When the newly resurrected hosts Clementine and Hanaryo show up in a bar in Jakarta and walk out with Musashi-Dolores’s decapitated head in the opening moments of Westworld’s seventh episode, it’s an early sign that Dolores’s winning streak is about to come to an end. After embarrassing Serac (many times, in various bodies) for the majority of the season, Dolores finally meets her match in Maeve, but not before she makes the decision to cede her power to her right-hand man, Caleb Nichols.
In “Passed Pawn,” Caleb kills Kid Cudi in the past, and becomes the new Leader of the Delinquents in the present when Dolores hands him the keys to humanity’s revolution. Ahead of next week’s season finale, there are still plenty of loose ends that need to be tied up as the conflict between hosts and humans reaches its boiling point. This recap, we’ll focus on the two most important groups of the episode before considering some of the biggest questions heading into the conclusion of Westworld’s third season.
This Week’s Key Characters
Caleb and Dolores
After the opening sequence, we find Dolores and Caleb roaming the deserts of Sonora, Mexico, as they head toward an Incite facility that holds all the answers to Caleb’s mysterious past. Parts of this scene appeared in Season 3 trailers, leading us to believe that the duo would be heading back to Westworld—but, it turns out, they were going to the place on which Westworld was based.
Before Caleb learns of all the awful things that Incite has done to him though, we see a series of flashbacks from Caleb’s life as a soldier. His unit was deployed to Crimea to intervene in a Russian Civil War, and their mission was to track down Russian insurgents and tag them for drone strikes. But one day they found out that the insurgents were tracking their unit as well, and everyone except for Caleb and Francis was killed by an enemy drone strike. Caleb and Francis, in turn, kidnapped the insurgent leader—that guy we keep seeing in Caleb’s fragmented memories—and brought him to a warehouse. Another flashback shows that the evac team never arrived to extract the three of them, and Francis was shot and killed when insurgents rolled in to save their leader. As we soon see, however, Caleb’s past is even more complicated than it seems.
Back in the present, Dolores and Caleb have reached the Incite facility, and after Dolores uses a fancy drone-assisted sniper rifle to kill a bunch of clueless guards (which is somehow a universal trait among Incite’s global security team), they find Rehoboam’s long-lost brother: Solomon. The supercomputer is an early model of Rehoboam, which inherited some of Serac’s schizophrenic brother’s ways of thinking (as Dolores describes it), resulting in the development of certain “anomalies.” Dolores’s plan is to use Solomon to produce one final strategy: revolution for the human race.
But before Solomon is forced to betray one of its creators, the supercomputer mentions how Caleb was once a subject at the facility they’re currently in, and that he was one of the very first patients to receive a revolutionary treatment for outliers, the unpredictable members of society who have no place in Incite’s new world built on order. At some point, Caleb was brought there and given those goofy-looking AR goggles that we saw William wear last episode, and Incite successfully reconditioned him to return to society. But, as the French supercomputer explains, the reconditioning therapy had only a 10 percent success rate on patients, and for the remaining 90 percent of outliers that it failed to work on, the alternative is pretty grim:
Dolores and Caleb visit Incite’s human version of Westworld’s cold storage room, where those outliers are essentially decommissioned in order to prevent them from corrupting the rest of society. (Why these people weren’t just killed instead of placed in these very expensive-looking cryo chambers is beyond me, but perhaps they’ll all make a triumphant return in the finale.) It’s in this room that Caleb’s fragmented past is revealed in full.
His memories were real up until the day his unit was mostly wiped out by the insurgent drone strike, at which point his past diverges into two separate stories: what actually happened and what Incite programmed into his memory. Rather than sticking around in Crimea to kidnap the Russian insurgent leader, Caleb and Cudder returned to the United States where they were used by Incite to round up other outliers to be decommissioned. The Rico app, as it turns out, is not exactly TaskRabbit’s sinister cousin, but a tool created by Incite to regulate crime, and a way for people like Caleb and Francis to track down Incite’s list of undesirable citizens. The insurgent leader was actually just a representative of the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the drugs that soldiers use to dull emotions and memories, and Caleb and Francis kidnapped him on Incite’s orders. And instead of enemy insurgents arriving to kill Francis, Caleb turned out to be the one that shot him. When Caleb learned the truth about Incite and the Sonora facility from the pharmaceutical rep, Incite pitted the partners against each other by placing bounties on both of them and, well, Caleb shot first.
While Caleb reckons with the truly brutal realization that his whole life has been a lie and that he killed the Grammy-winning artist responsible for hits like “Day ‘n’ Nite” and “Pursuit of Happiness,” Dolores stays focused on the task at hand. As Maeve arrives outside the facility in a helicopter, strapped with nothing more than a katana for some reason, Dolores orders Solomon to develop the new strategy that will write a new reality for humanity. She also tells it to create one that is designed for the new leader of the revolution: Caleb. “You spent your whole life believing you had no control, that you were a follower,” Dolores tells him before leaving to fight Maeve. “Take whatever it gives you, and lead.”
