The piano has been setting a haunting soundtrack for the show since the first episode, and each time the title sequence rolls we get a look inside the box, the strings vibrating from each black and white touch. Fittingly, this episode begins with the piano in the brothel percussioning a cover to Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees," in which Thom Yorke warbles, "She looks like the real thing / She tastes like the real thing / My fake plastic love." The show's writers are partial to allusions, both subtle and not-so, and this one falls somewhere in between, but the language sets stage for an episode about all things real and fake, love included.
Writers for this episode, Jonathan Nolan and Halley Gross, were also set on delivering us some significant reveals outside of the park. Nice to get a focus on the innerworkings of the Westworld Hotel, though it was the first episode without Dolores-time.
Diligent staffer Elsie dives into her detective work, akin to an Internal Affairs agent, seeking to discover the host-saboteur lurking within the Westworld working ranks. Meanwhile Bernard is out here getting the door slammed on him by Sophie, who I've always suspected was a cyborg, but still not that cold! "This is over." Damn, girl.
Speaking of cold, Teddy gunning down an entire military unit with a Gatling gun in slow-mo was gloriously violent, and when the Man In Black quips, "You think you know somebody," over the troupe of deceased, we see even Ed Harris' sicko is kind of surprised. Damn, Teddy.
But the show-stealer was Maeve, who continues to achieve higher levels of consciousness in her quest for awakening. Maeve gets an auto-erotic asphyxi-trip back to the lab where she reconvenes with Westworld's worst employee ever and gets a grand tour of the labs and, eventually, some upgrades. As Maeve dons a red dress in the lab for the first time, it felt like a more stretched allusion to 2015's "Ex Machina," where Alicia Vikander's robot-character dresses up in an attempt to get her human captors to fall in love with her and free her. Interestingly, one man does, while the other remains hugely skeptical; but by the end of the film one man is dead and the other imprisoned as Vikander sets off into an urban landscape with a slick outfit on. Credits roll.
I can't help but conjecture that Maeve is on her way to similar fate. While the sequence where she moves through the various lab levels was visually magical (was that a Bison on a fucking leash?!) it was as much for the viewer as Maeve -- we both look on astounded as the curtains behind the scenes are drawn further open. The real hint to Maeve's fate comes in the final moments of the episode, where she dupes Dumb and Dumber into hitting her with a video-game cheat code to OP (overpower, for the video game noobs) her sexiness and intelligence, as if she needed more. She rumbles with enlightened delight as the episode goes black. Damn, girl!
"The Adversary" doesn't do as much literary heavy-lifting as some of the other episodes, but it functions as a crucial behind-the-design look into the labs, lairs and minds of the West, setting the stage for four more episodes of revealings where the inside of the park is as layered as the out.
A few other takeaways:
The drunk-writer trope is old-hat, but Simon peeing onto a grand park map is not.