Westworld Recap - S01E03 - "The Stray"

There’s a sense of everything slowly reaching the turning point on Westworld. It’s as if a single push lead to the ruin of the park and everything it stands for.. And by the end of this episode, it might’ve happened.

(Spoilers beyond this point.)

Towards the middle of "The Stray," Dr. Ford reveals to Bernard who "Arnold" is (or was), as a couple of the malfunctioning Hosts kept repeating the name during the first episode. As it turns out, Ford did not start the park alone; Arnold was his fellow founder. Arnoldchased the idea of the androids achieving consciousness, and was even working on a concept of it, presented as a pyramid (similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). Arnold died in mysterious circumstances, and Ford himself admits that an accident is highly unlikely. Still, he doesn’t publicly acknowledge it – and in fact, helps perpetuate the illusion that he alone masterminded it all.

It’s just one of many illusions that help keep the park running, including the illusion that the parkgoers are heroes of their own Old West story. The other illusion, that Ford himself keeps enforcing in the mindset of the staff, is the complete lack consciousness of the Hosts. And to be fair, it’s not unreasonable assertion. For the most part, they seem to be stuck in their pre-programmed routines, only able to repeat stock phrases and with limited improvisation capabilities. This episode alone we see Teddy (played by James Marsden) suddenly–with a tap on Ford’s tablet–gain a hatred of a newly made character, Wyatt, in place of his previous vague "dark and mysterious past." We see a group of Hosts stuck in a loop after one of them–the only one capable of using an axe to cut firewood necessary for continuation of the routine–malfunctions and wanders off. The reason Ford seems unwilling to consider the androids to be actual sentient beings is because he’s never seen proof of that.

(By the way, making only few individual Hosts capable of using items that can kill people without bullets is actually a sound decision, security-wise.)

But all those illusions are about to fade, revealing the truth. Ford is unable to, or doesn’t want to, consider the possibility of the Hosts becoming beings. But what else can you consider a Host seemingly taking revenge on other androids that have killed him in every storyline the park had in the past?

What other reason could have the stray woodcutting Host, for seemingly no  reason, start carving constellations into wooden statues he made? And later, when Elsie and Stubbs catch up to him, he’s able to come out of sleep mode on his own, like Maeve last week, and seemingly try to kill Josie, only to violently commit suicide. And Maeve herself remembers the sight of the staff recycling her fellow androids before she was rendered unconscious. The Hosts are awakening, and the reckoning is coming.

And the vector for change, Dolores, made another step in breaking her programming. She, in Ford’s own words, is meant to relive the bandit attack on her ranch and to be used as the guests please, Teddy dying in her defense. Using a weapon is so beyond her programming, she’s unable to to shoot at couple of wooden planks during Teddy’s firearms lesson. And yet, when she ends up in the barn by the end of the episode, about to be assaulted by one of the Host bandits, she remembers the Man in Black from the premiere having "his way" with her, and is able to shoot the bandit with his own gun.

Where it all leads, we’ll see next time, in "Dissonance Theory". I’ll see you then.

Dominik Zine is a nerdy demisexual lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.