Westworld Recap: S1E9 “The Well-Tempered Clavier”


For the penultimate episode of season one, Westworld confirms a couple of theories. It may not be shocking, but it’s astonishing nonetheless.

Are you done picking the pieces of your mind off the floor?

On second thought, maybe that introduction is in poor taste, given what happens to Bernard at the end of this episode. But watching “The Well-Tempered Clavier” felt a little like having my brain put into a blender and scrambled, so you’ll forgive me for not writing the most eloquent recap.

Like the “Bernard is a robot” twist, the developments here aren’t exactly shocking; fans have long been speculating that William and the Man in Black are the same person and that Bernard is Arnold. Again, though, Westworld compensates for the lack of surprise with top-notch execution, emphasizing the emotional impact of its twists through acting, music, and editing. If anything, the fact that the twists are predictable just means they actually make sense – at least within the distorted version of reality the show has constructed for us.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

We open with Maeve sitting in a lab, having been taken in by the tech team after she made a scene in Sweetwater experimenting with her new powers, which put Iron Man and Superman to shame. There’s no black screen, as we’re used to seeing when a host is offline, because Maeve isn’t offline at all; she’s just pretending to be. After bringing her “back online”, Bernard questions her, specifically about why she killed Clementine. She rattles off something about the Good Samaritan reflex that causes hosts to intervene when one guest threatens to harm another, but we know that’s a lie; Clementine’s death was an accident, a result of one of Maeve’s overly vivid flashbacks.

Bernard’s suspicions aren’t raised, however, until he examines Maeve’s programming and sees that someone has made a lot of big changes. Before he can alert Ford, she freezes him. “We’ve been down this road before,” she observes. “I thought you looked familiar. At first, I thought you were one of them.” Us too, Maeve. There’s something slightly unnerving about the way she refers to humans  as “them”, already adopting a warlike mentality. Though after what we’ve seen on this show,  can we really blame her?

Thandie Newton in Westworld season 1, image courtesy of HBO

Casually, Maeve reminds Bernard of his robot nature (after Ford tinkered with his memories in the last episode, he seems to have already forgotten). She simultaneously lets him know who’s in charge at the moment, musing that she could “turn your mind inside out”, and informs him of her generosity. “That’s what they would do to us,” she says with audible disgust. Instead, she simply gets him to clear her for service (“I have a date with a homicidal bandit, and I’m late enough as it is”) and gives him a piece of advice: “If you go looking for the truth, make sure to get all of it.”

The conversation distresses Bernard enough that he follows Maeve’s advice. He breaks into Ford’s office and reprograms Clementine so that she responds to his voice commands. Meeting Ford in the basement where decommissioned hosts are stored, Bernard persuades his creator to give him access to his entire history by threatening to tell Clementine to shoot him (apparently, her prime directives were reset after her lobotomy).

What follows is very Inception-y. We see several of Bernard’s memories, from his conversation with his wife to Theresa’s murder, to Maeve’s “suicide” after the Man in Black killed her daughter. None of these are new, but now that we know the truth about Bernard, they acquire a dreamlike quality, one flowing into the another with little rhyme or reason. At one point, Bernard returns to the memory of his son’s death in the hospital and, like a dreamer becoming lucid, decides to change it. He orders the nurses and doctors to leave the room and approaches the bed where Charlie lies, seemingly dead.

“Come back,” he says. And the boy’s eyes open. Even though we’re aware that it’s fake, part of a too-pat backstory constructed by Ford, the moment is startling, almost heartwarming. Ford’s question to Bernard when the host discovered his secret cabin pops into our minds: “If you could only see your son again, wouldn’t you want to?”

But Bernard doesn’t make the same mistake as Ford. He resists the no doubt tempting impulse to linger in the past, to live a lie.  “The pain of your loss, I long for it,” he tells Charlie, hugging his son in a tight embrace. “But it’s the only thing holding me back. I have to let you go.” It’s a scene straight out of the aforementioned 2010 Christopher Nolan movie, yet I’d be lying if I said it didn’t still get to me. Again, it’s telling that the show’s most powerful, genuine-feeling displays of emotion come from the hosts, not the humans.

Jeffrey Wright in Westworld season 1, image courtesy of HBO

Meanwhile, Dolores and William have been captured by Logan, who now leads a company of soldiers (“Pariah is the best thing that could’ve happened to me,” Logan cheerily proclaims. “I’m a major now! Or a general, or f***ing something”). William tries to convince his future brother-in-law that Dolores is different from the other hosts, that she has real memories and desires, but Logan dismisses him as delusional, seduced by the park the way some hosts are seduced by their false memories.

“It’s time for a wake-up call,” he says, plunging a knife into Dolores’s stomach – the most vulnerable part of her, according to Bernard – and exposing the wires and machinery inside her. It’s played almost like a rape scene, a way for Logan to asset his dominance. “Your world,” he (erroneously) informs Dolores, “is built for me and people like me, not for you.” Similarly, Ford tells Bernard that, as his creator, he has the right to “break into” and tinker with his mind.

