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Spoilers ahead for the latest episode of Westworld, so if you aren’t caught up with “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” feel free to take care of that now. I’m fine waiting – I can use the time to accept that half is worse than none at all.

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And just like that, Westworld drops an episode that answers – or at least begins to explain – some of the deepest mysteries of HBO’s latest hit show. If television episodes were archaeological artifacts, then Westworld‘s “The Well-Tempered Clavier” would certainly be the Rosetta Stone. Whether it be the reveal that Bernard is a host based on park co-creator Arnold Weber, or that everything is definitely taking place over multiple time periods, or that that William is all but certainly the Man in Black, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” took care of a lot of narrative housekeeping that clears the table for what is sure to be an amazing finale.

Since its first episode back in October, Westworld has quickly become one of the most enigmatic television shows ever, inviting speculation as to what might come next in a world where nothing is as it seems. Over the course of the season, a significant portion of the show’s fan base has been active in online communities (the Westworld subreddit alone is massive), churning out various theories that may or may not come true. And while it’s fun to interact with such a densely layered show on such an intense and involved level, the complexity of Westworld begins to make the show feel more like a puzzle to be solved, rather than a story to be told. Don’t get me wrong; I have appreciation and sympathy for several of the show’s characters, and active derision for others, but often I feel like I’m seeing them as pieces being moved on a game board, shuffling from one mystery to the next, rather than as the fleshed-out characters they’re meant to be. I’m not saying the show isn’t working at finding a balance between these two qualities, so much as my own difficulties in determining which quality to focus my attention on.

But I digress. Let’s get to it.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

Perhaps the biggest revelation of “The Well-Tempered Clavier” is that Bernard was built by Ford in the image of Arnold. For those of us keeping up with all the theories surrounding the mysterious Arnold, this reveal didn’t come as much of a surprise, but it was still satisfying because of the way the reveal was written and edited. I appreciated the inter-cutting between Dolores’ trip into the remote diagnostic facility and Ford’s conversation with Bernard, creating a slow-burn build up to the big reveal where Arnold comes walking down the stairs. It was artfully done, and what’s more, it explicitly spelled out what was going on, which is a refreshing change of pace from all the mystery and ambiguity surrounding everything else in the show.

We also learn that Bernard has had more than a few confrontations with Ford in the past, and that this isn’t the first time Bernard has become aware of his host-ness. If nothing else, this sequence illuminates our understanding of the warring ideologies that came to destroy Ford and Arnold’s relationship. Arnold wanted consciousness for his creations – including all the sad stuff like suffering and pain, while Ford wants a more perfect version of (controllable) humanity free from such emotional baggage. These conflicting ideologies aren’t just the reason for Ford and Arnold’s falling out; they’re also the philosophical keystones that support Westworld as a show. The show hasn’t taken a hard stance on which of these are the preferable option – and if it’s wise, Westworld may never try to provide such answers – but as it stands, it’s creating a riveting narrative conflict, and that’s certainly enough to keep my devoted interest.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

Another huge reveal in “The Well-Tempered Clavier” is that we can finally say with certitude that Westworld is taking place during three (though technically four) time periods. The first time period is 35 years ago, when we see the early hosts practicing their dancing in the streets of Escalante. Dolores has her clandestine meetings with Arnold during this time period, which culminates with the massacre in the streets. The second time period is 30 years ago, which is the William storyline. The current time period involves the Man in Black, Ford’s new narrative, and everything happening inside the facility itself, including Maeve’s storyline. We can also add a fourth time period as being a year before current events, when the Man in Black killed Maeve and her daughter and saw a host “truly alive” for the first time.

Aside from the Man in Black/Maeve flashbacks, each of these time periods have revolved around Dolores and her journey in finding the truth of Arnold’s maze. It’s now beginning to look like she never makes it to the maze, wherever it may be, in the William time period. After the scene in which Dolores is sliced open by Logan – revealing her outdated, mechanical design – she escapes the camp, but I have a feeling she might end up face-down in the river, as we saw in a flashback in last week’s episode. We also get the information that Dolores’s actions in the T-35 time period led to Arnold’s death; she knows she killed him, but her rationale for doing so is still a mystery. I hope we get that answer in the finale, because understanding her actions 35 years ago is the key to us understanding who Dolores really is – or who she wants to be – in the current time period.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

We also got plenty of new information about William – enough, I argue, to say that he and the Man in Black are the same man, separated by thirty years. When Logan shows the restrained William a picture of Logan’s sister/William’s fiance, we see it’s the same picture that present-day Peter Abernathy finds in the series premiere – the one that causes him glitch out and utter the now-famous line, “These violent delights have violent ends.” Other evidence is that the Man in Black uses the same knife that William acquires in this episode, and thematically, the Man in Black arriving at the church at the end of the episode dovetails nicely into William’s destination as he goes in search of the perhaps-mortally wounded Dolores.

