13 Westworld Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed

John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

Freeze all motor functions. Bring yourself back online. HBO’s hit series Westworld might be made up of a lot of cryptic speeches and shoot-em-up action, but there is definitely another level to the game. So saddle up and put some modern hits on the player piano at the Mariposa Saloon because here are a few of the best Easter eggs you might have missed. Spoilers ahead!

1. CONFUSED ABOUT TIMELINES? KEEP TRACK OF THE BRANDING.

Westworld doesn’t waste any time explaining that the series operates on multiple timelines, with characters appearing years—and even decades—apart. But if you’re confused about the “when,” keep an eye out for the distinctive “W” logo of the park in the background of certain shots. If you spot a retro, 1970s-infused looking wordmark—like the ones seen when Angela introduces William to the park in “Chestnut”—then you’re in the past timeline.

HBO

If you spot a sleek, Apple-like “W,” like the one seen toward the end of the same episode when Sizemore shows the Delos executives his new narrative, “Odyssey on Red River,” then you know it’s present day within the show.

HBO

2. THE ORIGINAL GUNSLINGER MAKES A QUICK CAMEO.

The series is based on the 1973 film of the same name, which was written and directed by Michael Crichton and features a similar premise of robots leading a revolt against guests in a Wild West-themed amusement park. The main villain of the movie, with his distinctive robotic posture and black hat, is “The Gunslinger,” played by actor Yul Brynner. While the movie and the series aren’t specifically in the same universe, Brynner’s antagonist makes a quick appearance in the background of the show when Bernard explores the old section of the park in “The Adversary.”

HBO

MGM

Co-creator Jonathan Nolan talked about any movie/show crossovers with Entertainment Weekly, saying, “We wanted to connect to the ideas in the original film, but also take a look at this place as a cultural institution that is not new, because these ideas aren’t new.”

3. DOLORES IS GOING DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE.

HBO

Besides Dolores’s distinctive blue dress, blonde hair, and a plot about awakening in a surreal locale, there are a few more direct allusions to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland throughout Westworld—and beyond.

In “The Stray,” Bernard asks Dolores to read an excerpt from the book during one of their consciousness sessions, having her say, “Dear, dear, how queer everything is today. And yesterday, things went on just as usual. I wonder if I've been changed in the night." But the mystery goes a little further down the rabbit hole ... or, more precisely, the J.J. Abrams rabbit hole.

The same exact passage was featured in Episode 10 of Season 4 of Abrams’s TV series, Lost, when the character Jack reads a bedtime story to Claire’s son.

4. ROBERT FORD AND ARNOLD ARE DEFINITELY CLAUDE DEBUSSY FANS.

The so-called reveries, first introduced in “The Original,” are a series of memories and gestures supposedly programmed by Ford and his partner Arnold as part of a routine host update, but actually end up causing the hosts to recall their past loops.

They could have been called something other than the eloquent-sounding term that roughly translates to daydream in French, but it’s obvious that Ford and Arnold couldn’t let their fandom for French composer Claude Debussy go unsaid.

We first hear Debussy’s song “Reverie” in “The Stray,” when a pianist host plays the track during Ford and Bernard’s private conversation in the park executive’s office. Ford later uses the specific song to calm Maeve down in “Trace Decay”—perhaps an indication he did the same thing to Bernard earlier, since we eventually find out that Bernard is, in fact, a robot version of Arnold. 

5. BIOSHOCK FANS BEWARE.

HBO

It’s no secret that the park resembles an open world video game construct where players can wander wherever they please and get into any number of subplots and scenarios. So it’s no surprise that series creators Nolan and Lisa Joy were inspired by classic open world video games like BioShock when planning out all the supposedly real-world shenanigans guests could get into in the show. 

The popular first-person shooter was such an influence that a bust of Sander Cohen, a character from the game, can be seen in Ford’s office in “The Stray.”

At a Westworld panel at New York Comic-Con, Nolan explained: “I was [with] Ken Levine, the designer of those games, talking about the non-player characters—Elizabeth, specifically, in BioShock Infinite. In a scene, I think I had just run through and shot everyone and kept going. And he was talking about how much craft had gone into all the conversations that the non-player characters had, and all their dreams and aspirations. And I just thought, 'Oh, isn’t that tragic? Isn’t that sad? And the player just ignores it all. The bastards.'"

