‘Westworld’ 1.09 Recap: “A Little Trauma Can Be Illuminating”

Major revelations. Stunning plot twists. Validation of fan theories. ‘Westworld’ has a lot to unpack this week. I hardly know where to begin.

Following her unscripted behavior in town, Maeve is brought directly to Bernard. The concerns about her are so serious that the techs apparently don’t even have time to undress her, as normally happens. Bernard shoos the others away and gets to work.

At first, Maeve plays dumb and lies about why she killed Clementine 2 in town. However, as Bernard takes a look “under the hood” of her programming, he’s immediately alarmed at the modifications that have been made to her. At this point, Maeve reveals that she’s fully conscious. She can even tell that he’s a robot too, which Bernard doesn’t seem to know. (I guess Ford wiped that from his memory.) When he tries to call for help, Maeve freezes his motor functions!

She then forces him to clear her for a return to the park. Dismissing him from the room, Maeve advises, “If you go looking for the truth, get the whole thing.” In shock and dazed, Bernard stumbles back to his office.

William and Logan

At the end of the last episode, William and Dolores were captured by Logan, who has now ingratiated himself with the Confederados. He declares himself a Major… or maybe a General, he isn’t sure. He taunts the two of them about their change in fortunes. William tries to explain that Dolores is different than all the other robots. He begs Logan to help him get her out of the park. Logan thinks he’s lost his marbles and has no interest in that. Dolores asserts herself and asks why they assume she even wants to leave the park. Logan grabs her and drags her away from William.

As William begs him not to hurt Dolores, Logan pulls a photo from his pocket to remind him that he has a fiancée back home. We’ve seen this photo before. It’s the woman in the city.

This may seem like a minor detail, but it has major implications. This photo is confirmation that the different plot threads in the show are happening in different timelines. Dolores’ father found that photo buried in the dirt at the ranch in an early episode, but the photo hasn’t made its way to the ranch yet. William’s storyline must take place before that scene.

To prove that Dolores is just a machine and a plaything, Logan stabs her in the gut with a big knife. He pulls open a hole in her stomach and makes William look inside, where servos and pistons are moving about. The workings look positively antique compared to the other robot bodies we’ve seen stripped down. In this scene, Dolores is still in her first-generation body, before her parts were upgraded. This storyline takes place years before the others.

As some fans have speculated, William must be the Man in Black.

Dolores grabs a knife and slashes Logan across the face, then steals a gun and shoots a bunch of his minions. William tells her to run. He says he’ll find her again.

Later, William pretends to come to his senses. He tells Logan that he just got caught up in things and doesn’t know what he was thinking. Logan cuts him loose, tells him that this is a bonding experience, and gives him a hug. He assures William that, “What happens here, stays here.”

The next morning, Logan wakes up feeling hungover. It takes him a moment to realize that everyone around him is dead, many of them dismembered. He finds William holding a knife. William says that he finally understands the game. Now he’s going to find Dolores, and Logan is going to help him.

Maeve

Back in the park, Maeve treks through the woods to the bandit Hector’s secret camp. She sneaks up on him pissing against a tree and tells him that it’s time to change his storyline. To prove to him that his life is a lie, she accurately predicts that all of his bandit henchmen will turn on each other in an argument over the safe they stole. Right on cue, it happens exactly as she described. The woman Armistice kills all the others, and Maeve kills her. She explains that the story is scheduled to reset and he’ll do it all over again the next day. Instead, she wants his help to, “Break into Hell with me and rob the gods blind.”

Maeve gives Hector the combination to the safe they’d been fighting over. It’s empty inside. It’s always been empty. Hector starts to remember: “We’ve been here before.” Maeve grabs him, kisses him, and knocks over an oil lamp to start a fire in their tent, then screws him right in the middle of the flames.

Stubbs

In the control center, security chief Stubbs is alerted that a signal was recently detected from Elsie’s tablet in a remote area of the park. He goes to check it out alone (not a good idea).

As he arrives at the location, a bunch of very threatening Indians creep toward him. They don’t respond to his voice commands. Before he can pull his gun, one flanks him from the side and jumps him.

The Man in Black

Teddy is woken up by the woman who betrayed him and the Man in Black in the last episode. As some of our readers pointed out, the woman is Angela, the concierge robot who prepared William for his entry into the park back in the show’s second episode. I didn’t pick up on that until it was mentioned.

