HBO gave Heavy a media pass to attend the Westworld Experience at SXSW in Austin on Thursday night, before the theme park was open to the public. And the experience was absolutely phenomenal. HBO went all out to create a fully immersive experience with unique storylines and plenty of Easter eggs mixed in related to Season 1 and Season 2 of Westworld. We learned a little more about Dolores and Teddy, saw an interesting interaction about Maeve, and got so pumped about the show’s return that we’re counting down the days to the premiere in April. Here’s everything that happened, starting with some key Easter eggs that you won’t want to miss and then a play-by-play about key events from that night.
Best Easter Eggs During the Westworld Experience
Maeve’s Drawings at the Mariposa Saloon
While visiting the Mariposa Saloon, I found a bird cage hidden in a corner of the room. Locked inside were Maeve’s drawings of the Delos employees she was having flashbacks of toward the end of Season 1.
I attempted to talk with multiple hosts about Maeve, but no one seemed to know too much about her. One person thought she should still be at the saloon, but when I informed her that someone new was running the saloon, they didn’t have much to say.
New Mariposa Owner Froze When I Asked About Maeve
This may have been one of the my favorite parts. The new Mariposa owner took some time to talk to us, and let us know that she was dating Sweetwater’s Sheriff. So I asked her if she knew what happened to Maeve. She froze for about 30 seconds and then came to, acting as if she had no idea what happened or what we had been talking about.
Dolores’ Grave Spotted
If you go to the cemetery and look at all the headstones, you’ll find Dolores’ grave in the back corner. It looks like it’s been freshly dug:
Everyone Knows Dolores and Teddy
Pretty much all the hosts at Sweetwater know about Dolores and Teddy. After talking to multiple people, I learned that most of them haven’t seen the two for quite a while. One person said that they’ve been gone for at least a week. At the Mariposa, one employee hoped they ran off together because they were in love, and everyone was expecting them to run off together at some point. But at the Post Office, the owner felt like Teddy was going to get in big trouble with Dolores’ dad for trying to run off with his daughter.
We also asked about Wyatt, and no one knew much about him. They just said that they had heard rumors, but no one had ever seen him.
The Delos Employees Hidden in Plain Sight
If you hit a button hidden under a rock on a wall in one room, you’ll see this:
A Samurai Is Hanging Around
Shogun World is real. One of the first things we saw was a samurai host who wouldn’t speak and looked very lost (and pretty angry.) He ended up at the saloon at one point.
There were also some great moments at the Mariposa Saloon and the Coronado. I’ll share those later in this story.
The Westworld Experience: The Arrival
Now that I’ve shared my favorite Easter eggs from the Westworld experience, let’s backtrack a bit to how it all began. First, we arrived at a tavern in downtown Austin, where the experience began even before we got on the luxurious Westworld themed shuttle buses.
The buses were absolutely beauties and, of course, I had to pose in front of one:
First we checked in and had our pictures taken. I learned later that this was for a Most Wanted poster. One person from the group was chosen at random to actually be hunted down during the experience and put behind bars. (Note: If you’re carrying a bag at this juncture, your bag will be searched. The only rule is not to bring weapons.)
We were each given wristbands to indicate which bus we’d be traveling from. Then we went upstairs to the roof of the tavern, where we were greeted by hosts carrying appetizers and drinks. They stayed in character the whole time. A player piano was at the top of the stairs, and a wall that looked like maybe (just maybe) it was originally part of a Comic-con Game of Thrones set.
We were up here for about 30 minutes, enjoying the atmosphere and waiting for our assigned buses to leave. We were also assigned either white hats or black hats. They were really nice quality cowboy hats with the Westworld logo inside, and each guest was allowed to take their hat home after the experience. Most people got black hats, but I was given a white hat. These ended up not playing a role in the experience itself, so you won’t have a quest connected with your hat color. But it was still a very nice touch. (If you get to go to the experience, eat as many of the appetizers as you want. The experience lasts at least two hours, and there isn’t a lot of food at the park itself. They serve beans, brisket, and sausage. But by the time the night ended, they ran out of brisket and were giving just three slices of sausage apiece. So don’t save your appetite for the park if that’s your plan.)
And then we were loaded on the buses, and away we went. We were given a beautiful brochure, and just before arriving we got to watch a video welcoming us to our experience. The only rule was not to touch anything. (I’m not so sure about this rule though, because apparently there were quite a few Easter eggs that did require touching objects.)
And here’s the brochure:
It takes about 20 minutes to get to the park, which is north of Austin. When you first pull up to Westworld, there’s a train with a beautiful Westworld sign in front of it. This is where things got interesting for us. Our bus made a slight off-turn and ended up driving into a ditch! Our bus was tilted and it kind of felt like we were about to fall over sideways. Some reporters from The Verge were seated behind us, and when one of the guys decided to make a last minute trip to the bathroom, his colleague helpfully advised him: “Don’t die.” It was funny, but we were also all a little bit nervous that the bus was about to tip over. The driver couldn’t get out of the ditch, so we ultimately just disembarked there, and we were all OK.
