‘Westworld’ Puts Aaron Paul(s) Through the Wringer in ‘Fidelity’ (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Westworld Season 4 episode 6, “Fidelity.”]
While Wood once had to “limit [her] emotional affect” as Dolores, going from crying hysterically to stone-faced and toneless in a nanosecond, Paul has now had to play several versions of Caleb Nichols, all in states of physical and mental decay. Twitching, stuttering, stumbling, screaming and sobbing his way through “Fidelity,” he delivers an electrifying performance.
Caleb, Caleb, Caleb and Caleb
Inside the Olympiad headquarters, Caleb-278 undergoes questioning by Hale-ores (Tessa Thompson). She delivers a little exposition about why she’s so interested in him; his status as an outlier makes him valuable because he can tell her why her machine doesn’t work on them. She can scream and yell and kick chairs all she wants, but he’s not going to tell her how he disobeyed her all those years ago in the park. She also lets it slip that he has a “few painful days” of life left, so it seems like hosts aren’t any better at merging human minds with host bodies than humans were. Darn. Either that, or Hale-ores has purposely built him to fail in hopes that pain will get him to talk. Either seems possible, but it does seem odd that host-James Delos stabilized for a month, but poor Caleb gets three days. And the Delos experiments were decades ago!
Angered, Hale-ores does something that has massive implications: She tells Caleb his daughter is alive, and then she threatens her. Frankie is an outlier as well, and Hale-ores says that if Caleb won’t talk, she’ll bring his daughter in and force her to. With that, Caleb’s core drive kicks in, and he’s determined to make it out of his cell to communicate with her.
While all of this is going on, Caleb re-lives some formative moments. Maeve’s classic memory is deliberately paralleled this episode, as Caleb remembers holding Frankie’s hand in a field the exact same way as Maeve once did with her daughter. (It’s worth noting that the memory is flipped, with Frankie holding Caleb’s right hand instead of his left. Is this because Caleb was human, while Maeve was a host? Everything means something on this show.) And on the subject of Maeve, Caleb also remembers waking up and having a chat with his then-nurse Uwade (Nozipho Mclean), asking her if Maeve came back.
Outside his memories, Caleb goes on a harrowing journey, his progress marked by earlier Calebs that died at the points he surpasses. He crawls through vents, kills drone hosts and barely makes it through alive. The whole thing is very eerie, but also very Westworld; at one point Caleb-278 even uses a dying Caleb to break a potentially fatal fall. Eventually he makes it to the rooftop and to a radio, where he delivers a stirring speech to Frankie. He apologizes for not being there for her and for “failing,” and he reassures her that she’s “going to win.”
After Caleb finishes sending the message, Hale-ores, standing behind him, has some choice words. “What a disappointment,” she says. “I’ve waited such a long time to know what you were going to tell your daughter.” The whole thing was a setup. She knew he was going to escape, and she let it happen! Defiant, Caleb tells her that the outliers aren’t infecting her hosts — they’re just dying so they can get away from her. This bit of attitude earns Caleb-278 a snapped neck, and after she’s done furiously glaring out at the skyline, Hale-ores goes to all the various other decaying Calebs and terminates their builds. They’re all engulfed in flames a la James Delos, and then she prints another Caleb: 279. As the episode ends, she begins another fidelity test for him.
Bernard, Stubbs and Frankie
Miles and miles away, Bernard takes a squad of rebels to revive Maeve. One of those rebels is Frankie, who has some conflicting feelings about her dad’s buddy; after all, Maeve’s appearance was the last time she saw him. Nonetheless, Bernard insists they need her, so they descend into the lower levels. Repairing her physical form is easy enough, but they need to copy her pearl into a new one (while the data’s intact, the actual pearl sustained damage from years under the sand). As the transfer happens, Bernard hides the gadgets inside the “Butterfly Saloon” player piano and tells Frankie to keep them safe. Easy enough, right?
Wrong. Suspicions arise as Frankie realizes Bernard and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) are hosts, and the whole group comes to the conclusion that for them to have been ambushed on their mission last episode, there must be a host in their midst. Hale-ores did send someone to infiltrate the resistance — Jay (Daniel Wu), Frankie’s co-leader and friend. As it turns out, he died on the mission to retrieve the outlier, and Hale-ores replaced him with a host.
When Frankie won’t stop Maeve’s data transfer or reveal the location of her pearl, he starts shooting at her. As she ducks behind their truck, Caleb’s message comes through on her radio. She just hears that her father is alive before Jay shoots the device, cutting him off. Eventually, he corners her and demands to know where Maeve’s pearl is. “Behind you,” Frankie tells him. Technically, it’s the truth: a fully awake and aware Maeve is standing behind him, and she stabs him in the head.
Maeve and Bernard don’t reunite on-screen this episode, but she does get a nice scene with Frankie. After saving her, Maeve tells her she thought she was doing the right thing by leaving, but she “didn’t think it would lead to all this.” Frankie admits she was angry with Maeve for taking her father away, but part of her knew that if he was alive, it was because she was with him. (Oh, the irony.) “Let’s finish what we started,” Maeve vows, and we’re betting Hale-ores doesn’t stand a chance.
- RIP to all the theories that Caleb-278 was the first successful human fidelity test. Or — I suppose the host-Calebs could be passing fidelity, but if they’re being stuck in bodies that are made to break down, they don’t have a chance no matter how faithful they are to human Caleb.
- The constant host-Caleb breakdowns seem ominous for the character’s future on the show, but I doubt Westworld‘s getting rid of Aaron Paul. Was Hale-ores’ teased “end” to his torture not death, but a way he can stick around permanently as a host? Can a human host pearl be uploaded to the Sublime? Is human Caleb still alive somewhere, cryogenically frozen like William? If that’s the case, Maeve might be able to sense him through his limbics like she did earlier in the season.
- I’m kind of not sure what the point of the extended flashback sequence at the start of the episode was if Jay was getting killed off, anyway. Seems like they could’ve found another way to have Frankie realize he was a host, other than calling back to a specific line.
- If you look closely at the screen for Caleb-279, it seems like Hale-ores might be using a different code for him (MA6) than the other Calebs. “Recent” other Calebs seem to have been MA3, MA4 and MA5. What does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine.
- Ramin Djawadi never misses. That techno remix of the main theme at the end of this episode was fire. (Ha!)
- This is a two-weeks-old observation, but I haven’t seen it mentioned. Before Maeve died, she told Caleb, “See you in the next life, darling.” That was a callback: minus the “darling,” Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) told Maeve the same thing just before sacrificing himself for her in the Season 1 finale.
- There’s nothing wrong with keeping them as good friends, but I wouldn’t mind Caleb and Maeve ending up together romantically. Frankie confirmed this episode that Uwade’s dead, and the version of Hector that Maeve fell in love with is gone for good. Caleb and Maeve have the same priorities. They have plenty of chemistry (the train bar and elevator scenes, for example), history and shared trauma. As a tortured former bad-boy with a heart of gold, he’s her “type.” Caleb was hurt when she left him, as emphasized again with that “did she come back?” flashback, and she clearly has her regrets about leaving. Now that Maeve wouldn’t have to step away, could that change things?
- If you thought Caleb-279’s posture at the end of the episode was awkward, there’s a good explanation for it. He’s deliberately positioned in the same way as he was when he “drifted off” after Maeve’s death, a key component of the fidelity test.
- Rating: 4.5/5. “Fidelity” is a weird, creepy and exciting thrill ride.
Westworld Season 4, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO