[Warning: The following will contain spoilers for Westworld season two, episode four.]
Westworld solved most of its own mysteries by the end of the show’s first season, although one major character was left without an explained fate: fan-favorite and Delos programmer Elsie Hughes.
We last saw Elsie, played by actress Shannon Woodward, in the first season’s ninth episode, when she went into the park to try to track the outgoing signal, all signs pointing to some form of corporate espionage. She was strangled for her troubles, and we find out later that it was Bernard who attacked her. But her ultimate fate was never shown, nor explained.
Bernard remains an unreliable narrator, and it’s hard to tell when scenes shown from his point of view take place. But he “finds” Elsie during this week’s episode of the show, and it turns out he kept her relatively safe after knocking her out by shackling her in a cave. Although she was only given “a few proteins bars and a bucket” to keep her comfortable.
This might have been the only thing keeping her from being murdered by other hosts, but she doesn’t know that. She just knows that Bernard attacked her, left her locked up, and is now back. She quickly figures out that Bernard is a host after he has one of his attacks, and is even able to keep him running in a more stable manner, even if we know it won’t last forever.
What’s interesting about this whole story is that we still don’t know who is pulling all the strings. Bernard doesn’t remember abducting Elsie, and he only frees her because he’s brought to the cave by a zombie-like Clementine Pennyfeather. He hasn’t shown much agency in this season, even if he pleads with Elsie to let him write his own story. Does he really believe that’s something he has the ability to do?
After all, he finds the hidden base in the cave by watching himself open it, and it’s made clear that Bernard isn’t actually interacting with Elsie in real time; his memories are jumbled, and he seems to gain insight about where he is and what he needs to be doing on some predetermined timeline.
“You’re memories aren’t addressed, they’re just kind of drifting around in there,” Elsie tells him. “So when you experience one, you have no idea whether it comes before or after the others.” He’s able to work through his memories in a limited way by focusing on them, but he’s still not in control of what he’s doing, nor is he able to explain why he’s doing it.
The episode ends with Bernard and Elsie heading out as a sort of bizarre team after he promises never to lie and or hurt her again, which ... c’mon. Does Elsie really think he’s in a position to make that promise, or is she just stuck because she doesn’t have much choice in the matter? Or is Bernard even remembering these interactions in the way they happened, whenever they happened?
In terms of the timeline, Elsie’s erstwhile partner and comedic foil Ashley Stubbs is shown being held captive by the Ghost Nation in this episode before they let him go. He was seen helping retake the park in the earlier episodes of season two, although before that he was seen being taken by the Ghost Nation when he went out to try to track down Elsie in season one. That means that at least some of the events that take place in this event fit between the finale of season one and the first episode of season two. You’re welcome.
The whole thing leads to more questions than answers, but Elsie is alive and is back in the park, ready to kick some ass. Or at least she was. We have no way to tell whether Bernard’s present is her past.