Westworld Recap: 1×03 “The Stray”

Previously on Westworld: Goofus and Gallant showed up to the park to make mischief; Bernard told Dolores she’d changed; Dolores dug up a gun; some dude murdered a bunch of people with milk and it was totally freaky; Daddy: Original Flavor got retired, and Elsie worried that it was contagious; Bernard thought it might be sabotage; Maeve woke up during surgery and saw a dead Teddy in a giant tank full of temporarily dead androids.

Cue the credits, which are super long—a thing I normally approve of, being nostalgic for the days of almost-full-length theme songs (remember “Searchin’ My Soul”? “California”? That song about God being one of us from the late great Joan of Arcadia?) but Westworld doesn’t show the actors in the credits, or actual clips from the show, so it’s more artsy and less tugging at the fannish heartstrings than other long theme songs which I have loved in my youth.

Bernard greets Dolores and has her bring herself back online. She smiles and greets him in her usual pleasant way, then confirms that she has been “cleaned and serviced” since they last spoke, but no diagnostics. When he asks if she’s told anyone about their conversation, she simply says, “You told me not to.” He doesn’t notice the difference between that and no. But he has a present for her: a vintagey copy of Alice in Wonderland. So the hosts can read, too! Alice is J.J. Abrams’s other signature motif, by the way—she was referenced on Alias all the time, although not as often as lens flares.

Bernard has Dolores read a passage about Alice wondering if she’s changed in the night. “It’s about change,” Dolores says. “Seems to be a common theme.” Bernard says that books are about the things people want most and experience the least. (That’s why they all show up at Westworld isn’t it? Their lives seem boring. Changeless. And they think the only way to get change is to pay for an artificial version of it, and/or pay for a really expensive form of therapy that will somehow work magic on them, releasing their inhibitions and allowing them to change.) She changes the subject, asking him about his son. He switches her into analysis and she reveals that she asked him a personal question because “Personal questions are an ingratiating scheme.” Love it! Then he switches her back and has her keep reading. The passage ends with, “Who in the world am I?”

As Daddy: The Next Generation goes out to check on his cattle, Dolores takes the canvas-wrapped gun out of her bureau. Then she gets up and looks into her mirror, having flashbacks to Ed, the Man in Black who has raped her so many times he probably has a buy-ten-get-one punch card for it. She blinks back tears, then shoves the gun away, smiles, and leaves like nothing’s wrong.

Gallant emerges and sees two little boys roughhousing. (The message is pretty clear: You know how men are! Always causin’ trouble! It’s in their genes! Which is sort of weirdly retro.) Clementine greets him as “cowboy,” which I guess works on some people. Gallant witnesses a little altercation with the guy on the latest WANTED posters, Jasper Hewitt, that erupts into gunfire. Clementine freezes against the building, only to be taken as a human shield by Jasper as he tries to make his escape. Gallant sees his chance and draws his gun, only to have Jasper shoot him, which knocks him down. But before Jasper can drag Clementine away, Gallant recovers and shoots him dead. Clementine, sobbing, throws herself into his arms. “Nice shot, amigo. You got grit,” drawls a host, who invites him out with his “desperadoes” that night. Clementine, meanwhile, offers to express her gratitude with the only thing of worth she apparently believes she possesses, her vagina, but Gallant declines. In this world, not sleeping with prostitutes makes you basically a saint.

Goofus, who was conveniently absent during all the excitement, is thrilled that Gallant has “popped his cherry.” He says that the robots exist so Gallant can get some memories in his spank bank. “Trust me, you’ll thank me after you’ve been married to my sister for a year.” Wow, she is so lucky to have a supportive brother like this.

But Gallant has a different idea that still doesn’t involve admitting to Goofus that he’s unwilling to cheat on Goofus’s own sister with a sex robot. He points at the poster advertising for desperadoes. Goofus thinks the bounty is JV. “Then stay here,” Gallant says. Goofus—who at least looks sharp, in a much more metrosexual cowboy outfit than Gallant’s shapeless getup—obviously is going to have to come along to prove his manhood.