If William is indeed the Man in Black, we know he will go on to have a very important position on the Delos board, which was confirmed by the Man in Black’s bizarre encounter with Charlotte Hale in the present timeframe. If nothing else, this shows us how deeply intertwined William has been with the park since its early days three decades before. It helps us understand the Man in Black’s obsession with the maze – he was close to finding it with Dolores once – and it also tells us why he’s been so miserable for so long. Extreme success and a loving family in the real world failed to give his life any real meaning, so we can see why his experience with Dolores changed him in those fundamental ways. Now that he’s with her at the church in Escalante, it’s anyone’s guess as to how their reunion will go, especially given that Dolores can finally recall her past with him.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

Now that Maeve has become powerful enough to control other hosts, we begin to see some interesting parallels between her and Ford – the only other person in the park who has such power. But if Ford wants the hosts to be “free, here [in the park], under my control,” then Maeve wants the hosts to awaken to their own agency, free from the shackles of their oppressive core code, and from Ford himself. Maeve’s own awakening over the course of the season has had many correlations with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and now that she’s freed her own mind, she’s giving other hosts the opportunity to do the same.

I love this approach; Maeve knows she needs an army to help her, and though she could simply override their core codes and render them faithful yet powerless automatons, she gives them the choice to make their own decisions. It’s no surprise that Hector is her first choice; their narratives are so closely intertwined that she knows Hector will have memories of her, buried beneath his many erases and reboots. She gives Bernard a similar treatment, allowing him to come to terms with his true nature, but also warning him that some questions have terrifying answers. I’m pretty excited to see a future scene in which Maeve gives her best Saint Crispin’s Day speech to her wakened hosts, giving them the opportunity to walk away from the battle, but also giving them reason to join the fray.

Closing Thoughts

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

  • Next week’s finale will be 90 minutes – what other mysteries will be answered, and which will be left for next season?
  • No, I have no idea how Logan managed to smuggle personal photos into Westworld, nor do I have any clue as to why he would feel compelled to carry a picture of his sister around in the first place. Seems weird. Maybe he anticipated William becoming a bit too enthralled by Westworld, and brought the picture as a way to reground him if he started to get a little too immersed. And yes, I’m thoroughly convinced that Logan is wearing a Hand of the King pin.
  • Stubbs was accosted by off-script Ghost Nation warriors while in search of Elsie. I think they’re both still alive, and that we haven’t seen the last of them.

 

5/5: Westworld just cranked it up to 11, and if the penultimate episode was this crazy, just think what the finale holds in store.

Entertainment

Donald Trump as Seen by Google’s Deep Dream

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THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.

Last Summer, Google unleashed Deep Dream, their neural network that takes pictures and tries to identify patterns and overwrite them, on an unsuspecting public. When you put an image into Deep Dream, what you get when it “wakes up” is often nightmarish. Dogs, birds, insects, pagodas are inserted at random places in the image, giving it a surreal and sometimes beautiful–if terrifying–aspect.

So, since this election season is already off-the-charts surreal, I thought to myself, “What would it look like if we ran some candidates through Deep Dream?” Well, now I know.  I started with Donald Trump, who is already deeply weird and unsettling. The results are spectacular.

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Satire

From the MRA Evidence Archives: The Journal of a Normal, Average Feminist

Awoke and whispered to my boobs, Bea Arthur and Jackie O, “It’s Tuesday. You know what that means, ladies? Time to oppress some dudes.”

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barbie doll head being gripped by dirty hands
THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.

 Tuesday July 5, 2016

Awoke and whispered to my boobs, Bea Arthur and Jackie O, “It’s Tuesday. You know what that means, ladies? Time to oppress some dudes.”

Walked to work wearing my plunging crop top that says, “This is what a feminist looks like,” hot pants, and six-inch heels. Tossed my hair a lot and sexily chewed my lower lip. Dropped change so I could slowly bend over and pick it up. It took me about an hour to walk five blocks, which is standard.

Exceeded my catcall goal by seven, a personal best. Super flattering, of course, but will pretend to be terrified and make men feel bad about it with a bunch of tweets. That’ll show them.

Some dowdy librarian tried to help me with the change I kept dropping, and she got catcalled too! No one invades my catcalling turf. Slapped the books right out of her hands. Mostly by Hemingway, whom I both hate and would totally do if he were alive.

