times we've seen this vintage logo, on a show where the modern logo is displayed frequently. Case closed. They wouldn't show two logos otherwise.
And the rest
• Elsie & Stubbs: is anyone shipping these guys yet? Also: the head-bashing host knocked Stubbs to the ground and seemed to hit him hard. Does this indicate that he could harm Stubbs, therefore indicating that Stubbs is a host? And is it just me, or did that turtle carving look nothing like Orion?
• Teddy: reprogrammed by Ford and given a much meatier part. There will be no happy ending for Teddy and Dolores' repeated meet-cute. Also of note: Teddy's last name is Flood. Wyatt is described by someone as being a pestilence. Sounds apocalyptic to me, just as Wyatt's horrific masked men sound like Tusken Raiders.
• Anyone else notice that the credits listed old and new Peter Abernathy and Walter, the two decommissioned hosts, and that the sheriff who had a fly-borne facial-tic meltdown in Episode 1 is now a bounty hunter on Teddy's mission and that his former deputy is now the sheriff (whom Dolores runs into after meeting with Bernard in the clandestine basement bunker)? More important, though: who else thought at first that the beefier, deeper-voiced bounty hunter William meets after killing the outlaw who'd kidnapped Clementine was Teddy? Give it up for proto-Teddy.
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