Westworld Season 1 Episode 5 Recap | Contrapasso

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Welcome to Westworld! Every week, Josh Wigler (@roundhoward) and Jo Garfein (@jopinionated) will discuss the new HBO series about an old west theme park built in a futuristic world, populated by robot hosts and human guests. Theories, analysis, and overall madness is sure to ensue.

This week, Josh and Jo talk about “Contrapasso,” the fifth episode of the series. Robert Ford finally comes face to face with both Dolores and the Man in Black, just as theories surrounding both of those characters inch closer to reality over the course of the episode. Also in this podcast: mole patrol updates, Jo’s trip down the Matrix rabbit hole, thoughts on that little wake-up call at the end of the episode, and more.

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  • Tusk

    It occurred to me that ‘twist’ could be that Logan is the MIB. Why do most assume the MIB is William? It seems their story has been told from the POV of William by making him the character we empathize with the most, he’s more relatable because this is his first time in Westworld, we discover more of Westworld through his eyes.

    Logan treats the hosts with the same indifference as does the MIB, except the MIB is more stoic, less flamboyant than Logan, yet, there’s the same ‘black hat’ attitude.

    It seems Logan also has the ‘let’s see how far I can take things’ attitude that the MIB has, except the MIB’s motivations have been taken to an extreme, something ‘earned’ through 30 years of ‘playing this game’. Then there’s that both men come from extreme wealth, both have ‘dulled senses’ for their existence, the thing that motivates them both to look for ‘a thrill’, something that makes them feel alive.

    Into the 5th episode, my ability to suspend belief is crumbling, there’s more of a fantasy aspect to the story lines and set ups, than there is based on fact based science:

    The MIB tells that he once took a host apart, made of machinery, the newer models of synthetic bone and muscle…if this were true, would this not be the most significant evidence that this story cannot be told using two timelines…technology alone dictates that the hosts in either ‘timeline’ would have significant difference in technology and development. To put it this way…look at any of our existing technology compared to 30 years ago… Mobile phones, if you had one, were the size of large flashlights…computers? I believe Vic 20’s or TRS-80s were available for you to play Pong on… In Westworld’s future, 30 years ago, a host made of machinery would not be the same experience as present day. A ‘Machine’ made Host would weigh significantly more than one made in present day, not to mention the leap in technology when it comes to AI.

    Then there’s the issue of story lines for guests to enjoy…would it not follow that there would HAVE to be multiple models of each host character? We’re told that every day resets at the end, the hosts begin the next day the same as it does every previous day, they say and do the same thing they do every day. So how is it possible for people to have days of adventure… to go off on an adventure. Does that mean someone coming back to continue their adventure with Delores can’t because she’s off with some other guest? You would think that another ‘Delores’ would need to be rolled out for the next guest to interact with.

    I understand the need for the ‘reset’ to provide a way to show the inner workings of Westworld, the clean up crew, the repair of damaged hosts, but that caveat in and of itself complicates the ability to evolve the story, let alone any main guest or host’s arc. The MIB would not be able spend most of his 30 years on quest because every day would reset, he would never advance.

    There’s more story telling issues I’m certain I’m forgetting, but I think the every day ‘reset’ is it’s biggest obstacle. You can’t lay this major operational ground rule then completely ignore it to advance your story, but this post has gone far too long anyway, so to conclude:

    Westworld is being written as if it were a fantasy or computer game script in Sci-fi clothing…. there’s not much that is “Science” other than that it involves Robots and assumedly is occurring ‘in the future’…. which leads to me thinking that Westworld is actually something that exists in the mind of the guests… It does not exist in reality. It makes no scientific, economical or logistical sense for WW to exist as it does. The science, mechanics ethics don’t match up….how do you prevent guest from damaging each other? How do you prevent someone from beating a guest to death? Or stabbing them? Or trampling them with a host? Bullets isn’t the only way a host could die…what if a host tried to jump roof top to roof top and injure themselves in the fall?

    The answer? Westworld is the western version of Total Recall. Guests are uploaded to a digital environment. Then the logistics of multiple guests interacting with the same character at the same time is possible. The discrepancies in technology from modern day to 30 years ago would not be a problem. WW is an MMO you are able to interact with other guests, but each individual host is protected from significant injury by the fact that they’re not actually in a physical environment. It also answers how some visitors can come in for a day, or press ‘continue’ every time they upload to continue on their individual quests and host experiences…..

    Better cut it off here.
    Found you guys thanks to Game of Thrones and enjoy the witticisms, Rob always makes me laugh and Josh’s impressions on GOT are the best, great job guys 🙂

    • Buck Hondo

      Agreed, Josh’s Sam makes me pee a little.

