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October 24, 2016

These robots are freaking out and we love it! (s01 ep04)

This is a recap of episode 4 of Westworld, ‘Dissonance Theory.’

Non-spoiler summary:
Dolores joins William and Logan on a bounty hunt in the badlands. The Man in Black, with Lawrence in Tow, finds a critical clue in his search to unlock the maze. Dr. Ford and Theresa discuss the future of the park. Maeve is troubled by a recurring vision.
Original airdate: 10/23/2016


A little Cognitive D

Cognitive dissonance has been mentioned several times throughout the series. This episode is titled “dissonance theory."From Wikipedia:

Cognitive dissonance:
"In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time; performs an action that is contradictory to their beliefs, ideas, or values; or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values.

Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. An individual who experiences inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable, and is motivated to try to reduce this dissonance, as well as actively avoid situations and information likely to increase it.”

One clear dissonance is in between thinking their frontier existence is real or not real. Are the dreams of the men in hazmat suits cleaning them up in a lab a dream or the actual reality? Dolores and Maeve are struggling with this dissonance.

The repetition continues! Bernard has another one of his little chats with Dolores!

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Sometimes watching Westworld can feel like you yourself are an android on a loop, each episode following a similar path.

As we’ve done before, this episode starts on Dolores’s face, pulling out into a conversation with Bernard.

Dolores recalls the death of her parents with considerable grief, and Bernard tells her he could erase her pain. In a response that echoes what Bernard said about grieving for his dead son in a previous episode, Dolores says she wouldn’t want her pain to go away because it connects her to her parents, and also because the pain has opened up spaces inside her, like a house with rooms she didn’t even know were there.

That or she’s going crazy. Is a robot wondering if she’s going crazy a marker of self-awareness? Bernard responds:

Bernard: “There’s something I want you to try. A secret. A game. It’s called … the Maze.”
Dolores: “What kind of game is it?”
Bernard: “It’s a very special kind of game, Dolores. The goal is to find the center of it. If you can do that, then maybe you can be free.”
Dolores: “I think I want to be free.”

Dolores plays White Hat with William, and she’s still got that gun

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Last episode ended with Dolores falling into the arms of William as he and Logan were out on a quest to find a bad guy.

William continues to be a nice guy:

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Wait, can robots drink liquid and eat food? Have we seen them eat yet? William, what do you think she is going to do with that cup? Is it empty?

And Logan continues to tempt him to join the dark side by “killing or fucking everything” as a part of some sort of agenda with “the company” who evidently owns some stake in the Westworld park.

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Oh. Oh.

After a taste of a shootout in their bounty hunt, William/Billy appears to be tempted.
Logan shoots the sheriff-type they’ve been traveling with on their White Hat mission, and takes it upon himself to follow the offer to go to Pariah and switch to Black Hat baddies. Pariah is evidently a bad guy hideout or bastion of sin, which Lawrence also mentioned earlier in the episode, and which Logan is excited to go to.

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However, the last shot we see is just of Logan and the outlaw heading off to Pariah, without William or Dolores.

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Maeve’s nightmare visions of the hazmat suit clean-up crew continues

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In a frenzy, she draws an image of the hazmat nightmare man, then goes to hide it under a floorboard when, uh oh, she’s done this before. Lots of times before. THE REPETITIONS CONTINUE.

That’s not Orion…

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QA takes over analysis of the rogue stray robot who smashed his head in.
Elsie gets mad at Bernard for caving, and he responds by telling her that she’s imagining things, pointing out that there are three stars in Orion’s belt, not four like in the figure.

The Man in Black finds the snake he’s looking for

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The Man in Black tells Lawrence that this whole world is a story, and that he’s read every page but the last one. This seems to indicate that the Man in Black has played out most (or all) of the other quests and narratives in the park, which could explain why he has shown up in the nightmares/memories of both Dolores and Maeve.
The woman with the snake tattoo, known as Armistice, makes a deal with the Man in Black: if he busts out her partner-in-crime Hector from jail, she’ll tell him about her snake tattoo, the last clue in the Man in Black’s pursuit of the maze.

He succeeds, and we learn that the snake tattoo has something to do with Wyatt, the new character that Dr. Ford recently created as a part of Teddy’s backstory (note: possibly the Wyatt character has been around for a while, but was just recently added to Teddy’s backstory).

So, it seems that Dr. Ford’s new storyline has to do with the culmination of the Maze.

We also learn three other important details:

* the Man in Black is almost certainly not a robot.
He’s recognized by two other human visitors, who evidently know him from his charitable work. In a delightful twist, although the Man in Black is a good guy outside the park, inside when he is “on vacation” he is a bad guy.

* the Man in Black has never met Armistice before.
This seems strange since he has been going to the park for thirty years and has done almost every storyline. Could it be that Armistice is a new character, a part of Dr. Ford’ latest narrative? This doesn’t seem likely, since we’ve seen Hector and Armistice ride into town to shoot up the place before. One possible explanation is that the Man in Black avoided Hector and Armistice because he thought they were too “cookie cutter” gunslingers and wasn’t interested in their story, but this seems like a careless oversight on his part, which would be uncharacteristic given how meticulous in other details.

