Westworld Episode 8 Recap: In The Center Of The Maze

Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Far from slowing things down after last week’s big reveal, this episode, “Trace Decay,” only sped things up. With only two more episodes to go until the end of the season, this installment started to ferry us into the endgame. We open with Bernard and Ford in the same basement lab where he killed Theresa. Bernard is struggling with what he’s done, and so Ford makes a bargain with him: He’ll wipe his memory once all evidence of their involvement in Theresa’s death is gone. Fans of the Bernie-is-Arnold theory should take note of Ford’s warning: “You’re not the first man to threaten me. Arnold came to feel the way you do. He couldn’t stop me either.” It’s almost as if he can’t help but compare them. In Sweetwater, Maeve is continuing to have flashbacks to her former life as a homesteader. “What the hell is happening to me?” she asks Felix. He explains that while humans remember things in the fuzzy details, hosts recall memories perfectly. “You relive them,” he says. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Maeve has a purpose now: Getting out of the park. Interestingly, we learn that hosts are equipped with an explosive device that is set to detonate if they leave. Does this mean it has happened before? Or were Ford and Arnold afraid that they might? Maeve needs a full rebuild to get rid of the ticking time bomb inside her before she can make her exit. She also need allies, and to get those, she needs administrative privileges, which turn out to be the Westworld equivalent of Jedi mind tricks. Basically, Maeve’s path is getting increasingly clear. Dolores’, on the other hand, is getting murkier. She and Will make their way to a riverbank where they find the victims of what Will calls a Ghost Nation ambush, but looks suspiciously like the aftermath of an attack by Wyatt. Like Maeve, Dolores is having flashbacks — except it’s not clear which way they’re flashing. When she goes to the river to get water for a dying man, she sees herself lying face-down, dead. “Come find me,” a voice says. She’s losing her grasp on reality. Meanwhile, Stubbs finds Theresa’s body at the bottom of the same ravine they found the dysfunctional woodcutter. Conveniently, a satellite link was also found, leading everyone to believe that Theresa was trying to smuggle information out of the park, slipped, and fell to her death. Everyone except Charlotte Hale, that is. She doesn’t look convinced. On the bright side, Theresa’s death means Bernie is reinstated as Head of Behavior, which is good news because they’re incredibly short-handed. (We still don’t know what happened to Elsie, but more on that later.) The discovery of Theresa’s so-called deception puts pressure on Sylvester and Felix to do something about Maeve. Sylvester suggests that they pretend to do what she wants and then just wipe her memory and break her (WHY DIDN’T THEY DO THAT BEFORE GIVING HER UNLIMITED BRAIN POWER?) For her part, Maeve has been getting acquainted with her core code. And guess what? She’s old. There’s something within her, “like two minds, arguing with each other. There are things in me, things I was designed to do that are just out of my reach.They almost seem to be dormant.” Sound familiar? Like Arnold's bicameral mind system perhaps? The suspicion gets confirmed when she suddenly asks “Who is Arnold?” In the end, Sylvester’s plan goes horribly awry when Maeve wakes up and slits his throat. Her core code has been altered. She can do whatever she wants, which she shows us when she wakes up refreshed back in the Mariposa, ready to test out her new powers. She gives orders to the new version of Clementine (the old host was retired), and the bartender. Works like a charm. When Hector and his band of outlaws ride into town, she helps them out by calling off the sheriff. This new Maeve is terrifying. I love it. We check in with Teddy and MIB, who have ventured into Wyatt territory. This just in: Teddy is starting to remember things. They also come across corpses, murdered in a very similar way to those Dolores and Will encountered just moments before. MIB recognizes one of the survivors, a female host. As they’re chatting, one of Wyatt’s henchman jumps out from the woods and attacks. Teddy finally brings him down — along with MIB. He knows he’s the one who attacked Dolores at the ranch. Speaking of violence, now that Bernie has done what he needs to, Ford is ready to help him forget it. But before he does, Bernie has one question: “Have you ever made me hurt anyone like this before?” Ford answers no, just as Bernie flashes back to himself strangling someone who looks suspiciously like Elsie. Did Ford send him to kill her? (This seems even more plausible given his response when Stubbs asks about Elsie later. As with Theresa, he doesn’t even feign concern, meaning his memories of her may have also been wiped.) Ford is anxious that everything return to normal. Bernie shouldn’t dwell on these memories. "You might lose