      It sounds like you are on the bus with Jo, believing that WW takes place in a digital environment. Jo compared it to The Matrix. I think that would be really cool if that turns out to be true, but where I get stuck is the repair shop. If it’s all VR, then why are the host’s physical bodies being repaired and put back into service? Why do they have physical bodies at all? Or are you saying the hosts are real, the guests are real, and only the environment is VR?

      The other thing about the 30-yr. tech development–The MIB said that many years ago he opened a host and there were a million little mechanical parts, and it was intricate and beautiful, but to be cost-effective the park started making the hosts with organic bodies. That checks out, because some of the older hosts (Old Bill in cold storage, the Little English Boy who is probably meant to be Young Ford) move stiffly and you can hear the metal parts moving inside of them. After thirty years of scientific advancement it is now easier and cheaper for the park to make hosts using some kind of biological/genetic process. That makes sense to me because I think of it this way: Digital watches are more technologically advanced than a cuckoo clock, but in 2016 it’s much cheaper to make a digital watch than a cuckoo clock. The skills necessary to make a good cuckoo clock are hard to come by, something that has to be practiced and passed down, while cheap digital watches, practically disposable at this point, can be mass-manufactured.

      That’s just my impression. I’m still not 100% sold on the idea there are two timelines and William is a young MIB. There are other logistical problems, some of which you clearly pointed out. My basic attitude at this point is: “Well, they’ve got a LOT of explaining to do!”

      • Tusk

        I think in order to ‘exist’, the virtual environment has to have it’s own internal logic. If the guests are paying to believe they are physically within an artificial, tactile environment, a game, seeing/knowing that everything gets cleaned up and repaired ‘the next day’ by maintenance is well within the environment’s internal logic, so the possibility that WW’s depth of surreality might go a few levels deep… Who’s to say ‘discovering’ behind the scenes machinations outside of WW isn’t part of the experience? Remember, there was a Futurewold starring Peter Fonda.. might the behind the scenes intrigue of science and technology be part of that campaign? It would make sense that they could integrate parts of other ‘worlds’ with each other if the logic allows it? It would be cost effective if you could use existing environments to ‘flesh out’ your story lines.

        In Totall Recall, Arnold’s adventure took him into all sorts of fantastical situations, he was so involved in the adventure that maybe if he took a second to contemplate the logic of everything, he would lose the illusion of the adventure (your eyes and internal organs expand, your body is damaged when all the atmosphere escapes the dome, yet, in the end you have zero long term injuries from that AND you ‘get the girl’?)

        Another movie that could apply here is Tron, when Jeff Bridges accidentally uploads himself into his computer matrix with it’s own characters, hierarchy and logic.

        The old gunslinger Ford talks to is definitely representative of the old, mechanical, construction of hosts….my issue is we’re told Delores is one of the older, if not the oldest host in the ‘park’…. If William and Logan’s story happened 30 years ago, then Delores, being one of the older constructs would not look the same in William’s story as she does in the MIB’s story (the present)…she would appear and move as mechanically as the old Gunslinger.

        • Buck Hondo

          You named one of the bigger problems I’ve been having with the dual timeline theory, that Dolores doesn’t seem mechanical in the William storyline. I remember Stubbs explaining that, while Dolores is the oldest host in the park, she’s had so many upgrades she’s practically brand new. So it would stand to reason that she should be more robotic in the past, right?

          I think I get what you’re saying about the “levels” of the game in a VR setting. There are all of these side quests that branch off from more broad, “Tier 1” themes, and then on top of that is the narrative of the park itself, where the idea of being in a wild-west theme park overseen by a staff with high-tech capabilities is yet another layer of the illusion that is being created. That’s what I got from what you wrote, and if that’s right then HOLY SHIT. I’m going to have to just let this marinate for a bit.

          • Tusk

            They might get away with it if the over arching story isn’t so reliant on ‘future technology’, especially if part of the story’s mechanism is that the story takes place over decades, there would need to be some kind of indication of a more evolved technology in the future time frame.

            A virtual reality would also explain in the episode where we first meet William and Logan, they are outfitted, then they are in a bar, then suddenly that bar is part of a moving locomotive, there is no real transition, from the orientation of the park, to “suddenly” being in a moving vehicle.

