The Stepford Wives (2004): A Plot Overview
The Stepford Wives is part black comedy, part science fiction - or should that be science fact? It is vaguely a remake of a 1975 film of the same name, which was itself a novel adaptation. However the 2004 film goes into significantly darker, and disturbingly realistic detail. Realistic because it actually details a line of scientific research to create the 'perfect' women, that our world started actively pursuing at the end of 2009.
This article comprises an illustrated plot summary for the film, which deviates from the original book in substantial ways, and in doing so, comes uncomfortably close to describing many technologies and social trends currently being pursued - illustrating them in their most dystopian potentials.
The story opens at the podium of a packed EBS television network event The lady speaking is there to introduce incredibly successful television executive Joanna Eberhart, who has kept the network at the top of the national ratings for five years straight.Joanna comes out to rapt applause, and is clearly overjoyed to be on the podium in front of her colleagues, affiliates, and sponsors. She goes on to introduce a new battle of the sexes reality TV show she has crafted, again to impressed applause. Happily married couples are flown out to a tropical island filled with professional escorts. It guarantees hight ratings, but it also guarantees heartbreak.
Unfortunately, at the end of the snippet showing how the first happily married couple were ripped apart, a voice calls out "Why?" Its the husband from that show. He stayed faithful to his wife of seven years. She, did not, and the show led to a messy divorce. His life is ruined, and he is mad as hell. Security try to restrain him, but don't succeed. He tells her he has an idea for a hot new show. "Let's kill all the women" he says as he produces a fully loaded semi-automatic pistol, and empties it in her direction.
He misses her, more through luck than judgement, but tears the podium apart. Security finally remove him from the building.
The next day, jubilant at surviving unharmed, Joanne is back to work, her boss calls her to see her, as there is some trouble. Before his stunt at the stage, the husband apparently visited his ex-wife and five new boyfriends. He shot all of them.
Joanne is fired, the lawsuits from this lot will sink the network unless they get rid of her. She is wished all the best, but she has to go.
She has a complete nervous breakdown after this event: From the top of the top to the bottom of the pile in a day. Her husband Walter, vice president of the network, quits his position in outrage, and after speaking with her doctors, arranges for a new start at life for both them and their kids, somewhere far from the city. Somewhere where their lives can restart, and they can get to grips with one another as people again. The town they choose? Stepford, in Connecticut. A quiet small town, that's a gated community. Only known residents in or out. Period mansions nestled around a small collection of civic amenities in a beautiful valley.
They are greeted at the driveway to their new luxurious home by Claire Wellington, wife of Mike Wellington, the head of the community. She welcomes them to their new home, and the community of Stepford, ushering them in to show them all the features of their new abode.
It's a smart-house, with every possible convenience and labour saving device. It is fully robotic, which can be taken with dry humour considering what comes later, and is controlled by a central brain in the kitchen. Touch-screen controls in discrete, out of the way, but easily accessible places, control various aspects of whichever room you are in. The one Claire uses, is on the side of the larder, framed in faux wood panelling.
As this is the nerve centre of the house, security is also controlled from here, and it is assumed in typical Stepford fashion, that the woman is the one who needs to be most familiar with how the systems work.Other parts of it speak up - literally- as she taps controls. The various appliances all talk to one another, and the fridge calls out "We need juice" in a soft male baritone as it is turned on. Claire goes on to say "The [kitchen] system also monitors all the commodes; where it will test your urine for blood sugar, protein, and body fat." These records are processed by the house, to determine what, if anything, is wrong with a given individual's diet, offering advice to correct dietary inefficiencies when asked.
Claire asks Walter if he will be commuting from Stepford, and Walter replies no, and moves to Joanna's side to grasp her hand, as her mind is still not recovered from her break. He reaffirms that both of them have now left the network. At that moment, a faintly mechanical bark is heard from the top of the stairs. A robot terrier is there, looking quite happy.
Claire calls to 'Robo Rover 3000', as she calls him, and the puppy, wagging its tail, immediately runs forwards. Sadly of course, it is at the top of the stairs when it does this, and does not correct for the stairs. Instead of walking down them, it steps off into space then topples forwards parabolically. Luckily its fall is broken by the poor dog's head, which connects with one of the top steps, before flipping over onto its back, where the rear of the dog connects with another step, followed by head again. All this time, the little legs are running frantically. Finally arriving on the floor at the foot of the steps, the little dog lays on it's side, unable to get up, legs and tail still moving, trying to stand. Claire lets out a laugh and tells the others how cute this is, as the dog gives up and barks for help.
