Here are my notes for Chestnut, episode two, season one, of Westworld. As with the previous notes, these are longer posts than I usually allow, but they’re intended as something useful for me, so they are what they are.
The first episode was linear, seeming to cover five days while it introduced the idea of the host loops, the main Delos people, and the Man in Black. The second episode (along with those after) isn’t linear at all — yet it is deliberately constructed to appear linear (especially at key points). This episode also introduces a key idea: that of suffering.
Note that in all these posts: Serious Series Spoilers!
The episode is titled “Chestnut” — why? That’s a horse color, an actual nut, or a reference to a stale old joke or piece of music. No one seems to be sure how it applies, but one theory is that it refers to the “joke” of Westworld getting stale.
On the other hand, the Delos Destinations site, if you poke around, offers these two gems (extracted from longer “memos”):
Ahead of our offsite event celebrating the new launch, we tasked our tried-and-true visionaries with translating this year’s theme, “Chestnut: Cultivating Seeds of Innovation,” into a grabbing and concise visual. They did not disappoint.
And (emphasis in both cases, mine):
With the highly anticipated “Chestnut” event fast approaching, we fear that any related materials are vulnerable to premature release.
Which suggests “Chestnut” is the name of some planned Delos Westworld event? (Or did even the writers not know what the title meant, and this is their way out?)
0: Night. Dolores in bed asleep.
Male voice (Arnold?): “Wake up, Dolores.” She opens her eyes and walks outside in her nightie. Voice: “Do you remember?”
1: Reflection of William in glass; pan down to William on access train. Logan. Train has white and black motif. No way to know what time it is.
Do hosts do the service on train? Are all lower service personnel hosts? (Why wouldn’t they be? Is it possible there are very few actual humans?)
¶ Arrival platform. Based on number of waiting hosts, I count 14 guests arriving on this train. (Assuming Logan is the only one who requested two hosts.)
There are two hosts waiting for Logan standing quite close together. They’re both fairly close to Angela, who is waiting for William. Some other hosts are in loose pairs, some stand more alone. Waiting for couples and singles?
There is another access train in the background, so two rails in and out? (Could just split tracks in front of station.) ((And so what. Point is there’s an access train, sleek and modern, that’s presumably the only access to the park.))
Note the old-style Westworld Logo!
¶ William and Angela. Guest Garb and Gear Selection. Very much like a video game here. Angela does know she’s a host (unlike characters in the park). She says: “All hosts” are here for the guest’s pleasure “myself included.”
I think, rather than a clue Westworld is a video game, this shows how Westworld tries to emulate a video game, but a much more lifelike one. (Still, what happens next with the train door is weird!)
2: Mesa Service Area. Elsie and Bernard.
The word “breach” again. Seems like “dissonant episodes” aren’t unknown — or even unusual — but what happened to Peter Abernathy is unusual (to Elsie; Bernard skeptical? covering?).
Elsie: “I checked every dissonant episode I could find. The reaction is immediate. Every time. The guy makes it all the way home. It’s like he’s mulling it over.”
Every episode? Is B83 full of hosts that “breached” and/or had “dissonant episodes” (same thing or different)?
3: Morning. Sweetwater.
Dolores in town. Voice: “Remember.” Flashback. Dead people. Wolf! Her expression is grim, purposeful.
What is the wolf all about? (Wild Theory: Arnold lives in the machine, and it’s his avatar!)
Thought there might be a clue in the state of the ruffle in the blue dress neckline Dolores wears. In the flashback, it’s neatly folded. In modern day, it’s disarrayed. But it’s also disarrayed in most other scenes, so not much of a clue.
Maeve infected by Dolores. “Violent delights,… violent ends.” Maeve definitely affected; expression change. Dolores expression changes back to benign? (Or is it cat who ate the canary, wouldn’t hurt a fly?)
This has to be modern day, because Maeve is the saloon madam.
4: Mesa Arrivals. William and Angela.
Pick a hat! William smiles when he picks; we don’t see the pick until a moment later. Note that his hat is white with a pink band — Dolores’ nightie is white with a pink ribbon trim.