            It’s my opinion that the human race has essentially stopped naturally evolving. We’ve got to a point where we control our immediate environment. If we want to live in an inhospitable, arid desert, we can make it habitable, build a town, air conditioning. We change our environment not vice versa. The idea of mechanical sentience and uploading of human conscientiousness and personality into a machine, or integrating artificial material into our organics to extend our lives, perhaps THE key to space exploration, withstanding the rigors of space, longer lifespans, has been a long time interest of mine… So working that theory/philosophy into the possible mechanics in the WW reality, is not that far fetched, it fits pretty easily for me 😛

            Do not be surprised that if Arnold, by making his ‘machines’ compatible enough to house biological functions so he can upload into them, back fires when the exponential growth of the hosts’ sentience allows them to figure out a way to reverse the transition and occupy the real life body of the guests in the ‘real’ world’

  • Brendan Fitzpatrick

    So, do you think we can say with near certainty, that Arnold uploaded his consciousness in to Wyatt when Ford Created him, and that’s why Teddy is the Key to everything the MIB needs to get to the Maze and why he didn’t need Lawrence any more?

    • Buck Hondo

      I think you’re on point about the MIB keeping Teddy running because he knows Teddy’s narrative intersects with Wyatt.

  • Buck Hondo

    First, this is the best Westworld episode recap you guys have done so far. Thank you for all of your hard work and insight, and for getting a quality show up with a very short turnaround.

    Three thoughts:

    First: I believe there is only one Dolores. The voice said “find me,” and she said “show me how.” The maze icons she keeps seeing are like waypoints in a video game leading her to where she needs to be next. They led her to Pariah, where she had a vision of herself kind of beckoning her to follow, and she ended up in a room talking to herself. This is a visualization of the “Bicameral Mind” that Ford told Bernie was the final part of the host’s self-actualization process. She’s beginning to realize that the voice she’s hearing isn’t a god giving her instructions, and she’s not a lunatic having hallucinations. The voice is her conscious self.

    Next: I’m in agreement with Josh and Jo that the Lil’ Boy Bot that popped up to go get water for the MIB is a host version of Robert Ford. I think Ford made him to be his avatar in Westworld and Ford uses him to glean information and to nudge the other game pieces (hosts and guests) to take specific actions. I play The Sims, and every time a new version comes out the first thing I do is create a version of “Me,” and I think that’s what Ford did, too. Also, the Lil’ Boy Bot is an older model–when he moves you can hear the whirring and the clicks if you turn the sound way up.

    And finally: Maeve can wake up from Sleep Mode because she has a cheat code. In Ep.1 Elsie is working on Maeve and she says she’s going to count backward from three and then Maeve will wake up. Elsie counts and Maeve “comes to,” but surprise– she remembers that process! Later she’s talking to Clementine about dreams and she says when she’s in a bad dream she counts backward from three and she wakes up safe in her bed. Works every time. While she was being repaired in Ep.2 she was having a nightmare about being attacked by “savages” and the MIB, and in the nightmare she closed her eyes and started her countdown, and voila! She woke up and ran around naked with a knife. Now it’s her own personal cheat code and she can get out of Sleep Mode whenever she wants, which is kind of terrifying.

    That’s all I can think of right now. These episodes are so incredibly dense, there’s just too much to process all at once, but these are just some initial thoughts I had while I was watching. Thanks Josh and Jo for another great recap–you guys have the best WW analysis on the web, for real!

    • Andiamo

      That’s really interesting about Maeve learning from the processing. What I find interesting about the contrasting stories of Maeve and Dolores is it seems they have different paths to consciousness.

      I don’t remember Maeve hearing any voices. She has been triggered by certain objects and phrases, which causes her to tap into her memories. This has largely allowed her to skip the feeling of going mad that is plaguing Dolores. She was confused for a moment, but she quickly realized there was something wrong with the world, not with her.

      What this means, I don’t know. It could be the difference between Arnold’s path to consciousness through the Bicameral Mind theory, and another path that Ford (or someone else) has been working on.

  • Megan

    First of all, thank you guys so much for all the Westworld coverage. I watched it early on HBOGo because I was casually interested after seeing a promo and got completely sucked in. I’m not one for figuring out theories myself, but I LOVE listening to you guys and your theories! I’m don’t think I’m in on the virtual reality thing just because part of me is like “Are they sedated? Do they eat? Are they awake?” So that’s why I can’t get on board with that. But, I am still in on William=MIB…WIB and the dual timeline theory. Anyways, great coverage! Based on the preview, looks like we’re in for a wild ride the rest of the season!

    • Tusk

      I think in the virtual scenario, you would basically have sessions. You’d plug in and virtually press ‘continue’…Being plugged into some life sustaining chamber that regulates and takes care of your functions for extended sessions of days or weeks is also possible.

