It took seven long (and unnecessarily confusing) episodes, but Westworld fans have finally discovered why Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) was handpicked to lead the revolution. Well, kind of — Caleb’s actual plan will be revealed in next week’s season finale. What we do know for sure is how he became the man that he is today, and it all ties back to the mad A.I. Solomon and Caleb's best friend Francis (played by Kid Cudi).
At the beginning of last night’s episode, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Caleb traveled to the facility where mad genius Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel) secretly placed the people he considered a threat to society. Neither dead or alive, the “outliers” were stored around the A.I. Solomon, which you’ll recall, was the first creation of the Serac brothers in the partnership with Liam Dempsey Sr. (Jefferson Mays) in order to predict and control the fate of the world.
While in the facility, Caleb begins to experience déjà vu. He’s been there before but doesn’t know how, and Solomon, at the prodding of Dolores, shares the tale. The space was actually a reprogramming center for the outliers, meant to “fix” their minds. As it turns out, Caleb's memories have been compromised at the facility; there, his whole story has been rewritten.
After leaving Crimea and returning to the United States, soldiers Caleb and Francis were restless and not exactly fitting in with the rest of the civilians. It didn't take long for the friends to turn to a life of crime using the underground Rico app, engaging in illegal activities for money (think Task Rabbit, but for criminals). One gig detailed the kidnapping and ransom of a high-profile tech professional (Enrico Colantoni), but the deal quickly soured when the app instructed Caleb and Francis to turn on each other in exchange for millions of dollars. Francis, raising a young son at home, had too much to lose to die — but Caleb wasn't willing to go out without a fight either. The friends fired their guns at each other, but Caleb was quicker, mortally wounding his comrade in the process.
After Francis is killed, Caleb is sent to the facility. The doctor in charge oversees his reprogramming, convincing him (with the help of truly terrifying technology and drugs) that Francis died in Crimea, that the Rico incident never occurred. The traumatic therapy is a success, and Caleb leaves with no real recollection of the series of unfortunate events.
Fast forward to the future (for the millionth time). Caleb is stunned by the revelation that he, at the machination of Solomon, had been responsible for the murder of his best friend. What was worse was the fact that he had been brainwashed into thinking Francis' death was just an occupational hazard, thanks to the treatment at the facility. This is the reason why Dolores connects with Caleb in the first place: they've both spent their lives being controlled by the system.
"You spent your whole life believing you had no control, that you were a followers," Dolores tells Caleb. "Take whatever Solomon gives you and lead."
What the A.I. gives Caleb is a flash drive (what is this, 2007?), and it's supposed to bring about the revolution that will undo Serac and Solomon's work and free both mankind and the remaining hosts on Earth. How that will happen, we don't know. But it's going to be a game changer.
The big reveal is a shocker, but then again, Westworld has been throwing us for a loop this entire season. With just one episode left, there are so many storylines hanging in the balance. Will Maeve (Thandi Newton) ever reunite with her daughter? Is Dolores-as-Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) going to get her revenge on Dolores for causing the death of her family? What's on the flashdrive? And what the heck does Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) have to do with all this?
Wrapping up this convoluted plot in just one episode will be a herculean task if I've ever seen one — season three has been a lot — but if anyone can do it, it's the Westworld writers. Even if that means leaving us in shock until the very end.