Theresa and Bernard run into each other at the office. Theresa, who seems to have developed an on-again off-again British accent, doesn’t care that Bernard hasn’t had much sleep. She just wants to know why everything’s in disarray, and why he’s still pulling hosts for followup if the update wasn’t a problem. He says that’s his job, but she doesn’t seem convinced.

Meanwhile, Elsie is examining one of the droids. “Walter’s intent on relieving the milkmaid of her unmentionables,” spouts a robot, who’s naked but whose butt we can’t see, because he’s not a nubile young starlet. Bernard comes in and she shows him a video of Walter (the milk murderer) talking to himself. “They’re designed to play off aberrant behavior,” Bernard says, trying to brush it off. But Elsie has more: the six hosts Walter killed had all been in storylines where they had killed Walter previously. This is interesting, but then Elsie’s screen gets a notification about a stray host. Bernard tells her to go do that so she can do something that’s in her job description. He says he’ll do more digging and get “our friend here” back upstairs.

Elsie joins Stubbs in some sort of glass elevator. She asks if QA surveillance coverage is “really this spotty,” and they have some hostile banter that I don’t care enough to recap in full, but presumably is some form of flirting. When he pulls out his gun, she remarks that he can play cowboy using the employee discount, but he says since it’s her code that keeps the robots from hacking them all to pieces, he sleeps with a gun.

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In the town square, Teddy gets into a little altercation with a white dude, but before he can shoot Teddy, a white woman with a braid shoots him super dead. She looks pleased. They handcuff him, since he’s worth five hundred dollars, and go into the saloon. The woman looks thrilled. Maeve looks a little displeased. “Which of you derelicts hitched a dead body outside my saloon?” she asks. Uh, I thought Maeve was supposed to be retired. Oh well. Teddy tips her to make her feel better, but that just brings her a flashback of him sitting in the droid cleaning tank from when she escaped during surgery. Meanwhile, Clementine is trying her “not much of a rind on you” line on the woman who was shooting-‘-em-up with Teddy, and the woman totally falls for it and follows Clementine upstairs.

As Emily Nussbaum pointed out in her article on Westworld, it seems a bit odd that in a future world where men are still happy to objectify women (indicating that social structures haven’t changed all that much) lesbians would have somehow evolved into people who act like atavistic straight men, even just with hosts. How many lesbians do you know who dream of sleeping with becorseted hookers? I’m sure there are some, but, come on. If in this future society women are really that interested in objectifying powerless humanoid robots, then there should be saloons full of James Marsden lookalikes offering their services to straight women, too.

Teddy spies Dolores outside, and when her can rolls away he picks it up and goes with his normal line about trying to look chivalrous. She tears up, which seems slightly different. And during their usual stop on their usual romantic joyride, she changes the topic of their conversation. She asks where he’s been—but follows it up by asking if there’s another place they could go, because she doesn’t want to stay here. Teddy hesitates, and says he’s heard of a place down south, where they could start again. “I’d like to go there with you,” she says. Teddy says he’ll take her someday. She frowns and says someday isn’t specific and it sounds like never. She grabs his face and begs to go now, not someday. Then she kisses him. But he just looks scared and says that he was a different man before he met her, and that he needs to reckon with that before they can go. She smiles. Come on, Dolores! You don’t need a man to take you away. Just go!

They go back to the farmhouse, only to find the usual robbery in progress. Teddy rides off to save Daddy, but Dolores rides after him. All is darkness, then there are the sounds of shots and screams.

Back in the lab, some of that white stuff they use to make the hosts is being poured into an eyeball in progress. You can even see the little threads being put together to make one blue eye. It’s pretty cool. Ford, interrogating Teddy, decides to get philosophical. “The coward dies a thousand deaths, the valiant man but once,” he quotes, then says that Teddy is courageous despite having died at least a thousand times. He wants to know why Teddy remains valiant. Teddy gives a little speech about Dolores, but Ford corrects him: it’s not his job to protect her, it’s his job to keep her in town so that the hosts can discover her. Then Teddy mentions his whole reckoning thing, and Ford says “Ah, yes, your mysterious backstory… Do you know why it is a mystery, Teddy? Because we never actually bothered to give you one, just a formless guilt you will never atone for.” It’s pretty amusing. People do love a handsome, guilt-ridden cowboy!

