Long-Suspected Secrets Got Revealed In Westworld‘s “Trompe L’Oeil” (and Teresa Is a Smarty-Pants)
"I'm not a key, William. I'm just me." - Dolores
Time for another She Said/She Said recap of Westworld with Teresa and Maddy! Maddy’s skeptical about this show, peacing out like Lawrence, because there ain’t no way that uncharted territory won’t kill us. Meanwhile, Teresa’s all Dolores and William being like surely the uncharted territory can’t be that bad, right? Right? Welcome to “Trompe L’Oeil.” On to recappy spoilers!
THE RECAP SECTION
Bernard awakes from a nightmare in which he remembers when his son Charlie died.
Later, Bernard examines Hector Escaton, testing him for any anomalies. He asks someone on his team if anyone has seen Elsie, but the tech tells him that Elsie was scheduled for leave as of that day, so she must not be in. Bernard looks worried. The tech tells Bernard that there’s been a special request for Hector upstairs.
On the getaway train, William, Lawrence, and Dolores continue on their journey. Dolores remains cold toward Lawrence, who defends his position against the Confederate soldiers, saying that if he had it all to do over again, he would’ve screwed them over again. He asks William if he’d be interested in continuing on with him to fight, commenting on the fact that he seems more comfortable with killing, and “maybe you’ve got more of an appetite for this than you think.” The train passes through Ghost Nation territory, where the heads of enemies are put on spikes as a warning [Teresa: gotta love this park’s racist tropes, amirite?] Lawrence pulls down armored windows and tells William and Dolores that they need to just keep their heads down and pass through Ghost Nation territory quickly, stopping only once they’re past it.
Bernard continues to try and contact Elsie to no avail. He also has an awkward encounter with Theresa about the board sending Charlotte. Bernard seems to be fishing for more information from Theresa, since Elsie told him that she’s responsible for the transmissions out of the park, but she gives up nothing.
Later, Theresa goes to Charlotte’s room and knocks on the door even though she hears Charlotte having really loud sex inside. Charlotte answers the door naked, and we see a tied-up Hector on her bed. Unfazed, Charlotte throws on a robe and shuts Hector down. After dressing Theresa down about the woodcutter incident and Ford taking up so much park space on his new narrative, Charlotte enlists Theresa’s help in finally getting rid of Ford in a clean way. Apparently, Delos Corporation cares nothing for the rich guests and their fantasies (or their money, apparently). The real value is in the intellectual property in the park, and a “research project” Delos Corporation is conducting with that information. Ford has ensured that there’s no back-up of the information anywhere other than in the park, so the board is being really delicate about how they get rid of him so as not to risk him destroying the information out of revenge. Charlotte wants Theresa to help her demonstrate how dangerous Ford’s recent updates are and tells Theresa that the board requires a “blood sacrifice.”
Maeve wakes up for her day, and heads to the Mariposa looking increasingly agitated. She shuts the player piano, making the saloon eerily quiet. Clementine approaches her at the bar for their usual conversation, and we learn a little more about Clementine’s backstory. She sends the money she makes home to her family, who thinks that she works in a dress shop. She doesn’t plan to make being a prostitute her career (no offense, Maeve!), but instead hopes “a couple more years of this and I can have whatever kind of life I want.” Suddenly, all the hosts except Maeve freeze. Out of the corner of her eye, Maeve sees a host recovery team approaching the saloon and she pretends to freeze along with the other hosts even as she gets her hands on a knife just in case. The recovery team is there to retrieve a problem host, and as they approach, Maeve assumes that they’re there for her. But they take Clementine instead.
On the train, William asks Dolores why she’s sure that what she’s looking for exists, and she says that she just does and that the world suddenly started feeling like a lie to her. She insists she’s never going back home. William talks about having lived in books as a kid and trying to search for their meaning. To him, that’s what Westworld is: a book he can get lost in, and now he wants to find the meaning. Dolores says that she doesn’t want to be in a story, nor is she worried about the past or the future. She wants to be in the present moment (and that present moment involves flirting with William). William reluctantly stops her, telling her that he’s got someone back home that he’s engaged to. Dolores leaves embarrassed, but then William goes after her and kisses her anyway. They do it. [Teresa: Ugh. Just ugh. They’re starting to get gross. Maddy: Yeah, I’m not a fan. Dolores, you can do better!]
