Who knew Westworld was the balm my quarantine-weary soul would need this weird, weird March? “The Absence of Field” brings the season’s score to three-for-three in terms of winning at happily distracting me for an hour. Thank you, Westworld!
The star of this week’s episode is Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), or whomever that is inside a Charlotte Hale Host body. (Is it Teddy? Clementine?? The Man in Black???) Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) placed the brain of someone she trusts inside of Charlotte so they would have a Host on the inside of Delos. Although New Charlotte has presumably entered the human race with whatever data Delos had collected on her, her nerves fray under the strain of working in secret and being regularly surprised by new information.
Irene Gerhart (Nadine Lewington), Charlotte’s right hand at work, is the first to tip her off to the fact that someone has been discreetly buying Delos stock for years, hiding behind myriad dummy businesses. The cumulative result is that this unknown person has become the majority shareholder, scuttling New Charlotte’s (read: Dolores’s) plans to privatize the company. New Charlotte dispatches Irene to find out who the mystery buyer is, and, no surprise to us, it’s Serac (Vincent Cassel).
(Apparently, Delos gave Serac a taste of their data in their early days and he saw its potential. Now he wants it all for himself.)
Furthermore, New Charlotte is informed by some employees that there’s a mole in Delos. Someone with top-level access must have been feeding Serac information. They can tell both by how effective he’s been at operating in the shadows and by the fact that several Host brains are unaccounted for in their post-massacre audit– a theft that definitely required an inside “man.” Notable amongst the missing Host units? Maeve (Thandie Newton).
If the stress of finding out that Delos is a house of cards wasn’t enough for New Charlotte, she seems unprepared for the fact that real Charlotte was a divorced mother. In fact, in her final moments in the park, she recorded a video message for her son, Nathan (Jaxon Thomas Williams), which the Delos tech guys have only just found and given her. It’s a good thing, too, because little Nathan has been noticing that his mommy is different, and the message gives New Charlotte some key tips on how to pass better.
New Charlotte has been unable to reach Dolores by phone, unaware of the Alpha’s problems with being shot and all. In desperation, she hops into her commuter chopper and leaves her office in San Francisco to find Dolores in LA.
New Charlotte is a mess when Dolores finds her waiting in a hotel lobby. She’s been cutting herself compulsively, and her pristine white suit is hiding a network of bleeding wounds.
Dolores uses her robot telepathy to quickly book a number of rooms on a quiet floor, where she heals New Charlotte and orders her a new outfit. She reminds New Charlotte that she knows who she is, and that she isn’t alone, then stays with her while she falls asleep (?) after ordering her to never hurt herself again.
When New Charlotte awakens, Dolores is gone, but she’s regained some of her confidence. She goes home to San Francisco, and she picks her son up at the park he plays in after school.
In the park, she discovers that the “Tommy” her son has been hanging out with lately is not another kid, but a child predator who lures unsupervised children in with his friendly golden retriever. New Charlotte finds Nathan sitting too close to the man on a bench, slowly petting the dog according to the creeper’s instructions. New Charlotte tells her son to go play while she talks to the nice man, then grabs him by the throat and thanks him for reminding her of who she really is: a predator.
When he’s dead, she takes his dog and presents it as a gift to Nathan.
Predatory New Charlotte has the clarity to figure out what to do with a series of odd voice messages she’s been receiving from a number she isn’t able to call back. The messages are electronic tones. In her clear-headed state, she deduces that playing the tones in order when she attempts to call the number back will act as a passcode and allow her to complete her call. She tells the person on the other end that she wants to meet, and immediately the driverless car she’s riding in is rerouted.
She’s delivered to a villa where Martel (Pom Klementieff) awaits her with a pair of glasses that allow her to see a hologram of Charlotte’s true boss, Serac. Because OF COURSE Charlotte was the mole! Who else would it have been? And because New Charlotte didn’t know this, Serac believes his inside woman has been letting him down. She manages to play it cool, selling the idea that the aftermath of the massacre has been chaotic enough to affect her performance.
Serac confirms that he wants all of the data Delos collected on its guests. He knows that it was downloaded somewhere, and that Dolores has the access key. Now he believes he has both Charlotte Hale and Maeve hunting Dolores for him.
Meanwhile, Dolores decides to take Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) under her wing. He caught her when she collapsed and stayed with her until an ambulance came. Then he opted to ride with her so she wouldn’t be alone. Thanks to his crime gig app, he could tell that the police who pulled over the ambulance were actually after a new bounty on Dolores, and his tipping her off helped her evade (and kill) them. Before she drove off, she warned him to get a new identity and disappear because they’d be looking for him now.
To his credit, Caleb takes her advice. He goes to the private care facility to say goodbye to his mom, which is dumb because it is an obvious place to accost him. And of course someone does.
There’s a bounty on him now, and a couple of former colleagues show up to collect it. They aren’t satisfied with just the money for him, though, so they try to get him to spill on Dolores. He refuses, so they torture him by reactivating a plate on the roof of his mouth that allows them to manipulate his body chemistry with a tablet. Fortunately for him, Dolores has had her Martin Connells (Tommy Flanagan) (who is he???) help her find Caleb, and she saves him in the nick of time.
Dolores takes Caleb on a trip down his own memory lane, starting with a meal in the diner where his mom abandoned him when he was a child. (It turns out that his mom has been institutionalized because of schizophrenia since six months after that incident.) Dolores shows him a transcript of his worst memory, mined by Incite for Rehoboam before privacy laws would have prevented it. Because social services was called in, there’s a detailed report on that terrible day and Incite has it.
Next Dolores takes Caleb to the pier he walks on when he needs to think. This, she tells him, is where he will kill himself in 10-12 years, according to Rehoboam’s strategic projections. Because of his history of depression, his mom’s mental health and a few other factors, the data his prospective employers buy from Incite projects that he’s a suicide risk and therefore not worth giving a chance. Incite has stacked the career deck against him, dooming him to petty crime and construction work, as well as limiting his chances of marrying or having children.
Dolores explains that he’s been put in a cage, and that she’s been treated similarly. She offers him as much money as he wants to disappear as a reward for protecting her… or an invitation to join the revolution she’s planning to start. He tells her that she’s the most real thing to ever have happened to him and signs on for the fight.
Who do you think is in Charlotte and Martin? New Charlotte’s weakness and self-harm evoke either Teddy or Clementine. Her ease with seducing Charlotte’s ex-husband seems more like a Clementine thing, but then her dependence on Dolores and agreement that she “belongs to” Dolores seem like Teddy. But then self-identifying as a predator while choking out the park pervert seems like either the late-model Teddy or The Man in Black. Or is there another Host who satisfies both criteria of being someone Dolores trusts enough for this mission *and* would call themselves a “predator”? Who do you think??