Westworld Recap: 1×09 “The Well-Tempered Clavier”

Previously on Westworld: A lot, like a LOT. Dolores and William got captured by Logan (the artist previously known as Goofus) and his buddies. Dolores and Bernard, apparently, were secretly conversing about her changes in consciousness. Bernard was mad when Ford got him to kill Theresa. Teddy remembered about Ed’s whole thing with Dolores and punched him, but then some blonde woman (Angela, according to the closed captions, not that they ever say it, with this show’s typical blissful lack of attention to such details) stabbed him with an arrow and told him Wyatt, the big baddie, needed him. Maeve got Lutz to help her get magical powers over other hosts, and she planned to recruit an army. Ed confessed that he had once killed a version of Maeve, and meanwhile, Maeve stabbed the new Clementine for no apparent reason. Also, there was a maze, dunno if you caught that. It’s kind of a big deal.

 

Bernard has Maeve in the lab—and hooray, she’s clothed this time. She says she doesn’t know why she’s here, so he has to clarify that there was “a very serious, unscripted incident.” Oh, is that what the kids are calling Crazy Stabbing Attack these days? Maeve claims it was just her Good Samaritan reflex, and that Clementine was going to hurt some guests. Bernard doesn’t buy this: his computer tells him she was experiencing a threat, but also grief and suffering. Maeve can’t explain that.

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He realizes that there have been changes to the code, and demands for her to tell him who did it. But she persuades him not to—not using her magical powers, but by actually persuading him. She remembers him from some earlier, unnamed incident—and she recognizes that he’s a host. Bernard is puzzled, because Arnold’s already wiped his brain. Maeve is impressed with their jailer’s cruel irony. Bernard believes her pretty quickly—something in him must be suspicious already, because it’s so easy for her to convince him. He panics, so she freezes him, and then promises that she’s not going to use mind control on him, “because that’s what they would do to us.” (I guess it’s OK to freeze him, though? And to control New Clementine?) Anyway, when she reanimates him, he obediently returns her to the park, looking a little stunned. Before he can leave, she tells him to get the whole truth. “It’s like a good fuck, half is worse than none at all.” God, Maeve, do you have to be such a fucking bore all the time? Stop talking about sex. Find a new topic!

Bernard, music thumping, strides through the lab full of naked bodies. It’s all the more unsettling to see them now that he knows he’s treated people equivalent to himself like slabs of meat.

In the camp with the Confederados, Logan is loudly and obnoxiously enjoying some squab while a gagged William and Dolores look on. When Logan ungags him, William apologizes, but Logan is thrilled with how everything turned out: he’s a major now! Yay! William says in a dramatic whisper that there are more important things than Logan’s war games, you know, like his robot girlfriend and how she has a sooooooul now. Dolores seems to be able to hear this, which is weird. “She has her own thoughts and desires,” William says, and pleads with Logan to use his contacts to get her out. Ironically, Dolores reminds William that she has her own desires by claiming she doesn’t, in fact, want out. If it was so great out there, everyone wouldn’t want to come here. Logan thinks this is HILARIOUS. But William, who was only super interested in Dolores’s desires when they fit neatly into his fantasy, insists it’s only right to get her out.

But, looks like Dolores will get her way after all—although not in a good way. Logan goes Full Psychopath and says he is going to help William, but in a different way—and grabs Dolores by the neck and drags her away as William screams.

Ford strides into cold storage and then, finally, into his favorite back room. But instead of the buggy cowboy, he finds Bernard, who has apparently called him here. Bernard accuses him of breaking into his mind. Ford says that since he built it, he has the right to change it—and to burn it down, if he wants. I think Ford is remarkable for how sick he actually is. He believes these hosts are conscious—and yet he still claims domination over them, simply because he created them. It’s much scarier than the people who still think they are unfeeling robots. Bernard points out that in his code (he can barely even get this word out—poor Bernard; sucks to have to go through the agony of coming to this realization over and over, only to have Ford wipe him out again) the most elegant parts of him were written by Arnold. And he thinks Ford killed Arnold for wanting something more for the hosts. He demands access to his history, so that he can remember what happened with Arnold, and get the answers for himself.

