9th July 1984
Stefan Butler wakes up, goes to the bathroom, takes his pills, and leaves his room. His father Peter is coming out of his room and suggests that they have breakfast, and Stefan agrees. Over breakfast, Stefan reads a book, Bandersnatch, and tells Peter that he's meeting later with Colin Ritman. He talks about his computer game Bandersnatch based on the book by Jerome Davies, and admits that it was his mother's copy and he found it in her things. Stefan explains that it's a choose-your-own-adventure book where the reader decides what the character does. Peter has Stefan choose what cereal he wants for breakfast, and then goes over to yell at a dog digging in the garden.
On the bus to the computer company, Stefan takes a seat, puts on his headphones, and chooses what music to listen to. He finally arrives at the company, Tuckersoft, and the owner Mohan Thakur greets him. Mohan explains his plans to expand the company and how they'll be a hit-producing company for computer games. He mentions programmer Colin Ritman, and Stefan says that he's played all of Colin's games. Mohan takes Stefan over to introduce him, and they shake hands. Colin shows Stefan his latest game, Nohzdyve, but the game glitches.
They go to a conference room and Stefan explains that his game Bandersnatch is an adventure game without typing. The choices come up on the screen and the user has ten seconds to pick one. Colin notes that Davies went nuts and cut his wife's head off, and Stefan agrees. He admits that he hasn't programmed all the pathways in the game yet, and Mohan asks how he wants to go about it. Mohan says that they have to get it ready by Christmas, and offers to have Stefan come there and write it with a small team at his disposal. Stefan agrees and Colin looks disgusted. As he goes, he tells Stefan that he chose the wrong path.
Five Months Later
Stefan and Peter are at home watching the TV, with a review of Bandersnatch on the show Microplay. The reviewer, Robin, complains that the game is too short and feels like it was rushed into development. Stefan tells Peter that he should try it again.
9th July 1984
Everything happens as before: Stefan wakes up, takes his pills, goes to Tuckersoft, presents his game idea, and meets with Colin. Colin thinks that they've met before, but Stefan says that they haven't. Stefan recognizes the Nohzdyve game by name and the error that crashed it. After Stefan demonstrates the game, Mohan remembers that Jerome went nuts and cut his wife's head off. Stefan admits that he hasn't programmed all the pathways in the game yet, and Mohan asks how he wants to go about it and asks if he wants to develop the game for Tuckersoft. After a moment's consideration, Stefan refuses but then agrees, but says that he needs to write it how he knows, by himself at home. He tries to explain that it's all in his head and it will get stress if he works with a team, and Colin agrees saying that he's the same and it works best on a concept game if it's one mind. Stefan says that he can finish the code by December 12 when Mohan needs it. As they leave, Colin asks Stefan what he listens to, to get into the flow.
Stefan returns home and Peter asks how it went. His son tells him that it went well and Peter offers to shake hands with him, and Stefan points out that he has orange juice on his hands. Peter asks if the best thing for Stefan is to work on it alone at home, and Stefan wonders why it wouldn't be.
Five Months Later
As Stefan works on coding, he watches Robin on Microplay reviewing Colin's newest game and saying why it's such a success. Later, Stefan meets with his therapist Dr. Haynes at Saint Juniper's and talks about meeting Colin, and says that it was too good to be true. He explains that he decided to work on his own, and doesn't know where the urge to say it came from. Haynes tells him that he's gaining confidence and it's a good sign, and congratulates him on doing the game. He doesn't see why he has to come to the sessions, and Haynes figures that it must be a difficult time of the year for him and asks if he wants to talk about his mother. Stefan says that he keeps remembering the morning and how he couldn’t find his stuffed rabbit when his mother was taking him to see his grandparents. He blames himself for having to catch a late train. Haynes points out that he was 5 when it happened and he couldn't have known that later the train would derail. Stefan says that he hates Peter for it and Haynes tells him that the past is immutable and they have to learn to accept it.
Afterward, Stefan goes to a WH Smith store, pulls out two records from a list, and chooses one. As he leaves, Stefan sees a book, The Lives of Jerome Davies and buys a copy. On the bus, Stefan reads the book and finds a chapter about how Davies believed in mind control conspiracies along with photos of his decapitated wife.
At home, Stefan puts the album on and goes to work on Bandersnatch. He continues working and reading the book through the months to come, trying to work out all of the pathways. One day Peter brings him some tea and invites him to come to the pub with him for lunch. Stefan insists that he's okay, and Peter asks if everything is all right. He points out that Stefan has been stuck in his room for weeks, and finally snaps at Stefan to talk to him. When the computer glitches, Stefan dumps the tea on his keyboard and walks away.