6. FELIX SPEAKS JOHN HAMMOND’S LANGUAGE.

HBO

“Contrapasso” features a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to original Westworld creator Michael Crichton’s other theme-park-run-amok classic, Jurassic Park.

In his spare time, bumbling but lovable host repairman Felix secretly tries to revive a malfunctioning robot bird in an attempt to be the Westworld programmer he always wanted to be. And when he finally wakes his fake feathered friend, he offers some familiar words of encouragement. "That’s it. Come on, little one," he says, sounding eerily similar to Jurassic Park’s Robert Ford proxy, John Hammond, in a scene from the 1993 Steven Spielberg film based on Crichton's book.

We suspect that won’t be the only Crichton/Spielberg allusion as the series progresses. In season two's "Reunion,” the host named El Lazo (played in this loop by Breaking Bad star Giancarlo Esposito) monologues about why he's done with his current situation by telling a story about a childhood visit to the circus, much in the same way John Hammond tells a metaphor for the failings of Jurassic Park by recounting a trip to the circus as a child.

7. THE CHARACTER NAMES ARE APOCALYPTIC.

Given Ford’s nihilistic look at humanity (this is the guy who said, “Never place your trust in us. We’re only human. Inevitably, we will disappoint you,” after all), if Westworld is building to some sort of robo-apocalypse, then it should make complete sense. It was all in the names.  

Some of the symbology behind the character names in the show are literally apocalyptic. Forlorn cowboy Teddy Flood’s surname could refer to the biblical flood of Noah’s ark. Teddy’s ostensible rival, Wyatt, is described by hosts as “a pestilence,” or one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Bible. Roguish bandit Hector Escaton’s surname is a slightly different spelling from eschaton, a theological word meaning the end of the world.

8. THE SERIES CREATORS MUST HAVE LOVED SHAKESPEARE IN SCHOOL.

If you’re a lit nerd, and especially a fan of the Bard, then watching Westworld must be a blast from the get-go. Malfunctioning host Peter Abernathy’s monologue at the end of “The Original” quotes from a whopping three different Shakespeare plays: King Lear, Henry IV, and The Tempest.

Arguably the most prominent line by a number of hosts (including Dolores and Peter) throughout the show comes from Friar Lawrence’s line from Romeo and Juliet, when they say, “These violent delights have violent ends.”

One of the scariest and saddest Shakespeare quotes is from “Trompe L’Oeil,” when Ford has the robotic Bernard kill head of quality assurance Theresa Cullen. Ford slightly misquotes Hamlet when he says "for in that sleep, what dreams may come?"

9. LIKE MOZART, BEETHOVEN, AND CHOPIN, FORD NEVER DIED.

In the season one finale, “The Bicameral Mind,” Ford hints that he isn’t done with the park just yet even though Dolores kills him. In his monologue in front of the Delos board he says, “An old friend once told me something that gave me great comfort. Something he had read. He said that Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became music.”

In much the same way those geniuses “became” their work, Ford pops up again in season two’s premiere, “Journey Into Night,” as the younger host version of himself who challenges the Man in Black to a new game in the park.

The Chopin connection goes a bit further in a flashback to Jim Delos’s retirement party in “Reunion,” when Dolores plays Chopin’s “Sonata for Piano No. 2 in B-Flat Minor,” to which the grizzled billionaire and Ford antagonist says, "Anything but f***in' Chopin."

10. ROBERT FORD MUST HAVE LOVED PSYCHOLOGY CLASS.

One of the incredibly abstract but driving concepts behind season one of Westworld was “The Bicameral Mind,” a theory that Arnold and Ford use to “bootstrap consciousness” in the hosts. The hypothesis imagines a three-tiered pyramid approach to allow the artificial intelligence of the park’s robots to be self-aware with memory at the bottom, improvisation and self-interest in the middle, and a big ol’ question mark at the top because, as Ford explains, Arnold never figured out what’s at the top. Maybe that’s why all the hosts go haywire.