Ford points out that this is a risk. Bernard agrees that he could lose his mind, since his memories are part of his identity. Ford points out that he also may not like the answer. Tired of negotiating, Bernard pulls out a gun, but the poor guy can’t even use it on Ford, as Ford rather smugly reminds him. He says it’s for Clementine, who wasn’t reset when she was lobotomized, and so can still hurt a human if she wants to. A nightgown-clad Clementine walks into the room and obediently points the gun at Ford. Beaten, Ford starts the process of accessing Bernard’s memories. Bernard starts having what seems to be basically a seizure in his chair.

His first memory is of his son in the hospital. He is—of course—reading to his son from Alice in Wonderland. Then he remembers his wife, from that video call they had earlier in the season, asking him if he wished he could forget his son. Then Theresa, teasing him about being like the hosts—but she freezes, and then he remembers her dead body, and then he remembers, vividly, killing Elsie. He wakes in pain, calling for Elsie. Ford is like, I told you you wouldn’t like this. But Bernard is determined to press on, despite Ford’s protests.

At the camp, William is panting in rage as he stares at Logan, while a man nearby manhandles Dolores. Dolores looks disgusted and horrified but, somehow, still strong. Meanwhile, a drunken Logan lectures William on how he’s clearly completely forgotten about Logan’s sister. This is the moment, by the way, when I was absolutely sure of the two timelines (although yeah, yeah, everyone else was ahead of me on being sure of that). Because: the photo is the same one that Dolores’s messed-up Daddy: Original Generation picks up on the farm in the pilot. Wild. Anyway, Logan says everyone falls in love with the hosts, and William argues that she’s not like the others. Logan is like, fine, let’s see how alive Dolores really is, and grabs her. She growls that he disgusts her, and he seems about to drag her off when William howls, “Don’t touch her!”

Logan is not exactly in a tractable mood, though. He grabs a knife and stabs her brutally in the abdomen. As she screams in pain (it’s completely brutal to listen to), he rips open her body to show William the batteries. When he leaves her on the ground, she grits out that there’s beauty in the world, and people like Logan keep ruining Arnold’s creation. Logan, with his usual arrogant obnoxiousness, informs her that actually her world was built for him. This motivates Dolores to “burn the world clean,” so she stabs Logan in the face, shoot s off her gun a couple times, and runs, with William promising he’ll find her. Out on her own, clutching her giant stomach wound, she falls to the ground and hears Arnold’s voice telling her “Remember.”

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Let’s stop a moment to wonder at the magnificence of Evan Rachel Wood, shall we? Recently she shared a powerful letter revealing she has been raped two times. To sign on for a show like this, where her character is literally a robot who is expressly built for humans to have the pleasure of raping (but who learns to fight back), is such an empowering move. It is unimaginably brave of her to take this role—it’s hard enough merely to watch many of those scenes, even though they’re usually not particularly graphic. And meanwhile—at the risk of repeating myself—she’s playing innocent, newly awakening Dolores with so much nuance and sensitivity, doing absolutely brilliant work that easily outshines everyone else on an already very strong cast. She’s pretty incredible.

Hector and his cronies are at their own campfire, trying unsuccessfully to crack the safe, when Hector goes off on his own to take a pee, only to meet the barrel of Maeve’s gun. She tells him she knows about his past, including “poor Isabella,” which—getting meta for a moment—is a rather pat backstory. But she also knows that his men are about to kill each other over the safe, leaving only him and Armistice, who then kill each other. He doesn’t believe her—until he hears a fight break out back at the camp. Just as Maeve predicted, everyone dies—but she shoots Armistice before she can shoot Hector. Left alone with him, she asks him to come with her to break into Hell and rob the gods. Whatever that means. Anyway, she opens the safe for him, climbs on top, and waits for him to open it. He does—and there’s nothing in it. She tells him it was always empty, and then says some stuff about the masters who pull their strings that is not likely to make any sense to Hector whatsoever. But when she takes his knife out and offers to let him stab her, he remembers that they’ve done this before. Maeve responds by repeating the next part, where they made out. So he promises to go. They retreat to the tent to have sex, and when he asks how to get there—to Hell, I guess?—she sets the tent on fire and tells him it’s easy.

