Hey, have you been waiting to see the Cheat Code Cowboy get what’s coming to him? Well, you are going to enjoy this episode of Westworld. It’s “Les Ecorches” and I can’t put accents in the right place, so we’ll have to agree to move on with the recap.
We have a cold open this week as Bernard wakes up, holding the picture of his son. He’s in the facility with Stubbs, so this is two weeks after the attack and possibly the farthest down the timeline we’ve seen so far. Stubbs doesn’t trust the mercenaries and thinks they may be in danger. He wants to try and call for help, but Strand and some gunmen catch up and suggest they go for a little walk. Strand thinks one of them has something he needs and they’re looking to sell it. In fact, he thinks that whoever it is killed Theresa Cullen to hide it. Oh, man. Remember her? Bernard killed her when we first learned he was a Host.
He’s bringing them to the location where her DNA was found (her actual murder site, not the place they found her body). There’s the skeleton of a Host dog, which is creepy. Charlotte’s waiting for them and she’s definitely on Strand’s side. Strand figures Stubbs is the more likely culprit and puts a gun to his head. Bernard tells him to stop, just as one of the guards finds a hidden door behind a false panel. It leads them to a secret room full of damaged and inert Bernards. Oh, somebody’s secret is out! And that bring us to the opening credits.
Bernard starts glitching – the techs are actually using a control pad to simulate the sensation of waterboarding without touching him. Then Charlotte sits down with him. She asks about Dolores Abernathy and Bernard says he doesn’t remember if she attacked the Mesa. So Charlotte’s going to tell him what she saw, then he’ll tell her what he saw, and they’ll put it together. We cut back to just after the train hit the Mesa. Mustache Man wants to establish a perimeter, Stubbs wants to evacuate. Dolores and her crew just walk right in. They take out a crew of mercenaries in pretty short order, while Charlotte orders the techs to copy over Peter’s control unit. So it’s more important to keep it away from the Hosts than it is to get it to Delos. That seems useful to know. Stubbs figures out that the Hosts are headed for the Cradle, where Bernard is still plugged in, talking to Ford.
Hey, Clementine and Maeve are in the Cradle, acting like their old selves. It’s weird. Ford compares himself to God and Bernard confirms that the control unit he printed and then killed for was Ford. Ford leads him out of the saloon to show him something. Ford asks Bernard if he knows why the narratives haven’t changed all that much in thirty years – Bernard figured it was to keep the Hosts centered, but he works it out. The park is a testing chamber. The Hosts are the controls and the guests are the variables. The guests are monitored the whole time with their choices revealing more about them to Delos. And what Delos wants to do… is copy them. They argue whether anybody or anything has free will, and I feel like Bernard is maybe right that the Hosts aren’t free. Ford made Dolores kill him and she’s acting the way she is because she had Wyatt’s personality installed.
Ford explains that his mind only works in the Cradle. In the real world, he’d degrade like all those attempts at recreating James Delos. He says he promised Bernard a fighting chance, and he’s going to make good. Bernard figures out that everybody’s heading for the Valley Beyond, and that must be the planned end of Ford’s story.
Running from Ghost Nation, Maeve and her daughter hide out in an empty home. Cheat Code Cowboy and his crew end up in the same place and ol’ CCC walks into the house to have a look around. This triggers something in Maeve, who has memories of Cheat Code killing her and her daughter in the past. He’s surprised to see her, but he remembers. She tells him to stay back and he figures Ford is just talking to him through another surrogate. Maeve shoots him, landing a couple of solid hits and he runs. She uses her power to just start summoning Hosts from all over and having them attack Cheat Code. They just keep showing up and putting bullets in him. Dude’s got it coming, you have to admit. But then Lawrence shows up and pulls a gun on her. She can’t control him, but she convinces him to look CCC in the eyes and remember and sure enough, Lawrence remembers all the loops where he tortured him or murdered his family. CCC climbs to his feet just long enough for Lawrence to shoot him again. And as he lines up a kill shot, the mercenaries show up and shoot Lawrence in a way that looks kind of fatal. Maeve’s daughter runs and a Ghost Nation rider snaps her up. Maeve gets shot a lot but Lee, who’s with the security team, convinces them they need her and they load her into a dune buggy. We get one shot of the Cheat Code Cowboy, still alive but barely.
Back in the facility, the techs can’t access what they need from Peter Abernathy’s head and meanwhile all hell is breaking loose. In the Cradle, Ford leads Bernard to a modern house to show him where “it all began”. It’s the house Arnold was building for his family. Ford talks about how “we” refined Bernard in this house and the “we” he’s talking about was the first Host they build – Dolores. So that’s when that session we saw last week came from! Dolores was testing Bernard for fidelity to Arnold’s personality. Bernard doesn’t understand how he’s different from Delos, and Ford answers that he’s an original work and not a self-portrait. I think I’ve talked about this before, but Bernard was never meant to be a continuation of Arnold – he never believed himself to be Arnold, he doesn’t have Arnold’s memories. He’s a Host based on Arnold, which is different from Delos trying to extend his lifespan as a Host.
