Westworld Recap: Season 1, Episode 8 – “Trace Decay”

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Westworld Recap: Season 1, Episode 8 - "Trace Decay"

Welcome to our official Westworld recap where every week, I’ll be writing up a synopsis of the previous episode of Westworld, complete with a storyline, puns, and bad conspiracy theories. If you missed last week’s episode, you can check out our recap of Episode 7, “Trompe L’eoil,” here. Without any further ado, let’s dive into episode 8 – “Trace Decay.”

Episode 8 kicks off this week with Ford questioning Bernard, who we now know is a host, meaning that we also don’t truly know whether anyone else is a host or not. Even though we know he’s a host, he’s struggling with immense guilt over killing Theresa – just how sentient is he, and does it even matter that he’s a host anyway? Ford fills Bernard – and us – on a little bit of backstory: that while the hosts originally had a minimal range of emotions, Ford built Bernard to be smarter than the human engineers and create the coding necessary to give the hosts the full range of emotion we’re seeing today. When Bernard tries to revolt against Ford, with a few subtle phrase commands, Ford takes control again, letting the audience know that while the hosts are impressive, they still have a little ways to go before achieving true autonomy. Bernard sets off to remove any evidence of Theresa’s murder so that he and Ford can successfully go back to being the park overlords, with the promise that once he’s successful, Ford will remove the painful memories of killing Theresa from Bernard’s memory. Before that happens, though, we find out Bernard also murdered Elsie.

In the lab, Maeve questions Felix and Sylvester about how she can relive her memories, or her reveries, in the middle of her everyday life, and Felix tells her that because she’s a robot, her memories are crystal-clear and she’ll never forget a detail. Unfortunately for the viewers, that means that every scene we watch is now completely suspect – is it a true memory, or just a backstory programmed in by Ford? Regardless, while announcing her plan to break free, Maeve lets Sylvester know that she’s aware of the failsafe designed to keep her from escaping – an explosive implanted in her spine that’s set to detonate if she leaves the park, and threatens him again if he doesn’t take it out. Once it’s out, she’s planning on assembling an army of hosts to help her break out of the park, setting us up perfectly for the storyline we’re bound to encounter in the already-approved season 2.

William and Dolores continue on their adventure to find the maze and Ghost Nation when they stumble across a lone, barely-living host soldier among an army dead in a battlefield. We hit a particularly poignant moment in the show when Dolores and William are faced with the question of whether they should care about this man when, to Dolores, he’s about to die, and to William, is merely a host. The two decide to give him water and care for him, because he’s clearly in real pain, making me start to care less and less about which characters were born and which were manufactured. As she goes to retrieve water for the wounded soldier, Dolores is hit with a reverie – she’s been here before, meaning we’re likely one step closer to whatever Arnold intends for Dolores to find.

Back at HQ, Theresa’s autopsy is underway, annihilating the fan theory that a copy of Theresa was what was being manufactured in Ford’s secret lab. While Charlotte remains suspicious, the autopsy is clear – Theresa fell and was not the victim of a homicide. Theresa was found with one of the transmitters found by Elsie, but luckily for Charlotte, Stubbs wasn’t able to read who she was planning to transfer park data to. Ford, of course, gets Bernard reinstated, and is once again free to continue doing whatever the hell he wants in the park.

As MIB and Teddy continue their search for Dolores and Wyatt, Teddy has his first reverie. They too stumble upon a host graveyard, although not necessarily the same one Dolores and William passed through earlier. One of the injured hosts is Elon Musk’s ex-ex-wife, or the host who introduced William to the park, which conveniently can either be seen as further evidence for multiple timelines, or that she was merely reprogrammed at some point since William entered the park. As in every episode before, MIB and Teddy have to fulfill their standard action scene of the week for all of the guys whose girlfriends force them to watch this show with them. Teddy realizes that MIB has been abusing Dolores, and we finally get to see Teddy beat the shit out of him thanks to his newfound reveries.