yourself to them as some of your fellow hosts have, every now and then." In an almost too perfect transition, we return to Dolores and Will, who have arrived at what she calls “home.” And this is where things get confusing (what else is new?), both for us and Dolores. At first, it seems as if they’ve come to the town with the white church, the very one that Ford has been rebuilding for his new narrative. But then, Dolores encounters Lawrence’s little girl, the wise child who keeps warning her about the Maze, and hears gunfire. When she turns, she’s the one holding the gun, first to others, and then to her own head. Suddenly, we are pulled back into another reality, where Will grabs the gun from Dolores. So which one is real? If we assume that the multiple timeline theory is true, then both could be. When Dolores sees behavior technicians teaching the hosts to dance, it could be taking place at the very beginning of the park, in the time of Arnold. In the scene with William, which, according to the theory, takes place a couple of years after Arnold’s death, only the metal spire stands where the church once did. Dolores is understandably flustered, and Will suggests they go back towards Sweetwater, because being out on the fringe of the park is making her glitchy. They don’t get far before encountering Logan, newly recruited by the Confederados. Uh oh. Also in “uh oh” territory: Whatever is going between Sizemore and Hale cannot be good. After recruiting him to help her with a little secret project, Hale drags him down to the basement storage unit where the hosts are kept. Seemingly at random, she points to a host, who happens to be the original Abernathy dad who glitched in episode one (Dolores’ father). She wants to upload data into him, and tasks Sizemore with giving him some kind of a personality. Given this host’s past history, this seems like a recipe for disaster. But perhaps the biggest reveal of this episode is about the Man in Black. We finally get to understand a little more about him. In the outside world, he’s the equivalent of Bill Gates, a “titan of industry, a philanthropist.” He was married to a beautiful woman and raised a beautiful daughter. All was hunky dory, until his wife killed herself and his daughter turned against him. “They never saw anything like the man I am in here — but she knew anyway,” he tells Teddy. And so, he decided to test his humanity. Maeve’s daughter was the test — and he failed. For Maeve, on the other hand, that test actually brought out her humanity — until Ford took it away. At the same time that MIB is recounting his tale to Teddy, Maeve is flashing back to her own experience. She didn’t die when MIB stabbed her. She watched her daughter get shot, and then fought back. As she slashes at MIB in her flashback, she kills current Clementine in present day, in front of a very large crowd. The game is up — there’s no way Mission Control can ignore this one. It’s interesting that the narrative of this moment is interwoven because it’s a defining moment for both of them. For the MIB, it’s the moment he discovered the Maze. (“She was alive. Truly alive if only for a moment. And that was when the Maze revealed itself to me.”) For Maeve, it’s the moment she broke down the first barrier to consciousness. MIB only sees half her story. She didn’t die in the middle of the Maze — she was taken back to HQ, where she continued to wail about her child. Voice commands were no longer effective, so Ford and Bernie were brought in. When Ford promises to make it all go away, she pleads with him. “No, no please. This pain, it’s all I have left of her.” The words echo what Dolores once told Bernie about her own family. Pain is the one true feeling these hosts know is real. (MIB said something similar before killing Lawrence’s wife.) According to MIB, Wyatt is the last step to unlocking the Maze, which increasingly seems to be a state of mind, rather than a physical place. Has Maeve finally reached the center? Is Teddy close on her heels? The episode ends with Teddy getting stabbed (again) by his damsel not-so-in-distress, who’s been working for Wyatt this whole time. Next week can’t come fast enough! Additional thoughts & predictions, debunked. The Man in Black’s words about the purpose of Westworld sound exactly like Will’s in episode 7: “I had to prove her wrong. So I came back here. Because that’s what this place does, right? Reveals your true self.” 1. We'll find out what happened to Elsie. We kind of did. 0.5 points. 2. Ford will reveal he has secretly been building a host-version of Theresa. Nope. 0 points. 3. Dolores will get a third outfit. (Please.) She changed back into her dress — does that count? 0.5 points. 4. We'll get to see Teddy shirtless again. (Double please.) Nope. 0 points. (Big mistake. Huge.) 5. We'll finally get to see Ford's new narrative.

We saw the white church, but potentially in the wrong timeline. 0.5 points. Total: 1.5/5 (I am the Lee Sizemore of theories, i.e. terrible.)

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