As Solomon begins to write a new script for the world while Caleb quietly hums Kid Cudi classics through tears (just a guess), Dolores sets out to buy Solomon some time and prepare for the long-awaited showdown with Maeve. The ensuing fight itself is pretty wild: A drone and a helicopter get involved, Dolores does some slow-motion running, the two hosts briefly recreate that close-quarters knife fight from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video beneath a hut, and Dolores gets an arm blown off rather gruesomely.
Maeve wins this round, but before she can deliver a death blow, Dolores drags herself inside and triggers an electromagnetic pulse that shuts down the entire facility, causing the two of them to collapse like rag dolls. Dolores cut off the power just as Solomon was about to tell Caleb something important, but she still bought it enough time to produce a flash drive containing the newly designed strategy for their revolution.
Just before the credits roll, Caleb finds Dolores’s body, where he hears a robotic voice in the background say: “Hello, Caleb, I have some instructions for you.”
It’s unclear if Dolores, as well as Maeve, is dead or merely in sleep-mode after pressing that kill switch, but whatever her status is, Caleb now has the tool to tear down Serac’s world and deliver justice to the ones who stole his life from him. Dolores, for some reason, has selected Caleb for this duty, and it remains to be seen whether or not she chose him in order to truly free humanity from Incite’s control, or if she picked him as the best candidate to lead it to its own extinction. As Bernard says of Caleb to Stubbs, “Dolores was made with a poetic sensibility; she won’t destroy humanity—he will.”
Bernard, Stubbs, and William
Speaking of Bernard and Stubbs, “Passed Pawn” also features the dynamic duo as they find William rediscovering himself within the walls of the Inner Journeys Recovery Center. While I was hoping that the two of them had arrived at the mental health facility to recruit William for an all-time team of Westworld humans who were revealed to be hosts, it turns out that they didn’t even know the former Man in Black was there in the first place.
Bernard and Stubbs traveled to the facility to learn more about the outliers that Connells-Dolores mentioned before being killed in the fourth episode, and they discover much of the same information about Incite’s reconditioning program that Caleb and Dolores uncover in Sonora. Unsurprisingly, William doesn’t get along with Bernard and Stubbs very well (“Don’t lecture me, you fucking can opener,” he tells Stubbs), but he does learn from them that Serac succeeded in taking over his company and that Charlotte planted a virus in him in order to track his blood and infiltrate Incite’s system. Oh, and Bernard also tells William that the system claims he’s dead.
The former Delos exec walks out of the recovery center and vows to kill not only Charlotte, but every host still in existence. “I helped build you, and Dolores, and the fucking lot of you,” William says to Bernard and Stubbs, citing his involvement in the hosts’ creation as his original sin. “So I’m going to wipe out every host on the face of this earth, beginning with you two. So kill me, now, or I’ll kill you later.” My guy says all of this with the most serious face possible before walking away—you’d think that Bernard and Stubbs would take the words of a violent sociopath to heart, but Bernard just kind of shrugs it off. Just look at the face Stubbs makes when Bernard simply turns to him and says, “We may need him:”
Anyway, the next time we see the three of them, they’re making a stop at a deserted gas station, and while Bernard and Stubbs are busy talking about Caleb and trying to jump-start a car, William wanders off and immediately finds a shotgun. “You should’ve killed me when you had the chance,” William says as he aims his new weapon at the duo, who somehow appear to be surprised by the sudden turn of events. It’s been an underwhelming run for Bernard and Stubbs and they keep losing at every turn, and this is by far their biggest blunder yet. This could spell the end for at least one of them. Maybe it’s time Bernard puts that remote of his to use and go full Hulk again.
A List of Currently Unanswerable Questions
The seventh episode provided answers to many of the questions surrounding Caleb’s past, but there are still plenty others left for Westworld to cover with little time remaining. And with the series recently renewed for a fourth season, the finale will very likely prolong existing mysteries as it shifts toward setting the stage for Westworld’s murky future. Keeping that in mind, here are some of my many questions before the season finale:
- Are Dolores and Maeve still alive?
- If everything in the facility turned off, what happened to the humans locked away in the cold storage room?
- Did Caleb forget about his mom? Or is that woman in the hospital actually not his mom?
- What will Clementine, Hanaryo, and Charlotte do with Musashi-Dolores’s decapitated head and the pearl inside of it?
- Why and how did Charlotte and Maeve team up? What do they have planned?
- Did Solomon become a person at the end? It looked like Caleb was looking at someone there, right?
- If Caleb was using the Rico app because Incite programmed him to, does that mean that Lena Waithe and Marshawn Lynch are reconditioned outliers unknowingly using Incite’s app as well?
- Are we going to see Lena and Marshawn again, and will we ever get to hear someone address Marshawn by his character’s name? (The veteran running back’s name is Giggles, by the way, and I really need to see his face when he’s called that.)
- Are there any other Dolores copies lying around that we haven’t seen yet? And what did Charlotte-Dolores do with Connells-Dolores’s pearl? (Are there too many Doloreses, or not enough?)
- Does Dolores want Caleb to fail and help bring the destruction of the human race, or does she actually want the same freedom for humanity that she does for her own kind? And if it’s the latter, what makes her think Caleb is fit to lead a revolution?
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.