These are my notes for Trace Decay, episode eight of Westworld, season one. As with all these “notes” posts: Serious Series Spoilers! Do not read unless you’ve seen season one!
The pace is definitely picking up in the later episodes as much of what has been set up is paying off (but much is left still unexplained).
Because the second season premiere is so close, these notes are getting fairly skeletal, but I’m still finding the idea of even an outline useful, so I’m still hanging in there (and even as an outline, this episode made for a long post).
According to Wikipedia, trace “decay theory proposes that memory fades due to the mere passage of time. Information is therefore less available for later retrieval as time passes and memory, as well as memory strength, wears away.”
Yet this episode (as are many in the season) is about remembering memories. And, in the case of the hosts, their memories don’t decay, but remain perfect.
I do have questions about exactly how the host minds work. They refer both to erasing memories, but also that previous experiences somehow lurk waiting to be over-written. I’m curious how specific they ever got about the exact mechanisms behind the host minds.
Given my interests, it’s fun to speculate about those mechanisms. My impression is they are multi-tier in that some layers seem to be control programs — software packages that can be loaded and erased — while perhaps other tiers consist of neural networks that must be trained through experience.
It’s in those networks that previous experience lurks. As with all such, data encodes holographically so it’s nearly impossible to remove specific memories without damaging others. They mention it takes thousands of hours to build a host personality, which fits right in with the idea of a neural net.
1: Ford’s Secret Lab. Ford and Bernard.
Ford: “Bring yourself back online, Bernard.”
Bernard is freaking out over what he did. Ford talks (commands, actually) him down. They discuss Bernard’s reality, emotions, and the meaning of consciousness.
Ford uses that quote from Frankenstein, the one about doing anything for knowledge. (Which is actually a line from a letter by another character in the novel.)
Ford orders Bernard to clean up after Theresa’s murder.
2: Various locations as Bernard follows Ford’s orders.
3: Day. Sweetwater. The Mariposa.
Maeve sees “Clementine” but it’s a new (blonde) host now doing Clementine’s lines. (The scene may very closely match a scene from the early episodes — I’m not obsessed enough to go back and look.)
Maeve seems in despair over the change. It triggers a flashback.
4: Mesa Service Area. Maeve, Felix, Sylvester.
Felix tells Maeve how memories in hosts differ from in humans: That hosts have perfect memory. They don’t remember so much as re-live.
Maeve is determined to get out. But the explosive in vertebra “C6” prevents that.
Maeve: “Time to write my own fucking story!” She wants admin powers.
5: Day. River. William and Dolores on horseback.
There are lots of dead soldiers on the riverbank. Dead because of the arrows.
They find one still alive and get info. The soldiers were a group sent to kill El Lazo, William, and Dolores (so William isn’t very sympathetic, but Dolores is, and things get minor-tense for a moment).
Dolores goes to the water to refill the canteen and sees a vision of herself, face down, dead in the water (wearing the same outfit). She hears, in her own voice, “Come find me.” (She heard that back in Pariah.)
She turns around and the riverbank is empty, no soldiers, no William. She calls out his name, and then she’s back. She goes to William and the solder, but the soldier is now dead (dying just as she walks up). There’s a clear implication William killed him.
6: Mesa Service Area. Morgue. Ford, Hale, Stubbs. And dead Theresa.
Theresa’s body was found in the same place they found the woodcutter. It seems that, when her plot with that host failed, she tried to use the laser satellite uplink (which we’re told requires high ground) to complete the mission.
Ford: “Any idea what she was doing out there?”
Stubbs: “None that fit her character.”
Whoa. Wait… “her character”?! Is Theresa a host??
Ford: “A disappointing end to her story.”
Her story. Her character. Hmmm…
Hale tries to assert control, expressing concern about the updates. Ford slams her down by saying how Clementine’s apparent going off the rails was a hoax clearly perpetrated by Q/A. Ford says he’ll limit the powers of Q/A until the problems are fixed.
And he’ll need Bernard back.
7: Mesa Service Area. Maeve, Felix, Sylvester.
Sylvester has just entered talking about how the brass are up in arms about an accident in the park. He insists things — i.e. Maeve — return to normal.
Maeve talks about sensing old things in her. She’s clearly one of the bicameral hosts (we’ll even see her back in timeline 0 later in the episode). She senses things dormant in herself.
Granting her admin powers requires going to Behavior. Sylvester is very against this until he realizes it involves rebooting Maeve, which will give them a chance to wipe her memory.
8: Day. MiB and Teddy hunting Wyatt.
Teddy is remembering things, too. Specifically, he’s remembering the MiB and what he’s done to Teddy and Dolores!
They find dead soldiers. Arrows again.