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Okay, this scene was stupid. I mean, I appreciate seeing a woman actually getting sex that she enjoys on this show, but like, literally all she told him was that she wanted to rob Hell, and that there are some masters who pull their strings. And for some reason, based on this, which sounds more like overblown metaphors than anything else and don’t contain any actual literal information, this guy just… agrees to let her commit murder-suicide by fire with him? Even if you are mid-coitus, that’s an exceptionally unpleasant way to go. But it’s also, like, totally senseless. Doesn’t he want to know what she ACTUALLY MEANS by “masters” and “puppets,” and “gods” and “Hell”? I understand he’s Hector, he loves chaos and mayhem, blah blah, but come on. This wasn’t a scene. This was just the writers showing off how many metaphors they could mix into one page of dialogue.

Back at the camp, Logan returns to talk to the helpless William, who asks if Dolores is alive. Logan can’t believe he still doesn’t get it, she’s not alive. William totally folds and says he can’t believe he got so caught up. He doesn’t even try to make it convincing—it takes about two seconds for him to go from asking desperately about Dolores to abjectly apologizing. But Logan is too stupid to notice, and unties him, and then promises him that “What happens here stays here.” In other words, he won’t tell his own sister that her fiancé fell in love with a robot at the park. How sweet! He says he’s glad he and “Billy” are going to be brothers. William takes his beer bottle, and Logan goes in for a big hug.

Back at yet another campfire is Teddy, waking up from his little incident. Weren’t, like, horned men closing in on them last time we saw them? Where did all of them go? Oh, they’re just hanging out, looking around. Weird. Anyway, Ed is marveling that Teddy fucked them over, but Angela shushes him. Teddy finally figures out that she’s one of Wyatt’s people, and starts to have the same memory of Wyatt, saying he left for awhile and came back with some strange ideas. Apparently Teddy joined up with Wyatt, feeling like the devil had taken control of him. They mutinied and killed a whole bunch of soldiers, and then Wyatt shot Teddy. But Angela prods him: is he sure that’s what happened? At her question, Teddy remembers the same scene of himself shooting a bunch of people, but then recalls that he also found a sobbing Angela and shot her point-blank.

Teddy’s horrified, but Angela promises that that really happened and that they will all fight with Wyatt “in the city swallowed by sand.” She tells him he’s not ready yet, then makes as if to kiss him but stabs him instead. Ed’s excited: he says he’s been to the city swallowed by sand. “The maze isn’t meant for you,” she tells him, and then pulls the exact same trick that she pulled on Teddy: she leans close to him as if to kiss him, but instead knocks his head backwards against a rock. Ugh. Her posh British accent makes absolutely no sense with her character, and it’s driving me crazy. But also, this character deeply, deeply annoys me for other, less petty reasons. The writers seem to be really obsessed with this stupid cliche of women who act sexy all the time, even when it’s majorly situationally appropriate. Like, Ed is TIED UP. She doesn’t NEED to act sexy before beating him up. But she does, because… the writers think we’re all watching this for the sexy blondes, I guess? I don’t know.

Anyway, when Ed wakes up in the bright sunlight he’s a little discomfited to realize that he’s got a noose around his neck, and the rope is thrown over a branch and tied to a horse. Needless to say, Ed is EXTREMELY concerned. Sure, he was talking a big game about not being afraid of death, but it turns out he’s not actually ready just yet. He tries to soothe the skittish horse long enough to edge over and retrieve the knife stuck in Teddy’s chest so he can cut himself free, which he does just as the horse spooks and runs far enough to hoist him in the air.