Charlotte and Theresa have called Dr. Ford and Bernard into Livestock where Charlotte sits. Charlotte tells Ford that they’ve found problems in the code for his updates containing the “reveries.” They have a host that’s been programmed to read as human, which they apparently can do and use the hosts to work on other hosts. They reset Clementine to her previous, pre-update build, and and they test her by having the host tester beat the crap out of her. She cries and doesn’t fight back. When they give her Ford’s update, however, when the host tester attempts to hit her, Clementine beats the crap out of him instead. The update, it seems, allows hosts to “hold a grudge,” remembering previous things that have happened to them and them acting accordingly. Since this happened on Bernard’s watch, Charlotte fires Bernard. “Blood sacrifice” accomplished. [Teresa: So…is the plan to fire Bernard then expect Ford to retire quietly? Because that doesn’t seem like much of a plan. Maddy: Yeah, this “plan” seems pretty bad to me, too, especially after seeing the twist at the end of this week’s episode. However, with that ending in mind, it remains to be seen whether Charlotte is actually trying to go toe-to-toe with Dr. Ford, or if she’s also a pawn in his schemes.]
Later on the train, Dolores draws with charcoals as William wakes up from a post-coital nap. Dolores worries that William might regret their time together because of his fiancee back home, but William doesn’t. He says that Westworld “shows you who you really are” and that Dolores has unlocked something in him. Dolores says, “I’m not a key, William. I’m just me.”
[Teresa: This reminds me of Kate Winslet’s speech in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where she tells Jim Carrey “Too many guys think I’m a concept or I complete them or I’m going to make them alive, but I’m just a fucked up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind.” Incidentally, her character is also named Clementine, and that movie is all about how removing memories removes the ability to feel pain and hold grudges. Hmmm…]
Anyway, Dolores is drawing something she’s never drawn before. A place from her imagination, where the land meets the river. Before this, she’s only been able to draw things she can see. She asks William what he dreams of, but before he can answer, the train screeches to a halt. The tracks have been blocked, and they are ambushed by the Confederate soldiers! The soldiers shoot up the train, but as they attempt to get closer, one of the train doors opens and someone rides out on a horse flying a white flag. Except that it’s not a person, but a corpse. Specifically, it’s the corpse that Lawrence filled with nitro glycerin. When the corpse rides close enough to the soldiers, Lawrence shoots it, causing it to explode. With the soldiers distracted, Lawrence, William, and Dolores attempt to escape on horseback.
A chase ensues and there’s shooting and narrow escapes. When it looks like our heroes (?) are done for, members of the Ghost Nation ride up and start slaughtering the soldiers. Team Dolores is able to get away in the chaos. They eventually arrive at the very place Dolores drew! [Teresa: So she’s been there before, and the drawing wasn’t her imagination, but a memory!]
According to Lawrence, the land in that direction is uncharted territory from whence no one ever returns. Dolores, however, is determined to go to there. [Maddy: Plus, it seems that Lawrence must be wrong–someone has returned from this place, and it’s Dolores, since it seems as though some distant part of her can “remember” this place.] Lawrence asks if William wants to go with him to continue the fight, but William says he’s done with that and stays with Dolores.
Back at Westworld HQ, Maeve is once again in need of repair. As Felix works on her with a female tech, Maeve grabs his wrist when the other tech isn’t looking. Felix sends the other tech away, then he warns Maeve that if she keeps ending up here so often, the higher-ups will get suspicious. Maeve, however, doesn’t care. What she does care about is finding Clementine. She demands that Felix take her to Clementine, and he does so reluctantly. Maeve ends up seeing Sylvester lobotomizing Clementine under Theresa’s supervision. She cries. [Teresa: I don’t get why they would drill up her nose like that. Why wouldn’t they just do something on a software level, or straight-up open her head? It seemed weird to me. Maddy: I assume her processor is inside of her head, and Sylvester has been ordered to destroy it beyond repair, after which point I assume Clementine will be put out of service along with the other hosts in that spooky basement area. But this still doesn’t answer my larger question about Westworld’s superstitious tendency to take hosts out of operation entirely rather than just replacing all of their internal parts. Why don’t they recycle the bodies? Is it that hard to replace internal computer parts in the hosts?]
As Theresa leaves there, Bernard approaches and tells her that he has something to show her, warning her that the countless repetitions of their loops have allowed the hosts to be “on the verge of something new.”