Also: Angela tied up. MiB: “I figured they retired you!” (So he knows her; met her long ago. Of course he did. As William, initially.)
They are attacked by a small Mountain. The MiB only wins with Teddy’s assistance. With an axe after his gun has no effect (again).
But Teddy has remembered too much. He knocks out the MiB!
9: Mesa Service Area. Maeve on a gurney pushed by Felix & Sylvester.
Felix and Sylvester are dressed in black, like Behavior techs.
Felix shuts down Maeve for her upload.
10: Mesa Service Area. Lee is working with a host.
Hale interrupts him (the host stops the moment she walks in) and recruits him for a special task. She indicates he should follow her.
11: Mesa Service Area. Maeve, Felix, Sylvester.
Maeve wakes suddenly. And cuts Sylvester’s throat. And then has Felix fix him using the same tool used on the hosts.
So either those tools work on humans, or the cat boys are hosts.
12: Piano roll. Morning. Sweetwater. Maeve wakes in bed.
She walks to work and waits for Hector to show up. In the meantime she tries her new powers by narrating new storylines to, first, the bar tender, and then Clementine (the new blonde one).
She sees a mother and daughter passing by outside and has flashbacks. We’re seeing more and more of what happened that time in this episode.
Hector and company show up. Maeve rewrites some aspects of their heist.
13: Ford’s Secret Lab. Ford and Bernard.
They talk some more. Ford admires Bernard’s emotions, suggesting Bernard should be proud of them — he created them.
Ford claims consciousness (in humans) doesn’t really exist.
Bernard wants to know if Ford made him hurt anyone else. Ford says, “Of course, not.” But Bernard remembers grabbing Elsie!
Ford erases Bernard’s memories.
14: Late Day. Outside. Dolores and William.
Dolores (leading): “This is the path, I know it.” Then: “We’re here. We’re home.”
¶ Then it’s Dolores 2 who’s looking at Escalante.
¶ Then it’s Dolores 0 (in a blue dress). Who is gazing at the same town. She walks into the town, seeing Angela, Armistice, and Maeve. (We’ve seen that exact sight of Angela passing by with the parasol.)
Dolores meets the little girl (Lawrence’s daughter) coming from the white church. The girl greets her familiarly and asks, “Did you find what you were looking for, Dolores?”
Then there’s a gunshot, and the little girl runs past Dolores, who turns to see dead bodies and a massacre in progress.
Then she sees herself holding a gun to her head…
¶ Back to Dolores 1 (with William). She also has her gun to her head, and William is pulling it away in shock.
We see that they’re at the same site but the town is buried. Only the steeple of the church protrudes above the ground.
Dolores: “Where are we?” (William answers, here, together.) “Then, when are we? Is this now? Am I going mad? Are you real? I can’t tell anymore.”
Dolores looks at the steeple, which triggers flashbacks.
Dolores: “This is what Arnold wants. He wants me to remember.”
William is confused and concerned. He leads her away from the place.
¶ Night. They’re still walking. They see riders approaching them. It turns out to be Logan! He’s been looking for them for days (and they are screwed).
15: Mesa Cold Storage. Lee and Hale.
Either Hale is looking for Peter Abernathy or just a recent host. She seems to be headed pretty much straight for him, but when she reaches him she just says, “You’ll do.”
She uploads 35 years of data from the servers to Peter’s brain. Apparently the host’s brains have far more space than a single drive. (Makes sense: simulating a brain requires many petabytes. At least.)
In what space remains in Peter’s brain, she needs Lee to create a personality for him than will get him on the train and out of Westworld.
16: Mesa Service Area. Bernard and Stubbs.
Stubbs buttonholes Bernard so he can welcome him back (he didn’t agree with his being fired, despite their past differences). He says it would be okay for Bernard to take a day under the circumstances.
Bernard doesn’t understand. Stubbs indicates he knew about Bernard and Theresa. Bernard (with erased memory) denies anything happened. Stubbs is puzzled (but likely accepts Bernard just can’t admit it).
Then Stubbs asks Bernard about Elsie who hasn’t returned his messages. Bernard says that she’s probably just enjoying her vacation. Stubbs is puzzled a bit by Bernard’s casual response.
Will Stubbs be suspicious of Bernard in season two?
17: Night. MiB (tied up), Teddy, Angela.
Angela makes it clear she knows about Teddy’s past with Wyatt, who will want Teddy to rejoin him.
Teddy talks about conviction. “Wyatt’s is to claim this earth or raze it to the ground.” [If Dolores is Wyatt, she will indeed claim this world… and also do a bit of razing. And razing Westworld to the ground was Arnold’s goal.]
