There is nothing better than watching fictional characters efficiently solve problems onscreen, even if those problems are an elaborate narrative devised by a depressed despot to elicit a simple answer to a simple question. (If that’s not a metaphor for Westworld itself, I don’t know what is!) The sixth episode of the fourth season is a damn entertaining hour of television. Caleb and Frankie’s respective storylines intersected unexpectedly, as the father passed the “chosen one” torch to his daughter, with perfect plants and payoffs along the way.
Boy, oh boy, did it give me glee to watch Caleb-278 encounter a series of decaying dead robot clones as he struggled to escape Hale’s captivity with only his previous failed attempts as clues. He awoke in a cell surrounded by copies, endured another menacing monologue from Hale, and followed cryptic advice from a decaying Caleb copy to try making a run for it. It’s the kind of Nolan family storytelling nonsense I live for, recalling Memento and The Prestige. Of course, as we learn after Caleb has gotten by every obstacle — beating a drone host to “death” and using one of his own copies as a cushion in the process — it was all a trap. Of course it was a trap! Hale already let him run out into Hudson Yards before carting him back inside. But even though the losing battle was glaringly obvious, Caleb had to try for his daughter.
She eventually reveals that after years of attempting to find out what made Caleb resistant to her fly goop and combing his memories for clues, Hale set up an escape room. When one host breaks down, she starts over with the next. She’s a fairy tale witch and Caleb is the princess in her tower, right down to the way she has him prick his finger on a needle like Sleeping Beauty. The goal of the experiment is for Caleb to reach a radio on the roof (you’re all familiar with roof radios, obviously) and, by contacting his daughter Frankie, reveal the secret sauce that makes him and Hale’s other outliers so special.
But the reason that Caleb-278 made it so far, in this recapper’s opinion, has little to do with her maze construction. There was a new variable in Hale’s experiment: the truth. Hale told Caleb that she had infiltrated Frankie’s crew and sent someone to her. That gave him a sense of urgency that previous Caleb models may not have had. There’s no indication that Frankie has had to fight off host spies sent at random intervals for most of her adult life. Hale thinks that giving Caleb hope via a potential escape route is a motivator, but he also has a time crunch.
Caleb-278 ultimately reaches the roof radio, but the message he sends Frequency-style to Frankie is a pep talk and an apology. It doesn’t answer Hale’s question. She’s as angry as a television fan after a series finale ends with more of an emotional conclusion than a neat bow on every mystery.
I’m not on Hale’s side, but I want to know the key to humanity’s survival that Caleb allegedly figured out years ago too. Maybe the answer to why Caleb, Frankie, and so many other outliers exist and resist Hale’s programming is hidden in plain sight in the episode’s title: fidelity, or devotion to something outside of themselves. Westworld has trained us to perceive “fidelity” as a dirty word. It’s what indicates that someone is a host loyal to someone else against their consent. But maybe that’s what the humans have that Hale can’t understand. Just about every human who has breached has mentioned a parent, sibling, or spouse.
Is anyone else entertaining the possibility that Hale will turn by the end of the season and undo her own dystopia? She’s bored with being a god. She’s unimpressed with the “smallness” of human behavior. Caleb tells her that the hosts are killing themselves because they don’t want to live in her world. There is a heaviness to Tessa Thompson’s delivery of the episode’s final “Caleb” that almost had me rooting for her. Almost. At least, like, stop running tests and go on vacation. I also, for what it’s worth, think Clementine is up to stuff … but what, exactly, I do not know.
Meanwhile, in the 1920s ghost town, Frankie successfully woke the episode’s other Sleeping Beauty, Maeve, up from her slumber and identified the mole (Jay) in her operation. Bernard helped with the first part but not so much with the second part. He really needs to work on his people skills. I want Frankie to trust him, but he keeps doing his sage Nostradamus act without bothering to explain to her where and how he’s run enough future simulations to know what will happen next. So while he helped bring Maeve back online, the rest was all Frankie.
Clichés work when they’re well executed. Jay, who was replaced by a host while extracting the outlier, gave himself up by referring to Frankie as his sister — something that Frankie, and the audience, thanks to a flashback, know he would never do. We’ve seen that trope before, but when you care about the characters, and it’s done well, it elicits fist-pumps. Watching Frankie solve her mystery was as satisfying as watching her father solve his. Plus, we were distracted with Frankie’s mole problem just long enough to forget about Maeve rebooting.
She ultimately only heard the first part of her father’s message, but that’s probably all she needs. People shouldn’t be using radio frequencies to leave voicemails, anyway. It annoyed me when characters did it on The Walking Dead in the early seasons, and it annoyed me here. That’s not how they work!
Narratively, I can see how this season might be a little frustrating. Even though I’ve been enjoying the episodes increasingly, they have been bleak with just a glimmer of hope at the very end, as if to say, just keep watching! Keep hoping! Keep voting! Now that Maeve is awake and teamed up with Frankie, will things start to happen? Now that Christina is awake and teamed up with Teddy, will things start to happen? Now that William is awake and teamed up with William, will things start to happen? Now that Hale has killed Caleb-278 and burned the spare copies, will the newly printed Caleb-279 be any different?
Our heroes are scattered and up against impossible odds. It doesn’t seem possible that they’ll be able to make a dent in Hale’s world dominance with only two episodes left in the season. We may be leading up to a cliffhanger or a reunion between Caleb and Frankie that leaves the world’s fate uncertain. But we don’t have to be like Hale. An emotional conclusion can be just as satisfying.
• I’m still not solid on where the Dolores code in Hale begins and ends. Dolores Prime, played by Evan Rachel Wood, who we followed in season three, handpicked Caleb because of his alleged specialness based on Westworld park data. But Hale is not privy to that data, and I don’t really understand why.
• We learn in this episode that Delos’ new park installed scanners into mirrors, instead of hats, to get data from human guests faster. Exactly how long was Temperance open? How many guests went through it?
• This is now the second reference to Judas this season. In the fifth episode, Christina’s boss references the “Judas steer” metaphor from Dolores’s Westworld narrative. Then, in this episode, Bernard tells Frankie that “one of [her fellow rebels] will betray her,” which feels like a reference to Jesus’ self-fulfilling prophecy in the Bible. My biblical knowledge is pretty limited to musical theater, so I’m keeping my eye on this, but I’m not 100 percent sure what to make of it.
• Hopefully Maeve and Frankie remember to release Stubbs, Bernard, and Frankie’s girlfriend, Odina, before they run off to save the world.
• I love that this famously confusing show tossed in a flashback to show exactly when and how a host replaced Jay during the events of the previous episode. We really didn’t need that, it was pretty clear in context, but thanks anyway!