* the Man in Black knows about Arnold.
He says Arnold’s name to Armistice, testing if it will provoke any information out of her.

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Lawrence’s daughter tells Dolores that they’re from the same town, and we see that black spire again

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For some reason, really starting to get the feeling that something BAD happened here…

As usually happens when somebody tells Dolores to “remember,” Dolores has some flash backs after talking to Lawrence’s daughter, the same character who snapped into Oracle mode and gave the Man in Black the clue about the snake.

The first image she sees is a white church with a black steeple and cross, which seems to be the same tower that we saw in ruins in the desert when Dr. Ford was explaining to Bernard his plans for his new narrative.

Lawrence’s daughter taps the ground and Dolores sees the Maze drawn in the dirt:

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A few moments later (or so it seems) Dolores is asked by a sheriff what she is doing away from her loop.

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And the little girl is gone and the Maze appears to no longer be in the dirt, although in the wide shot it is hard to tell:

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It seems what is actually happening is that these occurrences are not moments apart, but in fact different memories from Dolores of events happening in the same space.

We know that at some point Bernard instructed her to go on a quest to find the Maze, so if the Man in Black found Lawrence’s daughter on his quest for the Maze, it stands to reason that Dolores might also eventually find her way to Lawrence’s daughter if she was on this quest.

Some other images from her flashbacks:

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In the same town, but the sky is darker, possibly smoke in the air.

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Dolores walking into the church.

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The church again.

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Lawrence’s daughter again.

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Headstones outside the church.

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That gun again.

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Dolores grieving at a grave.

The Man in Black waxes poetic to Armistice that her world is just a game because you can’t die

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You ever heard of a man named Arnold? You could say he was the original settler of these parts. He created a world where you could do anything you want, except for one thing – you can’t die. Which means no matter how real this world seems, it’s still just a game. But then Arnold went and broke his own rule. He died right here in the park. Except I believe he had one story left to tell. A story with real stakes. With real violence. You could say I’m here to honor his legacy. And I think your tattoo is the next piece of the puzzle. So, do we have a wager?

— The Man in Black, season 1 episode 4

The Man in Black waxes poetic to Lawrence that we’re all prisoners without real choice

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“Choices, Lawrence. You know, you tell yourself you’ve been at the mercy of mine because it spares you consideration of your own. Because if you did consider your choices you’d be confronted with a truth you could not comprehend. That no choice you ever made was your own. You have always been a prisoner. What if I told you I’m here to se you free?

— The Man in Black, season 1 episode 4
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A group of Indians appear to worship the hazmat technician figure

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Which makes Maeve just feel a little bit crazier.

Bernard is feeling used by Theresa

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Being used almost like he is a … robot. I mean, is this one too obvious??

Dr. Ford’s latest narrative is audacious, and Theresa and the board aren’t happy

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Theresa tells Dr. Ford that the Board is concerned about his latest narrative, so he intimidates her by freezing all of the robots in place at the Agave Plantation, the same location she visited as a child when her family vacationed at the park.

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Before he did that, though, he did this:

Dr. Ford waxes poetic to Theresa about the balance of good and evil in the park

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In the beginning, I imagined everything would be perfectly balanced. Even had a bet with my partner, Arnold, to that effect. We made a hundred hopeful storylines. Of course, almost no one took us up on them. I lost the best. Arnold always held a somewhat dim view of people. He preferred the hosts.

— Dr. Ford, season 1 episode 4

So, the implication is that Arnold was correct and that the human visitors would prefer the evil storylines, yes?

Dr. Ford ends with one last threat, telling Theresa that they know everything about their guests and their employees, saying that Bernard has a “sensitive disposition.”

Dr. Ford is not the sentimental type

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Dr. Ford says his narrative will not be a retrospective, and then the giant drill bursts through the ground, appearing to head straight toward the Agave Plantation.

Poor Teddy

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Nice guys finish last … and then get strapped to buzzard-covered trees and left to die.

“Alright, time for the floor show…”

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We’ve seen this before!

Hector and Armistice lead a group of armed men on a mission of mayhem, looking for something in a safe.

The employees in the control booth, after seeing that some human visitor families are heading to town, cut the mayhem short by remotely jamming the rifles of Armistice and the other banditos.

Maeve takes Hector at gunpoint to talk to him. After being told that he lives with the “savages” she gets it in her head that Hector might have similar inklings to her about the madness of their world, since the Indians also seem to have some knowledge about the lab techs.

He does. “This is a shade,” he says when Maeve shows him her drawing.

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“Sacred native lore. They make figures of them. The man who walks between worlds. They were sent from hell to oversee our world. It’s a blessing from God to see the masters who pull your strings.”

Maeve has a memory of getting shot, but she has no wound. Like Dolores, she worries she is going crazy. But when she cuts herself open in front of Hector and they find the shrapnel from the bullet inside her, she has physical proof that she isn’t crazy. She’s starting to reduce her internal cognitive dissonance with logic and evidence.

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Maeve goes nihilist and says that the bullet means that she isn’t going crazy after all, and that none of this matters. She knows she will die and be born again. If there is no real death, life is a meaningless game. Under this line of thinking, echoed earlier by the Man in Black, death is what gives life its stakes and meaning.