The White Lotus: In the Sandbox
November 21, 2022 9:09 AM - Season 2, Episode 4 - Subscribe

When Tanya receives an impromptu invite from dashing ex-pat Quentin, Portia finds herself spending the day with his beguiling nephew, Jack. After returning from her trip with Daphne, a relieved Harper is blindsided by a piece of evidence from Ethan’s night out. Meanwhile, a suddenly guilt-ridden Lucia tries to keep Mia on a righteous path.
posted by Violet Blue (15 comments total)
 
I was a little more intrigued with this episode. What stands out most is Cameron's comment that he wanted to be "inside" Ethan and make him happy. Is this frat boy homoerotic irony—or for real? If it's for real, did Daphne wander off with Harper to give Cameron time to seduce Ethan? Or am I going off on the wrong track?

It's nice to see both Tanya and Portia's spirits lifted. Quentin and Jack seem to have more life in them than the other characters this season. That said, that Quentin's most notable dialogue was about a woman who got offed for her money feels too on point to be a red herring. Mike White wouldn't be that obvious, would he?

Lucia's rendez-vous with the grandson, after earlier having slept with the father, just solidifies for me how icky this entire clan is, even if it's not the grandson's fault. I kind of wish they would all go home.
posted by Violet Blue at 12:35 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


"Is this frat boy homoerotic irony—"

I read it entirely as frat boy homoerotic irony. We'll see, I suppose!
posted by kbanas at 1:15 PM on November 21


While the previous episodes of this season intrigued me, this one is the first one I really enjoyed, as it drew more on the comedic elements and switcheroos that made the previous season so great.

I really like that, in the absence of sexual competition and her insecurities, Tanya can relax around gay men without them feeling like a crutch to her story.

I'm trying to understand Ethan's deal: he didn't seem interested in Lucia or Mia, appears equally disenchanted with his wife, and yet watches porn?

My call: Cameron is a lot harder up for money than he appears (his pressure on Ethan to invest and running short of cash to pay Lucia are the most recent signs). His tension will rise to the point that his games of "chicken" on the jetskis turn into a head-on tragedy, leading to the season's opening scene.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:23 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


Is this frat boy homoerotic irony—or for real?

It is negging Ethan. Cameron is constantly playing subtle dominance games with Ethan to put him on the back foot. He thinks it will help him get Ethan's money.

Cameron seemed to have fully embraced the "pickup artist" way navigating through the world.
posted by ishmael at 5:20 PM on November 21 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to understand Ethan's deal: he didn't seem interested in Lucia or Mia, appears equally disenchanted with his wife, and yet watches porn?

He seems a bit repressed to me. I think he resents Harper, but doesn't communicate about it, and at the same time, he doesn't want to see his marriage as a failure yet.

Still wants to believe in the idea of it, while not really being pro-active about making it work.
posted by ishmael at 5:26 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


That said, that Quentin's most notable dialogue was about a woman who got offed for her money feels too on point to be a red herring. Mike White wouldn't be that obvious, would he?

My initial impression is that Quentin is a scam artist, buttering Tanya up. But perhaps Mike White has other ideas.
posted by ishmael at 5:28 PM on November 21


My initial impression is that Quentin is a scam artist, buttering Tanya up. But perhaps Mike White has other ideas.


My wife and I both felt similarly, for what it's worth. I immediately thought of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!
posted by kbanas at 6:05 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


It is negging Ethan. Cameron is constantly playing subtle dominance games with Ethan to put him on the back foot. He thinks it will help him get Ethan's money.

Interesting! I read several other reviews, and no one mentioned it, and I was quite sure I didn't dream it up! I wondered if that's why Ethan and Harper have such a bad sex life, and both seem so depressed (or repressed). Given Ethan's recent career success, you'd think they would be a little excited by the possibilities all that extra money will afford.
posted by Violet Blue at 7:48 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to understand Ethan's deal: he didn't seem interested in Lucia or Mia, appears equally disenchanted with his wife, and yet watches porn?

I mean, many people are prevented from cheating by the anticipated shame they'll feel - Ethan is flawed like all these characters are, but I get the sense he wants to be a good person. Plus, he clearly is starting to have doubts about Cameron - he clearly finds Cameron's pitch to invest distasteful, and found the idea of soliciting Lucia/Mia alarming. I interpreted his heavy drinking (unusual for him) as a sign of his desperation - he is trying to fake appearing to enjoy himself.