William walks up a corridor to a door. The silhouette of the door frame is a traditional (Western) train icon, and there is a center glass panel. William steps through.
Reverse angle; in the park train. The center panel of the door he steps through matches the door, and the white corridor is visible behind him. Once he closes the door, the light in the glass panel sinks down in an elevator effect.
A moment later, the glass panel is lit again, the door opens, and Logan steps through (zipping up pants). The light does the elevator effect again behind him.
Some point to this as evidence of being in a virtual reality, with the corridor and train door representing the interface into the VR. I’m thinking there’s something more like turbo lifts going on.
In fact, it might be the train car that’s moving along to each guest’s prep area as that guest goes up the corridor. Their attendant host would signal for the train car to come pick them up. The elevator effect is actually the train going upwards.
Hard to be sure, but I think the travel rumble starts after Logan arrives, just as Williams asks about how they get to the park. Suddenly the dark car is in bright daylight traveling along a track to Sweetwater.
Logan was last to arrive, so apparently they were waiting for him. All the guests who arrived with them? Others? Fewer? How many guests on the train and how many hosts?
5: Daytime. Outside.
Lawrence about to be hung by Sheriff Reed and his posse. MiB shows up. Gunfight.
MiB says Kissy “sent me your way.” Gives Lawrence Kissy’s scalp. (Note: Actor who played Kissy died, so a longer planned storyline was cut off after episode one.)
6: Piano roll. Sweetwater. The Mariposa.
(Same day as #3 above?) Maeve fails with a guest. She has a flashback to her earlier frontier woman story loop.
Note that Maeve can’t have been Madam of the saloon for long, because she (as that frontier woman) crossed paths with the MiB! She seems to be performing poorly as a madam due to not having her parameters set right.
¶ Maeve in service area. Bump her aggression. Is she aware? She seems to be listening, but maybe that’s just because the camera focuses on her eyes.
7: Mesa Service Area. Ford and Bernard.
Bernard is concerned about Peter Abernathy. Ford discusses how William of Ockham would burn them both as witches.
Ford: “You can’t play God without becoming acquainted with the devil.”
8: Morning. Sweetwater. William and Logan arrive on the train.
- Locomotive #5 — same number we’ve saw Teddy get off.
- William and Logan pass a “Sarsaparilla” sign. For Teddy that same spot is a horse barn with two kids teasing a bum in front of it.
- William is bumped by the same “Grizzly Adams” that bumps Teddy.
- Army adventure recruiter for W & L, rather than Sheriff posse for Teddy or modern guests.
- Clementine in front of the saloon. No Maeve (but another black woman)!
- Flash photo (same as with Teddy’s arrival).
Dolores in background. Cut to Dolores close up…
9: Morning. Sweetwater. Dolores sees own reflection.
This triggers a visit to the underground lab (which means this happens in timeline 0). In fact it probably happened a lot back then, Dolores going to visit Arnold.
Dolores and Arnold talk in the secret lab. Secret doings! Arnold sees something special in Dolores (the park’s first host, and one we’ll later see Arnold building).
Arnold command: “You should be getting back, Dolores, before someone misses you.” We’ll hear him use it again.
We’ll learn that the secret lab is beneath the little white church in Escalante.
10: Piano Roll. Sweetwater. The Mariposa.
Maeve fails again (with female guest); too aggressive. Maeve has major flashbacks this time.
Is Clem really tired? Is she really having nightmares? Is that part of the loop or something else? Leads to conversation about Maeve’s trick for waking up from a nightmare: count backwards 3, 2, 1. It also leads to what sounds like a gag line from Maeve, so it might just be a bit.
11: Mesa Control Room. Stubbs on duty.
Looks like they’ll need to decommission Maeve. Stubbs: “A Shame.”
¶ Bernard and Theresa outside the CR. Management seems concerned about the interest in Peter Abernathy!
Bernard and Theresa seem alone enough to have a less formal dialog here (and in other scenes). Is the park control room and service area monitored as carefully as the park and guests? (Ford’s waking of Old Bill does set off an alarm, so maybe so.)