Entering Westworld: The Experience Was Mesmerizing
From the moment you step into the park, the experience feels so authentic. A brightly lit room with white hats and black hats on the wall, and a glass case filled with knives, waits for you. You’ll feel a little rushed to walk through this part as quickly as possible, but try to slow down and really breathe in the atmosphere. You’ll have plenty of time at the park and nothing’s going to happen without you.
Then you step into the train, and it’s immediately breathtaking. The Westworld theme is playing in the background, and several hosts are sitting and sharing their experiences.
Here’s a video of one of the hosts telling us about his brother, Drunk Steve, and two other men that we need to watch out for:
By the way, the two men he’s talking about play a big role later on in the park. If you visit, I suggest going through this part slowly too and don’t let yourself feel rushed.
Adventures, Clues, & Conversations
Everyone’s going to head to either the Post Office or the Mariposa saloon first, so you might want to wander around the grounds for a bit and get the lay of the land. But honestly, if you want to really know what you’re doing, you might want to head to the Post Office right off the bat. Everyone has a letter waiting for them. Some lucky people get a mission in their letter! My letter was about women’s suffrage. My husband, Derek Dwilson, attended as a photographer and videographer. His letter just advised him to tell everyone in the world about Westworld. You’ll also want to take time to talk to the Post Office owners, because they will quickly tell you about all the biggest locations you won’t want to miss.
We were advised at one point to talk to Marla because she has a “big mouth,” but we couldn’t find her. However, we did find Beatrice, whose husband has died but was really rich. We saw a guy named Drunk Jasper get beat up by a gang, until Frank (a friend of the Sheriff) came in and beat them up.
The ambiance of the town was beautiful. They used smoke machines to really build up the atmosphere. At night, this gave it an uneasy-but-intriguing effect.
HBO even had horses in the town. They were real horses though, not host horses like on the show. ;)
There were quite a few locations that really added to the authenticity. A second saloon was a welcome site:
A general store, where the manager wasn’t very nice. In fact, she got really mad when I took a photo of her with my flash on. Every time I asked too many questions, the hosts got worried. One pair told me to move along or I’d get into some serious trouble.
Derek got into a big scene with one of the hosts, named Bodecker. Somewhere out there is a great video showing them going head-to-head. Bodecker got in Derek’s face and threatened him, after telling him that he needed to make friends in this town, and quick.
The graveyard was quite a site. We were told to keep an eye out for the pastor, who was a little crazy. And we were told to look at the gravestones closely. That’s when we looked at all of them and finally ended up at Dolores’ gravestone, which was freshly dug.
But no one in the town seemed to think Dolores had died. They all said she had run away with Teddy and no one knew if they were coming back. Someone else who attended last night said on Twitter that there was a secret code associated with the graveyard. We could never figure out what shed he was talking about or get him to give us more details on Twitter about what he wrote:
The Coronado & The Mariposa
These touches made you really feel like you were at Westworld. At the Mariposa, we were greeted by a player piano, hosts serving drinks (the drinks were free for guests) and even a game of poker.
Here’s a scene when you first walk into The Mariposa and see the player piano:
And here’s a scene where Derek played poker with the hosts:
Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a new owner of the Mariposa, and she freezes up if you ask her about Maeve. I didn’t notice anyone else having a similar reaction.
At the Coronado, you could get drinks and food too:
The Main Storyline of the Night
There was one main storyline of the night. It involved a love triangle between Betty, Jim Sweeney, and Darby. Betty was heartbroken over the whole thing:
Darby, one of the guys caught in the love triangle, is the son of the owner of the Coronado. She goes off frantically in search of him at one point, with her daughter and other son helping. Darby said he was going to kill Jim Sweeney, who is apparently in his 30s or 40s and having a fling with young Betty. Well, at one point they all gather and start pointing guns at each other. Somehow Frank gets involved in the fight.
The sheriff is there too. Some hosts talked to me during the fight and were really worried about what was going to happen. Frank got shot and appeared to have died. Everyone was upset. But then the Sheriff tried to shoot a human, and he froze. I asked my hosts what was happening, and they didn’t seem to notice. Someone told me, “The Sheriff can’t shoot humans.” But the hosts were very insistent that he has shot plenty of humans before. You can see Frank getting shot in the video below, and the Sheriff then holding out his gun at everyone.
That’s when the Delos workers rush onto the scene and tell all the hosts to freeze. They gather up Frank to work on him.
Later on, Frank is back and walking around just fine. And none of the hosts have any memory of the gunfight. This story “loops” periodically, so if you stay at the park long enough, you may see it play out more than once. (I saw it twice.)
When you’re done with the park, you just check out in a big barn lit with candles, and get on one of the waiting buses. Once the bus is full enough, it leaves. We didn’t know this part and ended up at the park for about three hours or longer. I’m wondering if we missed that instruction because our bus had driven into a small ditch when it arrived. :)
Overall, this was an amazing experience. I truly did feel like I was at Sweetwater and interacting with actual hosts. I didn’t find a lot of clues for Season 2, but I saw some great Easter eggs. It was an amazing experience that HBO put on for fans. Once Westworld begins in April, I’m going to feel like I was already there. And I still have the hat to wear, whenever I want to remember my experience.