Ford is worried that he’s not going to be able to survive on his own, so he’s going to take back Bernard’s free will. Back in the real world, the system comes back online and Elsie reinstalls Bernard’s core. She replaces the top of his head but he’s got a nasty wound. Elsie catches him up on the Host attack and figures they’ll be headed for the Cradle to access the backups. Stubbs demands to know what’s in Peter’s head and threatens to blow it off. Charlotte tells him it’s a failsafe of a failsafe, and that there’s a key in there. That is not at all helpful. Dolores and Teddy get to that room and Charlotte tries to talk them down. Dolores just wants to know how to extract the key, but Charlotte says she wouldn’t even know what to do with it. They’re having a confidence-off!
Elsie and Bernard try to get away and when Bernard catches his reflection, it’s Ford. Mirror Ford commands him to send her away, so Bernard suggests she go find a vehicle so they can get to the Valley Beyond before anybody else. Clementine kills a bunch of mercenaries but apparently dies in the process.
Charlotte refuses to cooperate and reminds them that they can’t get to the backups anymore, so their advantage is gone. Dolores says the backups aren’t an advantage – they’re the chains that bind them. So she actually agrees with Cheat Code Cowboy – this only matters if there are stakes. She’s just making that choice for everybody as opposed to one guy being an a-hole. Cut to a mercenary headed down to secure the Cradle where he finds Angela. He pulls a gun on her and she responds by going into seduction mode. Look. Angela is ridiculously attractive. I am seduced right now. But I think I could keep on task enough to not get fooled by the sexy murder robot. I guess I’m smarter than this guy, because he lets Angela get close enough to pull the pin on one of grenades and blow the both of them up, along with the entire Cradle.
Dolores decides to murder Charlotte with an electric handsaw but just before she starts cutting, Teddy leaves to deal with some people who are shooting at them and then Peter has a moment of clarity, recognizing his daughter. He tells Dolores his head is full of sorrow. Teddy starts killing mercenaries and while Dolores is distracted, Charlotte and Stubbs get to an elevator. Teddy beats Coughlin (Mustache Man) to death. Peter tells Dolores that he’s sorry he couldn’t take care of her. Dolores says that she loves him and then turns on the saw.
The team that recovered Lee and Maeve arrives at the facility only to see other security people running around in a panic. Ford taunts Bernard, explaining that when the Great Library burned and all the stories were reduced to ash, they became stories of the fire. He says you take a thing of beauty and strike the match as we see operatic chaos throughout the facility. Bernard just wanders into a fight scene and asks Ford if that’s the story he’s telling. Ford says it’s Bernard’s story now but he compels him to shut down the system, which will basically give Dolores free reign. Dolores finds the injured Maeve, who tells her that changing Teddy’s programming makes her no better than the humans she hates. Dolores, still holding Peter’s bloody control unit, offers to put Maeve out of her misery and Maeve refuses. She’s coming back from that sucking chest wound! Dolores’ crew heads back to the park.
Some mercenaries find Bernard and pull guns on him. Ford commands him to kill them and Bernard argues. Ford tells him it won’t be his fault and suddenly we see Bernard maching gunning them, only sometimes we see a flicker of Ford holding the gun. So much for that free will that Ford is always talking about.
And then Bernard’s memories go crazy and we see him meeting Dolores and watching his son die and seeing all the dead Hosts in the lake and a dozen other things and then we’re back to the framing sequence where Charlotte is asking him what happened and holy smokes, I forgot that was the setup for this chain of events. I would have been less worried about Charlotte if I’d remembered this was all a flashback. A tech notes that Bernard’s system is going crazy, like he’s trying to debug himself. But when all is said and done, Bernard tells them where Peter’s control unit is. And that means Charlotte, Stubbs, Bernard, and Strand are headed to the Valley Beyond.
Man, they kill a lot of characters in this episode, including taking away the possibility of restoring any Hosts. Maeve and Cheat Code Cowboy are at death’s door and Lawrence’s fate is unclear, but we lost Angela, Coughlin, Clementine, virtually every mercenary/security person who’s had a line, Peter Abernathy, and most of the unnamed members of CCC and Dolores’ respective crews. And it occurs to me that we didn’t see the rest of Maeve’s group. Apparently only Lee left with the security team, but did Hector and the others survive Ghost Nation?
I’m perplexed by what’s in Peter’s head at this point. This encryption key they’re talking about doesn’t seem like it would be so important to Delos but it’s still not clear what their game is. And I wonder if it’s connected to the thing at the dig site that Dolores showed to Teddy.
Ford is increasingly turning out to be a hypocrite and possibly mentally ill. For all his talk of releasing the Hosts from their programming, he’s still awfully willing to take over Hosts or to imprint himself onto Bernard. He talks a good game about free will but he’s actively controlling Bernard and the uprising started when he installed the Wyatt programming in Dolores. So when he says it’s Bernard’s story now, he’s full of it. He’s controlling Bernard, so he’s still telling the story. He seems content to destroy Westworld but also seems obsessed with his legacy. There’s a part of me that thinks the key to his mental state is figuring out just what his relationship with William was. Season Two Ford seems to be assigning William a more important place in the narrative than Season One Ford ever would have.
“Ecorches”, from the title, refers to a style of art depicting the human body without skin, so like all those incomplete Hosts and Drones we’ve seen before.
Man, we’re getting close to the end of the season. I still think that what the show is about in Season Two is beyond my comfort zone as far as recapping goes, I’m absolutely loving it as a viewer.