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"Trace Decay" is the eighth episode of Westworld, and the eighth episode of the first season. The episode was written by Charles Yu & Lisa Joy; it was directed by Stephen Williams.

Summary

Bernard struggles with a mandate; Maeve looks to change her script; Teddy is jarred by dark memories.

– Official Summary


Plot

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Ford and Bernard

The episode opens with Ford asking Bernard to bring himself back online. He does, and immediately begins hyperventilating and sobbing as he remembers what he did to Theresa. He can't understand why he killed her, because he believes he loved her. Ford marvels at Bernard's display of emotion, calling it "a thing of beauty". He tells Bernard that he killed Theresa because he, Ford, told him to, and says he must feel proud of the emotions he's feeling, confusing Bernard. He explains that in the beginning the Hosts could only feel "primary color" emotions; love, hate, et cetera. The engineers couldn't create a more complex Host, so Ford built Bernard and together they achieved a wider range of feelings for the Hosts.

Bernard asks why Ford would make him kill Theresa, because he loved her. Ford quotes Frankenstein, saying, "One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire.” He continues his story, saying that 'they' would have destroyed all his work, and destroyed Bernard, and that he won't let that happen.

Bernard becomes angry, and refuses to help Ford in any way. He stands up and throws his chair aside, advancing on Ford, who freezes his motor functions. Ford casually recalls that Arnold felt the same way, and he couldn't stop Ford either. He gives a command to Bernard that shuts off his emotions, and tells him that he needs the old Bernard back; the capable Bernard who can cover his tracks. Bernard, no longer angry, asks Ford how he should proceed, and Ford tells him to erase any connections between them and Theresa's death. He promises Bernard that he will wipe away all memories of Theresa when he's finished, so he may be at peace.

Ford is later present when Theresa's body is unveiled in the Mesa Hub, along with Charlotte Hale and Ashley Stubbs. Ford pretends to be unaware of what happened to her, asking questions and appearing curious. After sharing a look with Charlotte, who brings up Theresa's belief that the new narratives should be delayed, Ford reveals that he has found Theresa's previous demonstration of Host violence towards humans to be staged, as a technician edited Clementine's code. He suggests that technician access to hosts be limited, until a more principled team can be found. He manages to get Bernard reinstated as Head of Behavior based on this evidence.

Back in the same room as before, Ford prepares to erase Bernard's memory, as he has successfully cleared up any evidence linking them to Theresa. Ford comments on Bernard's extraordinary circumstances; being a host that understands how hosts work. The two converse for a while, with Ford telling Bernard how lucky he is to have no emotions.

Right before Ford goes to wipe Bernard's memory, Bernard asks whether Ford has made him hurt anyone else besides Theresa. Ford replies no, and then initiates the memory wipe. However, just at this moment Bernard has a flashback in which he strangles Elsie Hughes. This flashback reveals that Ford was lying, but Bernard immediately forgets it.

Later, Stubbs catches up with Bernard in a corridor. He offers his condolences for Bernard's loss; although it was a secret, Stubbs reveals he knew of their relationship. Bernard is genuinely confused and denies all knowledge of it, saying he respected Theresa as a collegue but didn't actually know her that well. He walks off, leaving Stubbs perplexed.

In the past, Bernard and Ford respond to a problem with Maeve after she was playing the role of a homesteader and was murdered, along with her daughter, by the Man in Black. She has been brought to the Behavior and Diagnostics lab and is distraught. Nothing the techs can do works to calm her or clear her memory. Ford deletes the memories that are distressing her. Bernard sits her down on the stool and she begs Ford not to take all that she has of her daughter, as the pain is all she has left (echoing sentiments Bernard later makes about his son, Charlie). Ford deletes it and her face goes blank. He attempts to put her into sleep mode but instead she stands up, takes a scalpel and stabs herself in the neck.

Maeve

Maeve stands at the bar in Mariposa and watches the people at the tables, bored thanks to her new self-awareness. The piano is playing House of the Rising Sun. She hears Clementine's pick-up line and turns around, only to see Clem's replacement, a blonde Host that recites Clem's script and flirts with a male guest. Maeve watches in disgust as the replacement convinces the guest to come upstairs with her, and comes over to talk to Maeve, saying all the same things Clementine would say before leaving with the guest.

