Previously on Westworld, “Chestnut”
Westworld – S1E3 – “The Stray” | Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Rodrigo Santoro, Simon Quarterman, Luke Hemsworth
I’m not as convinced as some that Westworld is showing us various timelines simultaneously or that this is all taking place on another planet. I’m not 100% against the idea that even the people who think they’re human (the workers behind the scenes) are actually androids, but I believe the story is much more straightforward than all that. Westworld doesn’t seem interested in revealing a major twist or a gotcha moment. In fact, despite our many questions at the end of each episode, it feels like they’re also giving us all we need to eventually figure out the answers. It might just take awhile, and if the series continues to be as fascinating as it’s been these past three episodes, I’m fine if they take their time.
The episode title most obviously refers to a stray Host (The Woodcutter) who wanders away from his camp, leaving his buddies stuck in a loop around a campfire that never gets lit. The woodcutter isn’t there to use the axe to chop firewood, and none of the other Hosts are programmed to use it. This stipulation sounds exactly like something Cullen would do, and makes me wonder if they’ve had issues of violence in the past. At the very least, they’re not taking any chances.
Elsie and Stubbs take off to track down the stray and find him stuck in a rock crevice. To examine him, they only need the head so Elsie places him in sleep mode so Stubbs can chop it off. For the second week in a row, we witness a Host reject sleep mode and respond violently. Though instead of harming the humans, he chooses to bash his own skull in with a rock.
Bernard has also been straying. He’s secretly meeting with Dolores, allowing her to speak to him in improv mode. Their conversations suggest that Dolores was already displaying signs that she’s different and that’s why they meet, instead of their meetings being the cause of her semi-self awareness. There’s no evidence to suggest that Bernard is the one who left the gun for her, but it comes in handy as it means she knows how to use one when she swipes Rebus’ and shoots him, breaking her narrative loop and saving herself from being raped again. Then she runs into the night.
Before that, though, she also goes off-script with Teddy during one of their talks. When he says they’ll go away together someday, she pushes for specifics. When will they go? Teddy has no real answer. And this is because his programming, Ford tells him, is only meant to keep Dolores in her narrative loop. They didn’t even bother to give the poor guy – who has died more than 1,000 times by Ford’s count – a proper backstory. But that changes when Ford uploads a part of his new narrative into Teddy, making him the arch nemesis to an evil and supernatural like villain named Wyatt. Teddy accepts an invitation to escort the Sheriff and a Guest into the canyons to hunt down Wyatt. The sheriff is killed when they’re attacked by cloaked figures with knives. Another Host escorts the Guest back to town and leaves Teddy to die. Again.
White Hat William got his hand just a tad dirty this week (he better had considering this experience costs $40,000 a day!). He doesn’t sleep with Clementine, but he does accept a kiss as gratitude after he saves her from a bandit. That little encounter got his blood pumping so he convinces Logan to accompany him on one of the bandit hunting narratives in the canyons. It’s there that Dolores literally falls into his arms after leaving her farm.
After being informed by Elsie that the two recent retired Hosts (Abernathy and Walter) were both talking to a voice in their head named Arnold, Bernard confronts Ford for answers. Ford admits that before the park was open to the public, back when they were still just creating and experimenting, he had a partner named Arnold. Arnold wanted the Hosts to have true consciousness, and he thought the way to do that was based on the Bicameral Mind theory: primitive man believed his own thoughts in his head were actually the voice of God. Arnold’s coding would act as such for the Hosts, but all it did was drive them insane. Arnold died in the park; Ford implies it was suicide. He cautions Bernard not to forget that the Hosts aren’t real.
This drives Bernard to wonder to Dolores if maybe he shouldn’t restore her to the way she was. In the end, he decides to see how it plays out and leaves her as is, but makes her to promise to stay in her loop and not disclose their meetings.
During his talk with Teddy, Ford begins to tell him about the new narrative as such:
“A fiction, which like all great stories, is rooted in truth. It starts in a time of war. A world in flames with a villain called Wyatt.”
Is this a hint that all of Ford’s narratives are based on something real? Are they putting the memories of real people in this Hosts or am I thinking way too hard? He also remarks that Arnold’s personal life was filled tragedy and it drove him into his work. Is this foreshadowing Bernard’s future? We learned this week he and his wife (ex-wife?) lost their son.
Why are the Hosts suddenly hearing Arnold’s voice now? My theory is that someone (perhaps Arnold himself) has been tampering with them and leaving items (the picture, the gun) to trigger this consciousness. The Woodcutter had an interest in constellations, carving the stars into clay figures. Elsie says he wasn’t programmed to know such things. Right before Dolores shoots Rebus, a voice in her head (which sounded like Bernard) said, “Kill him.” We know they learn and practice by interacting with each other even when the Guests aren’t around.
Is it possible that they are learning to question, want, act beyond their loops because of this voice (Arnold for the others, now Bernard for Dolores – though I concede it might not be his voice she heard) in their heads giving them the idea of a higher power? But hearing their old program code as an inner monologue and calling it a god doesn’t explain how or why they’d know the name Arnold? Is Rebus also remembering prior loops? He referred to his encounter with Delores as “this time.” And how does the Man in Black right into all of this?
See? Lots of questions, but I’m enjoying getting to the answers.
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