That night, Joanne sleeps in a luxurious bed, and her husband, Walter, sits nervously on one of the chairs watching her. The bed was designed for them both, but he cannot sleep. He is watching over his wife with all the love and concern in the world.
Come the next morning it is a glorious day, and Joanna is up and around. Slightly unnerving; she is the first one up and yet the table in the kitchen is full of fruit, and there are flowers all around. Before she can explore too much, a car horn goes off outside, and Claire's voice calls out "Joanna?"
She goes with the flow, not knowing how Claire even knew she was up, it must be coincidence. Claire takes her for a whirlwind tour of the 200 year old town, giving her all the sights and features. Apparently Stepford has had no crime in 200 years, no poverty, and no 'pushing'. Joanne looks at one strange building, that's a little different from the rest. Made of stone and a slightly gothic architecture, as opposed to the wood frames of all the other buildings.
Claire says that that is the Stepford Men's association, a place where all the guys meet, out of the women's hair. Women on the other hand, go to the 'Simply Stepford Day Spa'.As with everything else in Stepford, the spa is a massive place; a building unto itself, in its own grounds, lavishly overdone with awnings and too-perfect flowerbeds.
Stepping inside, the women in the spa are not creepy, not at all. All huddled together in one small corner of one of the ball room sized exercise rooms, all in bright floral dresses and pumps, along with expertly styled hair and a lot of make-up. All ready for morning exercise. Claire greets them,. and they turn round, every single one an extremely beautiful woman, and all speaking in unison not just to reply with greeting, but to each of a flurry of statements Claire makes.
None of them move from the tight huddle until Claire calls for 'places and poles please'. Then each sashays demurely into position, almost as if it was pre-set. Each carries a transparent pole with floor stand, about four feet in height, with them.
Claire says that the reason for this is that this is a special exercise program - after Joanne gives her an incredulous look - which she invented, called 'clairobics', based on simple, common household chores. One of the apparently not very bright ladies chirps up "Because her name is Claire!" The not-very-bright smiles like she's made aa joke, whilst its clear Joanne is trying to work out how this airhead remembers how to breathe.
The madness begins with 'sooth and scrub', or as Claire puts it. "Let's all be washing machines. Chugga chugga, chugga chug!" With this and some bizarre hand motions, the exercise begins. Much wiggling, and swirling of hands to bodily represent a washing machine is done by the whole group - except Joanna, who is starting to feel sane again - but the only sane person in the area.
Elsewhere, Walter is driving through the Stepford Golf Course, and noticing to his surprise that all the men present are with their wives - using their wives as caddies. Each woman is immaculately dressed in her Sunday best, including pumps, dresses and careful make-up to carry a golf bag around. Every single one of them is also slim, and extremely beautiful in a classical sense.
He drives on and arrives at the Men's Association, the only place in town with no women. There he finds a fleet of different luxury cars and bikes, all pure opulence. There is even a bright red ferrari, just casually parked. It is not even the closest to the building. Not by a long shot. He nervously approaches, feeling a little over-awed, but a number of arms extrude from the doorway, and welcome him in.
Days pass, and the family seem to be settling in. Then the first holiday rolls around. Being America, it's the fourth of July, and in Stepford this means a big celebration, involving the whole town.
Joanna asks her kids and husbands to enjoy for 10 minutes, then we're going. As the kids dash off, Walter asks her to relax. Joanna replies that he doesn't understand. The local women, they're all 'like deranged flight attendants'. They'll swarm all over her. No sooner has she said that, then one of the locals sees her and calls out. Four of them descend, hand in hand, muttering Joanna's name like in a daze, to give greetings to the new woman. All four see Walter next to Joanna and flirt with him right in front of her. One even professing her love for him.
Just as it is getting too much for either of them to bear, a female voice calls out "Excuse me!". Unlike the others this isn't trying to be coy, or seductive. The owner of that voice sounds about ready to hit someone. Pushing her way through 'deranged flight attendants', repeating 'excuse me' over and over like a mantra, as she physically moves other women aside, is the diminutive figure of Bobbie Markowitz, writer and recovering alcoholic. She's dressed like a hippie, and really doesn't care. This makes her a breath of fresh air in the cloying town.