Maeve finishes her drink and suddenly relives the memory of being with her Host child. The scene cuts to her sitting in one of the behavior rooms, as she tells Sylvester and Lutz what she sees. She admits that she doesn't know what's real anymore; Sweetwater or her memory. Lutz explains that Host minds are different; that they experience memories with perfect recall, unlike humans. Maeve asks what happened to the girl in her memory, and Lutz offers to check where she is, but Maeve says it doesn't matter since every relationship she had was a lie. She repeats her intention to leave the park. Lutz protests that she doesn't know anything about the outside world, but Sylvester agrees she should leave. Maeve, amused by Sylvester transparent attempt at taking her down, says she knows that there is a small explosive embedded in all the Hosts' spines that will detonate if they try to leave. The surgeons agree to remove it, but Lutz tells her that she will still need an army to escape the park. Maeve agrees with him and takes his tablet. She says she will need allies, and asks for administrative privileges. She says it is "Time to write my own fucking story" and begins working on the tablet.

Later on, while Maeve is still working, Sylvester walks in and reveals that the higher ups are getting agitated. He tells Maeve to give the tablet back, as they have to return to normal so that no one becomes suspicious of them. She hands it to Felix Lutz and says that she is finished anyway, musing about parts of her code she can't reach. She asks who Arnold is. Sylvester, agitated, ignores her and tells her that those pieces of code can stay dormant, ranting that if she wants things like that changed she should go up to Behavior and blackmail a technician there to help her, making her "someone else's" problem.

Maeve says she doesn't have time for that and tells them to take her there during shift change. She addresses Lutz directly, saying that what she needs changed is quite sophisticated, but she will write them down for him. She looks at Sylvester and says that after they do this, she will be "somebody else's" problem.

Sylvester steps outside the room and has a conversation with Lutz, where he reveals his plan to take Maeve up to Behavior and wipe her clean, then smash her face and say they found her like that. Maeve watches, smiling, through the glass walls. Lutz walks back in and tries to act normally, failing.

The surgeons take Maeve up to Behavior, where she lays out what she wants to be changed. Lutz goes through what she asks for and hesitantly tells her that she must be shut down, and she lies back, allowing him to do it. Before she is shut down she wishes Sylvester good luck, confusing him. Lutz brings up the window to reformat a host, and hesitates.

After the procedure is done the two of them stand over Maeve, now apparently wiped clean. Sylvester says it's for the best, and gets angry at Lutz's attitude, saying he got him out of a mess and wants a thank you. Maeve sits up and says "thank you", scaring Sylvester who asks Lutz what he did. Maeve explains that Lutz did what she asked him to, because he has more compassion and wasn't ready to kill someone. Sylvester recovers and acts dismissive, saying that Maeve can walk out of the park now and leave him alone. She chuckles, and says that Lutz changed much more than Sylvester thinks. She jumps up and grabs a scalpel from a nearby table, slicing Sylvester's throat. He doesn't notice until it starts to bleed profusely, and he falls to the ground, choking.

Lutz is horrified, and protests that Maeve told him she wouldn't hurt anyone. She calmly tells him that Sylvester might prove useful, and hands him a surgical blowtorch, which he uses to cauterize the wound while Maeve watches.

The next day Maeve wakes up in Sweetwater, but with a difference. The piano song is changed, now playing Back to Black, and Maeve is more alert to her surroundings, strolling through the town to the Mariposa Saloon. She speaks with the new Clementine, revealing that she is waiting for Hector Escaton to rob the bar. She goes to the bar as usual to get a drink, only to be told her tab has run quite high and she has to pay. Maeve stares at the barkeep, and tells him that she doesn't think it has; that, in fact, she believes she deserves a token of gratitude for keeping her tab paid up. The barkeep stares blankly at her, before agreeing with her and giving her a free drink. She realizes that she can now manipulate other Hosts.

As Maeve looks out the window she sees the Host that played her daughter in her memories. She has another flashback to when her previous home was attacked by the Man in Black, and recalls that he stabbed her in the stomach. "New" Clem notices her mood and asks what's wrong, prompting Maeve to alter her and the barkeep's narrative so they leave her alone. She hears the sound of Hector and his outlaws arriving in the town.

