More timeline mind warping from Westworld in “Les Écorchés,” now with additional confusion about what is even real.
The episode opens at the latter end of the two week timeline beginning with the day the hosts started killing everyone and the days since Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) and Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) hooked up with Bernarnold (Jeffrey Wright) on the seashore.
Bernarnold awakens inside the Mesa facility, where Ashley Stubbs tells him that he doesn’t think Strand is there to rescue them, but that Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) has a satellite communicator in her office that they can steal to call for real help. Before their two-man rebellion takes its first step, Strand takes them both into custody at gunpoint. He’s figured out that someone murdered Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), and he’s pretty sure it was one of these two.
Strand and Charlotte take Bernarnold and Ashley to the secret lab where Bernarnold killed Theresa. As Strand is telling Ashley that he’s fairly certain he’s the killer, a Delos flunky discovers a secret door behind a filing cabinet. Everyone goes through it and down a hallway to a storage room full of disabled hosts. All of the hosts are iterations of Bernarnold.
Now that the jig is up, Charlotte and her thugs use technology to torture Bernarnold as she interrogates him about Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) assault on the Mesa. He claims not to remember anything, but as she presses he jumps back (a week?) to when he was still in the Matrix– sorry, The CRADLE– discovering that Ford (Anthony Hopkins) was the ghost in their machines.
Ford and Bernarnold walk through the virtual Westworld, discussing what Delos was actually up to. Ford confirms that their bigger plan was to collect guest data and create host versions of them that would give guests immortality. The glitches present in the James Delos host were unavoidable, though, and Ford determined that Delos’ goal was unachievable.
Ford leads Bernarnold into a replica of the house we saw Arnold take Dolores to in the “real world,” and Bernarnold challenges Ford on whether the hosts, including Dolores, actually have free will. It now appears that Ford’s been pulling the strings from inside the system all along. Ford is firm that the hosts have free will, but as he reveals that Bernarnold was developed in this virtual environment from his and Dolores’ memories of Arnold, he also robs Bernarnold of his free will.
Elsie (Shannon Woodward) is growing frantic in the Cradle as she waits for Bernarnold to reemerge while hosts are taking the Mesa by storm. When he finally does, she tells him that the system has debugged itself while he was in it. They leave the Cradle, and he pauses to look at his reflection in a window. Ford has followed him out, lodged in Bernarnold’s brain. Bernarnold sends Elsie on an errand at Ford’s behest, then starts reluctantly taking orders from his phantom boss.
Ford has him go to the Map, which is surrounded by a bloody clash between hosts and Delos security. Bernarnold walks through the fray to the control terminal that one of the Delos people is working at and shuts the entire system down. As he leaves, Ford makes him pick up a gun and then takes over his body to start shooting Delos security personnel.
While Ford is working on, and through Bernarnold, Dolores is leading her men and women through the Mesa in search of her father (Louis Herthum). She finds him in a lab where Charlotte Hale, accompanied by Ashley Stubbs, is trying in vain to extract the data she’s stored in him. Dolores tells Charlotte that she knows exactly what Delos’ secret project is (because she worked in the Bernarnold part), and she knows that the key to all the data is in her father’s head. She’s about to chop Charlotte’s head open with a saw when Peter Abernathy becomes lucid enough to talk to her. Charlotte and Ashley use the distraction to escape.
Dolores shares a final moment with her father before removing his control unit (brain), and Teddy (James Marsden) beats Delos’ security chief to death. Downstairs, Angela (Talulah Riley) detonates a grenade inside the Cradle, destroying the backups of every host. Between this and Bernarnold having shut down the system, the hosts are all completely free from their digital origins.
Dolores and Teddy go looking for horses to ride away from the Mesa on, and they encounter a bullet-riddled Maeve (Thandie Newton). Maeve has lost her daughter again, after engaging in a host-assisted shoot-out with the Man in Black (Ed Harris). Even though she helped an already-awake Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) remember enough about his previous experiences with the Man in Black to make Lawrence her ally, Lee Sizemore’s (Simon Quarterman) call to Delos for help interrupted Maeve’s sweet vengeance.
Instead of watching the man who once killed her and her daughter die, Maeve is shot repeatedly by Delos idiots. Sizemore preserves her and transports her back to the Mesa, but Ghost Nation warriors make off with her daughter (Jasmyn Rae) and the Man in Black isn’t all the way dead, just seriously wounded and hiding out.
When Dolores finds Maeve, she’s immobile on an operating table in a garage, where Sizemore has abandoned her when all of the Delos personnel disappeared and he heard hosts coming. Dolores shames Maeve for letting this happen to her and offers to put her out of her misery, but Maeve insists that she made a promise to her daughter that she needs to keep. Dolores comments about how the kin that the humans gave them is another chain, but grants that Maeve has the freedom to choose her own path– even if this is it.
Dolores and Teddy leave Maeve behind and exit the Mesa on horseback, heading for The Valley Beyond.
Bernarnold cycles through memories, including the one of Dolores visiting his under-construction home in what we believed was the real world, as well as some of the conversations that either Arnold had with Dolores or that Dolores had to test Bernarnold’s fidelity, either in a real secret lab or in the virtual world. Then he regains consciousness Charlotte Hale’s presence, being tortured for information, jumping ahead in time to where the episode began.
Finally, he tells her a location for the control unit Dolores took from Peter Abernathy.