She barges into the group around Joanna, likely because it is the largest one around, and asks if she is the only one who finds things a little weird and insulting. They are celebrating the declaration of independence of America, and there are no African-Americans, Indian-Americans or Asian-Americans. Everyone present is very Caucasian, and no-one else seems to find this suspicious. Then, mid tirade, she sees and recognises Joanna. Pushing more of the local women out of the way, she goes to shake her hand.
Joanna recognises her too, and says as much, talking about her last book, the one about Bobbie's mother. Entitled "I love you, but Please, Die!" it sums up the feelings of so many. Just then the extravagant man that is Bobbie's husband turns up, in an outfit thati s carefully co-ordinated to ensure nothing matches, and waggles his belly button at everyone. They move on to the food stalls where two men are making a scene. Well, one is making a scene, one is embarrassingly trying to shush him and apologise. They are the only gays in the village, also recent arrivals Roger Bannister and Jerry Bannister. Roger and Joanne hit it off quite quickly, with Bobbie not far behind.
Claire, using a megaphone interrupts the greeting to invite everyone into the barn for some square dancing. The long-time locals are all keen, but the threesome just stare incredulously as everyone piles in. Still, eventually they go in anyway. Soon into a dance one of the exuberant women gets too carried away and appears to get stuck in a loop. As the music dies down, and many of the men become increasingly annoyed, she spins like a top, hands aloft, yelling "yippee-kiyay." Over and over and over. Repeating the same action time and time again as several of the guys try to bustle her out the door. They fail, and, still pirouetting. she spins faster and faster, then stops. She lowers her hands, smiles, and falls over backwards onto the floor with a solid thud. Laying on the floor, one arm over her neck, her face continually twitches, repeating "do-si-do, do-si-do" over and over again.
Mike arrives - Claire's husband. All the local women literally melt to the sides to allow him through. The local men all defer to him, and pull Joanne and Bobbie back. They close ranks keeping the two women out, standing several rows deep so they can't see what;ss happening. Joanne bends over and peers through the men's legs in time to see Mike reach down and grab the prone woman's head, jerking it once, unnaturally. The woman immediately stops moving and lays still. Mike proclaims that he needs a couple of the lads to help get her into his hummer, and she'll be fine. Our two heroines are not allowed a good look at her as the still-as-death woman is carried out.
The woman recovers somewhat by the time she gets to the door, and tries to re-enter the hall. It takes seven men acting carefully to usher her out - they don't seem to be able to overpower her.
That evening Walter and Joanne fight over Joanne's suspicions. Walter says that he can't do this any more. He can't keep apologising to people for her suspicious nature. The marriage is falling apart, her kids barely even know her, moving to Stepford was supposed to be a new start. She's driving people away even here with this attitude. the fight degenerates, and thankfully they wind up talking, working their feelings out and how much they have always loved one another.
The next morning after Walter has left for the men's club, Bobbie and Roger drop by to see Joanne, who is trying to change her ways, to be the stay at home mum her family needs. They get to talking about that woman yesterday and how her ears were sparking. Joanne hits on the idea of going to see her, to see if she is ok, as iuts the sort of thing none of them would have done in Manhattan. The 'let's be neighbourly' thing. So, all three of them trapse over and peer through her patio doors.
Roger 'accidentally' discovers an unlocked door, and being neighbourly, opens it and wanders inside. After voicing their disapproval, both Bobbie and Joanne follow him in. They soon find her, as the sound of her screaming in ecstasy, along with the grunts of what sound like her husband, carry down the stairs. Roger finds a strange object on the floor, whilst the three of them are hiding in an anteroom, laughing. The woman -Sarah - is sent down by her husband, to fetch some Nachos. She dutifully does as commanded, so she is in sight of the three - although she does not see them - when Roger finds the device.
Being the sort of rogue he is, Roger cannot resist playing with it to see what it controls. Joanna and Bobbie both argue with him, to put it down, but Roger hits one of the buttons anyway. Immediately, on the stairs heading down, Sarah freezes in mid-step and stands as still as a statue. He presses another one, and the still-unnoticed Sarah's breasts inflate somewhat. More button presses and she reverses direction, literally walking backwards up the stairs. She falls on her rear with a loud bump, that finally motivates the bickering trio to move. They leave the house having not seen any of Sarah's actions.