As he plays out his narrative, Maeve exits Mariposa to meet him as he approaches. The sheriff appears, ready to kill him, but Maeve changes his narrative and he walks away. She plays around with her new abilities, manipulating various hosts to allow Hector to steal the safe. As the battle ends, she smiles.

That night she downs another drink and tells the new Clem to look after the saloon, leaving. Clem follows her, asking whether she is sure, and Maeve suddenly hears gunshots, triggering another flashback where she is attacked by the Man in Black and watches him kill her daughter before swiping at his throat with the knife he used to stab her. She snaps back to reality, and watches as New Clementine, whom she has accidentally injured in the same manner with a knife, holds her bleeding throat and falls to the ground.

The hosts around her stare, and a few begin to advance on her, directed by staff. Maeve panics and whispers to a fellow host, changing his narrative and causing him to shoot at the advancing hosts, creating a panic. Maeve takes the opportunity to run back to her room, and relives another flashback of having her memories of her daughter removed, before staff arrive to take her back to the Hub.

Charlotte Hale, Ashley Stubbs and Lee Sizemore

Charlotte is present along with Ashley Stubbs and Dr. Ford when Theresa's body is brought to the Mesa Hub after being found in a ravine. She appears upset about Theresa's death, but becomes nervous after Stubbs reveals that Theresa was found with a transmitter containing core code from the hosts. He deduces that she was trying to transmit at a high location in the park and slipped. Charlotte, knowing where the transmitter came from, asks whether Stubbs knows who the information was intended for, to which he says no. She is visibly relieved, but voices her suspicion about the manner of Theresa's death, saying she was careful and wouldn't have made a mistake.

Ford shares a look with her, which she notices, prompting her to say that Theresa felt strongly that the new narratives should be delayed. Ford disagrees, and goes on to say that the demonstration involving Clementine turned out to be a hoax. He says that Clem's code was altered by a technician, and suggests that their access to the Hosts be reigned in. Stubbs voices concerns that it will leave them shorthanded, and Ford offers to oversee the park's safety protocols while a new team is assembled. Charlotte fakes a smile, sarcastically saying how efficient he is. Ford doesn't notice, and states it will be a lot of work. He mentions that Bernard should be reinstated to help him, now that Theresa's manipulation of events has been discovered. Charlotte, still smiling and visibly reluctant, agrees, even apologizing. Ford nods and leaves. Charlotte's smile disappears after he is gone.

Later, Charlotte interrupts Lee Sizemore while he programs a new character, the Gold Miner host. In the background we see other characters from Ford's new narrative with Wyatt. He apologies for his first meeting with Charlotte, and mentions that he has heard about Theresa's death. Charlotte states it is a loss to the company, and Lee says that he heard she wasn't as loyal as she seemed, and reveals a rumor that is circulating which says she was smuggling company secrets.

Charlotte defends Theresa, saying she died while doing something important for Delos, but refuses to reveal what it was to Lee. He becomes irritated, and boasts that Ford has asked him to secretly create a villain, gesturing to the Gold Miner host, for his new narrative. Charlotte laughs at him, saying that Ford would never entrust him with a key character, and that Ford is almost finished anyway. She tells him that he is only doing busy work, and offers him a real job working for her on something secret.

The two of them head to Cold Storage, and Charlotte randomly selects the decommissioned original Peter Abernathy as storage for the stolen code that Theresa attempted to transmit. She brushes aside Lee's questions, instead telling him to write a story for Abernathy and create a personality convincing enough that he can exit the park without raising suspicion. She leaves Lee to program Abernathy, not realizing that Abernathy was decommissioned for erratic and dangerous behavior.

Dolores Abernathy and William

Dolores and William arrive at a small riverbank, which Dolores states looks familiar. The two come across a group of corpses scattered along the riverbank, which they identify as Confederados killed by Ghost Nation warriors. Dolores finds an injured, but alive, Confederado who begs for water. William is hesitant to hand over the canteen, but does, and Dolores allows the young Host to drink. William asks the Confederado whether his group were part of the ambush on the train, and after confirming that they were the Host reveals that someone from Pariah tipped them off about the train, and ordered them to kill everyone on board. William figures out it was Logan. Dolores tells William they should help the injured man, but William refuses as he was sent to kill them. Dolores protests that he is just a boy, and questions the kind of people they would be if they don't help him.