The computer glitches, and Stefan yells at Peter to fuck off. He gets hold of himself and apologizes, and Peter tells him that they're going for lunch. As they drive, Stefan dozes off in the car. Peter drives to Saint Juniper and wakes up Stefan, saying that they're there. Stefan realizes where they are, and Peter says that Stefan needs to talk to Haynes about his concerns. They go in and Stefan tells Haynes that his head is all over the place and he thinks that he's not in control of any decisions and someone else is guiding him. Haynes says that the fact that he's aware of his mental state is reassuring, but they need to deal with his problems before he gives in to delusions. Stefan starts to bite his thumb then angrily pushes his hand down on the table and holds it down, and Haynes ups his dosage. She assures him that it's not a setback and they're in it together, and tells him to call her if anything happens.
When Stefan leaves, Peter is waiting in the hall and asks how it was. Stefan says that it was fine, and they drive home. Stefan goes into the bathroom and takes his pills.
Four Months Later
It's Christmas, and Stefan sees his game in the stores. Back at home, Stefan watches Robin review it on Microplay. The reviewer says that it's like the designer gave up halfway through and only gives it two and a half stars out of five. Stefan figures that he should try again.
When Stefan leaves, Peter is waiting in the hall and asks how it was. Stefan says that it was fine, and they drive home. Stefan goes into the bathroom and flushes his pills down the toilet.
Three Weeks Later
Stefan continues working on his game.
12th of September: Delivery Day
Stefan shows Mohan and Colin his game, and it glitches. Mohan suggests that they take out whatever it is that Stefan added, but Stefan insists that it's important and asks for just the weekend. Mohan reluctantly agrees and tells him not to fuck up. Once he leaves, Colin gives Stefan a VHS tape that he made from the television about Davies so he can watch it for inspiration.
At home, Stefan takes a VCR up to his room and plays the tape while he works. The narrator talks about how Davies was self-administering hallucinogens near the end of his life. That and his attempts to complete his Bandersnatch game apparently led to Davies becoming obsessed with the limitations of his own free will. He wrote down a glyph representing multiple choices as reality split in two with each choice. Davies became convinced he had no control over his own fate and his wife was spiking him with hallucinogenic drugs on behalf of a demon, Pax. Stefan realizes that Pax is the demon in the game he's working on. Meanwhile, it's revealed that Davies decapitated his wife and told the police that free will is an illusion because everything that could happen, did happen in some other reality. Stumped, Stefan smashes his keyboard, and Peter comes in and holds him.
At home, Stefan takes a VCR up to his room and plays the tape while he works. Stumped, Stefan works through the problem and works out the pathway. He turns off the TV and looks at a photo of his family when he was 5, before his mother died. Stefan lies on the bed holding the photo, and wakes up later and goes to the bedroom and puts his hands into the mirror. He then enters the mirror and emerges on the other side as his 5-year-old self in the past. Stefan goes to "his" room and puts the stuffed rabbit under the bed where his past self can find it and then lies on the bed. In the hallway, his parents argue about him carrying a stuffed rabbit and Peter finally takes the rabbit away.
Stefan wakes up and goes back to coding Bandersnatch. The game glitches with the same error message as when Stefan poured tea on the computer before, and Stefan grabs the mug of tea but then sets it down. He wonders who is doing it to him, insisting that there's someone there, and a message--"I am watching you on Netflix. I make decisions for you."--appears on Stefan's computer. Stefan wonders what "Netflix" is, and a new message comes through saying "It is a streaming entertainment platform from the early 21st century." Stefan asks if it can make any sense, and the person sending the message says that it's online TV and they control it. Peter comes in and wonders who Stefan is talking to, and Stefan says that he's being controlled by someone from the future. The message has disappeared, and Stefan asks Peter to ring Haynes.
At Saint Juniper, Stefan tells Haynes what happened. He insists that it's not a delusion, and she wonders why Stefan isn't in a more entertaining scenario. Haynes points out that he's in an ordinary room in an ordinary part of the room talking to an ordinary woman. She suggests that there should be a little more action, and Stefan throws her tea into her face and she draws a pair of batons and tells Stefan to come at her. Stefan refuses, running to the window... and a director yells "cut". Pippa, the first AD, asks Stefan if he's okay while a PA brings "Haynes" some water. Stefan says that he was trying to open the window to jump out, and Pippa tells him that according to the script he doesn't jump out because it's the fight scene. She calls Stefan "Mike", and when he tells her that his name is Stefan, calls for a medic.