They all pile into Bobbie's house, laughing. Bobbie goes straight to the fridge for some food. Joanne and Roger both get their first look at the inside of the writer's house. To call it a mess would be a severe understatement. The main room looksl ike a bomb went off in it, and that's how it normally is.
Suddenly Bobbie's husband's frustrations seem quite a bit more justifiable. Whilst any writer's house is going to be a bit cluttered, raising children and living in this mess seems well, a bit beyond a joke. Bobbie is unfazed by the chaos however, and seems to know where everything is. She likes it this way. Roger even asks her half-seriously if she is making anthrax here. He goes on to ask "Can't you hire someone to clean?... Someone brave?"
In the middle of the chaos, and the jokes, and Bobbie stuffing her face, they talk some more, and it seems they are all undergoing therapy. Roger and his partner moved to Stepford to get a new perspective - Jerry's idea. Joanne talks about this being the option of last resort, and Bobbie, well apparently for Bobbie it was a court order. In all three cases, their spouses were the ones to choose Stepford. Joanne suggests that they actually give the whole Stepford thing a try.
The scene switches to the men's club, where Walter and a group of other men are cheering over a game. Robot wars to be exact, with two robots, radio-controlled, duking it out in the middle of the carpet. Walter controlling one of them. Three big screen TVs showing sports games, are completely ignored whilst the match goes on. Walter is getting a real kick out of controlling the robot: It is writ large all over his face.
After the battle, Walter winning $20 along with it, they settle down on chairs stools and counters to talk to him. Mike asks him how he is settling into Stepford, and Walter cannot stop talking about how all the wives are wow.
Back with the trio, they are attending a meeting of the Stepford book club, which apparently has a membership of all the wives -and Roger. There, the usual Stepford insanity rules, with Claire, the leader of the group (again) sharing the Stepford book of the year - a tome about knitting with yarn. The next few minutes is spent with the various local ladies talking about the virtues of pine cones as decorative centrepieces to the coos and ahhs of one another. Well, except for three individuals, who seem ready to vomit. Bobbie's sassy sense of humour comes out full force after the ladies have subtly insulted her Jewish heritage for the third time. Her contribution is how to attach a pine cone to a vibrator.Claire is visible not amused.
A few days later at a rehearsal for Christmas, lead by Claire, a a festive sing-along is getting ready to perform front of the husbands, later in the year. Roger and Joanne are enjoying themselves. Bobbie, not so much. Claire's given her the position of 'token reindeer' and she gets to sit off to one side, wearing fluffy horns and ornaments. The feud between the two of them is clearly still ongoing.
Back at the men's club, in the smoke rich atmosphere of one of the leather-bound relaxation rooms and nestled in strong, richly upholstered chairs, smoking cigars, Mike and a few of the others quiz Walter on how Joanna is fitting in. He talks about the big talk they had, and how they got everything out in the open. He says that from now on he thinks she is going to be very, very different. Several of the other men in the room chuckle to themselves at some internal joke when he says this.
Mike asks if he thinks that Joanna is really going to change herself. He replies that he does. Bobbie's husband perks up with a snide "And how long have you been married?" to this, which the room erupts in laughter in response to. Walter chooses this moment to remind one of the others, Ted, that he owes Walter $20, and Ted acknowledges. He then utters one word, loudly: 'Babe'. In response, striding into the room like on a military parade, comes his wife, taking calm, measured steps, yet moving swiftly; her face absolutely expressionless. She stands next to him in front of Walter, smiling. To her Ted says "give me twenty, you know my pin." He hands her his credit card. She takes it, inserts it into her mouth, where it is drawn in mechanically, back out again, and then she stands motionlessly for a few seconds, then jerking her head forwards as something rises up her throat, she disgorges a handful of notes from her mouth.
Needless to say, Walter is now clued in that there is something not altogether natural about the woman.
Walter seems at ease with it and cracks a joke, as the other men in the room, who were tensing, as to what to do with him when he realised, relax. Ted takes out a remote, smiling. The remote looking identical to the one Roger found, and pointing it at his wife, turns her off. Her head lowers and her face assumes a bland expression as her eyes close, and she just stands there, still and silent.
The next day, Joanna is going overboard on making cupcakes for her daughter's day camp. She has gone somewhat overboard, but she is no robot. Instead, she is trying her best to make her kids proud of her - the opposite of never seeing them as a career woman. Walter is there, and musing to himself, he keeps looking at her, then away again. His son is playing with the robot dog, and quipps up to his father.