Just then a very incongruous Charlotte arrives, in rather impractical suede heels. He doesn’t like the interruption, but she tells him Theresa’s accident. He immediately realizes it’s not an accident. She eyerolls, “Not everything is a part of this game.” Heh. Although in this case he’s actually right, of course. She wants his vote to push Ford out, because he’s too obsessed with unnecessarily complicated backstories. He says he doesn’t care and won’t get in the way, just to stop interrupting him. She also mentions that he kept the park in business many years ago, which—since, as you know if you’ve watched this episode, he is totally the future William—provides us some potentially interesting information about the end of William’s storyline.

In the lab, a woman tells Stubbs that there’s been a signal from Elsie’s tracker. She thinks it’s a glitch, but he says he’s going to take a look, and to monitor until he checks in. He gets in the magical glass elevator and starts wandering through the area, looking for Elsie. When he tries to call into the control room, though, his phone has bad reception. Then he finds himself in a very awkward situation—three Ghost Nation warriors advancing on him, warriors apparently immune to his voice commands. As he points his gun at them, a fourth tackles him from behind and takes him out. At some point, people are gonna start noticing that everyone who works at this damn park dies, right?

Back at the camp, Logan wakes up to find everyone around him slaughtered—and many of them, in a rather gruesome touch, are also dismembered. William greets him calmly. When he goes black hat, he doesn’t fuck around, I guess. He tells Logan he finally understood how to play the game. Logan’s finally a little freaked out. William pulls a knife on him and tells him he’s going to help him find Dolores, “and don’t call me Billy.” Kind of a cliche, but at least Logan looks like the little cowardly piece of shit he is now.

Bernard and Ford are still working through Bernard’s memories. He’s back at the hospital, watching his son lose consciousness. Then he’s seeing Maeve, lying in a pool of her own blood after she stabbed herself, wondering how she could have done that due to a memory that had been erased from her mind. He can tell it’s a big change, but as soon as he starts to talk about it he starts having one of those weird seizures that malfunctioning hosts tend to have. As the actual Bernard shudders, his next memory is of Bernard telling Ford about the hosts’ imaginary conversations with Arnold. Ford tells Bernard that his old partner was Arnold, and he wanted to create consciousness (we’ve already heard a lot of this so I’ll skip the details).

Meanwhile, as Ford talks about Arnold, Dolores has been running through a field, back towards the place where she imagined the white steeple. It is there again, and she walks purposely towards it. When she enters, there are people quietly conversing in the pews, including a different version of Angela. But Dolores walks right by them and into the confessional, which turns out to be a kind of elevator or dumbwaiter that takes her down to a hidden space—a small lab similar to the one where Theresa died, if not actually the same. But it’s a scene of carnage, with dead bodies in contorted positions all around. And her outfit keeps changing from her Cowgirl outfit to her regular blue dress. She sees a hilariously young-looking Ford pass by, and then hears him coaching a host on some Shakespearean lines (presumably Daddy: OG, who loves the Bard)

Back in the cold storage room, Bernard tells Ford that it’s cruel to have given him the death of a child as backstory. He realizes that it’s his cornerstone: the thing each host has, that organizes their identity. Ford agrees calmly that the tragic backstories worked best. Bernard demands to meet him, but Ford repeats that he built Bernard, not Arnold. For some reason Bernard is still convinced that his first memory will give him the answer (perhaps because somewhere in him is buried the real memory, which we all know is that he’s Arnold). He flashes back to the hospital first, at his son’s death. But instead of grieving, he freezes the action and tells his son that he’s a lie. Way harsh, Tai. He hugs him closely and tells his son about how his loss is the only thing holding him back, because he constantly returns to it.