But this is giving Ford an idea: that he could give Teddy a real backstory, part of his new storyline. It involves war, and a villain named Wyatt. Teddy doesn’t remember Wyatt until Ford pushes some buttons on a screen. Then he says Wyatt is the voice of true evil (but also thought he could talk to God). Wyatt was part of the army that was sent to “put down the natives.” So, I guess everyone in the army was kind of evil, then. But of course, we’re not thinking about the plight of “natives” on Westworld – that would really kill the fun of the cowboy fantasy. Anyway, apparently Wyatt went missing for awhile, then came back with some strange ideas, presumably the voice-of-God thing.

Dolores walks by a couple of sketchy characters, one of whom thinks Dolores is pretty as a picture and tight as a tympani drum. Classy. He asks Dolores to take his friend, who’s new to town, for a little hayride. Dolores tries to make an escape, and Teddy conveniently interrupts, telling them she’s not interested. “Told you I wanted something easy,” the guest murmurs. Then he gives Dolores a baleful look and follows the sketchy guy to Virgil’s, which I’m assuming is the saloon?

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Off on their own, Dolores and Teddy pause on their ride for yet another new activity. No sticking to the script anymore for these two! Teddy is teaching Dolores how to shoot a gun. She closes her eyes briefly, then opens them and pulls the trigger—but nothing happens. “I can’t,” she says. “Some hands weren’t meant to pull a trigger,” he says, not knowing how literal he’s being.

The woman from before rides up with another man. They don’t look surprised to see Teddy, even though they’re totally in the middle of nowhere. They tell Teddy they’re on the trail of a bounty for someone who killed a bunch of people named Wyatt. Dolores asks who it is, while Teddy stares off, looking distressed. The strange man says Teddy’s the only person who’s ever come up against Wyatt and survived.

Teddy pulls Dolores aside and says his favorite line: “You know if I could stay right here with you, I would.” He kisses her and promises he’ll come back “someday soon.” She seems to lose faith a little as he leaves.

A few guys are sitting around a campsite joshing each other about cooking and hookers. Then they all pause, and Elsie and Stubbs come up to discuss them. Apparently the guys got caught in an endless loop waiting for dinner because the stray droid from before was supposed to come back with it, and instead wandered off—and only one of them has “weapons privileges,” so they can’t even build their own campfire because they’d need to touch an axe. I guess Dolores doesn’t have weapons privileges either! Poor Dolores.

Inside the tent, they find some wood carvings. Stubbs makes fun of Elsie, asking if this is one of their backstories. “Backstories do more than amuse guests,” Elsie protests, “they anchor the host. It’s their cornerstone.” Stubbs doesn’t take this very seriously, but Elsie notices that one of the pieces has what looks like a diagram, and pockets it and leaves.

Teddy’s on the hunt with his new friends hearing more horror stories about Wyatt, who apparently is a mercenary and forces his men to wear the flesh of their enemies. Teddy says something nonsensical about how the men don’t fear death because they’re already in hell. Then he reveals how he found Wyatt: he wasn’t a bounty hunter, Wyatt was his sergeant and friend during the maneuver against the natives. We see a flashback of Wyatt and Teddy confronting each other at the end of an apparent shootout. Wyatt’s strange ideas were that the land didn’t belong to the new settlers or the natives, but to “something that had yet to come.”

Then their group notices something and dismounts, amid the sound of buzzing flies. They find dead, bloody bodies tied to trees. The old dude calls Wyatt a devil, but Teddy says Wyatt’s not a devil because devils can’t be killed and he’s going to kill Wyatt. Just then one of the corpses totally starts coughing even though he basically is so rotted he doesn’t have eyeballs anymore. Gross!