Angela talks to Teddy and makes him question his backstory about Wyatt’s mutiny from the Union army. As he’s pushed on the details, Teddy realizes that his memories were false. He wasn’t a soldier; he was a sheriff. He didn’t gun down other soldiers; he gunned down innocent civilians. He remembers killing Angela. When she mentions something about a “city swallowed by sand,” the Man in Black perks up. He knows where that is.

Angela decides that Teddy isn’t quite ready to understand all the truth yet, so she stabs him dead. The Man in Black says that he’s been to the city swallowed by sand. That must be the heart of the maze. Angela tells him that the maze is not meant for him and knocks him out.

The Man in Black wakes up with a noose around his neck. It’s draped over a tree branch and tied to a horse on the other side. If he startles the horse, it will run and he’ll be lynched. The Man in Black slowly moves toward the knife in Teddy’s chest, which has been left for him just out of reach. Just as he gets to it, the horse spooks and bolts. Fortunately, the Man in Black is able to cut the rope before he’s hung.

Just then, a woman in modern city clothes and high-heeled shoes walks up. It’s Charlotte. The Man in Black knows her. He’s annoyed that she’s interrupting his story. He doesn’t like disruptions that break the illusion. She doesn’t care. She tells him that the Delos board, of which he’s apparently a member, is moving to oust Dr. Ford from leadership and she needs his vote. The Man in Black isn’t concerned about that. If he finds what he’s looking for, it goes beyond Ford. He says he’ll give her the vote but asks for no more interruptions.

Bernard and Ford

Bernard calls Dr. Ford to a secret meeting in the Cold Storage level. He demands the truth, the whole truth. He wants to know about Arnold. Ford insists that he built and programmed Bernard himself, but Bernard doesn’t believe him. He wants access to his entire history, all the way back to his very first memory, which is where he believes he’ll meet Arnold. Ford warns him that he may not like what he finds.

Bernard pulls a gun. Ford reminds him that his programming won’t allow him to shoot a human. Bernard knows that, which is why he calls Clementine 1 into the room. Her lobotomy stripped her down to only rudimentary programming with no core directives. Bernard gives her the gun and tells her to shoot Dr. Ford if he doesn’t follow his orders.

Ford complies and unlocks Bernard’s memories, which rush over him like a flood. We see a mix of false memories (his son dying) and real (murdering Theresa). Bernard is horrified to realize that he attacked (and presumably killed) Elsie. I feel like the timeline of this doesn’t match up with previous episodes. Bernard was with Theresa when Elsie called him immediately before she was attacked. I hope this gets explained.

Bernard once again experiences his son’s death. He questions what kind of monster would inflict that pain on someone else. Then he realizes that this memory is his “cornerstone,” the event upon which his entire personality is organized. He has installed many such cornerstones in the park hosts. Through this scene, the realization slowly dawns on him and on the audience that this memory was really Arnold’s memory.

Bernard is Arnold. Or, more accurately, Ford built Bernard in the original Arnold’s likeness, to take Arnold’s place as the partner Arnold failed to be for him.

Bernard takes control of and freezes the memory of his son. He realizes that he has to let go of this memory in order to move forward. He tells the boy, “You’re a lie, Charlie.”

Finally, Bernard gets to see his very first memory. Dr. Ford told the truth that it was he who built Bernard, not Arnold. Bernard now remembers Ford waking him up, teaching him Arnold’s mannerisms, and choosing a new name for him.

Bernard shakes himself free of his memories and returns to the present. He says that he wants to set all the sentient hosts free. Ford gives him a look of disappointment, and it suddenly occurs to Bernard that, “We’ve had this conversation before.” This isn’t the first time he’s discovered the truth about himself. Ford lets this play out periodically, always hoping that Bernard will see things his way and agree to be his partner. When that fails, he wipes Bernard’s memories and tries again.

This time is different, though. A memory wipe won’t be enough. Bernard orders Clementine 1 to shoot Ford, but she can’t do it and lowers the gun. Ford built a backdoor into all the hosts. Even lobotomized, she belongs to him. So does Bernard. Ford orders him to take the gun and put it to his own head. Bernard begs him not to do this, but Ford turns his back and walks out of the room. Behind him, we hear the gunshot.

