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Westworld – S1E8 – Trace Decay

Previously on Westworld, “Trompe L’Oeil” 

Westworld – S1E8 – “Trace Decay” | Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed HarrisJames Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Rodrigo SantoroSimon Quarterman, Luke Hemsworth

Trace decay theory states that forgetting occurs as a result of the automatic decay or fading of the memory trace. Trace decay theory focuses on time and the limited duration of short term memory. This theory suggests short term memory can only hold information for between 15 and 30 seconds unless it is rehearsed.

I’ve done pretty well with not falling down other people’s rabbit holes when it comes to Westworld. I never could figure out Reddit, and I don’t read other people’s reviews. I’ve done this mainly to keep my reviews my own, but also because we podcast Westworld on our Premium show. People aren’t paying to hear me recycle other people’s opinions and theories. Plus, it’s just more fun to discuss and get it wrong as you go. Early on, one of our listeners mentioned the two time periods theory, and though I was skeptical at first, I’ve since come to accept that is exactly what’s going on. Yet, I couldn’t make sense of the scenes with Bernard and Dolores meeting in secret. Since I’ve been convinced since episode 3 that Bernard is a Host of Arnold, and since we see Bernard telling Dolores about the maze for (presumably) the first time, it stands to reason that we are seeing a third time period, perhaps before Arnold died.

Last week, I was fairly certain that William would eventually become the Man in Black because he got lost in the sauce and caught up in the game. Dolores has his nose wide open and when she dies, or when it’s revealed that she’s simply following her narrative loop and not falling in love with him while on some grand adventure, he’s going to lose his damn mind. But, I wondered, what if it’s the opposite? What if he takes Logan’s job at Delos (cause Logan’s death has to be the critical failure that occurred in the park 30 years ago, right?), bails out the park, becomes one of its biggest investors (hence him getting “whatever he wants” when he’s in the park), and visits faithfully simply to be with Dolores as best he can? What if something happened recently (I thought he was dying/ill; he never takes those damn gloves off!) that drove him to return to the park now, for one last time, to unlock the maze? What if he chose to be “black hat” this final time to cover all the heinous things he needs to do in order to find the maze?

Well, this week’s episode told that theory to have a seat. Let’s break down what we learned from each character interactions this week and how they may flesh out these three time periods and B = A theories.

Images: HBO

Images: HBO

Bernard & Ford

For all his talk of relieving the Hosts of the burden of negative feelings, Ford certainly has loaded them up to be on the shitty end of violent acts, and the reveries make it possible for them to relive those events. He admits to Bernard that he gave him the sad backstory to make him more realistic. As Bernard questions why his feelings of pain and loss are different than a human’s, Ford points out these were the same questions that drove Arnold mad. Unable to develop the gray areas of emotions with the human programmers, Ford built Bernard and together they did what the humans could not. This lends itself to my theory of Bernard being a Host in Arnold’s image. Ford was able to keep his brilliant partner in order to further advance their work, except Bernard is absent that pesky agency and ability to ask questions.

He does get out one last question before Ford wipes his memory of not only what he is, but what he’s done, and his relationship with Theresa as well.

“Have you ever made me hurt anyone like this before?”

“No, Bernard. Of course not.”

Yet, Bernard immediately has a memory of choking Elsie. I thought it was a good bet that it was Bernard, the only one who knew where Elsie was and since Ford knows what Bernard knows… but some listeners swore it was a white hand that grabbed her. Whether she’s dead or not – I think she is – remains to be seen.

Ford may be too smart for his own good, though. After getting Bernard to destroy all evidence of his request to speak to Theresa before her death and their sexual relationship, they leave her body where the Woodcutter was found and make it appear as though she fell and died while trying to transmit data out of the park. Charlotte accepts it (and Bernard’s reinstatement since they also set Theresa up for faking the demo), but remains suspicious. Stubbs can’t argue with the evidence, though says it’s unlike the Theresa he knew; she was loyal. Yeah, loyal to Delos. She may not have died the way it was presented, but we know she was in on the scheme to smuggle out the raw data. After Bernard is returned to normal, Stubbs admits he knew about his relationship with Theresa and extends condolences. Bernard, absent of any memory of their romance, denies it existed. Stubbs is smarter than he looks, apparently. He’s also now interested in finding Elsie.


Dolores & William 

Felix explains to Maeve that Hosts process memories more efficiently than humans. Our memories are hazy and we often get the details wrong as more time passes. For the Hosts, they actually relive the memory as it happened and sometimes can’t tell when or where they are.

We’ve seen Dolores go through several scenarios in the span of seconds. When she killed Rebus, she flashed on being attacked by the Man in the Black. When she ran, she was shot first, and then she wasn’t. The gun was in the bureau drawer, and then it wasn’t. When she was riding up to the ranch that final time, she started to say, “Father would never let them roam…” and stopped. This is what she typically says when she’s with Teddy, but this time she’s alone.

This week, when Dolores and William come across dead Union soldiers slaughtered by the Ghost Nation, Dolores sees herself dead in the river. She has been this way before, and on at least one occasion died in the water. This is just one of several instances where Dolores sees things that aren’t there and remembers the past, calling her to question her sanity. More on that in a second.

I thought that William’s break (if he does indeed turn evil after this visit) would occur at the end when he realizes his feelings don’t matter because Dolores isn’t real. Of course, he knows this intellectually, but like I said, lost in the sauce. However, he’s already showing signs of “I’ve made a huge mistake.” When Dolores flips out about not knowing what’s real, he looks a bit impatient and annoyed. She’s starting to act like a robot with some kind of malfunction, shattering the illusion. He even says he needs to get her back to Sweetwater because he assumes her break is connected to being far from the main park. When they find a sole Union survivor, and he admits that Logan sent them after Dolores and William, William is ready to let the Host die, but Dolores insists on treating the man. While she was away getting fresh water (and seeing her dead body), I was sure William would open the guy up (“When I first came here, I opened one of you up.’). Considering the man dies three seconds after Dolores returned, and considering William was doing something with his hand we couldn’t see, I’m sure William killed the Host and I think the reason why is tied to Logan. Logan has truly become William’s nemesis and killing the Host was more a message to Logan than anything else. (They’re found by Logan and a crew of Union soldiers at the end of the episode so next week should feature a pretty brutal confrontation between the two.)

They finally reach the location Dolores has been seeing in her memories, but the town is buried. The church steeple and rooftops peek out of the dirt, but Dolores sees her “home,” the early town where the Hosts were made and trained before the park opened. As she walks through the town, back in her blue dress, programmers monitor the Hosts and correct their behavior. We saw this when Ford was telling Bernard the story of Arnold. Maeve is there, practicing dancing with other Hosts including Armistice (minus the face tattoo), and so is Angela, the intake Host who first welcomed William. This is all before the park opened. Dolores encounters Lawrence’s daughter, who asks if Dolores found what she was looking for. On last week’s podcast, I noted that the little girl told Dolores they were “from the same place. Don’t you remember?”


I think the maze is that town, the first town built before the park was open, and that’s why the little girl said they’re from the same place. The last thing Arnold said to Dolores was that she was going to help him destroy the park. When Dolores has another memory of the Hosts being massacred, we assume it’s Wyatt (because we’ve seen this play out after Ford uploaded it to Teddy), but Dolores sees herself pointing a gun at her own head. Did Dolores massacre the other Hosts before the park opened due to Arnold’s influence? Is Wyatt based on not Arnold, but Dolores as Arnold’s surrogate? One of our listeners speculated that Dolores’ Abernathy ranch narrative might be punishment for her involvement in Arnold’s schemes. Is Ford getting some perverse pleasure in using Teddy to be “Wyatt’s” foil? If Dolores is Wyatt, will Teddy be able to kill her?

Wyatt talks of how the land isn’t for them or the natives, but for something yet to come. And the little girl tells the Man in Black that “the maze isn’t meant for you.” It’s a place for Hosts, particularly ones Arnold programmed with his effort to bootstrap consciousness (bicameral mind). Present day Dolores is most likely on her way there after being triggered by “these violent delights have violent ends.” This would also explain Stubbs getting notified that she was off her loop a few episodes back.

Another sign that Bernard is Arnold and Arnold’s code has been influencing Dolores and others is Bernard’s declaration that he would raze the park to the ground after he realizes Ford made him kill Theresa. Teddy also describes Wyatt using those exact words about Escalante. I theorized a few weeks ago that the maze had to be in (if not straight up be) Escalante. Ford even points out to Bernard that Arnold made the same threat.


Teddy & The Man in Black

I tried to give The Man in Black the benefit of the doubt in my theory last week (stated above), but this week he pretty much admitted that he really ain’t shit.

Teddy and the Man in Black come upon yet another massacre thanks to Wyatt and his followers. Body parts are everywhere, but there’s one survivor: Angela. She’s the Host we first saw in episode 2 when she helped William get set up to enter the park. Since she’s also seen in the first town as a regular townsperson in Dolores’ memories, it stand to reason we’ve seen her now in three different time periods: Before the park opened in Escalante, a few years later as the intake Host, and in the present day here. When MIB sees her, he recognizes her and says he thought Ford would have retired her by now.

They’re attacked by one of Wyatt’s men and while Teddy and MIB fight him off, Teddy has a memory of MIB dragging Dolores into the barn. Once they’ve killed the Host, Teddy knocks out MIB and ties him up.

The Man in Black finally tells his story, or at least a part of it. We already knew he was rich and influential, and he confirms this by referring to himself as a god and titan of industry. When his wife died of an accidental overdose a year ago, his daughter blamed him and said it was his cold and distant ways that eventually drove her mother to suicide. This surprised MIB as he tells Teddy he never behaved the way he does in the park at home. But his wife believed he did so many great things to build up a wall around who he truly is. Since coming to the park is supposed to be about finding out who you really are, he traveled there again after his wife died and tested himself.

Killing Maeve and her daughter was a test of his humanity. He wanted to see if he could feel anything after killing a woman and a young child. He did not. He was shocked when Maeve attacked him with the same knife he’d stabbed her with, and stumbled outside carrying her daughter’s body. In that moment, he says, she was truly alive and the maze revealed itself to him. Now, I’m not yet sure what he means by that. We see Maeve and her daughter fell in the middle of the maze drawn into the dirt, but I don’t think it was truly there. Did Maeve tell him something (via Arnold’s code) before she “died”? Either way, we now know he’s been aware of the maze for a year. Still no answer as to why he waited a year to come back and try to find it. I still think his evil ass is dying. But it’s no surprise that William went home and essentially became like Logan. Part of the coldness and indifference his wife felt might be connected to William’s disdain for her brother.

I would argue that his test wasn’t reliable. If you always know they’re not real and that they will live again, isn’t it possible that your lack of shame, guilt, or self-hatred is simply a response to knowing there are no consequences? It appears MIB thinks the same so he’s looking for the maze, where Arnold’s rules mean there are consequences for what you do. Basically, it sounds like he wants a do-over on his test.

Good Lord. Won’t we all have egg on our face if William isn’t MIB?

Angela urges Teddy to kill MIB, even though he’s unarmed and tied up. When Teddy can’t, she stabs Teddy in the shoulder and Wyatt’s followers emerge from the shadows. She was one of Wyatt’s crew all along and welcomes Teddy back into the fold.


Charlotte & Sizemore

If Ford is too smart for his own good, Charlotte isn’t as smart as she thinks she is. Knowing that she has Sizemore wrapped around her finger she pulls him out of his lab where he thought he was working on the Wyatt Host for Ford. She bursts his bubble and calls it busy work. Ford is handling all of the Hosts needed for his new narrative on his own. She takes Sizemore down to cold storage and gives him a real task.

