photo: HBO

Major spoilers from Sunday night's (November 28) episode of "Westworld," "The Well-Tempered Clavier," lie ahead

If you, like me, went into last night’s “Westworld” episode thinking that this would be the night the show finally proved or disproved the most popular fan theory of the season, then you had another thing coming.

While we were all focused on whether or not William (Jimmi Simpson) and the Man in Black (Ed Harris) were playing the same character seeking the maze across two distinct timelines, “Westworld” lifted the wool from our eyes and revealed that two other characters are more or less the same person, fulfilling a completely different pet theory in the process.

We were told a few episodes back that Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), despite his outward appearance as a mild-mannered behavior specialist working behind the scenes at Westworld, was actually a host constructed by Ford (Anthony Hopkins) to be his perfect right-hand man. Now, thanks to Bernard’s insistence that he be allowed to access all his memories that Ford’s repressed over the years, we know exactly where Ford got the idea from: he built Bernard in the image of his dead partner, Arnold.

photo: HBO

Arnold = Bernard had also been a fairly popular theory among “Westworld” fans (Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair called it particularly early), but unlike the Reddit posts full of visual evidence linking William and the Man in Black, there wasn’t quite as much to go on, here. Even after we learned that Bernard was a host, all we knew was that both he and Arnold were interested in host consciousness, had suffered a traumatic loss, and had similar names.

Now we know why, on all fronts: Bernard’s fascination with the minds of his hosts already made sense given that he is one himself, but is even more appropriate if he was designed with Arnold in mind (literally). Secondly, Ford outright admitted in this episode that he planted Bernard’s dead son into his memories as an “homage” to Arnold (although it’s entirely possible that he also placed it there to distract Bernard from the truth of his own existence, making him easier for Ford to control). 

And finally, in one of Dolores’ many confusing flashbacks we also saw on Arnold’s office door that his last name was Weber, making Bernard’s name (full: Bernard Lowe) an anagram of Arnold’s. The only way it would have been more obvious, in hindsight, is if his name was actually just “Barnold.”

photo: HBO

Of course, if you’re still holding on to that Man in Black theory, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” delivered another pretty definitive clue in your direction— that photograph Logan (Ben Barnes) gave to William of his sister looked to be the exact same photograph that set off Dolores’ father, Peter Abernathy, way back in the first episode. Plus, Dolores’ insides looked much closer to the mechanical workings within Ford’s childlike avatar than the flesh-and-blood innards of Maeve, Teddy, and other frequently gutted hosts, meaning it’s now more likely than ever that her journey with William is taking place in the past — and that William’s upsetting Confederate massacre was only the beginning for him.

I’ve always been loathe to accept the Man in Black theory (or any theory, really) in the past while watching this show, but even I have to admit now that the evidence is overwhelmingly mounted in favor of it being true (although you could hand wave away the photograph connection with an equally ridiculous theory, perhaps by suggesting that William’s fiancée is the Man in Black’s daughter and not his wife from 30 years ago. That would certainly explain why Logan turned out to be such a despicable human being!).

But given the breathtaking way in which the show’s handled Bernard’s story arc over the past few episodes — watching him breaking down in real time before our eyes and come to terms with his own lack of humanity, most notably in the way that he denounced the memories of his deceased son straight to that son’s sad little face — I’m more than willing to give “Westworld” the benefit of the doubt that its inevitable Man in Black/William reveal will be emotionally satisfying, even if we did see it coming a thousand miles away.  

Provided, of course, that Ford doesn't swoop in and cut the dramatic tension again — although he didn't explicitly tell Bernard to fatally shoot himself in the head, saying that Bernard could "put an end to this nightmare once and for all" was a pretty strong suggestion. So if "Jessica Jones" mind-control rules apply, maybe Bernard can find a way around the meaning of that directive and is still camped out in that back room alive, with Clementine, waiting for Maeve to amass her army and come find him (as we saw in the teaser for next episode).

Either way, I suspect it won't be the last time we see either Bernard or Arnold again. Dolores and her mind-bending, timeline-breaking consciousness will almost certainly make sure of that.