The White Lotus S2E3: “Bull Elephants” — The Other Side of the Coin

Two men sit at a table outdoors in The White Lotus S2E3
Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

The following contains spoilers for The White Lotus S2E3, “Bull Elephants”

We don’t yet know how many seasons of The White Lotus we will get from HBO, but it’s becoming clear that Season 2 is just the other side of the Season 1 coin. Writer and director Mike White seems to be expertly peering into the lives of the elite 1%; the customers who can afford a trip to a resort like The White Lotus. But while Season 1 gave us the satirical, can-you-believe-these-people glimpse into their penthouse-level problems, Season 2 is clearly designed to show the dark underbelly of the upper crust. You enter Episode 3 feeling a certain way about many characters but leave the third hour with a much clearer picture of whom to root for in the second half of the season.

True intentions and motivations began to make themselves clear in “Bull Elephants,” and many of our characters find themselves in newfound and unwanted perilous situations.

Cameron and Ethan

Just when I was starting to like you, Cameron, you had to go and do something like this to your homeboy, Ethan. After the guys find themselves with a night to themselves after a day of playing chicken with jet skis and drinking Sicilian Mai Tais, things take a turn for the worse as the real Cameron Sullivan finally decides it’s time to take off his mask.

Cameron’s depravity starts innocently enough when he tells Ethan he was disappointed to learn his former roommate sold his company for a fortune without as much as a quick text so Cameron could engage in some light insider trading. The guys Cameron works with, you see, can do great things for Ethan so all he needs to do is keep them in the (slightly illegal) loop for any future financing.

But it turns out business ethics is not the only thing Cameron is not entirely honest about. In the least shocking turn of events since Armond fell off the wagon in Season 1, Cameron likes to run around on Daphne. It’s what the bros do, after all, he tells Ethan. After local host-itutes Lucia and Mia are unexpectedly made available to the next wandering eye at the resort, Cameron locks eyes with Lucia so that the four of them can party Sicilian style.

Lucia and Mia try and seduce Cameron and Ethan
Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

Ethan goes along with the drinking, the drugs, the skinny-dipping, and the general frivolity, but when the clothes come off in the bedroom, he draws a line. Cameron is left to, um, entertain the two girls while Ethan curls up in the bathroom, hiding from the life he never wanted his new wealth to introduce him to. He never sees his phone ringing on the nightstand as Harper calls to check in.

Daphne and Harper

We are a long way from a Sullivan ever-after fairy tale after seeing Cameron’s true colors in his with Ethan. But it turns out Daphne may actually be aware of all the trouble in Camelot, and has decided to work it all to her advantage anyway. In this episode, she invites Harper to go shopping with her in Noto, a “boutique Baroque” town with amazing shopping and Palazzos about two hours away from the resort.

After Harper’s failed attempt to seduce Ethan after his morning run, she pledges to be the “most fun ever” and so has no choice but to accept Daphne’s invitation although it’s clear she would rather run Ethan’s jet ski over her head a couple of dozen times. But little does she know that Harper is just using the trip as an excuse to earn a little escape from the boys. She books a Palazzo for the gals for the night and when Harper finds out it looks like she would if you told her Republicans took over the House, the Senate, and the Presidency all at once.

Daphne makes a number of confessions to Harper
Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

But, loyal to Ethan and wanting to fulfill her promise, she at least makes the effort. It’s not until Daphne convinces her to take an edible, however, that we finally begin to see another side of Harper that’s not walled up by a shrill exterior. She wants to know who Cameron really is so when Harper admits that he is “naughty, like a little boy” and not a “real psychopath” like Cameron’s co-workers, Harper has to dig deeper.

Daphne admits Cameron’s irregular, but present, infidelity and how she has learned to use it to her benefit. She has learned to “not be a victim,” and turn Cameron’s trysts into treats for herself. These admissions flip the switch in Harper and present the motivation for the phone call to Ethan that will never be answered.

Bert, Dom and Albie

An early riser, Dom awakes to find local ladies Lucia in his bed and Mia on his couch. Clearly unaware that money doesn’t make your problems go away, Dom hands over his large wad of Euros to his guests in an attempt to get the ladies out of his room as quickly as possible.

Also an early riser, patriarch Bert witnesses Lucia and Mia leave his son’s room and he has an expression that is equal parts horrified and prideful, knowing that his son was just doing was Di Grasso men should do. Bert uses this information every chance he can throughout the day, including frequently complaining about “all the noise coming through the walls” and how it’s been hard for him to sleep.

Bert gives Dom a hard time about his evening visitors
Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

As the two older Di Grasso men and in-the-dark Albie invite Portia to join them on a chauffeured tour of The Godfather filming locations, the two eldest men’s conversations predictably take a turn back to the standard Di Grasso chauvinistic tendencies, horrifying Albie. But this time, Albie isn’t gonna take it anymore and proceeds to give them the “gender is a social construct” opening lecture from his Intro to Gender Studies class from his freshman year at Stanford. I mean, how else is he going to impress Portia?

Despite Dom’s shallow attempt to persuade his son that he is “a feminist” and that he “wants to change,” we do see Dom turn a small corner and dismiss the local ladies of the night, choosing instead to swirl his brandy at the bar. Dom’s journey seems to be destined to feel the tension between turning his life around for the sake of his son and following the prehistoric footsteps of his father.

Tanya and Greg

After his mysterious phone call provided the cliffhanger to Episode 2, Tanya awakes the next morning a shell of herself. Over breakfast, Tanya tiptoes around demanding an explanation from Greg, even offering to “rethink the prenup” if Greg can give her some straight answers. He refuses, although we do finally learn what happened to the various illnesses that plagued Greg when we met him in Season 1.

It seems as though Tanya used some of her immense wealth to find the right doctors to treat Greg. But now that Greg has discovered he has many years left, the thought of spending those many years with Tanya has him seriously rethinking the whole proposition.

This, of course, sends Tanya—who has been mildly sane lately—into a deep spiral, revealing the Season 1 version of Tanya that was more likely to clutch her mother’s ashes than help a boyfriend with his healthcare.

With the help of Valentina, she finds the local tarot card reader, hoping for a last-gasp reading that will give her the insight she needs to know Greg’s true intentions. After kicking out the fortune teller for being “too negative,” the last we see of her is buried under her blankets, instructing Portia to read Vanity Fair and await her next marching orders.

If Greg does in fact show back up in two days, Tanya may be so far down the dark rabbit hole that nothing will be able to save him from showing up next as a flotation device in the Ionian Sea.

Written by Ryan Kirksey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *