These are my notes for Dissonance Theory, episode four of Westworld, season one. As with all these “notes” posts: Serious Series Spoilers! Do not read unless you’ve seen season one (they won’t make sense, anyway)!
Several plot threads are in motion now: The MiB is pursuing the maze; William and Logan are having an adventure (a Dolores just joined them); Ford is up to… something (with Bernard’s help); Arnold and a Dolores are chatting; Elsie is worried about — and looking into — the hosts; Maeve is going off the rails; so is another Dolores; and Theresa has corporate concerns.
Plus there’s Lee, Teddy, Hector and Armistice, Lawrence (El Lazo), Stubbs, various others (and we haven’t even met Charlotte Hale, yet).
The episode is titled Dissonance Theory, obviously after Leon Festinger’s “cognitive dissonance theory” (from a 1957 paper), which is about how we tend to seek consistency in our thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. And how when there is an inconsistency — a dissonance — we require that something change to remove the dissonance.
There is a clear dissonance in Westworld: The hosts believe they are real and living ordinary lives, but they are actually robots acting out the same drama day after day for decades. (There is some room for improvisation, but self-correction keeps them basically on-path.)
Certainly many dissonant events have occurred:
- The Sheriff: Human: wanting to swat the fly; Robot: hurting living things is not allowed.
- Peter Abernathy: Human: the photo; Robot: doesn’t look like anything. There is an interesting question: Did Peter Abernathy ever meet the woman in the photo? That is, did that host ever meet William’s wife? It seems possible, and might better explain Abernathy’s reaction to the photo.
- Walter: Human: remembering and killing those hosts who killed him; Robot: not part of his script.
- Maeve: Human: memories of her daughter and being in service area; Robot: off script!
- Dolores: Human: memories of her past, voice of Arnold; Robot: very off script!!
For that matter, suffering might be seen as a form of dissonance, the tension between the suffering and wanting peace. And, per the theory, there is then a strong drive to change something to remove the dissonance. (Stockholm Syndrome would be one example of a negative change!)
Anyway, on to the episode…
0: Arnold and Dolores in the secret lab.
Dolores is reacting to what happened at the ranch. Arnold offers to remove the memories. Dolores replies (as Bernard does to his “ex-wife”) that: “The pain, their loss, it’s all I have left of them.”
Dolores goes on to say that the grief has the effect of “opening up spaces inside” her — the suffering is expanding her consciousness!
Dolores worries that something is wrong with the world. Or there is something wrong with her. “I maybe losing my mind.”
Arnold introduces the maze. Do we assume these timeline zero scenes with Arnold and Dolores take place in the order we see them, or do some come out of order? (Out of order does happen: We saw William, Logan, and Holden, preparing to leave Sweetwater to go bounty hunting before we saw William decide to do that.)
Dolores expresses a desire to be free. (Not for the first time, so this is a drive she has.)
1: Morning. Dolores wakes up outside.
At first she has the gun in her hand (the one she shot Rebus with, so it’s Dolores in timeline 2). Then she hears William offering her a cup of coffee, and it’s timeline 1.
I keep trying to spot a difference in Dolores, but so far haven’t got a clear one. I think her hair has more curl with William than when she’s alone.
2: Day. Saloon. Piano roll. Close ups of various player piano parts.
Maeve is staring at the player piano (one robot staring at another).
Maeve and Clementine talk about “that cowpoke” that Clementine was apparently a bit sweet on. Or at least well-poked by. Maeve gets weird flashback, remembers guest who shot up the whole place, remembers the cleanup crew, remembers being hastily operated on.
The flashback clears, and Maeve is back with Clementine talking about “that cowpoke” (so this is a scripted conversation?). Maeve is freaked out and leaves the saloon, goes home, examines her belly — no mark.
She makes a crude drawing of a shade and goes to hide it under the floor boards only to find a bunch of other drawings she didn’t remember drawing. Now she’s really freaked out!
3: Service Area. Elsie, Theresa, Stubbs, and the woodcutter. Bernard.
Theresa’s department (Q/A) is taking over. Elsie is pissed. Bernard and Elsie leave and have a talk. Bernard says Elsie is imaging things.
As he leaves her, Bernard says to Elsie: “That’s not Orion. There are three stars in Orion’s belt, not four.” (And, yet, it is pretty clearly Orion, especially with the lines carved in connecting the stars.)
4: Day. William, Logan, Holden & Dolores.
Logan says the park sent Dolores to William after noticing his interest in her in town. (It’s still not completely clear where this Dolores came from. Did she flee the ranch?)
5: Day. MiB and Lawrence. Blood Arroyo.
They see Armistice (the snake laying its eggs)! And join her band.
MiB has never met Armistice, so he hasn’t seen everything in the park, but he does seem to know about her and the Hector-in-jail storyline.
6: Control Room. Stubbs and a worker.
Worker (a host?): “We’ve got a host making a pretty big deviation from her loop.” When Stubbs asks who, she tells him it’s the rancher’s daughter from Sweetwater (i.e. Dolores).
