In the latest Westworld, “Akane No Mai,” or “Akane’s Dance,” we leave behind Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), William (Jimmi Simpson), Man in Black (Ed Harris), Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.), Grace (Katja Herbers) and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) to catch up with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton) and their crews.
Bernarnold (Jeffrey Wright) does make a brief appearance at the beginning, staring incredulously around him at the myriad disabled hosts that are being salvaged from the sea where a valley was supposed to be, in episode one. It looked like Teddy (James Marsden) might have been one of the floaters in that episode, and sure enough, his body is on the pile in the work room at HQ.
The Delos workers are trying to figure out what they can do to get the hosts to follow rules again, so they’re pulling their “brains” out and looking for data about what’s happened, but there’s literally no data– it’s like nobody has ever programmed these brains before. A mystery for Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) to solve… later.
How Teddy winds up on the body pile by the tail end of the two weeks we’re jumping around in might be hinted at in his storyline with Dolores in this episode.
Once we leave Bernarnold, we jump back to an earlier point in the timeline and join Dolores and Teddy as they arrive in Sweetwater. She’d told him there was something she needed there, and it turns out to be the train that guests arrive in the park on. She orders her followers to repair the train and strip it down for speed, so that they can get to The Mesa, Delos HQ, and retrieve her father.
While they’re in Sweetwater, Dolores takes Teddy to the vantage point of their many pre-awakening conversations about running away together. He uses the meaningful spot to invite her to walk away from the coming fight and find a patch of beauty just for them. She responds by spinning a tale of a time her daddy rooted out a fly-born illness by burning the weak and infected cows in their herd, rather than sheltering the weak cows until the threat passed, as Teddy would have done. She promises to think about his proposition.
Back in town, they find a bedroom to spend the night in and engage in what might be their first consensual sex with each other in the 30+ years they’ve been rattling around Westworld.
In the afterglow, Dolores invites Teddy to come see something. They walk to another building, and she lulls him by telling him that until that experience, she’d been questioning whether their feelings for each other were genuine or programming. They agree that they’ve truly seen each other now, and that the feelings are real. Unfortunately for Teddy, that doesn’t mean that they’re about to run off into the sunset together. It means that Dolores doesn’t think he has the constitution for what lies ahead.
She leads him into a room with at least one rotting corpse in it, where several of her followers converge on them. She has two men hold Teddy while a requisitioned Delos worker pulls out a tablet and begins overriding Teddy’s personality with one better suited to the kind of things Dolores will be asking him to do from now on.
Meanwhile, we left Maeve and her crew in a clearing in Shogunland, where a samurai appeared to be lunging out of the darkness at them. It turns out that he was a Ronin, Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), a Samurai with no master.
His men spring from the shadows to circle and capture Maeve, Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum), Lutz (Leonardo Nam), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman). Before Maeve can give Musashi any commands, he recognizes that she should be gagged, then leads their crew into a town is eerily familiar.
Armistice is the first to recognize the déjà vu feeling as they enter a Japanese town. Recognition is dawning on the rest of them as Musashi and his companion Hanaryo (Tao Okamoto) begin acting out the street fight and brothel robbery that used to be Armistice and Hector’s big thing in Sweetwater. Sizemore confesses to Maeve that he might have borrowed stories from land to land, just to keep up with the content demands of his job.
It’s clear early in this new adventure that Maeve speaks and understands Japanese fluently. Sizemore explains that although she’s always been capable of conversing in many languages as a component of her madam persona, all of the hosts can speak and understand a number of languages if that area of their code is unlocked.
At a certain point in the brothel robbery story, Maeve speaks up in Japanese and tells the madam, Akane (Rinko Kikuchi), and Musashi that she knows how this story ends and suggests that they have a civilized conversation instead. They’re surprised, but they agree.
To Maeve’s disappointment, this doesn’t result in an immediate conference about what’s going on and what the Truth is, but rather with she and her gang being cleaned up and given kimonos and tea while they watch Geisha Sakura (Kiki Sukezane) dance.
Maeve is losing patience with the pacing when an emissary from the nearby Shogun arrives and offers to buy Sakura. Sizemore begins anticipating the moves in a story he recognizes, but he’s caught off guard when Akane refuses to sell the younger woman who has become like a daughter to her. Instead of complying, she stabs the emissary in the eye.
This move puts all of them in danger, and they engage Musashi to help them all get to Snow Lake, a place the Japanese characters are familiar with that is also the site of an access tunnel that will help Sizemore get them to Maeve’s daughter. They agree to leave after dark, but more variations in this world’s narratives emerge when a team of the Shogun’s ninjas attack after dark and steal Sakura.
During the fight, Maeve is robbed of the power to speak by a particularly strangly ninja. She’s suffocating in his grip when something happens inside her. She becomes calm, looks at him, and then telepathically orders him to kill himself.
He releases her, then impales his own head on a decorative spike nearby. Another ninja witnesses this, calls Maeve a witch and runs away.
Maeve doesn’t know how she did it, but I suspect it has something to do with the host-to-host pinging connection Bernarnold used with Charlotte to help pinpoint Abernathy’s location earlier this season.
As soon as the ninja are defeated, and Maeve and her company discover that Sakura has been taken to the Shogun, the Shogun’s army arrives in town, likely to terrorize the people there in retribution for the day’s events. Maeve asks Hector, Armistice and Musashi to buy her some time and sneaks Akane out with Sizemore, Sylvester and Lutz.
Her plan is to gain entry into the Shogun’s camp by pretending to be a party from China bearing a gift for him, but when they get inside they find that the Shogun is expecting them. He’s had his men do something awful to their ears so she won’t be able to bewitch them.
Akane makes a deal with the Shogun that she’ll do anything to get Sakura back. He agrees to trade the girl for a dance from Akane. While they prepare to perform, Maeve tries to offer Akane freedom with her new telepathic powers. Akane refuses, and the implication is that she doesn’t want to be freed from Sakura.
When the performance begins, the Shogun makes Maeve sit beside him so he can keep track of her. Akane and Sakura emerge, but he stops them before they begin their routine. He stabs Sakura through the middle and tells Akane that he’s holding up his end of the deal and that she can have her after the dance.
Akane dances forcefully, seducing the entire camp into a near trance with her movement. She draws closer and closer to the Shogun, and when his guard is down she removes a dagger from her hair and cuts his head in half with it.
A Samurai orders she and Maeve to be executed, and they kneel in the midst of the crowd. As they do, Maeve wordlessly takes over. She compels the executioners to kill each other, and then the entire camp breaks out in slaughter. She stands calmly and picks up a sword, ready to control the next batch of soldiers approaching with her new “voice.”
One more thing: Sizemore pockets a walkie-talkie that he finds on a dead Delos security officer when they’re in transit to the Shogun’s camp. What new problems will that bring?