Perhaps it’s just the storytellers keeping the Bernard and Theresa affair a secret longer, but even after we do know, their public conversations, even when they appear out of earshot, seem weirdly formal.
Maybe it’s just them. They don’t really seem to have any chemistry.
12: Night. Sweetwater. William and Logan at dinner.
William wonders how to tell hosts from guests. (Compare that with those two women in episode one who seemed to identify Teddy as a host.) Logan suggests shooting them; guests won’t get hurt (but they might get very annoyed — the bullets sting, right?).
Logan: “Who says this trip isn’t work.”
Prospector with treasure map; William ends up with blood on his hat!
¶ Logan and hosts; William and Clementine. William is cleaning blood off his hat when scene starts, but it seems to leave a stain.
William’s journey has only just begun, and he’s already stained!
13: Mesa Service Area. Lee and crew. Theresa.
Lee yells a lot. Theresa is on his case.
The crew seems strangely unaffected. Part of the job, or are they hosts? The stoic non-affect of so many park personnel argues that most of them are hosts. (And we know Bernard is!)
14: Day. Outside. (Near Escalante.)
Ford takes an elevator to the surface. Where he meets mini-Ford.
Ford (to mini): “I’ve strayed a bit too far from where I’m supposed to be.”
15: Day. Las Mudas. MiB and Lawrence.
They’re outside the same cantina where we saw Walter go extreme. The MiB has a big (victorious) shootout. Gun shots (even from rifle) don’t faze him (but we do see the hits).
He finally gets clue from Lawrence’s daughter: The maze is not meant for you. Vague snake clue (which takes him to Armistice).
It’s all very game-like. Is Ford deliberately leaving bogus clues for (old) William, or are these Arnold’s clues for Dolores?
MiB: “I’ve been coming here for 30 years. In a sense, I was born here.”
MiB talks about how suffering is when the hosts are most real. He’s seen that most vividly in Maeve about a year ago. (He’s actually on to something! Suffering is the key that Ford spotted.)
MiB: “This time I’m never going back.” It appears he wants to live out the rest of his days in Westworld. Or, more likely, die here in real game.
¶ Stubbs to CR tech: “That gentleman [MiB] get whatever he wants.” He’s not obviously identified as a key board member to the random tech, but Stubbs knows who he is!
16: Day. Outside. (Near Escalante.)
Ford and mini-Ford. They encounter a snake. Ford uses gestures! Note command-like statements to mini, who ultimately stops pretending and robots back to base. Ford’s robots hang on his every word and then try to do what he says.
Scene ends with a shot of the buried church steeple.
17: Mesa. Bernard’s apartment. Bernard. Theresa! Hubba hubba.
Hosts “always” talking to each other, even when no guests are around, to error correct. A bit like a deep-learning network might “talk” to copies of itself to train.
(And if Theresa is a host, that’s what they’d both be doing right now.)
18: Mesa Service Area. Elsie (who knows what she’s doing) with Maeve.
Elsie makes Maeve better and notices the MRSA. This raises an interesting question, again, about whether nearly all workers are hosts (and therefore not able to handle anything out of the ordinary).
They talk about host dreams. For the hosts, being awake in the SA is perceived as a dream, but maybe so are memories of past loop events. (Memories they really shouldn’t have.)
Elsie (to Maeve): “You’re back to the races. You’re gonna wake in 3, 2, 1…” and we cut to:
19: Night. Sweetwater. The Mariposa.
Much improved Maeve. She and Teddy chat (which means Teddy never hooked up with Dolores in this loop). We also saw Teddy when Maeve was being too aggressive with the female guest, so where is Dolores during this? On her journey?
Teddy gets shot by a random guest.
20: Maeve at home in black nightie with red trim (opposite to Dolores’ white nightie with pink trim). Serious flashbacks.
¶ Flashback. The Ghost Nation attacks. Scalpers! (Which may have given the MiB the idea about Kissy. As it turns out, they have mazes on their scalps, too.)
Who is the cowboy on the horse (who shoots some Indians and then gets hit with an arrow)? Is that the husband? Hector? Whoever it is, they have a mustache.
