Gentle reader, let’s start this humble Westworld recap with a question: At what point did you suspect the truth about what happened to Francis? Was it when Caleb first began questioning the nature of his reality memory at the beginning of the episode? Was it when Enrico Colantoni started trying to make a deal? Or was it episodes ago, when it was clear that something was up with Caleb’s memories in general?
In fairness, while the reveal that Caleb killed Francis — fearing a potential double-cross — isn’t all that shocking, it does tie into a bigger realization about what kind of role Caleb plays in this game. The title “Passed Pawn” is extremely on the nose here, as the chess term (per Wikipedia) refers to a pawn with no opposing pawns and thus threatening to become a queen — essentially, a piece that was overlooked by the opponent, and now has the potential to be far more dangerous than before.
It’s a big Caleb episode in the end, though it doesn’t start that way; instead, we begin with a quick trip to Jakarta, where it’s revealed that there is dissension within the Dolores clone ranks; “Charlotte,” following the explosion that killed her ex-husband and son, is now no longer interested in being a part of Dolores’s plan, and thus leaks the whereabouts of “Musashi,” another Dolores copy, to Maeve’s newly revealed allies: Clementine and Hanaryo (the Japanese equivalent to Armistice in ShogunWorld, as made clear by the snake tattoo on her face).
The fight that ensues features “Musashi” wielding a very cool machine gun that folds out of a suitcase (in general, this season has featured a wide array of cool future tech), but despite bringing a gun to a sword fight, he ends up losing, and Hanaryo slices him up, claiming the top half as a prize.
The ramifications of “Charlotte’s” rebellion are likely to play a bigger role in the finale (which is to say, they don’t come up again in this episode). Instead, it’s horsey time! One wonders if Aaron Paul insisted on getting the chance to ride a horse as a condition of taking this job — or secretly hoped, after hearing the original pitch for the character, that he would be able to avoid it.
It takes “Passed Pawn” a bit longer than necessary to get to the point, so here’s the quick version of what’s going on: Dolores has brought Caleb to Sonora, Mexico, where one of Serac’s reprogramming centers is located, because Caleb was one of the first people to go through the very Clockwork Orange–esque experience of having his memories altered. Dolores’s hope is that being there will trigger his true memories of the event that haunts him still — Francis’s death — and inspire him to lead the revolution that she’s hoping to launch.
Caleb’s initial response is to shrug off the idea that he’s anything more than an ex-soldier and construction worker, but when he comes to understand the depths to which his life has been messed with by the system, all his uncertainty gets burned away. Learning that he was a literal (wait for it) pawn, an outlier used to hunt down and remove other outliers who threatened the system, builds up a lot of frustration.
Key to this reveal is the precursor to Rehoboam known as Solomon, an AI developed by Serac’s schizophrenic brother that’s run through so many simulations of the end of the world that it’s gone a bit insane itself. Solomon’s condescension when it comes to the fate of the human race might be interpreted as patient compassion; the concept of removing hundreds of people from circulation to preserve the system is one it doesn’t question, because it’s preferable to other outcomes. However, it does end up helping to construct a plan for the revolution to come, designing a scenario in which Caleb might still lead.
While Caleb grapples with these reveals, Dolores is busy dealing with the big confrontation we’ve been waiting for all season — the supposed title fight with Maeve, which essentially ends in a draw, though not without both of them taking some pretty serious damage, including Dolores’s arm getting blasted off (easily the episode’s biggest “oh shit!” moment). Dolores only stops Maeve from killing her “for the last time” by activating the military-grade EMP designed to keep Solomon from escaping Sonora; the two of them collapse, with no answer as to if and/or how they might be revived.
That’s not all, though: This season, Westworld has fallen into a habit of leaving characters on the sidelines for an episode or two before picking back up with their storylines, but that’s not the case with William, Bernard, and Stubbs. Stubbs has William at gunpoint while Bernard tries to figure out why, exactly, Dolores’s plan included them tracking William down. The answer, it turns out, has less to do with William and more to do with Dolores getting access to the system — and flagging the existence of Caleb, who Bernard and Stubbs remember from the charity event in episode four.
While they now know how important Caleb is to the cause, they end up with a bigger problem: William, having earlier promised that he’d kill them the first chance he got, now has his chance thanks to an abandoned shotgun at the abandoned gas station they find. Yet another cliffhanger for the finale to resolve!
“Passed Pawn” does a thorough job (arguably too thorough) of explaining a lot of its big reveals, but one massive question unresolved is this: If Caleb hadn’t discovered an injured Dolores that one night, all those episodes ago, would he still be so integral to her plan? Their initial meeting could have been a coincidence, or it could have been planned to some degree (Caleb was after all summoned to the park that night by a RICO task, the source of so many manipulations), or Dolores might have changed her plans to include him after that first encounter. With only one episode left to go this season, this might become a question that never gets answered.
The Questions Beyond
• HBO announced last Wednesday that Westworld has been renewed for a fourth season, which does put the kibosh on my previous theory about the show gearing up for a stealth series finale. Or … is that just what the system wants us to think?
• The renewal is good news for everyone who works on the show, of course, with perhaps the exception of Ed Harris. (Watching his scenes this week, after reading this interview, you can perhaps sense his frustration at now having to play the “Man in White.”)
• Sign of a great actor: Even though Enrico Colantoni spent years playing one of TV’s Greatest Dads on Veronica Mars, he’s completely believable as an executive with a dark side and no morals when it comes to saving his own life.
• For a show that rarely skimps on the violence, it is strange that “Musashi’s” skewering happens somewhat out of frame. For those frustrated by not getting the full effect of Hanaryo’s death blow, here is a montage of cut-slides from various films to fill the void.
• Screenshotting Caleb’s personal timeline reveals a ton of fascinating personal details about his life, from the drunk-driving accident that preceded his enlistment to the fact that he had two romantic relationships after Francis’s death. Both relationships only lasted a few months, but while the first one was ended by him, the second and longer relationship required “system interference” to end.
• Between episodes, Caleb has figured out who/what exactly Dolores is … and seems relatively cool about it? This feels like a scene that would have been worth watching, but Westworld is sometimes capricious about what it chooses to explain.