It’s been about 15 months since we last visited the beautiful but troubled White Lotus resort on the island of Maui. Surely by now the TripAdvisor score has had a chance to recover, right? There’s no telling how many one-star reviews they received when, over the course of one week, there was a homicide, some light suitcase defecation, multiple visits from the police, an employee-turned-cat-burglar jewel heist, a guest sleeping on the beach, an unhinged woman toting her dead mother’s ashes around, and one all-staff drug-fueled team-building sex-party thrown in for good measure.
Conde Nast’s “most romantic resort” in Maui is going to have an image problem for quite some time.
But before we unpack our bags at the Season 2 White Lotus location in Sicily, let’s step back into the Pineapple Suite and remember where we left our Season 1 characters.
Shane and Rachel
I’ve been thinking about poor Rachel ever since Season 1 of The White Lotus concluded in August 2021. She bit her upper lip and joined Shane to be his “plus-one” at the airport for the second leg of their honeymoon in Tahiti because…why, again? Does she think he has changed his “I’m just playing the hand I’m dealt” mentality because she dared to call him a naïve man-baby? I’m sure the crypto bros at Cornell called him a lot worse while they did lines on their microeconomics textbooks.
Rachel (and perhaps Quinn near the end) was the only visitor to The White Lotus who was headstrong enough to understand her very real career and identity crises were on a plane much higher than inconveniences like whether or not the hotel suite had a plunge pool.
It was, then, somewhat ironic that during the entire Maui honeymoon week, Shane was reading a copy of Malcom Gladwell’s Blink. The tagline for that book is “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” which may be appropriate for someone like Shane who has never had to seriously consider a real dilemma in his life until Rachel announces their marriage was a mistake.
But despite what we see transpire with the rest of the guests, the appeal of the social ladder and a comfortable life must have been too tempting in the end for Rachel. She will soon discover, as The White Lotus not-so-subtly points out, that the ladder is stained with depravity, anguish, and a better-me-than-you attitude.
Are they still together 15 months later? My bet is on “no” if only for the glimmer of hope that something more real is waiting for her on the other side.
Nicole, Mark, Olivia, and Quinn Mossbacher were hoping for nothing more than a week in Maui to escape from some of the troubles of their lives in New York or San Francisco or Boston, or wherever they are from.
Well….that’s not exactly true.
Nicole is just hoping she can recreate the feng shui in her hotel room so her work zoom with China looks acceptable. Quinn is hoping he can finally have some peaceful alone time with his Switch and his porn. Olivia is carrying around her copies of Écrits and Sexual Personae, desperate for someone to see her reading those. And also desperate for people to see her token underrepresented minority friend, Paula, so everyone will know she is NOTHING like her antiquated, colonialist parents.
And then there is poor Mark, who just desperately wants time with his family and for his testicles to shrink. But what he finds is a dark secret from his family’s past that finally forces him to confront who he is to his own family, even it means some of the most awkward on-screen conversations since “Scott’s Tots.”
Nicole is constantly seen straightening rooms, folding laundry, picking up knick-knacks, and rearranging furniture. Forced out of the comfort and control of the office for a week, she craves the very thing she can’t get from this loosely dysfunctional family: control.
Each member of the family has their own moment of self-reflection towards the end of the week, seemingly letting them grow. But those on the outside are not so easily fooled. We know that even Quinn’s last-ditch emancipation attempt at the end of the series is only possible because the Mossbachers are able to visit a five-star resort in Maui. Mark and Nicole will be on the next plane out to retrieve him once they realize they Home Alone’d their son at the airport.
Tanya and Greg
We get to see Tanya and Greg again in Season 2! This unlikely couple will be the only ones who travel over to Sicily from Season 1, and we will see what these two have been up to in their rental house in Aspen.
At various points throughout the show, Tanya describes herself as “unhinged,” “needy,” “deeply insecure,” “a trap door,” and “alcoholic lunatic.” It’s not lost on the audience that Greg—someone who is just a little bit mysterious and sick—is the type of person who is attracted to her and refuses to leave after she peels back the layers of her own onion.
Knowing that these two are the only carryovers from Season 1, one of the most fascinating questions leading into Season 2 is where has Tanya’s journey taken her? She presumably doesn’t have another stash of her mother’s ashes lying around to preoccupy her time and her insecurity. What will cause her meltdown this season?
Has Greg become the type of transactional relationship Tanya was so desperate to avoid when she ghosted Belinda and her spa business plan?
And most importantly for this couple, how does Greg afford these extravagant vacations to exotic locations on a Bureau of Land Management salary?
After being handed an envelope full of cash instead of a roadmap to a better life, the last we saw of Belinda was her standing side by side with a new hotel manager waving at a new boat full of White Lotus visitors who will be expecting her to serve them. And that encapsulates the sharp satire of The White Lotus in one image. Those who have ambition, original thought, and a life built around more than a trust-fund future are often the ones stuck being the supporting cast.
The fact that Belinda was the one Black character on this show was biting and difficult to watch at times. But I’m sure that was the point that showrunner Mike White wanted all along. To show the dichotomy of running to meet the needs of others while at the same time chasing your own dreams. By the time Belinda realizes her chase was a futile effort, she has no more words to give to Rachel, who had come to her for advice about her marriage.
The one person at the resort who could empathize with Rachel about the search for a meaningful path was so physically and mentally beaten down, you almost feel like she had to be physically propped up again on that shore to welcome a new round of guests and do it all over again.
And of course….Armond
RIP Armond, our favorite hotel manager. I would say we hardly knew ye, but we actually learned a LOT about ye. It is, in fact, Armond who sets the stage for what this show would be and provides the lens by which we should view the guests of The White Lotus. He tells his staff that they just need to treat the guests “like really sensitive children.” And that the support staff should portray an “impression of vagueness” while they “disappear behind our masks.”
At first it seems that Armond is the paragon of living out his own advice, that each guest should be treated like the “special chosen baby child of the hotel.” He deftly and happily meets every last need, placates the guests, and puts out the fires. But all the while, what’s burning underneath his Hawaiian shirt and linen suit is a desire for one more drink or one more pill. We are led to believe Armond is five years sober, but that’s about as likely as Olivia finishing her book by Nietzsche considering the nature of the clientele at this resort.
Armond is both the most relatable character on the show and a cartoonish proxy for the many who are scratching and clawing and doing everything they can to make those a few rungs up the ladder happier.
When he finally abandons all hope of that effort, we see the real Armond standing (or rather squatting) in front of us. After his deuce-deposit in Shane’s Brooks Brothers-filled suitcase, he meets an accidental and awful demise.
Maybe the lesson we should take from the first season is no matter how much we have done for those on the social rungs among us, the second we shit in their travel bag, the knives are going to come out.