Later, Sylvester attempts to sort-of apologize to Maeve for “retiring” Clementine. Maeve tells him that he has to do something for her: help her escape. She says that she’s always prided herself on being a survivor, but “surviving is just another loop.” Sylvester insists that them attempting to help her escape would be a suicide mission. But then Maeve makes the most badass speech ever:
“At first I thought you and the others were gods. Then I realized you’re just men. And I know men. You think I’m scared of death. I’ve done it a million times. I’m fucking great at it. How many times have you died?”
In the elevator to topside, Theresa explains to Bernard that Delos has more at stake than guest satisfaction. Bernard says that the longer he works there, the more he identifies with the hosts. “It’s the human beings who confuse me.”
Bernard is taking her to Dr. Ford’s house in Sector 17 and reveals that the hosts are the ones responsible for doing surveys of the park, but that Dr. Ford programmed them to not be able to even see Sector 17, which is how the house has gone unnoticed for this long. They enter the house, and Theresa asks about a door she sees in the living room. Bernard asks, “What door?” He then mindlessly follows her through it.
They go down some stairs and find a more rudimentary version of the Westworld lab. It seems Dr. Ford is secretly making his own, unregistered hosts. Theresa finds plans on a table and looks through them. He sees schematics for hosts like The Boy, and Dolores. She then spots something that makes her stop in her tracks. She shows the paper to Bernard and asks him what it is, and EVEN THOUGH IT’S CLEARLY A PICTURE OF HIM AND PLANS FOR HIS HOST BUILD, he says, “This doesn’t look like anything to me.” BERNARD IS A HOST, Y’ALL! [Teresa: IknewitIknewitIknewitIknewit! Maddy: You definitely called this one. I should never have doubted it!]
Aaaaand that’s when Ford shows up. In disgusting form, Ford reveals in front of Bernard that Bernard is a host as he talks about the fact that Theresa’s “intimacies” with him were her idea. Bernard nearly has a nervous breakdown as he denies that he could possibly be a host, remembering his wife and son. But Ford commands him to calm down, and he reverts to blank host state. Ford talks about how human intellect is all just an elaborate mating ritual; that all of humanity’s greatest achievements were really just to attract a mate, like a peacock’s feathers. But peacocks can’t fly, and likewise humans can’t be free while burdened with their base reasons for achieving things. Ford says that the hosts are the only ones who are truly free…under his control, of course.
Theresa says that Bernard led her there, but Ford says he led her there, because Ford wanted him to. She attempts to challenge Ford, saying that his time “playing God” was over. However, Ford insists that all he wanted to do was tell his stories, and that it’s Delos who want to play God “with their little undertaking.” Theresa insists that the board won’t let him get away with this, but Ford is completely not threatened, saying that his arrangement with the board is too valuable to them. That they “push him” sometimes, and that he thinks they do it for the sport of it. This time they sent Theresa, and now to resolve things, there needs to be a “blood sacrifice.”
Ford has Bernard kill Theresa.
THE OPINION SECTION
Teresa: OMFG, THERE IS SO MUCH AWESOMENESS HERE TO UNPACK! But first, I have to say that I’m very proud of myself for having called the fact that Bernard is a host. I first started suspecting it in Episode 3, “The Stray,” because of the way Ford was talking to him. Then in last week’s recap for Episode 6, “The Adversary,” I doubled-down on my Bernard Is a Host theory, because of the way that Ford was so completely not threatened by him. Whether Bernard’s hostiness has anything to do with Arnold remains to be seen (the second half of my theory is that Bernard is somehow a Replacement Arnold).
What was brilliant about this episode was the way that it beautifully laid breadcrumbs toward this big reveal. Actually, in hindsight the breadcrumbs have been skillfully laid way before this. For example:
Last week, Dr. Ford seemed to come “out of nowhere” in the above gif. But this week, we learn that there was a door there the whole time that Bernard couldn’t see. Incidentally, the episode’s title, “Trompe L’Oeil,” is an optical illusion in art which, in French, means “deceive the eye.”
Then, in this episode alone, we have:
- Bernard waking up from a nightmare (the other hosts have been having nightmares about previous builds and lives, too)
- The preliminary reveal of the hosts being able to be programmed to read as human to other hosts (which explains how he could work with the hosts without them seeing him as one of them)
- The reveal of hosts being used to survey the park, but being able to be programmed with blind spots.
All leading up to poor Bernard’s schematics in the super-secret lab.