Felix and Sylvester wheel Maeve back up to the lab to allow her to make the complicated changes she demands to begin her attempt to break free of the park, and against Sylvester’s complaints, Felix allows this to happen. If Felix and Sylvester really are hosts, this is where things get interesting, because Felix’s code is permitting him to code another host to subvert human authority, so in a roundabout way, Felix may end up being one of the show’s most important characters to date. Unfortunately for Sylvester, after he thinks Maeve has shut down for good, she springs to life, slicing open his carotid and showing just how much damage she can do now. Even more unfortunately for us, she cauterizes his wound after nearly letting him bleed out, so we’re apparently not quite rid of the show’s worst character yet. Back in the park, Maeve’s testing out her new abilities, and we find out that she now has the ability to control hosts with voice commands…not unlike many of the workers at HQ and even Ford himself, which of course now completely calls into question all of their statuses as human.

As William and Dolores roll into the town, Dolores begins having more reveries and legitimately starts to break down. She has an absolute panic attack to William wondering not where, but when, they are. She freaks out, asking if she’s going mad, honestly echoing most of the audience’s thoughts. Dolores, I get it. If we don’t get these timeline issues resolved soon, even I’m going to break down too. Regardless, if the William/Dolores story does get confirmed as the original timeline, get ready for an absolutely soul-crushing moment when Dolores realizes her consciousness and is forced back into loop after loop for the next thirty years – and you thought Thanksgiving with your drunk aunt was going to be rough.

Charlotte removes Lee from his menial tasks and gets him to help her with a new project. She chooses a host to upload the previous 35 years’ worth of park data into, and assigns Lee to come up with a storyline and put him back into rotation. What Charlotte doesn’t know is that the joke’s going to be on her, because the host she picked was Dolores’s old father, who was taken out of rotation when his reveries got out of control. It looks like Dolores’s dear old dad may just be even more dangerous than Maeve. Meanwhile at HQ, Stubbs encounters Bernard and offers his condolences about Theresa, but since Bernard’s memory was recently wiped, he has no memory of their prior relationship, making Stubb suspicious and proving one of Ford’s first failures we’ve seen so far.

After Teddy interrogates MIB over Dolores’s location, we – finally! – get answers from him, or at least, hints that prop up prior theories. After hinting that there may be other parks a la the original movie, he starts to tell us his backstory: he was a happy family man…that is, until his wife died after they had been married for 30 years – a number that seems to pop up more than once for us. After being wracked with guilt over his choices in the real world, he came back to WW, where he encountered Maeve and her daughter from the reverie we’ve been getting glimpses of, and wanted to see just how evil he could truly be. However, right before Maeve died, he saw true life inside of her, and the maze revealed itself, finally giving us his true motivation for being back at WW after all these years.

At HQ, management is noticing Maeve’s behavior and as they go to retrieve her, we realize that something has been going on with Maeve for a long time. While attempting to be repaired at HQ after the death of her daughter, Maeve was unable to be shut down and could ignore commands from technicians because of her immense grief over her daughter. After Ford decided to reprogram her and erase her memory to become the madam, something super strange happens and Maeve jams a scalpel into her own neck.

After Teddy still is unable to kill MIB after this confession, Teddy himself gets brutally stabbed by Elon Musk’s ex-wife, whose name I still do not know, to become part of Wyatt’s narrative again, and we close with an army of Wyatt’s men creeping up on them from the surrounding woods, and we’re left with one of our first major cliffhangers in an episode so far.

Again, I’m full of questions. Why are Felix and Sylvester so dumb? How the hell are the writers planning on resolving these storylines in the next 2 episodes anyway? Does the least important Hemsworth brother finally have a purpose in the series other than occasionally smoldering at the camera? Who the hell is Arnold, and seriously, what happened to Elsie? I’ll be back next Sunday at 9 where surely none of my questions will be answered, but until then, sound off in the comments if you have any clue what the hell is going on in this show, because even if the hosts aren’t all questioning the nature of their reality, I know I most certainly am.

Image via HBO / YouTube

The Recruitment Chair is a mid-level employee with a low-level salary and six-figure taste. She realizes her expectations far exceed reality, so she spends her days pinning away Loubs she pretends are in her physical closet instead of her virtual one. Her hobbies include lounging around in leggings and an oversized sweatshirt with a bottle of $14 wine while binge-watching episodes of Game of Thrones and Mad Men, as well as....well, that's really it.

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