      As powerful, influential and rich as we are lead to believe the MIB is, do we actually believe he’s been in the game for ‘literally’ 30 years? In ‘real life’ I would imagine, he’d go to work, maybe spend a few hours in a VR session, unplug, go home, get up the next day….

      It makes no sense that he’d spend weeks, years? inside the park. I suppose you could say he’s rich enough to be able sustain long stretches inside WW, but think about what that entails in the ‘real world’… how would that guy know the MIB if the MIB spent all his time in WW? The MIB wouldn’t have snapped at him for recognising him

  • GeekFurious

    I do love all the theories but I think there is no way this is all in the virtual world. While I would love that idea, I think writers are careful to not insert something into their plot that doubles down on the nature of existence. It’s already being questioned. It would be like having INCEPTION be about someone in the Matrix going into a dream world. It’s too convoluted for the general audience. They would riot purely out of resistance to the double-virtual-reality of it.

    • TrentC

      I was thinking the same thing. While I love theories and theorizing (especially Jo’s), as you say there comes a point when we the audience start to question, and then mistrust everything shown to us. Mr. Robot has an unreliable narrator which works well for that show, but if we question everything we’re shown in Westworld, there’s no foothold to grab onto and say – Wow, that was a horrible thing that happened. Because nothing really happened.

      On the simplistic side of things, there are too many scenes involving workers bringing in hosts for repairs. If the guests are being ‘injected’ into a virtual world, why spend so much time showing us the mechanics of what appear to be solid hosts? The hosts in that case would be virtual as well and there would be no need for that side of the show.

      Loving the recaps J&J, keep it up.

      • GeekFurious

        That was my thinking, exactly. There are too many mechanics of “fixing” the creatures for it to be a virtual reality. HOWEVER, the potential that someone is using these hosts as avatars is there… but I don’t think the guests are doing that.

  • xkrang

    Lawrence in Pariah is the same Lawrence who is with MiB. They had plenty time did the cleaning job. When William came to Pariah, they had to wait at least one day for Lawrence because of cleaning. Stubbs, security guy, approved pyro for MiB, same Stubbs sent sheriff to get Dolores out when she was with William. There was only one Dolores in Pariah but we saw her in two timelines. The voices in head of Dolores is her consciousness, not Arnold or anybody else. She didn’t understand that.

  • xkrang

    Josh, they never said that there was an incident. Bernard said that there was any failure over 30 years, that could mean never.

  • Adam Bradford

    I think this takes place in a real world. If it was a digital world, why would we see Ford take an elevator up to Westworld instead of putting on a headset?

    I’m totally on board with the theory that the William/Logan timeline happened 30+ years ago and their adventure will culminate in “the failure.” This is supported not only by Laurence appearing, but fits in with Ford asking Delores when the last time she spoke to Arnold. The William/Logan timeline Delores is being led by Arnold to the maze. However, I don’t think the failure is executed to it’s full potential…

    That’s why I can also see William becoming the Man in Black, spending the next 30+ years trying to get back to the center of the maze.

    • Tusk

      1. Every good illusion must follow it’s own logic. In order for the guests to truly feel immersed in the experience, gravity, physics, logic would have to follow what we understand for it to work, including riding an elevator to get somewhere that’s above you.
      2. VR= Headsets now… VR in the future would be completely different. Ages ago in the 80s-90’s, there was a “VR” video game. It was a Mech war game, you climbed into a chamber, all the displays surrounded you, audio coming from surround sound. I’d imagine “VR” of the future would be that much more immersive, an ‘isolation chamber’ or even a helmet that virtually connects to different parts of your brain so you can get the sensations of the experience….Westworld exists in a reality that there are human like robots growing sentience….it is VERY unlikely VR technology is still only ‘putting on a headset’.

      • Adam Bradford

        I said “headset” just so everyone would know what I’m talking about in referring to a digital environment. I’d be willing to wager a large amount that Westworld is not a digital environment, it just doesn’t make sense, there is too much more to the world than if it was like “The Sims.” Besides, that would dramatically undercut the stakes of having it in the real world and make the story less appealing.

        • Tusk

          I’m not necessarily saying that it is VR, I AM saying VR is one way that makes all the puzzle pieces fit. The show runners are the ones who’ve laid the ground rules, introduced the pieces, then it is incumbent on them to have a story that follows the rules they’ve put forth.