"Aren't robots cool?"
Walter smirks, nods, and replies "Oh, yeah."
Bobbie stops over with her kids and husband in tow. Apparently there is a big meeting at the Men's Association and Walter needs to be there. Bobbie is effectively dropped off, and the two guys speed on out of there. Bobbie watches them go, then yells out to call a babysitter. The two women have things to do. Namnely, spying on the Men's Association.
Roger's there, with his partner Jerry. Roger is not behaving himself, as usual, and he seems to be the object of the meeting. Everyone makes him feel welcome, and the atmosphere is very relaxed. At least until they hear a crash upstairs. Bobbie has just fallen in through a first floor window. Trying to keep quiet, the two women look around. Well, Joanne tries to get Bobbie to leave, and Bobbie looks around. She finds a light switch and turns it on. Immediately both of them find themselves surrounded by framed paintings of all the families in Stepford. To a one, they are all of dazzlingly beautiful women next to nerdish husbands.
A man with a flashlight comes up the stairs,; they turn the light off and hide, but its Roger, playing tricks on them. He gets them out safely, before the rest of the guys arrive. At this point Roger himself is curious about all these rooms; he's over a part of the building there did not seem to be a downstairs for. Mike tells him to check out the door on the left, and he goes through, onto a strange balcony. He looks down onto a ground floor room he has never seen before, as the floor opens and something rises up on a pillar from beneath. He looks back to his partner Jerry, shocked and a little afraid.
Two days later, Bobbie and Joanne are at Roger and Jerry's place. Since the Men's association meeting, they have not seen or heard from Roger, and he is not answering the phone. Once there, Joanna sees a familiar looking sleeve stickingo ut of a dustbin, and pulls it out. It's Roger's favourite shirt, and there are a lot more like it still in there.In fact, everything Roger loved, is in the trash.
A few days later still, at a town event, the girls see Roger. He has completely changed. He is wearing a suit and a tie, nicely combed hair, dignified glasses, and is sitting with other men similarly dressed. He has essentially gone from a wild heart, to a fully paid up conservative in a matter of days. Even his body language is completely changed - all the little gay mannerisms are completely stripped out. He is Stepford's new candidate for state senator - that is what the meeting is all about. Stepford is putting forward a stiff republican traditionalist with a strong belief in the church for their senate applicant, and it is Roger.
Terrified by the sudden complete 180 in Roger's whole personality, and by his new mantra "You can't stop Stepford", plus the fact that he seems to have completely forgotten his friendship with the two women as part of his new way of life, Joanne decides it is time to leave. She gets home and begins hurriedly packing. Walter, finding the whole thing funny, tries to talk her out of it. Joanne admits to him that Bobbie was right, and she's leaving too. She says she is plucking up the kids from camp and leaving. With or without him. She pulls the front door, and it won't budge. So she goes to the control panel, and finds she is locked in. Walter stands there and says "You will never change will you?" He pauses and then continues. "If you are tht unhappy, you are right, we should leave. We'll gather our things and leave..tomorrow."
Mollified, Joanne agrees. She puts off leaving until tomorrow. That night, the Robo dog wakes her up, whining. He has something in his mouth. Kind of shiny, gold plated, and is trying to give it to her.Sleepily, she takes it from the dog. It's a remote, exactly the same as Sarah's. Only difference is this one has her name on it. Joanne, written in the same stylish script. No longer sleepy, she heads downstairs, and utilising the house internet connection, begins doing some serious research. It seems that every single one of the ladies in Stepford, was once a hot-shot businesswoman, or scientist or politician. All at the top of their field. Then they move to Stepford, and months later they drop completely out of sight, happy to just be housewives. Even the dogs, it seems, are brought into creation shortly after champion pooches of the same type, go missing.
First thing that morning, soon as its light out, Joanne is off. She has to warn Bobbie. Calling out her friend's name, Joanne gets to her house, and lets herself in then stops. The place is clean. A well maintained and spotless household. Considering what it was like before, this puts Joanne more on edge than a brutal murder scene would have. Then, she sees her. Walking up the hall, wearing a blue sun dress with her now-blonde hair expertly permed, is Bobbie, or what is left of Bobbie. She greets her with the same dreamy, unfocussed voice all the other ladies have, and smiles too perfectly.