There are moments with Ethan and Harper that suggest there is some real foundation to their relationship - they clearly know each other well, and share many of the same values. I'd be curious to see what the early years of their relationship was like. Harper doesn't strike me as someone who would agree to marry someone who was lukewarm towards her - my hunch is that between Ethan being workaholic, Harper also having a demanding career, and now their competing views on what it means to have joined the 1%, at some point they stopped making time for each other and their relationship, and neither of them has the emotional tools to address this - and so the rift just continues to grow. I am interested to see what will happen when Ethan notices the condom wrapper that Harper left out by the sink, presumably on purpose as another test.

I agree that Cameron's wealth is likely less secure than it appears.

I hope Quentin doesn't turn out to be a scam artist - he and his friends are delightful with Tanya - and I feel this is a loving nod to Coolidge from White, who is good friends with her in real life. I am not convinced about Jack though - he's too slick.
posted by coffeecat at 10:45 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


Something that has struck me about both seasons of The White Lotus is how all the sex is one-sided and transactional, with, the exception of maybe the family friend and the hotel worker back in Season 1, and maybe Cameron and Daphne in Season 2? What I mean, is sex that seems to be fun for both parties. All the rest of the sex seems to be just so icky, either a straight up transaction, or involving some kind of coercion. Things between Tanya and Greg have soured. Even the scene in the last episode between Jack and Portia looked like it wasn't going to end well for Portia. And then the really awkward scene where Valentina surprises her subordinate with a romantic gift. So, so uncomfortable.
posted by nanook at 4:19 PM on November 23


My wife and I both felt similarly, for what it's worth. I immediately thought of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!

Especially when Quentin's nephew kept saying how many other older women enjoy Quentin's company. On the other hand, Tanya does have literal billions, I think, so I'm not sure a con man would make much of a dent in her net worth.

The de Grasso clan is a mess, but I do feel for Albie. Early twenties seems like a reasonable time to try and figure out what kind of man you'll be. There's a sweetness to how hard he keeps trying to incorporate the women he likes into his family vacation.
posted by gladly at 9:23 AM on November 24


This episode didn't do much to further the suspicion (and maybe even undercut it a bit, in a scene or two), but last episode I'd assumed the overnight at the villa + the night of debauchery were all part of a coordinated plan (especially since otherwise so far Cameron's plan to get Ethan to invest in his fund -- which I'm assuming is a Ponzi scheme at this point, even if it started out legit -- is just to have him meet his partners when they get home, which would be outside the scope of the show). It sure felt like Daphne was setting Harper up to be suspicious (including by getting her high first), and it sure was otherwise careless to leave that condom wrapper lying around. I guess these coincidences could just be the writers putting everything in place for confrontation, but I still think Cameron & Daphne are knowingly setting up whatever comes next. This whole vacation was set up precisely for this, Cameron's fund in peril and his old college friend suddenly wealthy.
posted by nobody at 7:11 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


What I like in this episode is that each character has been established but it inhabiting their own quite individual narrative world. I agree that the sex is shown as one sided and transactional - but then everything here is rather one sided and isolated: Tanya completely blanks Portia when the latter asks for a day off - does not even respond to her request but makes her own in place. Likewise Harper is living in her own world with her condom wrapper revelation and we even see Lucia - too busy now with Albie, blank Mia as the former asks about which pills are Viagra. Everybody has their own motive to go on a murder spree - but nobody seems to have a clue about anybody's else's.

I like Mia's sub-plot especially in this episode: maybe a bit of commentary on what it takes to try to get a gig as a professional musician (the hotel would be a sweet gig, to be sure). The scene where she has just inadvertently dumped off piano man and asks Valentina is she can be he stand-in even as the paramedics carting off the body, for example.
posted by rongorongo at 11:27 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


I enjoy the Albie and Portia storyline much more, now they’re hooking up with other people- they are just hard to watch when they are with each other, and they have so much more chemistry with their current love interests. Unfortunately, I’m now convinced that this is exactly the point and the very reason why Albie and Portia are actually endgame. They are still a horrible match, and them getting together will a be the sort ending that might look cute, happy, aspirational at the most superficial glance to someone who doesn’t know either of them but is actually very grim and I think this would fit the tone of the show.

I thought they couldn’t get together because Albie would ultimately resent Portia too much for being too blatantly distracted by other temptations. But now that he’s having his own distraction, they’re even and that barrier is removed. They still won’t have any chemistry whatsoever, but they will be able to arrange themselves with that.