Everything repeats itself to the point where Peter takes Stefan to Saint Juniper. Stefan sees Colin down the street, walks away, and approaches Colin. He admits that Bandersnatch isn't going well, and Colin figures that he's fighting his own head. Colin invites Stefan to come with him to his flat, introduces his wife Kitty, and takes his baby daughter Pearl from her. He says that he's going to get Stefan out of his hole and takes him into another room, and gives Stefan a puff of his cigarette, and then a tab of acid. Colin explains that it will help him understand, and says that it's Stefan's choice. Stefan takes it and Colin takes one as well and puts on a record. As Stefan trips on the drug, Colin explains that there are multiple realities and what they do on one path affects what happens on the others. He insists that people can go back in time and change things via mirrors, and PAC stands for "Program and Control" and the government pay people to pretend to be relatives and drug their subjects' food. Colin explains that Pac-Man is about how people are trapped in the maze of reality, and that the world is made of code and one can hear it if they listen carefully enough.
Colin tells Stefan that he's given him the knowledge and set him free, and tells him to come with him. He then opens the window and goes out on the balcony, and Stefan follows him. Colin says that they're one path, and how it ends is immaterial and how their decisions affect the whole. He tells Stefan that one of them is going to jump, but it doesn't matter because there are multiple paths and things will reset and they'll live to try again. Colin asks Stefan which one of them is jumping, and Stefan says that he'll do it. Laughing, Stefan climbs up on the balcony and falls.
Four Months Later
Robin reviews Bandersnatch on Microplay and talks about how Stefan died in a tragic accident. He says that the game is unsettling and weird, like someone else finished it off after Stefan died.
On the balcony, Colin tells Stefan that one of them is going to jump, but it doesn't matter because there are multiple paths and things will reset and they'll live to try again. Colin asks Stefan which one of them is jumping, and Stefan tells Colin to do it. Smiling, Colin says that he'll see Stefan around and falls. Stefan goes back inside and Kitty asks him where Colin is. She looks down and screams, and Stefan sees the demon Pax charge at him.
Peter drives to Saint Juniper and wakes up Stefan, saying that they're there. Stefan realizes where they are and mumbles about how he didn't stop Colin from jumping, and Peter says that Stefan needs to talk to Haynes about his concerns. They go in and Stefan tells Haynes that someone is making all of his decisions and they've talked about it before, and tells her to write his prescription. At home, Stefan takes his pills.
At Tuckersoft, Mohan tells Stefan that everyone wants Colin's game, and Colin has gone AWOL. Stefan shows Mohan his game and it glitches. Mohan reluctantly gives him the weekend to fix it and tells him not to fuck up. Once Mohan leaves, Satpal gives Stefan a VHS tape that he says Colin asked him to give to him so that Stefan can watch it for inspiration.
At home, Stefan takes a VCR up to his room and plays the tape while he works. The narrator talks about how Davies became convinced he had no control over his own fate so murder is as good a choice as any. Stefan turns off the TV and looks around his bedroom. He goes to sleep and the next morning, goes back to work on Bandersnatch. Davies comes in and stabs Stefan in the stomach... and Stefan wakes up from his nightmare. Stefan wonders who is doing it to him and demands to know who is controlling him. A flowchart-like symbol appears on Stefan's computer. As the symbol disappears, Peter comes in and admits that Stefan is worrying him. Stefan says that he isn't in control and runs out, ranting that he's being controlled. Peter goes after him and tells him to calm down, and Stefan grabs his father's ashtray, tells Peter that he's not in control, and beats in his skull. Stefan wonders what he should do, and after a moment says, "Okay".
The phone rings and Stefan answers it. It's Mohan, who asks how it's going. He tells him that Colin is still AWOL so he needs Stefan to deliver the game by the end of the day. Mohan asks if it will be ready by the end of the day, and Stefan tells him that it will. After Mohan hangs up, Kitty arrives and asks where Colin is. Satpal says that he last saw him when he gave him the tape to give to Stefan, and Kitty asks who Stefan is.
Stefan buries Peter's body in the backyard, and the phone rings. Kitty knocks on the door, and Stefan grabs a knife and goes to the door. The woman asks if he's Stefan, and he says that they've met before. Kitty doesn't know him, and asks where Colin is. She points out that Satpal said that Stefan saw Colin last, but Stefan insists that he doesn't know about anything and abruptly slams the door in her face. He finishes burying Peter and goes back to work on Bandersnatch, and hears the next-door neighbor's dog barking. Stefan looks out and sees the dog digging up Peter's body.