Stubbs asks if she’s accompanying a guest. The worker replies that it’s unclear because the boss’ new narrative is disrupting everything.
Stubbs: “Flag her for Behavior. They can pull her today.”
7: Day. Escalante. Dolores is wandering around the little village.
Dolores encounters Lawrence’s daughter (who gave the maze clue to the MiB — the girl seems to know things). Dolores asks the girl where she’s from.
Girl: “Same as you. Don’t you remember?”
Then Dolores hears Arnold saying, “Remember?” This triggers flashbacks (or visions?) in Dolores. She sees the white church. Also the maze drawn in the dirt (by the little girl).
Now Dolores is alone. No girl; no maze. She’s approached by the local sheriff (whom we’re meant to think is the one Stubbs sent for Dolores). Things actually get a little tense between them. She has more flashbacks. He grabs her arm, she grabs his and gives him a glowering look.
Then William is there. “She’s with me.” The sheriff backs off.
As William and Dolores walk off, Dolores seems to be looking back at the well as if wondering where the girl is. But of course that’s a fake, since the Dolores at the beginning of the scene is in timeline 2.
It’s possible she met the girl in the years before William, but I can’t help but wonder if the girl is alone and so sad because the MiB was through earlier and killed her mom. Which puts Dolores, at first, in timeline 2. We jump to timeline 1 when William shows up (just as we did when she woke up this morning).
8: Day. MiB, Lawrence, Armistice and her gang.
Armistice is getting information from two cowboys (whom she kills). We’ll find out later that there are some guests among her gang, so this is all part of the show.
(But I still have to wonder why there are maze clues any guest can follow. Also, as a board member, wouldn’t older William know about the maze?)
9: Day. William, Logan, Holden & Dolores. On horseback.
Night, and they’re in camp. Dolores and William chat.
Dolores: “I used to believe there’s a path for everyone, but now I think I never asked where that path was taking me.”
Dolores: “Sometimes I feel like something’s calling me.”
Dolores looks up at full moon and has a hallucination that it’s a light. She flashes back to being “dead” at the ranch and picked up by the cleanup crew.
Interesting that this seems to be Dolores in timeline 1 with William (but of course it does). Even this early is she having flashbacks? (Or is it Dolores in timeline 2 visiting that campsite?)
10: Night. MiB, Lawrence, Armistice and her gang.
A guest who’s riding with Armistice wants to thank the MiB (his “foundation”) for saving his sister. The MiB isn’t happy being dragged into the real world; offers to cut the guest’s throat.
MiB: “This is my fucking vacation!”
The MiB doesn’t have time to follow the script, so he tells Armistice he’ll go get what she wants from Los Diablos prison (which turns out to be Hector).
11: Day. Stagecoach. MiB, Lawrence, a Federal Marshal.
Wait! It’s a ruse!! (And I wouldn’t take that cigar.)
12: Day. Los Diablos prison.
Prisoners are delivered. Lawrence (El Lazlo!) will be shot. The MiB is thrown into a jail cell where he meets Hector (whom he’s also never met before, but whom he knew about and thought sounded too market-tested).
Hector believes the world is madness, and no good comes to anyone.
13: Control Room. Stubbs on duty.
Worker (host?): “There’s a request for a pyrotechnic effect. From Los Diablos prison. Low yield; two charges.”
Stubbs authorizes it (’cause that gentleman gets anything he wants?).
14: Day. Los Diablos prison.
The MiB uses his explosive cigar to blow the cell lock. The Marshal gets blowed up by the one he stole.
Hector blindfolded waiting to be executed. Gunfire. Hector is rescued by the MiB (and Hector) in scene similar to when the MiB first saved Hector. (A rare bit of comic relief in the series.)
15: Night. Armistice’s camp.
The MiB returns with Hector (and Lawrence). Armistice tells the MiB about her tattoo. Which turns out to involve (ta da) Wyatt!
The MiB got to Lawrence and Escalante through Kissy. He got to Armistice through Lawrence’s daughter. Now Armistice gives him Wyatt, which seems to tie in to Ford’s new narrative.
Is Ford giving the MiB a ride to make it clear what the maze really is? Give him the “secret” he craves and let him find out how false it is?
16: Day. Sweetwater.
Maeve and Clementine watch a parade of Indians. (Ghost Nation or other?) A girl drops a figure of a shade. Which Maeve identifies from her nightmares. She’s told the figure is part of their religion, so they won’t tell her anything about it.
Saloon. Maeve notices one of the cowboys as riding with Hector. Also, with him, there’s a guest we saw earlier getting a hooker from Clementine. Obviously Hector’s guy is casing the joint.
17: Bernard, in bed. Theresa is there, too. It’s her place.
Does the southwestern flavor of the blanket and pillow merely reflect Westworld or is it a clue as to where Westworld is located (i.e. out in the American southwest)?
Theresa is concerned about confronting Ford. Bernard calms her down. He sure knows a lot about nuances of human behavior. (Of course, that’s his job.)
18: Day. Excavation site. Ford joined by Theresa.