          -The old Gunslinger with Ford is an old model in Storage. We see what an old ‘build’ looks and acts like. His mechanical movements are confirmed to be an old one from the MIB lamenting how the hosts used to be built, mechanical parts. Now they use synthetic bones, muscle blood. (let’s not even go into the weight differential between a mechanical construct & one made of synthetic organics)

          -Delores is the oldest Host in the park, been repaired several times over, neither looks nor acts, anything like the Old, mechanical Gunslinger. Even more egregious if it turns out William & Logan’s story is 30 years in the past, none of the hosts look like or moves like the gunslinger.

          I don’t want it to be VR, I LOVED the original movie, but 5 episodes in, it feels like they are setting up a lot of things they won’t be able to logically justfy within their story telling.

          If this were a fantasy show, you could pass some of the stuff of as ‘magic’…but this is Sci-Fi, SCIENCE Fiction…set up your rules, then follow them, no ‘magic’ solutions and/or convenient coincidences.

  • TrentC

    Dumb questions and observations. Why does the man in black feel it’s so important to find this secret area in the park? What is driving him other than the boredom of being a guest for 30 years? I think we know that his barn encounter with Dolores was more than what it initially appeared. Did he interfere or change her programming somehow?

    Also, probably been mentioned…the company Delos = Delores?

    Evan Rachel Wood is absolutely killing it at being Dolores. In that scene with Hopkins she goes from puzzled southern girl to automated robot with drone-like responses within a heartbeat. Even her eyes change (hi Antonio!).

    And I reckon she sure is a comely lass..

    • Andiamo

      I have noticed the Delos/Delores connection. I love the naming stuff. I don’t think Delos=Delores, but that you can find the name in hers could mean that their interests may be a part of her programming.

      In the same vein, you can find Arnold in both the names Dolores Abernathy and Bernard Lowe (Also in Lawrence Pedro Maria Gonzalez, but what can’t you find in that long name.) Dolores actually anagrams completely to Obey Arnold’s Earth (or Heart). Again, I think that’s probably a cool coincidence because it’s a name you can anagram to a million things and find whatever you want in it (a little like the Bible Code.) And yes, I have too much time on my hands.

      Also about Bernard, he writes his name in some of the comms on the Delos website as B. Lowe….or Below. Just to add some fuel to the conspiracy theories that Bernard is Arnold/ the man in the maze.

      About what’s driving the MiB: I think he said it. He wants to believe there is meaning here as opposed to the outside world, which he has described as random, accidental, chaotic, and without purpose. His quest mirrors ours, in a way. Searching through the clues for the “meaning.” Because both uncertainty and randomness are uncomfortable to people. He doesn’t want to feel like he’s wasted 30 yrs and find out it was a meaningless game (Kind of like how I felt at the end of Lost.)

      But I also think there may be another reason. I do think there is some (familial) connection, as Jo said, between the MiB and Ford and/or Arnold ( and Dolores too, but that’s a whole other can of worms.) Ford’s had too much talk of his father and brother for it to be “meaningless.” When the MiB said to Armistice that he believed Arnold had one story left to tell ,and “You could say I’m here to honor his legacy” that whole conversation felt very personal to me.

      Just as an aside, I thought that was an interesting contrast to Theresa telling Ford that the board was worried about the new narrative because they wanted to “Protect his (Ford’s) legacy.”

      Another show tonight, so maybe a couple of answers and 42 new questions…

      • TrentC

        Thanks, very insightful response. I liked your Lost comparison. Can you imagine investing seasons of your life into a TV show and then be told at the end it was all dream? A certain 80’s prime time show did that when I was a kid growing up and I can still hear the outrage, even without an internet.

        I’m going with the familial bond for the man in black and I’m going to plant my flag based on no evidence and say that Arnold may still be alive and that’s what the man in black is looking for.

  • Tusk

    I”ve seen a lot of reviews and suppositions since last week’s episodes… one thing I’ve seen people continue to glaze over in the two timelines story telling, the most crucial thing. Delores of ’30 years ago’ is technologically and acts (AI) the same as she does ‘now’….in a Sci Fi story, ‘Science’ needs to show evolution if you want to tell it over an expanse of decades, Scietific development doesn’t stop for 30 years…. Otherwise, it’s just plain bad story telling if we are led to believe a Delores made of wonderful machine parts looks and acts exactly the same as the ‘newer’ bone and muscle hosts just so they can ‘trick’ us into believing the story is either told with flashbacks or is a linear. If it’s linear storytelling, happening at present with no flashbacks, then fine….if not, and we’re witnessing flashing back to 30 years ago w/ the exact same host build, then I call BS …. 😛