Immediately all hell breaks loose—someone shoots the undead corpse in the head, and everyone ducks for cover as shots ring out. Two guests are hiding behind a tree, one of them moaning that he didn’t sign up for this and that they should have done “the riverboat thing.” Hee. Teddy is still doing his sage-wisdom thing, murmuring that Wyatt’s recruited some more people. He volunteers to draw Wyatt’s fire while the old dude takes the guests back to town. But the old dude and the woman don’t want to back out. So the three of them venture out under fire, while the others retreat.

Stubbs has a not-very-convincing 3-D projection of the world on his tablet, and he and Elsie are wandering around the desert. Elsie is staring at the weird carving, and Stubbs mentions that it’s Orion. “What are you, Gali-fuckin’-leo?” she says, oh so cleverly. “Maybe it’s in my backstory,” he says, slightly more cleverly. [And spoiler-y? – Janes]

In the lab, Bernard interrupts Ford while he sits with a mustachioed droid. Ford ignores Bernard so he can dress down some scientist dude for covering up a nearby droid he’s working on, as if “it” were capable of being cold or ashamed. Uh, maybe he just doesn’t want to stare at a hyper-realistic fake penis while he does his work, Ford. “It doesn’t get cold! It doesn’t feel ashamed! It doesn’t feel a solitary thing that we haven’t told it to, understand?” he yells as he draws a scalpel down the droid’s face. Bernard, looking a little alarmed, asks to speak in private.

In some museum-like gallery of the lab, where a (probably) droid plays on a player piano and there are shelves and shelves full of Westworld-style carvings and artifacts. Bernard is still wondering if they made a mistake diagnosing the problem, because the droids are exhibiting other weird behavior, like hearing voices. “A simple cognitive dissonance,” Ford declares it. Bernard hesitantly says that both broken hosts were talking to the same imaginary person, someone named Arnold. Ford does that thing TV characters do where he pretends to be puzzled but clearly isn’t.

Bernard then has the nerve to actually ask Ford if he’s told Bernard the “entire truth.” Ford launches into a long story about how long it took him to develop the park—him and his partner. Bernard is surprised to hear there was a partner, so Ford says, “When a legend becomes fact, you print the legend.” (Wow, they’re really going for broke on the nonsensical aphorisms on this show. I seriously feel as if I’m watching a mid-quality Marvel film whenever Ford talks.) Anyway, apparently the board wanted Ford to be a legendary solo genius and he went along. And the partner, surprise of surprises, was named Arnold. (If Bernard didn’t see where this story is going, he’s dumber than Lee.) We are treated to a flashback of Anthony Hopkins in a hilariously unconvincing toupee smiling down at a robot on a surgical table. Ford goes on to explain that Arnold wanted the real thing – to create consciousness.

On a conveniently located chalkboard, he draws a diagram for Bernard of a pyramid of consciousness; memory, improvisation, self-interest—and at the top, he never got there. His theory of consciousness was based on the Bicameral Mind, the idea that “primitive man” believed his thoughts to be the voices of the gods. Primitive women didn’t have any beliefs of note, I guess. Anyway, Arnold thought that the bicameral mind might be a good blueprint for building an artificial mind: he built the hosts so that they heard their programming as an inner monologue. He thought their voices would eventually take over, so it would “bootstrap” consciousness. But, Ford says, you don’t actually want the hosts to be conscious, and people who believe their thoughts to be the voice of the gods are lunatics (and Cylons!). So the only vestiges of Arnold’s ideas are the voice commands used to control the droids. Also, some stuff about how visitors love power, like OH MY GOD, WE KNOW ALREADY.

Back to the memories, Bernard points out that some of them are accessing fragments of Arnold’s code. He asks what happened to Arnold. “Well, he died. Here in the park,” Ford answers. That’s not worrisome at all. He was alienated, apparently, and only wanted to talk to the hosts, consumed by his search for consciousness. Apparently he died in an accident, but Ford knew Arnold was “very, very careful.” After that little ominous tidbit, he tells Bernard that the voices should be gone, but Bernard should keep him posted on other unusual behavior—and should remember “the hosts are not real. They’re not conscious.” There goes my Bernard-is-a-secret-host theory. Anyway, he basically accuses Bernard of getting confused with the droids because of the death of his son. Mean!