Six months later on Microplay, the host Crispin talks about how Tuckersoft went into liquidation after Stefan had a psychological breakdown and murdered Peter. In interviews, Mohan insists that Stefan insisted on working alone and he had no idea that he was mentally disturbed. Colin is still missing, having vanished without a trace slightly before the killing. At the trial, Stefan says that he saw Colin committing suicide in a vision. Stefan sits in his cell and watches the show, then goes back to scratching the flowchart symbol in his cell walls.
Stefan wonders what he should do, and after a moment says, "Okay".
When Stefan goes to Tuckersoft, Mohan introduces him to Colin, who recognizes Stefan and says that they're meeting again just like he said. Eventually, Stefan kills Peter and wonders what he should do, and then winces when he "hears" a response. He calls Saint Juniper and asks if Haynes is there, and makes an appointment for the next day.
Mohan tries to call Stefan and gets a busy signal. Colin is in Mohan's office and suggests that Stefan took the phone off the hook. He tells Mohan that Stefan is in the zone, and Mohan figures that he'll give Stefan another 24 hours.
Stefan works on Bandersnatch and the next day, meets with Haynes. He claims that Peter is visiting his sister in France.
Earlier, Stefan cries as he cuts up Peter's body.
Stefan tells Haynes that it's been good not having Peter around, and he's had a breakthrough with the game. He tells Haynes that he stripped the choices out of Bandersnatch and now the player only has the illusion of free will, and he decides the end. Haynes asks if it's a happy ending, and Stefan says that he thinks so.
At home, Stefan finishes the game while Peter's head sits nearby on a dresser.
In 29018, a reporter reviews the episode of Microplay where Robin gives Bandersnatch a 5 out of 5. Shortly after that, it was discovered that Stefan murdered Peter and Bandersnatch was pulled from the shelves. Now Colin's daughter Pearl is rebooting the game for a new generation. She found the game and realized that it was groundbreaking, and is developing it for streaming TV, possibly Netflix.
Pearl reaches an empty pathway and watches a video of Stefan waking up on 9th July 1984. The computer glitches and frustrated, Pearl pours her tea on the keyboard.
Stefan removes Peter's office keys from his father's sleeping pants pocket. He goes into the office and enters the password "TOY" into the safe. Inside is the young Stefan's stuffed rabbit, and Stefan takes it out. A young Peter comes in and sees a young Stefan holding the rabbit. Young Stefan hugs the rabbit, and Peter tells him to take the rabbit back where it belongs. The boy puts the rabbit under the bed, and Stefan watches his younger self do it and then go back to sleep. The next morning, Young Stefan finds it and goes with his mother, but they end up taking the next train. After a moment, Young Stefan agrees to go with her, waving to Peter as they go.
In Haynes' office, Stefan dies of no apparent cause while talking with her. Peter arrives and breaks into tears.
Stefan goes into the office and enters the password "PAC" into the safe. Inside are files revealing that Peter is conducting a Program and Control Study on Stefan. There are reports and surveillance photos of Stefan's entire life, and vials of the drugs that Peter has been administering Stefan throughout the years, and how Peter took away young Stefan's stuffed rabbit and drugged him and then forced him to relive the events leading up to his "mother"'s death. Peter enters the office and tells Stefan that he wasn't supposed to know, and Stefan beats him to death with an ashtray.
Stefan wakes up and wonders who is doing it to him, insisting that there's someone there, and a message with the title PACS appears on Stefan's computer. Peter comes in and wonders what's wrong, and Stefan goes to the kitchen. His father follows him, and Stefan accuses him of controlling him and that he knows about PACS. Peter denies it and says that they need to go to Haynes, and Stefan beats him to death with an ashtray. He realizes that the code number is 20541 based on what Haynes has said to him in their sessions, and dials it on the phone. The number isn't recognized, and Stefan buries Peter's body in the backyard and goes back to work on Bandersnatch. Hehears the next-door neighbor's dog barking. Stefan looks out and sees the dog digging up Peter's body.Robin reviews Bandersnatch on Microplay and says that Stefan had a breakdown and killed Peter, but Tuckersoft released the unfinished game anyway. As Robin gives the game two and a half stars, Stefan sits in his cell and watches the show, then goes back to scratching the flowchart symbol in his cell walls.
Peter has Stefan choose what cereal he wants for breakfast.
On the bus to Tuckersoft, Stefan takes a seat, puts on his headphones, and chooses to listen to a demo of the Bandersnatch music.
Writer's note: The recap attempts to encapsulate all of the significant variations given for the interactive story of the episode, in a way that is somewhat understandable. Given all of the permutations and the somewhat non-linear nature of the episode, the preceding may have been difficult to read. If it's any comfort, in another reality you didn't read this recap and you're no doubt far less confused.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 1, 2019