Teddy beats on the MiB trying to get answers. He remembers that the MiB definitely did take Dolores, so maybe he lied about Wyatt doing it?
The MiB tells Teddy that he not only can’t kill him, he can’t even leave a mark on him, no matter how far out in the park they get.
MiB: “But the rules of this world hold you back. But I know how to change them.” [He does? How? Why hasn’t he done it already?]
Teddy: “You speak like you own this world.”
MiB: “Not just this one. You want to know who I am? I’m a god.”
The MiB goes on to talk about being a captain of industry and charity, a family man with a wife and daughter. He’s “the good guy.”
Then, a year ago, his wife died from taking drugs and drowning in the bath. Turned out to be suicide. His daughter, Emily, informed him of this at the funeral — how both wife and daughter were terrified of him, his inner darkness.
Emily tells him his life is a pretense, which is what William said to Dolores on the train.
Then the MiB starts the story of what he did to Maeve…
18a: Night. Sweetwater. The Mariposa.
Maeve needs to escape. She tells New Clementine to take over and leaves. New Clementine runs after her and gets in front of her trying to stop her (in fact one host trying to error-correct another).
A (harmless) gunshot triggers a flashback in Maeve…
19: Day. Farmhouse. Maeve, daughter, the MiB.
The MiB talking to Teddy is voice over his actions here. He stabs Maeve in the stomach and then shoots her daughter. But Maeve “refused to die.”
Maeve pulls the knife from her stomach, stands, and slices the MiB’s cheek.
18b: Night. Sweetwater.
Maeve (re-enacting the flashback) has just slashed New Clementines throat with her little knife. Maeve is shocked and freaking out.
20: Night. MiB, Teddy, Angela.
The MiB finishes his story. It was a self test, and he felt nothing, but he saw something amazing that he’d never seen in the park: She was alive!
MiB: “And that was when the maze revealed itself to me.”
He seems to have seen the maze pattern in the dirt around the dying Maze and her daughter. That seems fantastic, and I totally don’t get it. As symbolism, fine, but as physical actuality? WTF?
18c: Night. Sweetwater.
Maeve flees, using her narrative power to aid her escape.
21: Mesa Control Room. Stubbs on duty.
The techs report a problem with the madam and the hosts haven’t been able to contain her. Stubbs sends out the cleanup crew.
22: Night. Sweetwater. Maeve at home.
Flashback to the maze. Screaming: “My baby!”
23: Mesa Service Area. One year ago. Techs, Maeve; Ford and Bernard enter.
Maeve is hysterical. And stabbed. This is obviously right after the MiB killed her and her daughter. Ford and Bernard work to calm her down.
Bernard reports that her cognition is fragmented. Ford uses Debussy’s Reverie to calm her consciousness. “An old trick from an old friend.”
Ford says he’ll take away Maeve’s pain. Maeve protests, “No. This pain is all I have left of her.” (Which line we’ve heard before!)
Ford erases her memories, but then Maeve comes to life, grabs a scalpel and stabs herself in the throat.
24: Night. Sweetwater. Maeve at home.
Cleanup crew arrive. Behavior wants her.
25: Night. MiB, Teddy, Angela.
Angela tells Teddy to kill the MiB, but of course Teddy can’t. Angela says she can help Teddy and then stabs him in the shoulder with an arrow. Teddy collapses.
Angela: “Wyatt will need you soon.”
Dark figures approach the trio…
The timelines are starting to become a lot more clear here.
0: We see flashbacks by Dolores that hint at timeline 0 events, especially the massacre of all the hosts.
1: William and Dolores reach the river and find dead soldiers who meant to ambush them (but presumably were taken out by the Ghost Nation). Dolores has a flashback, presumably of timeline 0 and an early quest.
Later they reach the site of the little town with the white church, but it’s buried (perhaps ever since the host massacre several years prior). But the site, and the church steeple, trigger flashbacks in Dolores.
William leads her away from the town, but they encounter Logan and a band of men (Confederados?) on horseback.
2: Story threads:
Ford and Bernard are cleaning up after Theresa’s murder, and Ford takes much control away from Q/A and gets Bernard back.
Charlotte Hale, with the help of Lee Sizemore, uploads data into Peter Abernathy. He’s meant to escape the park with the data.
Stubbs is on the job but wondering where Elsie is (I think he likes her). The audience is wondering about Elsie, too! It sort of looks like Bernard might have killed her!
Maeve has (narrative!) admin powers now, but may be in trouble with Behavior. Sylvester is pretty scared of her; Felix is on board. (Or weirdly docile… or… in love with Maeve?)
Dolores is on walkabout, last seen at the little town with the church.
Quite the episode! Only two more to go.