My guess is Albie will have a wonderful time with Lucia in the next episode, and it will be downright charming - Albie will pull all the romantic stops, and Lucia might start to hope that he could be her boyfriend, not just a client, that he might even take her home to his friends and family. But of course Albie would never introduce a girl like her to his friends and family - even if she hadn’t slept with his dad. He loves to rescue a broken bird - but a damsel, not a fallen woman. Also, Lucia’s poor, and frankly, that’s probably enough to disqualify her. Ultimately, Albie has a very clear idea of the sort of partner he needs to have at his side to project the image he wants to project.

And so does Portia. Right now she wants a hot summer fling, and Leo’s perfect for that. But she feels a bit guilty, because on paper, Albie has so much more longterm potential. That won’t stop her from having a lot of fun with Leo though. Then Albie’s Grandpa will have some accident/health scare, and Portia will find him and call the ambulance and wait with Albie in the emergency room or something - or maybe just go to him to express her sympathy, and that’s how they will reconnect. And they will ditch Leo and Lucia in a heartbeat, because they had their fun, and the vaction is over and they are already thinking about going back. And they will go back together, because it will be a cute story, and Albie went to Standford, and Portia is not actually poor and will be a hit, in fact already is a hit, with the family. (Unless Lucia or Leo murder one or both of them).

I would bet money on that. If there’s one theme to The White Lotus, it’s that rich people stick together. Class trumps everything else. The poor are just toys and temporary distractions. Albie’s going to discard Lucia, like Tanya discarded Belinda. Albie and Portia are going to reconcile, just as Olivia and Paula, Rachel and Shane, Mark and Nicole reconciled, because they are of the same class, and birds of a feather flock together. Comedies are about a shake-up of the status quo but usually end in restoration. And this is the kind of comedy that makes us feel how that’s not really a happy ending at all.

I do wonder who will get the actual grace note this time around. Last time we had the youngest son, who found himself/a new lease on life/community with nature and with the locals, who stays behind to join the Haiwan paddlers. This time I somehow can’t spot any candidate for genuine personal growth yet.

I kinda wish it for Harper. Maybe she doesn’t reconcile. Maybe she actually gets to leave.
posted by sohalt at 7:07 AM on November 26 [1 favorite]


Harper doesn't strike me as someone who would agree to marry someone who was lukewarm towards her -

To me, Harper sounds exactly like the kind of person who is at risk of ending up with a guy who's only lukewarm about her. Precisely because she herself would never think of settling. She can be pushy enough, she doesn't mind having to take the lead, so for a long time, she might not be bothered by his lack of iniative. She might think he's just shy. When he goes along with all her suggestions, she assumes it must because he's into her. It doesn't occur to her that he's just taking the path of least resistance, because taking the path of least resistance would be an utterly alien concept to her.

And then, Harper can be polarizing. Surely, there are many men she rubs the wrong way. Some of them probably actively rebuffed her. She might overvalue the mere fact that Ethan didn't.

I do get the sense that Ethan values the relationship in his own way though, even if he might not be terribly attracted to Harper. He might not be entirely honest with himself about the latter part. He sounded genuine when he told Harper he wouldn't drag her into a holiday with these people again. He has a certain idea of being a decent person, that is ultimately incompatible with Cameron's approach. I do wonder what made him go along with the plan in the first place. Sure, he might just be more open-minded than Harper, willing to give these people a chance at least. But couldn't he have predicted how this would play out? His dynamic with Cameron is indeed, and probably has been forever, characterized by dominance games. Does he enjoy that? One might almost get the sense, when they're doing that dick-measuring contest on the speedboats. (Somewhere else I read a theory that would explain the corpses - a dickmeasuring contest between Cameron and Ethan gone wrong. But would Daphne be so relaxed at the beach if her husband hadn't returned that night?). I think Harper is not entirely wrong when she suspects that Ethan wants a rematch, now that he's rich, and can meet Cameron on a level playing field.

At any rate, Ethan quickly starts to feel conflicted about the night of debauchery. He can sense that Cameron is trying to bait him into something, trying to make him act against his own interest and ultimately refuses to play along. I think rejecting Mia, who's clearly just an instrument of Cameron's agenda, is just as much about not giving in to Cameron as it is about staying loyal to Harper.
posted by sohalt at 9:27 AM on November 26


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