Bernard’s being a host and the scene between Dr. Ford and Theresa before her death both open up some fascinating questions. Both Charlotte and Dr. Ford say that a “blood sacrifice” is required. At first, when Charlotte says it, the audience is made to think that Bernard is the sacrifice. Later, when Dr. Ford talks about the fact that the board tests him often “for the sport of it,” and he says that the resolution is a “blood sacrifice,” one wonders if Charlotte knew all along that she was sending Theresa to her death. It gives her words to Theresa — “I like you. Well, not personally, but I like you for this job.” — chilling new meaning.
If she did know Theresa was going to die, we have to wonder what the point was? Is the Delos Corporation really just playing this chase game with Dr. Ford for sport? And what exactly is their “research project?” How exactly is Delos “playing God?” It also makes me wonder whether Dr. Ford is actually the good guy in all this. If he’s just “trying to tell his stories,” and Delos is up to something much worse, should we actually be rooting for this douchebag and hoping he stops them from taking the park from him?
Another question: Why were Dolores’ schematics included with The Boy’s and Bernard’s? Both of those hosts were created and controlled by Dr. Ford in secret. We know that Dolores is the oldest host in the park right now…but is she, too under Dr. Ford’s control? In the recap for Episode 4, “Dissonance Theory,” I said, “what if Dr. Ford IS Arnold? Dun-dun-DUUUUUUN!” I was half-joking, but now I wonder if Dr. Ford is also the one controlling Dolores. After all, she’s following Arnold’s voice and her memories of, among other things, a church, which seems to be what Ford’s narrative entails. She’s also leading William to The Maze, which is where, according to what we’ve heard from The Man in Black, humans can actually get hurt. We know that William and Logan were talking about their company buying out Westworld because it’s hemorrhaging money. Is Dolores helping Ford stop that from happening?
And since this has all seemingly happened before for Dolores, and references kept being made to Theresa only being “the latest” head of QA to try and take Ford down and the Delos board continually trying to take Ford down for sport, I wonder if this isn’t all some kind of sick game. I wonder if Ford’s lab is actually the center of the Maze, and it’s where rich people send an unsuspecting human to die. That sounds wacky. And yet, not too wacky for this show.
AAAAAAAHHHHH! I could speculate further, but I’ll stop here because I’m taking up Maddy’s valuable reviewing real estate. Before I stop, though, I have to say how brilliant Thandie Newton was in this episode. Maeve’s “How many times have you died?” scene was amazing. And Sylvester said something interesting about “even her skin” being designed to keep her in Westworld. Was that just a weird figure of speech, or is there actually something about hosts’ skin?
In any case, I thought this episode was pretty much a masterclass in foreshadowing and pay-off. And while I thought the Dolores/William stuff was kinda meh, I’m kinda glad Theresa is gone, as she was always one of the more boring elements of the story. Too bad that she only got interesting right when she died. RIP, Theresa Cullen.
Maddy: I definitely echo Teresa’s sentiments when it comes to Maeve’s speech in this episode, which I enjoyed so much that it almost made me forgive some of the other disappointing choices in this episode… but, since I’m the naysayer around here, I gotta just say nay to some of the events that transpired.
First of all: Dolores and William. I wasn’t for it the first time we saw them kiss, and I continue to be less and less interested in their romance now. I realize that a lot of other Westworld fans are getting a lot of mileage out of speculating about William’s true identity, with the most popular theory being that he is the Man In Black, and that all of his scenes with Dolores take place in a previous timeline. So, those people probably enjoy these scenes with William, as opposed to heaving a sigh every time he shows up, like I do. I can’t wait for Dolores to ditch this dude. He had better turn out to be someone interesting, or else I don’t get why he is in these scenes with Dolores at all; she could be doing all of this on her own, and I’d be more interested. (New theory: William is a figment of Dolores’ imagination, and also, he is Arnold. Kidding. Sort of.)
I can’t help but notice that, at this point, both of our female hosts have managed to corral a human male ally in their efforts to escape Westworld. Of the two pairings, I think Maeve and Felix’s alliance is more compelling and understandable, because we’ve already established that Felix is a victim of Westworld as well. He’s a marginalized person fighting back, just like Maeve, and that’s what draws them together. That type of narrative device helps me root for the two of them. When it comes to William, though… I just don’t care, and the more I see of his storyline and his paternalistic treatment of Dolores, the more I dislike him. If he turns out to be the Man In Black (or a villain of some kind), that might redeem this story for me, because so far, he doesn’t seem like a good ally for Dolores.