Anyway, the notion of the Bicameral Mind isn’t some made-up mumbo jumbo. It actually originated in the 1976 book The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by American psychologist Julian Jaynes. In the book, Jaynes posited that humans developed the ability to think for themselves only after they were able to discern that the voices in our heads weren’t god. Similarly, hosts like Dolores hear voices in their heads and think it’s Arnold only to realize they’re hearing their own consciousness, and thus are self-aware beings.

11. DR. FORD, OR DR. FRANKENSTEIN?

The similarities between Ford and the main character of Mary Shelley’s gothic classic Frankenstein are a bit obvious: mad scientists who create a new form of life that backfires against them. So it’s perhaps fitting that one of Ford’s witticisms is taken directly from the book.

In a conversation between Ford and Bernard in “Trace Decay,” when the latter asks the former why he had him kill Theresa, Ford responds by explaining that her death doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of his new narrative. He caps it off by quoting Shelley: "One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire."

12. FORD KEEPS HIS FAVORITE HOSTS CLOSE.

Ford is nothing if not an eccentric weirdo. This is a guy who keeps a host in his office to do nothing put play the piano every time he wants some music while brainstorming AI consciousness. But there are some more recognizable hosts in his office besides the piano player.

If you look closely, directly behind Ford’s desk there is a wall of faces. Though never explained, these are ostensibly dry run versions of host faces created by the still unexplained white goo that solidifies into host skin. Two of those faces belong to Ford’s favorite star-crossed robots: Dolores and Teddy.

13. MAEVE IS OFF HER LOOP ... OR IS SHE?

HBO

The thrilling finale of season one saw the newly conscious, former madame Maeve recruit fellow hosts Hector and Armistice to mow down park security on her way out on the park train to freedom. But an onscreen revelation from Bernard makes it seem like she’s not as free to control her own destiny as she thinks she is.

After resurrecting Bernard, he uses one of the programmer devices to show her that her programming was actually altered to make her want to escape, recruit hosts, and get out via the train. Maeve, refusing to admit she doesn’t have free will, tells Bernard, "These are my decisions, no one else’s," but the device proves her wrong. Look closely and you see that Ford has pre-programmed the steps for her to "Recruit," "Escape," "Manipulate," and even "Mainland Infiltration." It seems Ford wanted her to be free, but not in the way she wants.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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Late MythBusters Star Grant Imahara Honored With New STEAM Foundation

Grant Imahara attends San Diego Comic-Con
Grant Imahara attends San Diego Comic-Con
Genevieve via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Fans of MythBusters and White Rabbit Project host Grant Imahara were saddened to hear of his passing due to a brain aneurysm in July 2020 at the age of 49. Imahara, a graduate of the University of Southern California, used the television medium to share his love of science and engineering. Now, his passion for education will continue via an educational foundation developed in his name.

The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation was announced Thursday, October 23, 2020 by family and friends on what would have been Imahara’s 50th birthday. The Foundation will provide mentorships, grants, and scholarships that will allow students from diverse backgrounds access to STEAM education, which places an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. (Formerly referred to as STEM, the “A” for art was added more recently.)

Imahara had a history of aiding students. While working at Industrial Light and Magic in the early 2000s, he mentored the robotics team at Richmond High School to prepare for the international FIRST Robotics Competition. Whether he was working on television or behind-the-scenes on movies like the Star Wars prequels and The Matrix sequels, Imahara always found time to promote and encourage young engineering talent.

The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation’s founding board members include Imahara’s mother, Carolyn Imahara, and close friends Don Bies, Anna Bies, Edward Chin, Fon H. Davis, Coya Elliott, and Ioanna Stergiades.

“There are many students, like my son Grant, who need the balance of the technical and the creative, and this is what STEAM is all about,” Carolyn Imahara said in a statement. “I’m so proud of my son’s career, but I’m equally proud of the work he did mentoring students. He would be thrilled that we plan to continue this, plus much more, through The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation.”

Imahara friend Wade Bick is also launching an effort in concert with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to name a study lounge after Imahara. Donations can be made here.

You can find out more about the foundation, and make a donation, on its website.