Bobbie's kids come downstairs, to pick up their school lunches. Each having emailed their selection the night before, and find it all perfectly prepared to their individual tastes. One off the three boys doesn't have quite what he wanted because the household didn't have it in stock, so Bobbie blithely hands over $500 in compensation to sooth the young boy. As they run off, she says to herself that they grow up too fast. She'd better have two more.
Joanna tries to talk some sense into her friend, but Bobbie's not listening, until Joanne references herself. Then, its like a key phrase has been uttered. Bobbie pays attention to her, and advances slowly towards her, all smiles, saying that she understands, she is better now, happy now. Joanna can be this way too. Bobbie is going to help her see that. Joanne backs away, and as she moves closer, Bobbie puts her hand out to the side casually. She probably meant to rest it on the counter. Instead her hand falls into the flames under a boiling saucepan. Bobbie doesn't even notice. Joanne does, very much so. Her eyes go wide in horror, as Bobbie's new perfect skin doesn't even blister under the withering power of gas flame.
Joanna flees the house, thinking only of getting her children and getting out. Unfortunately the children aren't at the day camp. Walter's already picked them up, and Walter's disappeared. The house is dark when she gets there, and she is the only one home. So, she drives to the Men's association. It seems the car of every man in town is there, including Walter. Distraught and angry, she parks her car in the flowerbeds, storming in. Inside, she finds a painting propped up on a stand at the end of the deserted lobby, waiting for her. Its a portrait of her family. There's her husband Walter. Her daughter is there as is her son. In the place of her is a woman she doesn't know. A slim, curvaceous blonde bombshell with her face, and a smile on her lips, wearing a white sun dress and draped over her husband.
She moves further in, through a folded up section of wall that wasn't a doorway when Roger was here. Into a strange octagonal room with a balcony running round the upper floor. As she steps into the middle, Mike steps through a door on the upper floor, from a room clearly adorned with many family portraits, and leans on the balcony, looking down. He welcomes her, as she turns towards him, the only man she's seen since entering the building.
Slowly the other men file through doorways both above Hoanne and those on the same level as her, blocking them off. Taking stock of the situation, she asks for her children. Mike says that they are safe. Joanna demands again to see her kids, and Mike calmly replies that she will see them soon. Joanne demands to see Walter and he appears, stepping out of one of the ground floor rooms and walking towards her. In tears she asks how he could do this. His reply that ever since they'd met, she's beaten him at everything. Better educated, smarter, faster, earns far more, better at everything she sets her mind to, even better at sex. What does he get? He gets to hold her purse. It stops now, it finally stops. From now on he'll be the better one.
Joanna asks how he can live with himself, killing her, killing all these women. Mike, now descending the stairs says that none of the women are killed, they are almost fully intact. Joanna snaps back that being replaced with a robot is not intact. Mike calmly says that the women are not replaced, only perfected. He then points a remote at a large painting on one wall, and the painting shimmerso ut to be replaced with a monitor display. He says its a promotional thing for when Stepford goes global.
This short animation explains how an unhappy marriage is 'solved' by the woman being put into a transformational bliss machine, that implants microchips into her brain to control and modulate her thoughts and sensory levels. Her body is then resculpted, robotic parts grafted into her body, and less efficient organic parts removed. Some parts like most of her brain, and reproductive organs are kept, circulatory system, various organs. The arms and legs are replaced with prosthetic variants, so is the skin itself. Perfect and blemish free. Once reprogrammed to serve her husband in every way he so desires, the new cyborg woman is released from the transformation machine, to greet her husband. As the film ends, the centre of the floor opens, and the real transformation machine rises. Atop what with Roger we took to be a pillar, but is in fact a marble altar, is a perfect skin that Joanna will soon be wearing. The flawless baseline for her new appearance. As Joanna, horrified, looks close, the skin opens its eyes, to reveal hollow nothingness inside.
Every one of the men gathered there admits openly to working for one technology giant or another. They have all collaborated to produce the ultimate obedient servant. A half robotic woman, fully under their control. Helpless, all resort gone, Joanne stands with Walter next to the altar, as the machine descends once more. Time to set to work.
Some point after, Joanna is walking through the supermarket, pushing a trolley laden with food. She steps daintily, wearing her very finest dress and jewellery. A carefully made-up face beneath sweeping blonde curls. She greets other ladies in the supermarket with a dreamy voice, and half focus, moving through every task with the utmost of feminine grace. She is one of them now.