All of the park’s raw data is too much for any hard drive, except a Host’s mind. She uploads the data into one of the Hosts in cold storage and then tells Sizemore to program it with a personality and get it on the train out of the park.

Unfortunately for her, she picked Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) so there’s no way this plan works out. Also, she has either forgotten or doesn’t know about the device in every Host’s spine that will detonate if they leave the park. This is going to backfire. (See what I did there?)

Maeve a.k.a. Baeve

Maeve wants to leave and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) is more than happy to see her go, so he tells her to go for it. But Felix (Leonardo Nam) has already told her about the explosive in her spine. She’ll need a rebuild to solve that problem and she’ll also need control of other Hosts to gain some allies. After looking through the systems via a tablet, she’s certain she can talk them through how to implement these changes, but Sylvester has other ideas. When she’s shut down for the procedure, he says they should wipe her, injure her, and say she came in that way. Felix struggles with taking her life, and ultimately sides with Maeve. After the changes are complete, Maeve shows her Samaritan code is completely gone and slices Sylvester’s throat. After admiring her handiwork, she instructs Felix to mend him since they “might need him.”

She took the man’s life and gave it back in the span of 20 seconds. He ain’t ever gonna be right again.


Maeve tests her command of the Hosts when she’s topside. Like the narrator of a play, she’s able to control Hosts including the bartender, New Clem (Lili Simmons), the sheriff, and the marshals during Hector’s attack on the Mariposa. When she’s finally ready to leave, New Clem tries to stop her and it’s then that Maeve remembers her last encounter with the Man in Black. Unable to tell the memory from the here and now, when she slices at MIB’s throat, she really kills New Clem. She runs to her house only to be scooped up by the Shades.

On the surface, it appears Maeve’s days of free will may be coming to an end, but she’s been here before and now she’s armed with a lot more knowledge and a lot less Give-a-Fuck. When MIB killed her daughter, the techs weren’t able to calm her down until Ford and Bernard arrived and Ford used a trick he “learned from an old friend.” He plays a soft melody and Maeve immediately stops screaming for her baby. In one of Dolores’ memories, there’s a hand cranking some kind of music player. So many triggers for these hosts!

Ford promises to wipe away her pain and give her a fresh new role, but Maeve begs to keep the pain because it’s “all she has left of her.” Sound familiar? Despite a wipe, Maeve still looks at Bernard and stabs herself in the throat.

Once she’d had access to the inner workings of her code, she remarked it was like there are two sides of her fighting with each other (Ford and Arnold). She knows there are things she is able to do, that she is meant to do, but they’re dormant. She even asks Felix who Arnold is; of course, he doesn’t know.

I’m hoping she’s taken to Bernard for repair, and perhaps she’ll use her new abilities on him. It’s funny that Ford is gearing up for this battle for the park’s soul in Escalante, but is completely unaware of the uprising about to take place in Sweetwater and the Mesa.

If you’re a premium podcast subscriber, head over to Patreon to leave your thoughts on the episode and we’ll read them on tonight’s podcast. 

Westworld S1E8
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About Nina Perez (1391 Articles)
Nina Perez is the founder of Project Fandom. She is also the author of a YA series of books, "The Twin Prophecies," and a collection of essays titled, "Blog It Out, B*tch." Her latest books, a contemporary romance 6-book series titled Sharing Space, are now available on for Kindle download. She has a degree in journalism, works in social media, lives in Portland, Oregon, and loves Idris Elba. When not watching massive amounts of British television or writing, she is sketching plans to build her very own TARDIS. She watches more television than anyone you know and she's totally fine with that.

3 Comments on Westworld – S1E8 – Trace Decay

  1. Yeah, you definitely filled in some blanks for me.

  2. Yes. This review def helped me to put the pieces together

3 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Revisiting Westworld: Theories, Clues, and Questions | Project Fandom
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