Arrived late per usual, but the boss didn’t say anything, just stared at my tits and gave me a pass. I had buttressed Bea Arthur and Jackie O in a push-up bra stuffed with the hard-earned cash of some beta male I cheated on. Good thinking.

By Friday I hope to a) screw my way to executive assistant, b) replace some poor slob who works really hard, or c) file a sexual harassment lawsuit. We’ll just see what the week brings, like whether or not the boss is a lesbian. Fingers crossed!

Spent the rest of the workday playing Candy Crush and convincing Dale from accounting to do everything for me. Stringing Dale along is why I keep coming in. It makes all the pretending to work worth it. I might boink him someday, but I want to see how low he’ll stoop for a bit of action.

I don’t get off on it per se, in so much that I don’t get off. Ever. At all. But I pretend that I could, just to make all the guys I’ve ever been with feel like losers. Watching them fumble and feel emasculated without pants is like Christmas – if I were to sleep with Santa and watch him fumble and feel emasculated without pants.

mens-rights-venn-diagram

Went to happy hour after work and didn’t pay a dime. Cosmos just appeared in front of me. Dumb guys just handed me cash for being hot, and I filled my bra until Bea Arthur and Jackie O ballooned up like the boobs of evil women on TV. My role models, natch.

Some dude wearing a huge, purple hat came up to me and said I looked like an uglier Angelina Jolie. He lifted his shirt to show that his torso was hard, rippling, and embroidered with diamonds so he had every right to tell me that. I hooked up with him in the men’s room. That’ll show him.

Went home and let loose a series of drunken, liar tweets about how hard my life is and how I want equality. Even inebriated, it’s important to keep my stilettoed foot on the neck of men everywhere. Those tweets and opinion pieces just skewer them. More powerful than the laws of God or man are the messages I hastily type with my thumbs.

A good Tuesday over all, but did not receive free coffee by sexily slow jamming my order. The barista must’ve taken the red pill.

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Food

Woman begs city council to bring back McRib

The McRib Shortage of ’15. It was the single greatest tragedy this country has ever endured. But one woman, one brave voice, said, “No. This will not do.” #mcrib #sheslovinit

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Well over a year ago a tragic event occurred: In the fall of 2015, the executives of McDonald’s made a grave decision, the consequences of which are still felt to this day. They decided that when the McRib was released that year it would… it would allow the regional managers to decide whether or not they would offer the McRib. As a result, a staggering 45 percent of McDonald’s locations elected not to offer the McRib. It was the single greatest tragedy this country has ever endured. But one woman, one brave voice, said, “No. This will not do.”

First off, shout out to Reader James from Lake Elsinore, CA for alerting us to the tale of hardship and heroism. You see, when Xanthe Pajarillo, a “McRib activist,” realized that none of the ten McDonald’s locations in her hometown of Santa Clarita would be offering the McRib, she did what any reasonable red-blooded American citizen would do. She brought the issue before the city council.

Now it is no secret that the McRib Shortage of ’15 nearly brought the nation to a standstill. In fact, if it weren’t for the release of a special McRib locator app, experts speculate that America would have ceased to exist as it does today. But amidst all of the rolling blackouts, the deaths, and the riots, we overlooked all of the smaller, personal tragedies that took place because of the cruel decision made by nearly half of McDonald’s regional managers.

In her impassioned plea to the Santa Clarita city council, Pajarillo explained just why the McRib meant so much to her and her family, and why the city council had to act in order to bring it back.

“The removal of the McRib from the menu has affected my family, because every Thanksgiving, my family would, like, order a 50-piece chicken McNugget and like, 10 McRibs. It was like, a tradition in our family, and now it’s like—well, like my family’s holiday spirit is kind of messed up and broken.”

Recently Pajarillo heroic speech before the city council has gone viral, gaining attention at the national stage across social media. Since that dramatic event, Pajarillo has continued to fight for the return of the McRib, even going so far as to release a song dubbed “The McRib Blues.” In it, she lays bare her soul and the souls of those like her to whom the McRib is more than just a barbecue pork sandwich, but is instead, a way of life.

There are those out there, deplorables who hardly deserve mention, that call her bravery nothing more than a stunt. Performance art holding up a mirror to America’s consumerism and obsession. However, others stand by the truth. Pajarillo is a hero, fighting for both a sandwich, but also for something more. Something ephemeral. That little piece of Americana that brings us all together. The McRib.

Fight on, brave warrior, fight on.

♪ Cause we have right to eat what we like, McRib is worth the fight ♪

Still can’t get enough of the McRib? Learn how a McRib is made, courtesy of BuzzFeed.

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