An Indian about to invade the house suddenly becomes the MiB. (Maeve has switched to a new memory.) Maeve’s gun doesn’t affect the MiB at all. There’s no sign of the Indian attack outside anymore.
Maeve counts down, 3, 2, 1, and…
21: Mesa Service Area. Maeve wakes.
Felix and Sylvester are doing the MRSA surgery on her. She escapes, flees to another building where she sees processing of livestock (including Teddy, who was just shot).
The “outside” that Maeve sees is really underground, so we don’t know what time of day it is. Likewise when we saw Theresa go to Bernard’s.
Felix and Sylvester catch up and put her to sleep.
22: Night. Dolores in bed.
She wakes and goes outside in her nightie again. We don’t hear whatever voice she might be hearing, but once outside she asks, “Here?” Then she digs up the gun.
Which may be a real gun, not a park guest special.
Which may be the gun she killed Arnold with.
23: Mesa Service Area.
Lee Sizemore Presents! “Odyssey on Red River”
Ford: “No. …[reams Lee]… What size are those boots?”
Again, note how stoic and uniformly dressed the worker bees are. I’m convinced there are very few humans working there: Ford, Theresa, Lee, Elsie, Stubbs,… and some of them might be questionable.
¶ Intercut the above with William and Logan the next day:
William picks up Dolores’ can of milk. (It is basically the same can for Teddy, the MiB, and William, but the spacing of the brand label is different.)
Logan pulls William away, and Dolores is left to her own devices. It appears Logan, William, and some third party, are saddling up three horses for a trip, which is why Logan pulls William away.
(But note that William has now seen Dolores in town (a second time, actually), so she’s not a total stranger when she shows up at his little camp in the next episode.)
24: Day. Outside. (Near Escalante.)
Ford and Bernard on the surface. Ford walks up to the buried steeple.
Ford, when he was on the surface earlier, at one point looked down at his nice black dress shoes. Here we see him walking in brown lace-up shoes. Or possibly the boots he noticed during Lee’s presentation? (The only thing is that they don’t really look like “boots” as such.)
A lot going on. It helps to view it in proper sequence:
[Timeline 0] Arnold works with Dolores in scene #9, same as he did in the first scene of episode one.
[Timeline 1] William and Logan on arrival monorail. William goes off with Angela, who takes him through garb and gear selection. William and Logan take the train to Sweetwater.
They hang out in Sweetwater, have dinner, stab an old prospector, and enjoy some hookers. The next morning, William meets Dolores, picks up her can, but Logan drags him away [there’s more to it, but we don’t find out until later].
[Timeline 2] Night. Dolores wakes up, goes outside. Remembers William. Meanwhile, Elsie is concerned about Peter Abernathy.
The next day, Dolores goes to town, remembers a massacre, infects Maeve. Meanwhile, the MiB saves Lawrence from a hanging.
Maeve strikes out, gets taken to service. Is put back same day?
Maeve strikes out again; Clem is tired, but takes over saloon. Stubbs figures to decommission Maeve. Theresa chats with Bernard about Peter Abernathy. Then she goes and chats with Lee Sizemore. Later she drops by Bernard’s for a sleepover.
Ford goes outside (during the daytime), meets mini-Ford, magics a snake, and looks at a steeple. Meanwhile, the MiB is with Lawrence in Escalante for a shootout.
Maeve and Elsie. Maeve gets improved behavior traits and is scheduled for surgery to remove the MRSA. Returned (again?) to saloon, where she does well (and is no longer scheduled for decommissioning one assumes).
Maeve goes to sleep and has dream flashbacks. Wakes up in surgery, escapes, is brought back (and presumably fixed).
Dolores wakes up during the night again and digs up a gun. Lee presents his epic. Ford says no.
Ford and Bernard end up on surface, where it’s daytime (next day?).
Wow! So this episode starts to mess with our minds about timelines. It also introduces us to William and Logan, plus we get to know more about Maeve. Felix and Sylvester also become more important players.
Part of what’s fun on this careful and thorough viewing is appreciating how carefully the story is structured. The juxtaposing of story elements is so very, very tasty!