He’s glib. He leads her off…
19: Day. Winery? Ford and Theresa. Great scene!
Theresa (when Ford asks if she likes it here; he can tell): “When I started working here, I realized this place wasn’t something I would enjoy.” I wonder why she felt that! What bothered her about Westworld?
Ford stops the waiter (Manu) with a finger gesture. (Using the forefinger of his left hand, which rests on the chair arm below the level of the table top — i.e Theresa can’t see it!) All the other hosts also freeze.
Which means, obviously, that Ford set this up in advance. The other hosts, especially the ones in the field, can’t see his gesture, so Manu must be communicating with the others.
Ford: “In here we were gods.” A sentiment he expresses frequently.
Ford (about Theresa’s remembering visiting as a child): “We know everything about our guests, don’t we? As we know everything about our employees.”
Note that he seems to indicate she knows they know all about their guests.
He goes on: “I do hope you’ll be careful with Bernard. He has a sensitive disposition.”
Serving notice that he knows about her and Bernard. (Of course he does!)
And finally: “So I will ask you nicely: Please don’t get in my way.”
All the hosts (including those in the field) leave. The huge earth-moving machine, sent by Ford as a warning, comes to destroy Theresa’s one nice memory of Westworld.
20: Day. William, Logan, Holden & Dolores.
The three men invade the farmhouse where the bandits have already invaded. Gunfight.
Logan gets a better gun. Either he didn’t he pick the best one during Garb & Gear selection, or — very much like a game — better weapons are only available when you manage to find them.
21: Day. MiB and Lawrence find Teddy (in bad shape) on a tree.
Teddy’s there from being in that posse with Marti and being ambushed by Wyatt’s men.
22: Day. William, Logan, Holden & Dolores. On trail with captive, Slim.
When Logan hears the Easter Egg about El Lazo from Slim, he shoots Holden and says they’ve found “the best ride in the park.” He insists William turn black hat and join him (and that Dolores will be fine with that).
23: Control Room.
Worker: “Alright, time for the floor show.” (In regards to the saloon heist, which is about to begin. Which is strong evidence that certain events in Westworld are publicized to guests as shows they might want to catch.)
24: Day. Sweetwater. Hector, Armistice, and the gang, ride in to town.
This plays out very much like the heist we’ve seen before. But this time Maeve gets the drop on Hector, and they go off to talk. Maeve wants some answers.
Hector tells her about the shades. Says they’re “sent from hell to oversee our world.”
Maeve uses his knife to cut herself; Hector pulls out the bullet (which came from the guest shooting up the place that we saw in flashback earlier in the episode).
The Sheriff and others shoot Maeve and Hector through the door.
Which really raises some questions about exactly how Westworld guns and ammo work. They don’t harm a guest, but do have enough power to knock you down if you aren’t expecting it.
But the MiB completely ignores being hit. And Logan was perfectly willing to shoot a stranger just to see if they were a host or a guest.
And yet you can shoot bottles, windows, cans, through doors, and in the case of the MiB and his LeMat, through an adobe wall.
A big question is how smart the guns are. As in the movie, do the guns play a role in what happens? Is that why Dolores’ found gun might be a more serious weapon?
Straightening out the timelines:
 Arnold continues to talk secretly to Dolores. He’s given her books to read, and they’ve chatted. He’s fretted over what he’s doing and considered undoing it.
Now he introduces her to the idea of the maze. If she can get to the center, she might be free.
 William and Logan got to Sweetwater, had dinner and hookers. The next day William shoots a bad guy and decides to go bounty hunting. On their first night out, Dolores (whom William met in town) stumbles into camp and collapses in his arms. (If the cute-meet with the milk can didn’t work… this is more powerful stuff!)
Now Dolores and William start to talk as she accompanies them on their bounty hunt. In Escalante, Dolores is accosted by a sheriff (host? worker?), but William says, “She’s with me.”
Later, Logan shoots bounty hunter Holden to side with Slim to find El Lazo.
 This one gets complicated, because there are so many threads in this timeline.
Dolores (with gun) fled the ranch on horseback. She wakes up in the spot William camped. She remembers William. She goes to Escalante and encounters Lawrence’s daughter. She remembers William again.
Maeve is going off the rails. She’s having flashbacks, she’s remembering being worked on in the service area (she’s even woken up), and she thinks there’s a bullet inside her. Which there is. (Where does this fit with her MRSA infection?)
She’s obsessed with the shades. Gets info from Hector. Discovers the bullet is real. Dies again. (Stay tuned.)
The MiB (with Lawrence in tow) is chasing the maze. He’s gone from Kissy to Lawrence to Armistice to Wyatt, and now he’s picked up Teddy (who’s also after Wyatt).
Elsie is concerned about the hosts and pissed she is blocked from working on them. And what’s that fourth star in Orion’s belt?
Ford is moving a lot of dirt and destroying old locations. He demonstrates his power to Theresa and warns her not to interfere.
Bernard is keeping Theresa happy (and Ford informed).
Stubbs is keeping an eye on things in the Control Room.