TV

‘Westworld’ Theory: Is Kiefer Sutherland’s Character On ‘Designated Survivor’ Actually A Host?


The first season of HBO’s Westworld is nearing an end and speculation is running amok. Eagle-eyed viewers are watching every scene closely to try to pull out clues, in the search for answers to an almost limitless number of mysteries. Are the events on the show taking place in multiple timelines separated by decades? Is our once innocent and naive William slowly turning into the dastardly Man in Black? What kind of plans do Charlotte and Delos have for Ford’s code and technology once (if?) they force him out? Each episode somehow makes the bigger picture clearer and murkier at the same time.

We have gotten a resolution to one important issue, though. From the very beginning, many viewers wondered if Bernard — Ford’s number two in the programming department — was actually another “host” that Ford had planted inside the corporate side to do his bidding. And it turns out that, yup, those viewers were correct, which the show revealed in a shocking moment that also saw Bernard kill his former lover, Delos executive Theresa. Ford is more of a devious puppetmaster than we suspected.

But even that resolution makes things more confusing. If Ford is capable of making a host so lifelike that it fools the people inside the company (who work with and on other hosts every day), then isn’t it possible that other characters we assumed were human are actually hosts, too? Doesn’t this mean anyone could conceivably be a host? How could we possibly know?

This brings me to a theory I’ve been tinkering with: What if Kiefer Sutherland’s character on ABC’s Designated Survivor has secretly been one of Ford’s hosts all along, too.

Now now, I hear you. You’re saying “But they’re on different shows, on different networks” and “Oh my God, that is easily the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard and I can’t believe you or anyone actually gets paid for this.” Fair points, to be sure. But just hear me out before you make up your mind. It’s a stronger case than you think. Let’s start at the beginning…

Designated Survivor opens with Sutherland’s character, Tom Kirkland, off in a secure location during the State of the Union. He is the titular “designated survivor,” the cabinet official kept safe and away from the festivities in case disaster strikes. Which, spoilers, it does. A bomb goes off in the Capitol that kills everyone and vaults him into the White House. (Not, like, literally vaults him into the White House. That would have been strange. Much funnier, but strange.)

Hmm. Someone powerful hiding in a safe bunker in a secret location. Where have I seen that before?

Ah ha! Ford also has a secret bunker, located under the house his “family” lives in. An undeniable callback to the Designated Survivor premiere.

Could Ford have built Kirkland in his lab years ago and sent him to Washington to rise through the ranks of the government, waiting for the perfect opportunity to stage this attack to place him in the Oval Office? Is this part of his power play against Delos? Or did this all happen on a different — possibly a third? — timeline, either in the future or the past? The mystery deepens.

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