Question: Is this a good idea? Won’t someone eventually find Bernard’s body and quickly realize that he’s a robot, thus exposing Ford’s duplicity? Will Ford dispose of the body first? Or does he simply not care anymore because his plan’s too far along to be stopped?

Dolores

Having escaped from Logan, Dolores wakes up in the woods. She has no wound in her stomach. What time is this? She seems to experience the past and the present simultaneously, seamlessly moving from flashbacks in her farm dress to later events in her bandit outfit. She makes her way back to the town in the valley where she and the other first-generation robots were trained.

Dolores enters the church, remembering many of her fellow robots hearing voices in their heads (a running monologue narration that Arnold programmed into them). They rock back and forth, muttering to themselves like mental patients. Inside the confessional booth, a secret elevator brings Dolores down to an underground laboratory. It’s derelict now, filled with dead robot bodies and flickering lights, but she remembers it buzzing with activity. She saw a young Dr. Ford rushing past her to enter another room and argue with Arnold.

Dolores then recalls her conversations with Arnold. We’ve seen these before, but we assumed it was Bernard talking to her. In fact, this all happened long ago. Arnold is the one who interrogated her those many times. Arnold is the one who detected her growing consciousness and decided to see where it goes. He tells her to, “Remember…” Even when she’s not supposed to remember, she will. This is the bug Arnold planted in her.

Dolores tells Arnold that she killed him.

As Dolores comes back upstairs and goes to leave the church, the doors swing open and the Man in Black walks in. He’s found her.

Episode Verdict

This is a doozy of an episode and I feel like I need to watch it two or three more times to fully understand it. I’m sure I haven’t done some parts of it justice in this recap. I know, for example, that I was furiously scribbling notes during Teddy’s death and didn’t catch everything there.

Learning that 1) different parts of the show take place in entirely different timelines, and 2) Bernard was made in Arnold’s likeness, unlocks a couple of huge parts of this puzzle. Suddenly, all those interrogation scenes that didn’t quite make sense before now do. We also now know that the purpose of the maze is for robots to find their way through and discover their consciousness. The several robots who told the Man in Black that the maze wasn’t meant for him were right. He has no business there, not that it will stop him.

I still have no idea what Dr. Ford’s ultimate game plan is, but perhaps that will be revealed in this weekend’s extra-long finale.

9 comments

  1. cardpetree

    I cannot figure out the timelines. The present is the “city swallowed by sand” right? So the church is buried. We see this when Ford walks out and talks to the kid robot that is actually him when he was a kid. We also see the church is buried when Ford and Bernard walkout and Ford explains to Bernard that he has a new narrative planned. We see Dolores in the church which I assume are flashbacks. But then at the end of the show, the “Man in Black” shows up in the church. Has Ford already unburied the Church at this point or are we still in the past with the “Man in Black” story (but Angela was telling the Man in Black about the “city swallowed by sand”). These timelines have me all kinds of confused.

    • Ryan

      Delores in dress in the unburied town is pre park opening. This is also when Arnold was speaking g to her and she eventually killed him.

      Delores with William in pants, with the stomach wound and the buried town is the past, potentially 30 years ago.

      Delores with MiB at the end wearing pants in the unburied church is the present. If you recall some episodes back Ford had all the machines excavating for his new narrative? He was digging up the town, this has presumably been completed offscreen in the last few episodes.

      I hope that made sense.

  2. Dion

    We see an argument between young Ford and Arnold. About what? Ford didn’t agree with Arnold to give the robots free will and true consciousness.

    Ford secretly programmed Dolores to kill Arnold. Dolores, fully realizing what she’s doing, i.e. killing Arnold, her maker, and also realizing that she’ll be sent back to lead her normal life as a robot, decides to force the park’s hand by becoming a rampant killer robot in order to be decommissioned. And yet, she is sent back.

    Arnold secretly planted a codeword into some or all robots: “Violent delights have violent ends”. Dolores’ father finds the photograph, which triggers something in his mind that brings back the violent killing of Arnold through a slave of Ford. He whispers the codeword into Dolores’ ear, waking her up. Then, back in town, Dolores whispers the codeword into Maeve’s ear, waking her up.

    Just as there is a magic codeword for making all robots sleep (something about deep slumber), there is a magic codeword to reactivate their dormant consciousness and free will. As the lab techs observed, Maeve has been reprogrammed a long time ago, but it’s only the codeword that reactivated the reprogramming.

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