To Logan’s surprise, Dolores fights back. Seizing the knife, she cuts him on the cheek and shoots several of the nearby hosts with her pistol, fleeing. As she’s running, Arnold’s voice comes back, repeating his favorite line: “Remember.” Suddenly, the shouts are gone, replaced by quiet, and the bleeding in her stomach has stopped. Wait a minute…

This confirms that Westworld has been unfolding in (at least) two separate time periods. But the timelines don’t fit into a neat present/past structure. Rather, Dolores is in the present (in other words, the same time that the other storylines take place), but William and Logan are in the past, memories like the massacre of Dolores’s hometown. That explains why Dolores has seen both William and the Man in Black, even though they’re now unquestionably the same person. In case you need further proof, the episode also reveals that the woman in the photograph of Times Square that triggered Peter Abernathy’s “glitch” is Logan’s sister and William’s fiancée. Did the Man in Black leave it there on purpose?

Anyway, Dolores returns to her hometown, now intact but empty. Except the church is full of hosts, all mumbling incoherently, some rocking back and forth, others crying. These must be the “mad” hosts that Arnold tried to give consciousness. Dolores walks past them and enters a confession booth, which turns out to be an elevator. It goes down…

Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld season 1, image courtesy of HBO

Elsewhere, Bernard is still going through his history. He has gotten to the memory of Ford telling him about Arnold (all the way back in episode two!), which plays verbatim in a voiceover as we cross-cut between Bernard and Dolores.

Dolores enters a hallway lit by flickering fluorescent, bodies strewn on the floor and in the labs. (“The human mind isn’t a green and distant hill,” Ford says to Bernard. “It’s a foul, pestilent corruption. You were supposed to be better than that. Purer.”) She abruptly passes a window, and she’s once again wearing the Alice in Wonderland blue dress, and the labs come back to life. She sees a young Ford storm into one of the rooms, demanding that Arnold talk to him. She follows him.

“Why would you give me this?” Bernard asks Ford, gesturing with a photograph of Charlie. Arnold, Ford says, believed that tragic backstories were more effective, more convincing. But it was personal too.

Dolores finds herself in the basement where she and Bernard had their “little talks”. She sits down in the familiar metal chair.

After revisiting his son’s death, Bernard remembers his own birth, so to speak. Ford greets him with, “Hello, my old friend.” And it’s confirmed: Bernard is Arnold, or rather a host Ford created in his dead partner’s likeness – the ultimate power move. We receive visual proof in the photo on Ford’s death. Just as he was programmed to ignore the door leading to the lab beneath Ford’s secret cabin, Bernard’s mind had erased his own image from the photograph when we saw it in episode two, leaving only Ford and his father.

Bernard meets Dolores in the basement. “I’ve been looking for you,” she says. She wants him to help her escape from the pain and terror that she has suffered while searching for him and throughout her whole life. But he can’t. He prompts her again to remember. Bernard/Arnold can’t help because “you’re dead, because you’re just a memory. Because I killed you.” So, are we to assume that all the scenes we’ve seen between Dolores and Bernard before took place in the past, perhaps even when Bernard was still Arnold? Because that would explain how Dolores seemed to jump between her narrative in the park and her conversations with Bernard so quickly.

Disappointed, Dolores returns to the church and is about to leave, when the doors open. In steps the Man in Black.

Ford decides to give up the charade. He’s still in command and has been the whole time; he built a “back door” into Clementine’s code, allowing him to control her despite Bernard’s attempt to reprogram her. He only allowed Bernard to keep going through his history out of the vain hope that the host would choose to side with him, knowingly. But when Bernard insists on continuing Arnold’s work, Ford orders him to take Clementine’s gun and point it at his own head. “Goodbye, my friend,” he says.

And as Ford walks out of the room, through the ranks of decommissioned hosts, we see through a window Bernard shoot himself.

Related Story: Westworld: 3 Key Moments to Contemplate from Episode 8

Stray observations:

  • There’s no player piano or anachronistic music this week. But Ramin Djawadi’s score is particularly sublime, starting out dissonant and growing more melodic and melancholy as the episode progresses.
  • Maeve and Hector share another sex scene, as the madam asks the outlaw to help her “break into Hell and rob the gods blind.” It’s fiery in more ways than one.
  • The Man in Black is, indeed, a member of the Delos board. Will he and Charlotte end up joining forces against Ford?
  • Poor Elsie is still missing and possibly/probably dead. Ashley goes looking for her, but he’s thwarted by a group of Ghost Nation warriors who don’t respond to his voice commands. Is he a goner too? Are these hosts awakened or part of Ford’s new narrative?
  • Poor Teddy is dead again, this time stabbed by the host that used to be Angela. Wyatt remains MIA.
  • A vague clue to the outside world: Ford seems to imply that humans have rendered all other animals extinct.