[For Westworld‘s “Tromp L’Oiel” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Dolores and William journey into dangerous terrain; Maeve delivers an ultimatum.
“Tromp L’Oiel” is a perfect title for this episode of Westworld. It refers to the artistic trickery realism sometimes employs. Ever tried to open a window or a door that turns out to be a painting on a wall? If so, that “Tromp L’Oiel” experience probably felt exactly like a day’s work at Westworld. The episode covers such a day where, like in the book Alice in Wonderland Bernard reads to his son, “Everything would be what it isn’t”. In fact, reality’s entirely up for grabs in this episode as three big secret revelations alter our idea of what’s really happening.
In the narrative “park” version of Westworld, Dolores, William, and Lawrence ride a train into dangerous territory. The windows armor down for their protection and Lawrence explains that the train’s their only way safely through the area. But William and Dolores have other priorities; hormones mainly. They want to do it. The duo discuss how they have nothing in common as well as that he’s engaged and will forget Dolores the second she’s out of his sight. So Dolores rushes off in a huff.
William then chases her to give a romantic speech about being truly alive for the first time. Finally, the switch flips at this point and they smooch it up hardcore. The next morning William says Dolores has unlocked something inside him. She replies, “I’m not a key, I’m just me,” which feels so hackneyed it’s likely meant to remind us that these two are just rehashing a tired old script.
Dolores shows William sketches she did overnight of her dream place. It’s where she wants to go; a place she’s only imagined but believes is real. Her illogical explanation then gets interrupted when angry Confederados ambush the train. A fun gunfight, horseback chase, and explosions scene follows and covers lots of cowboy territory. In the end, Native Americans shoot arrows to kill the Confederados. Thus, Dolores, Lawrence and William are now safe from danger.
Conveniently, just as they escape peril, Dolores and William find they stand right near the dream place Dolores sketched. So, of course, that’s where the pair are going next. On the other hand, Lawrence leaves them behind to go fight in the war. Before he goes, though, Lawrence warns them that nobody’s ever returned from where they’re going.
Meanwhile in the backstage version of Westworld Theresa and Bernard remain embattled. This time it’s less about their secret affair and more the bottom line. Charlotte Hale came down on Theresa about all the recent host screw ups. Not because corporate actually cares about the safety issues or ramifications for the guests… but because of their agenda. Charlotte calls this entity “the gods” and says they demand a “blood sacrifice”.
Turns out it was corporate Theresa stole the code for. Because Ford kept it all within the park all these forty years they don’t have dominion over it. They want to force Ford into retirement but retain the code after he’s gone. They assume he won’t retire amicably and thus might erase the code on his way out. So, they’re stealing it as a precautionary measure. This is big secret number one.
Then Charlotte and Theresa do a fake presentation for Ford and Bernard where Clementine gets dangerously violent after not resetting properly. They claim to be convinced that the hosts are developing grudges from those pesky memories they’ve started having since the latest update. The presentation ends as Charlotte fires Bernard for all this. Bernard confronts Theresa after the presentation and says he knows that presentation was a total sham. Bernard says he knows she’s been stealing code from the park.
He then tells her about how the hosts are screwy and why – “repetition leads to variation,” which we hope to figure out sometime this century. Bernard explains it as a link between memory and improvisation. Then she tells him of the corporate plan to save the information and get rid of Ford.
Bernard takes Theresa to Ford’s little cottage out in the woods. Before they enter he tells her the hosts “can’t see what’s right in front of them”. Then Theresa says, “What’s behind this door?” and Bernard responds, “What door?”. It’s a clue to the next, and last, big secret to be revealed inside. In the cottage basement they find a studio where Ford secretly makes hosts. That’s big secret number two. There are blueprints for hosts all over the damn place. This is when we find out, along with Theresa, that Bernard is a host – big secret three. Theresa seems hurt at the news while Ford seems gleeful. He has that Hopkins twinkle in his eye.
They have a standoff. Theresa suddenly knows what Charlotte, and now Ford, mean by “blood sacrifice”. She scrambles and takes out her phone to free herself. But Ford controls everything in this world, even cellphone service. Thus, Bernard slowly takes off his tie and then kills Theresa at Ford’s order. After she’s dead Bernard calmly puts his tie back on and leaves. Is Ford “the gods” Charlotte refers to? Will that be the next big secret reveal? Or is corporate really truly about to ask him to retire?
Maeve trespasses backstage once again to land on Felix’s table. She tells Sylvester and Felix to get her out of the whole thing, though. Just backstage isn’t far enough for her. Nor is “survival”. She’s decided now that surviving is really just another loop in the storyline. In fact, Maeve doesn’t fear death because she’s an old pro at it. So, she threatens to kill Sylvester if he doesn’t help free her from the park. After all, he’s a newbie at the whole dying thing. This ultimatum will likely work on him. Felix, on the other hand, doesn’t really need threats. He’s ready to marry Maeve at this point.
“Tromp L’Oiel” succeeds because it gives bountiful answers while it still leaves a few juicy tidbits on the plate for us to chew awhile. We like Westworld a bit more now as it shifts from a navel-gazing frontier into answers and action.
– Katherine Recap