She goes down to the river to refill the canteen. Whilst doing so, she hears a voice that says "find me", and then sees herself floating face-down in the river, and turns around in panic only to see that William and the corpses are gone. She looks back at the river but there is nothing there, and William is present. She is troubled by the hallucination, but collects the water and returns to William, just as the host dies.

Dolores and William finally arrive at Dolores' perceived home, a blank stretch of land containing a single metal tower. William looks confused, but Dolores sees the land as it was when it was still used. She remembers the first Hosts, including Maeve and Armistice, and the training they went through in the small town that used to exist there, where they were taught how to dance and act. She sees Lawrence's Daughter walk up to her, and ask her if she's found what she's looking for. Suddenly she hears screaming, and turns to see the townspeople running away from gunfire as several fall. She looks for the shooter and sees herself, shooting at people before putting the gun to her head.

Back in reality, William grabs the gun from Dolores, who had it raised to her head in the same manner. He asks her what's going on, and she becomes hysterical, saying she doesn't know what's real anymore. She mentions Arnold, confusing William. He resolves to take her back to Sweetwater, fearing for her sanity, but she stops as she realizes that Arnold wants her to remember something. They walk off, away from the old church spire. It becomes night. The two are suddenly surrounded by Logan and a group of Confederados. Logan cheerfully tells them, “Man, are you two fucked.”

Man in Black and Teddy Flood

Teddy and the Man continue their search for Wyatt, and cross into his territory. Teddy tells the Man to be vigilant, and the Man warns him that Wyatt better be somewhere close because there isn't much time. As they travel the Man makes conversation with Teddy, telling him that he is always doomed to be the loser as the "house always wins". His words cause Teddy to have a brief flashback to another interaction with the Man. The Man continues speaking, talking about how Ford keeps the hosts in the dark, though Teddy has no idea what he's saying and ignores the mention of Ford's name.

They soon come across an array of corpses. Teddy spots a living woman and goes to her, the Man following behind. The Man recognizes the Host (she's the one that played Angela - the Host that showed William his clothes and weapons before he entered the park), saying that he thought she'd have been decommissioned by now. The Host confirms that Wyatt's men killed everyone. The Man hears a noise and goes to investigate, and is attacked by a tall, grunting figure wearing a mask and horns, and wielding an axe. Teddy and the Man try to fight it, but find it difficult as bullets and regular wounds don't slow it down. The Man manages to get a rope over its head to strangle it. The sight of him strangling the figure reminds Teddy of a previous event in which the Man dragged Dolores into the barn at the Abernathy ranch. He snaps out of it and kills the horned opponent with the axe.

The Man congratulates him on leading them to Wyatt's men despite not being able to remember anything. Teddy picks up his gun and knocks the Man out with the barrel, saying "I did remember something - you."

The Man wakes up later that night, tied up, and has a conversation with Teddy where he reveals why he cares about the Maze. He explains that he was rich and successful in the real world, with a wife of 30 years and a daughter. However, his wife committed suicide, which his daughter blamed him for, saying that they'd lived in fear of his erratic nature for decades.

He decided to return to the park because he felt he had no purpose, and found Maeve in her past Homesteader narrative. He killed her and her daughter to see whether it made him feel anything, but he didn't. Maeve and her daughter died on a large area ploughed to look like a map of the Maze. The Man said that he saw something right before Maeve died which he had never seen before: right before she died she seemed truly alive.

After listening to his story, Angela tells Teddy to kill the Man. However, Teddy he is unable to. She surprises Teddy by stabbing him in the shoulder with an arrow, and revealing herself as a follower of Wyatt. More of the masked figures emerge from the darkness.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

Co-Stars

Notes

  • Trace decay is the name of a theory which explains how memory functions. Trace decay theory explains memories that are stored in both short term and long term memory system, and assumes that the memories leave a trace in the brain. According to this theory, short term memory can only retain information for a limited amount of time, around fifteen to thirty seconds, unless it is rehearsed. If it is not rehearsed, the information will start to gradually fade away and decay.

Gallery

Video
Stills

Music

Rêverie, L. 68 (Claude Debussy)

House of the Rising Sun (The Animals)

Back to Black (Amy Winehouse)

References