I used to hope that Dolores and Teddy would get back together, but now I’m not so sure I even want that outcome anymore (especially after Teddy’s most recent update, which gave him a more cold-blooded backstory). I think at this point, my hope for Dolores is that she ends up on her own. I did enjoy her retorts to William in this episode about not wanting to “live in a story” and not being his “key,” but she still seems way too trusting of him, given everything else she has seen so far. I would like to see Dolores questioning William’s motives more, and I hope we see that in the next episode or so. I do understand that she is naive and sees the good in everyone, though… but that can’t last forever. That facade is already starting to crack for her, and I want to see her break out.
That’s all chump change compared to my saddest moments in this episode, though, which is this: we just watched Westworld kill off two of our main female characters, with Clementine getting brain-drilled (and, I believe, subsequently decommissioned for good) and Theresa getting killed by Bernard. My only caveat here is that both actresses who play those roles have all of the rest of the season one episodes of Westworld listed on their IMDB pages (here’s Angela Sarafyan’s page, and here’s Sidse Babett Knudsen’s page). Particularly in the case of Theresa Cullen’s character, I don’t see how that’s possible, unless it turns out that she’s also a robot and can be reanimated? Perhaps her character will appear in future episodes in a flashback. Or, perhaps the IMDB pages are intended to throw people off the trail from the fact that both of these characters just died.
Sort of like on Game of Thrones, I think Westworld wanted to shock us by killing off two of our main characters. But I gotta admit, I wish they hadn’t picked two women, because there aren’t that many women on this show. Game of Thrones‘ decision to kill off Ned in the first season (and in the first book of the source material, obviously) was interesting because it was a subversion of heroic tropes in fantasy. Westworld killing off Clementine and Theresa isn’t a surprising subversion, though. (What would really have been wacky would be if they killed off William or something. Ha ha ha. But seriously though.)
Theresa Cullen was probably my least favorite character on this show simply by virtue of the fact that she never seemed to have any narrative agency whatsoever. I think Sidse Babett Knudsen did the best she could with a role that wasn’t particularly meaty or fun to play; a lot of her most moving scenes in episodes past involved her looking terrified while Dr. Ford threatened her. While Knudsen does a great performance of “terrified facial expression,” it’s not exactly the most winning role for an older woman actress. And, of course, this episode ended with her getting beaten to death by a former lover, who also happens to be the main black male character on this show, and whose character is revealed to be… a puppet controlled by Dr. Ford. There are some disturbing implications there, with Bernard being used as a pawn by these white characters.
That said, I think this is the beginning of Bernard’s own story-arc, and his own journey towards an escape, and I do realize that type of story could lead in a lot of different directions. So I guess I’ll just say, for the moment, I’m not entirely sure how Westworld is going to handle the reveal of Bernard being a robot designed to serve Dr. Ford. So far, it makes me uncomfortable, which I’m sure is intentional. I hope that leads to a more interesting storyline for Bernard in the future. Ideally, said storyline will be a more subversive one than beating a woman to death.
I also think it’s worth pointing out that this was an episode that let us watch Clementine get beat up extensively by a male host, and then when she fought back, she got killed. Then, after many episodes of us watching Theresa try to fight back against Dr. Ford in various ways, she got beaten to death as well. Maeve’s lines in this episode felt like a small panacea in comparison to what else Westworld showed us this week.
Meanwhile, Charlotte is an interesting introduction as a potential counterpart to Dr. Ford, but we don’t yet know what her motivations are. Basically, I don’t know what’s going to happen with the women characters who we have left, here. If both Clementine and Theresa are truly dead for good, then… that disappoints me, from a story standpoint, because it means that the narrative avenues that I hoped for them have been closed.
We’re also back to square one on the “who’s Arnold” question. I don’t know if I think Dr. Ford and/or Bernard are Arnold, but Teresa’s better at guessing plot points than I am, so perhaps I shouldn’t question her! Here’s my off-the-wall idea, though, just for the fun of it: what if Logan is Arnold? Or, more logically, what if Logan’s dad is Arnold? We already know Logan’s “company” has some sort of financial stake in Westworld, although it’s not entirely clear what’s going on there. I’m not sure if William and Logan’s storyline will lead us to the answer about the Man In Black’s identity, but it’s possible they could lead us to the discovery of Arnold’s identity.
As for what Charlotte might be up to, I’ve assumed ever since the pilot episode that the robots of Westworld would turn out to be robotic soldiers or military operatives or spies or whatever. If that happens, the future seasons of this show could end up looking very weird–but it seems like a good direction to go, since we can’t stay in the theme park forever. “Political thriller” sounds like a good genre direction, in future seasons. We’ll just have to wait and see about that!
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org