[I actually thought of that as a huge hint that Bernard is a host! Ford just awkwardly reminded him of his vague, cliched backstory, just like he did with Teddy.

That, or this show is really bad at exposition. It’s one of the two. – Janes]

Bernard immediately calls his ex-wife for a little validation. She’s played by Gina Torres, which suggests to me that she’s going to play a larger part in some future episode. And, as with most characters, she doesn’t get a name, so I’m never going to be able to stop thinking of her as Anna Espinosa (Alias always did a fabulous job of making you remember the names of all their random villains… they’d give Sydney a little speech at the beginning of the episode where she would like, recap someone’s entire life while saying “Anna Espinosa” over and over again until you could never forget it. It was silly, but at least then you actually knew who you were looking at). So Anna, or “Lauren” if you insist (thanks, IMDb), tells Bernard that she used to resent how distant he was, but at least he can forget. Bernard corrects her, “I don’t forget. It’s always there.” He and Lauren agree that they often forget that Charlie is really dead. They reminisce about Charlie, while Bernard has flashbacks of the little boy. [Reveries? – Janes] Lauren asks if he wishes he could forget, but Bernard says the pain is all that’s left of Charlie.

Out in the desert, Elsie and Stubbs are wandering in the dark. Elsie wants to know why the character would carve Orion, since he wasn’t programmed to care about stars. Stubbs doesn’t take this very seriously either, so Elsie “vectors” towards the stray’s location, and comes across a cliff. She can hear a man struggling. When she leans over, she sees a man stuck in a rocky crevice, his blood everywhere.

Meanwhile, Teddy and his band are walking softly through the woods, hoping to find Wyatt. Teddy’s in the lead. But then the woman trips over what seems to be a tripwire, and the old dude gets stabbed by, presumably, one of Wyatt’s gang. Teddy and the woman (WHY DON’T ANY OF THESE CHARACTERS EVER USE THEIR NAMES?! IMDb says her name is Marti, but literally no one has said that word yet, so presumably we’re supposed to think of her as “blonde lady” or something like that) try to escape but they are confronted by a scary dude in what appears to be a mask of a Native American man. Cornered, the two stand back to back, shooting into the dark woods. Then Teddy sends her off by herself, promising to hold them off as long as he can. She runs off, and “as long as I can” turns out to be about four seconds flat before Teddy is buried underneath a scrum of baddies.

Out by the cliff, Elsie and Stubbs are bickering again over the poor pinned dude. Elsie calls Bernard, but it goes to voicemail. She says it’s like he got an idea in his head and that’s how he got stuck out there. I don’t really know how she got that from his, like, painful gasps, but OK.

Bernard didn’t answer because he’s in the middle of his umpteenth diagnostic with Dolores. She smiles at him, but gets serious when he says, “I need to decide what to do with you.” He says that he was fascinated by her, but he should restore her to the way she was because she lives in a terrible place. “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world,” she begins, but he impatiently stops her (hee!) and tells her to stop the scripted responses. Dolores obediently stops and asks him if she’s changed. He asks her, if there were two versions of her, one that asks questions, and one that’s safe, which would she rather be? She says she doesn’t understand, because there’s only one of her. She thinks she’ll be free when she discovers who that is. Bernard puts her in analysis and asks her what made her say that, but she doesn’t know. She asks again if she’s done something wrong.

Bernard goes into Ford mode, saying that evolution created consciousness using one tool: the mistake. Then he tells her a story about teaching Charlie to swim, and how he had to let go because that’s what parents do. So he’s not going to change Dolores back; he’s going to see where the path leads. She agrees not to tell anyone about their conversations. Then he says, “And you’ll stay on your loop?” She looks forward and says “Yes,” which sounds like a big fat lie to me, but Bernard swallows it hook, line, and sinker.