Some time after that, Stepford hosts a formal ball at the Men's Association to celebrate the full assimilation of the town. Joanna and Walter as the last couple in, are guests of honour. As the ball goes on, Mike approaches Joanna and uses his charms on her. The robotic woman reacts as she was programmed to and accepts his gracious offer, leading him out of the party, as the two look for a quiet spot. Walter uses this distraction of Mike to slip into the building proper, and call up the transformation machine. He rides it down, alone. As he had hoped, the rooms below are deserted; the lab staff are all up enjoying the party. This gives him a chance to slip into the control room, where floor to ceiling electronic display panels monitor each woman's status. If there is a problem, or someone steps close to a panel - as Walter does - it lights up with diagnostic information and as it is touch-sensitive, it allows editing of the program parameters right then and there.
As Joanna and Mike move ever closer to carnal relations, with her simpering and fawning over him, Walter calls up access to the master control system, for a system-wide update. For this update, he tells the neuroprosthetic bridging chips in the women's heads, to turn themselves off; sever connections with the brain. He then executes this as a system-wide update. The response is instantaneous as woman after woman stops in her tracks and jerks back spasmodically. At the same time, her diagnostic panel in the lab goes haywire. Panel after panel lighting up to show critical failure of the implants, and the woman is off the network.
As the chips shut down, their rerooting and channelling of thoughts ceases. The enslaved minds begin to awaken, and unsteady at first, the women begin to regain control of their bodies, and their own minds. Unfortunately for the men present, they remember everything that was done to them, and they are pissed. Also unfortunately for the dear men, every woman now essentially possesses a full compliment of bionic limbs. Mike and Joanna wander back to the party, her doting on him, to find a scene of chaos, with the men about to be torn asunder by the women. He looks to Joanna confused why she's ok, and then Joanna's expression changes.
She was never 'upgraded'. Walter couldn't go through with it. This was all a ruse. As he put it "I didn't marry something from RadioShack." Instead, Joanne worked to blend in with the robotified mindless women, until an opportunity - such as the ball - presented itself, to free those poor minds. Mike, sensing the severity of the situation, calls out for the men to control their wives. Each man suddenly realises, and whips out a golden remote, pointing it at his wife, and jabbing the controls. Of course with the chips offline, that's not going to do any good. Several of the women pluck remotes from nearby male hands, and crush the remotes to dust in theirs.
Furious, Mike sees everything he's worked for, falling about his ears. He grabs a pewter candlestick and prepares to end Walter's life. Joanna, seeing this, grabs another, and like a pro batter, swings it at Mike's head in desperate rage. Mike never sees it coming, and his head rips off his body, hitting the ground in a series of sparks. His body stands there for a moment, sparking wildly from the neck, then slowly topples over. Mike was a robot. A full robot.
The silence that follows is deafening, broken only by Claire's sudden scream. She dashes over, darting from her husband's head to his body and back again, unsure where to even begin. Joanna tries to comfort her, thinking she has just awakened like the others. She hasn't. Claire has been fully human this whole time. She's the brains behind this, and she built Mike as the figurehead for the town. A strong male lead that men would follow.
Claire tells her story. She was a world leader in brain augmentation and genetic engineering, with high level contracts with IBM, the US government, and Mattel. Working non-stop, she was so driven that she didn't snap until she caught her husband in bed with her young research assistant. Then, she snapped. She had a psychotic break, and in this break she envisaged a perfect world, where men were men, and women were beautiful, feminine and loved. She built Mike to start this dream, and started working on 'saving' other women like herself. Eventually she proclaims, she would have upgraded all the men as well, like she had done with Roger. All perfect, and the model of new society. At this point Mike sparks again, and she cries out for a screwdriver.
Claire lifts Mike's head up after pouring her heart out to all those gathered, and presses her lips to his for a final goodbye kiss. The loose electrical energy runnuing through it, pours into her, electrocuting Claire and killing her instantly.
The ladies are then left to pick their lives up and move on, with augmented bodies and the benefit of free will. The men? With the exception of Walter and Roger, they're all still in Stepford. Under house arrest. They're going through all the banal menial tasks the women were put through, in a strict no talking, no socialising, no having a life, prison style manner - watched over by cyborg women, deeply pissed at them and literally capable of ripping the men apart.
Technology of The Stepford Wives: How Real Is It?