If your head isn’t hurting a little after watching tonight’s Westworld, “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” you weren’t paying attention. In a particularly trippy episode, we jump around in time over the course of both 30 years and two weeks, and we learn of a new, dark Delos secret.
This episode leaves Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) aside to focus on William (Jimmi Simpson) / Man in Black (Ed Harris) and Bernarnold (Jeffrey Wright). Scenes from next week indicate that we’ll pick up with the girls then.
When last we saw Bernarnold, he was collapsing at Fort Forlorn Hope in the aftermath of Dolores’ military action against both Delos and the Confederadoes. We pick up with Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) still dragging him away from that scene, with his hands and feet bound.
She deposits him outside a cave opening, cuts his hands free, sets a rifle beside him and walks away without a word. He picks up the rifle and ventures into the cave, where he finds Elsie (Shannon Woodward) chained to the ground and surrounded by empty protein bar wrappers.
The last time we saw Elsie was in season one, when she went snooping and disappeared. I honestly thought she was dead, but apparently Bernarnold just chained her in this cave and left her with protein bars and a bucket. Based on how healthy she appears, that whole scene of her disappearance couldn’t have been too long ago, but Bernarnold’s sense of time is extremely broken, so who even knows?
Bernarnold frees Elsie, who commandeers his rifle and begins to escape in search of help from Delos, but he tells her that Delos isn’t sending help until they recover something they want from the park. He’s then forced to reveal himself as a host, both to explain that he abducted her because he was literally being controlled by Ford and because he’s falling apart and needs her to fix him. He gives her his iPad thing, and she flips out over about how he really is a host.
Elsie knocks him out to work on him, and when he comes to she tells him that the damage looks as though he shot himself. She also says that he needs cortical fluid soon, or he won’t last long.
Now that he’s thinking clearer, he recognizes the cave. Elsie thinks they’re miles away from any facilities, but he time-slips into an earlier moment in which he visited this place at Ford’s behest. When he comes back into the “present,” he leads Elsie to a secret elevator and they enter a lab she’s never seen before.
This lab is in ruins. There are dead lab techs everywhere, and they don’t look like they’ve been dead long. The lab strongly resembles the one Charlotte took him to, complete with drone hosts, but he doesn’t seem to remember it as that lab. Elsie agrees to help him, and she shoots his head full of cortical fluid.
As soon as his systems stabilize, he begins to piece together that he has indeed been to this lab before, and that they were building something other than hosts there. He also identifies that there’s something wrong with his memory that’s making him unsure of which moment he’s actually living in.
Elsie finds a closed door, and as she works on opening it against Bernarnold’s advice, he realizes that the moments he’s spending with her are not happening now– that he’s searching his memories for his previous experiences in this place. That realization doesn’t stop the memory from playing out for him like the present, but it seems to calm him.
Behind the door is someone William has been visiting regularly for 30 years: James Delos (Peter Mullan).
In season one, Ford suggested to Bernarnold that their technology might one day allow them to resurrect the dead. The last time we saw James Delos, at the party celebrating his retirement and William’s ascension to the throne, he hinted that he expected an extension on the life he was losing to a terminal disease. Now we know that William has been using this secret lab for 30 years to attempt to revive James Delos using the host technology.
Over a series of scenes in which William is progressively older but James is the same age, culminating in one that appears to be extremely recent, we gather that Delos transferred as much of his essence as he could to technology before he died. William has been building hosts that look exactly like his late father-in-law, programmed with a near-perfect version of him, since he took control of the company. Through each of 149 builds, though, there’s a point at which Host Delos glitches and needs to be destroyed and rebuilt– the point at which he learns that he has died and that the body he’s been enjoying for as long as he can remember is an android with a false sense of time and place.
On his final visit, William decided not to destroy the 149th version of James Delos, but to leave it under observation as it declined. This must have been shortly before the hosts took over the park, because when Bernarnold and Elsie open the door in the cave, they discover a feral James Delos in his room, along with the corpse of the lab tech who’d been left to observe him.
Bernarnold recognizes Delos, and Elsie terminates him. Once they’re safely away from him, Bernarnold recalls that the last time he was in this lab was to build out another “Lazarus” style host consciousness, but he can’t remember for whom. (I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess Ford.)
He tells Elsie this much, but leaves out that he also remembers being the one who set all the drone hosts on the lab techs and caused the chaotic scene of death that they discovered when they first walked in.
Meanwhile, the Man in Black (TMIB) and Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) are still making their way towards “Glory,” following clues to play the game Ford left for William. They find a railroad track that is heading in the wrong direction (and being built with bodies instead of railroad ties), and TMIB deducts that this is a clue. They’ll detour in the direction the tracks lead, through Las Mudas, where Lawrence has family.
When they arrive in Las Mudas, they encounter Major Craddock (Jonathan Tucker) and the handful of Confederadoes Teddy (James Marsden) let escape when Dolores wanted them executed. They’ve come to this village looking for hidden weapons, and they’re ready to kill all the townsfolk to do so.
TMIB finds out from Lawrence where the weapons are hidden and strikes a deal with Craddock: he’ll give him the location of the guns for free, and he wants to be let go so he can lead Craddock and his men to Glory.
Craddock accepts and unearths a trove of rifles and nitroglycerin. Instead of hitting the road immediately with TMIB, though, he lingers in Las Mudas to torment the locals. When Craddock targets Lawrence’s wife, who lives in Las Mudas, something stirs in TMIB, and he decides it’s time to kill Craddock and all his men and get moving.
On the surface, this looks like a good deed inspired by Lawrence remembering a time in the past when TMIB told him about his daughter and not wanting Lawrence’s daughter to watch her parents die. When the dust settles, the daughter approaches TMIB and speaks in the direct manner that Ford’s host agents have, telling William that he needs to look to the past, not the future.
TMIB, Lawrence and a few grateful village men ride out for Glory in cinematic Western fashion, and out on the open prairie they encounter another rider.
Grace (Katja Herbers), who was surrounded by members of the Ghost Nation when she awoke from escaping the Bengal tiger and the murderous hosts in Colonial India land, was taken to a group of hostages that included Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth). He assured her that they’d be saved soon, and she told him she didn’t want to leave the park. She also revealed that she spoke the language of the Ghost Nation.
When the hostages were taken to the leader of the tribe, Grace escaped and ran away. She found a horse and Western garb and set out to find… HER FATHER! TMIB is Grace’s dad, and she is the rider on the plains.