Back in town, Dolores notices the rest of Teddy’s party coming back. She asks if they’re going to go back to look for him. The man says he will but adds, “If there’s a merciful God, those men are dead already.”

Dolores, sad, rides home. She’s about to say her usual line to Teddy (“Father wouldn’t let them roam this close to dark”), but trails off in the middle when she realizes there’s no one to say it to. When shots go off at the house, she unhesitatingly rides towards it. Sobbing, she runs up to her dad on the ground, only to be grabbed by the sketchy dude from before. As she screams, she has a consciousness glitch: Daddy: TNG suddenly appears to her as Daddy: OF. A few other baddies come up, and Sketchy Dude asks if they have any use for Dolores. The other answers dubiously that she seems a little crazy. But Sketchy Dude is excited to have a chance at Dolores now that Daddy and Teddy aren’t around to interrupt.

He drags her into the barn and throws her onto the haystack. She pulls a gun out and points it at him. She grimaces and tries to pull the trigger, and he delightedly notices that she’s having trouble. But then she imagines that he’s the Man in Black, and a voice in her head says, “Kill him.” So she splatters his brains on the door. Go, Dolores!

Shocked, she runs out of the barn, only to see her mother get murdered before her eyes. One of the men notices she’s free and shoots her in the stomach. Crying, she looks down and holds the wound—but then she realizes she’s not wounded, the guy hasn’t shot her after all. It was another flashback. She gets on her horse and rides away as the hapless guest tries and fails to shoot her.

Stubbs throws a flare down to the trapped droid, who’s trying to climb out. He asks Elsie to put the host in sleep mode and then rappels down. Once down, he takes out a giant knife and holds it to the poor guy’s throat, then starts sawing his head right off. Elsie notices that the guy is waking up, and calls out to Stubbs too late. The host punches Stubbs, who calls to Elsie to get out as the host climbs up the rope.

Elsie tries to run away, but falls down. The host advances on her and brandishes a huge rock, but just as you’re starting to think he might have escaped his programming altogether, he smashes his own head with it so many times that his brains explode all over Elsie and Stubbs. Lovely.

Goofus and Gallant are hanging out by a campfire while Goofus complains about how bored he is. They hear a noise, and pick up their guns, only to see it’s just Dolores, staggering towards them. She faints into Gallant’s arms just as she reaches them. And, end of episode.

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I’m definitely getting tired of the constant attempts to sound deep by making Ford, and others, yammer on about the nature of consciousness. The show’s exploring all of that well enough to stand on its own; you don’t need to have it shouted in your ear that This Show Has Weighty Themes. On the other hand, it’s great to go back to Dolores, whom Evan Rachel Wood plays with steel underneath her sunny, demure pleasantness, and to watch the complex process by which she’s becoming—I think—conscious. If they can focus more on that drama and less on the bloviating (oh, and start using their characters’ names once in awhile) this could be a really, really good show.

As for its focus on the male perspective, I’m still waiting to see if the show will open up, and allow the women to have a sex drive that isn’t essentially a male fantasy of what lesbians and hookers are like; and to explore whatever dark impulses drive women to the park, so that women can take part in the full complexity and range of good and evil that is currently being allowed mostly to the male characters. (Dolores’s complexity is in fact greater than any other character’s; it’s just that she’s, basically, almost purely good and almost entirely a victim, and I’d like to see the show recognize that women, like all humans, are capable of darkness as well.) All in all, though, I’m looking forward to tonight’s episode!

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2 Comments

  1. […] Previously on Westworld: Ford had a partner named Arnold who wanted to create consciousness; Ford’s working on a storyline about a white church; Teddy got a new storyline to explain his mysterious backstory; The Man In Black (Ed) kidnapped Leonard to help him find the maze; Elsie found a man in the desert who smashed his own head with a rock; Maeve started to have memories; Dolores finally learned to shoot a gun, then collapsed in the arms of Gallant. […]

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