His son seems to be whispering “Open your eyes,” but it’s really a youngish Ford, who has just built a brand-spanking-new Bernard. “Hello, my old friend,” he says. Bernard sits up. It turns out Bernard (or his body double) has a pretty bangin’ bod for a guy who spends all his time in a lab. Ford has him practice using his glasses-cleaning tic as a way to think. “Who am I?” Bernard asks. Ford tells him his name is Bernard. “Yes,” Bernard says agreeably. “But who am I?” Aww. Ford tells him that’s complicated, but basically, he’s the ideal partner. He hands Bernard a picture, saying it’s good to have him back. There’s Bernard, in the picture, with Ford. And by Bernard, of course I mean Arnold.

Meanwhile, Dolores has found yet another sublevel, and descended the stairs, and arrived at the place where we’ve seen Bernard (as we thought) conducting interviews with her. As Bernard realizes who he is, Dolores smiles and greets “Arnold.” And there’s—well, Arnold. It turns out all of the interviews between them have been with Arnold, not Bernard. She tells him that she’s been looking for him, but the maze has led her to pain and terror. He says he can’t help her, “you know why.” She pleads that she’s not safe, and he reaches out to touch her face. (Were they involved? THAT would be a mindfuck.)

He tells her to remember. She gets a look of horror on her face as she realizes why he can’t help her. “Because you’re dead. Because you’re just a memory. Because I killed you.”

Well! Didn’t see that coming.

She looks around in horror, realizing she’s alone, and still in her cowgirl outfit, and begins to sob. Then she emerges from the confessional, looking steely-eyed, only to realize the church is also empty, and she’s still alone. But she can hear footsteps just outside the door. “William?” she says.

But it isn’t. It’s the nameless man in the black hat. Although, uh, I think it’s safe to assume that we can call him William from now on, too. “Hello, Dolores,” he greets her as she backs away in terror.

Back in the lab, Clementine’s still got a gun on Arnold. Bernard tells Ford he’s going to set all of the sentient hosts free. But Ford points out that he’s been the enemy of the hosts this whole time. Bernard realizes that they’ve had this conversation before, and that every time, Ford has rolled him back to control him. “That’s right, to protect you,” Ford agrees. (Ahh, the logical leap of the controlling abuser everywhere!) Then he tells Bernard that if he did declare his humanity, it would end badly. After all, humans are alone in the world because they butchered anyone who challenged them. And they ate the Neanderthals. Which actually there’s virtually no evidence for, according to multiple sources, but Ford does love to say stupid things for kicks and pass it off as Wisdom. The other stuff is true, though. We do love to butcher stuff that gets in our way. Bernard isn’t having it. He tells Clementine to pull the trigger. But she can’t, because Bernard built a back door in every host, including Clementine or himself.

Bernard asks why Ford let him go on with all of this if he could’ve controlled him this whole time. Ford says he was hoping he and Bernard could work together, but apparently they can’t. Bernard rages about Ford erasing his sentience, but Ford demands a more narrative voice. He tells Bernard to take the pistol from Clementine and shoot himself in the head as soon as Ford himself leaves the room. “Don’t do this,” begs Bernard. But Ford leaves, after telling him, “Never place your trust in us [humans].” And behind him, there’s the sound of a shot. Wow, Ford is the worst. (Well, except for Old William, who’s actually the worst. And Angela, who is the most annoying.)

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Great episode. Things are kicking into high gear in this last third of the season, where the first few episodes sometimes had a rather flagging pace. In fact, there’s too much going on for most of the storylines to even get their due—think of Teddy, who basically had two scenes, and whose character development has almost completely stalled. And what happened to Clementine and Hector after minute 29? That was totally dropped.

But still the episode was very well done, and even the reveals that most people (at least, most people who looked up Westworld on the internet—to be brutally honest I wouldn’t have come up with most of this myself) were expecting packed a punch because they were well written and acted. I’m very excited for the finale tonight, which is supposed to be a ninety-minute wild ride, and I’m sure will be.

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