The White Lotus S2E4: “In the Sandbox” — Power Play

Tanya and Quentin get to know each other at a party
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

The following contains spoilers for The White Lotus S2E4, “In the Sandbox” (written an directed by Mike White)

Throughout Episode 4 of Season 2 of The White Lotus, “In The Sandbox,” most of the relationships that were built, developed, or cultivated over the first three episodes began a sort of repositioning. Trust has been eroded. New characters have been introduced. Local prostitutes continue to make their way through a family tree. And all of it is tied up in a nice little bow by Mia, the sometimes host-itute and always aspiring musician. After conceding sexual favors to Giuseppe, the resort’s Italian Piano Man, she ponders out loud, “why is it that men always have the power?”

That hypothetical as Mia ponders whether Giuseppe will actually deliver on his promise to help introduce her to people who can get her music career started both defines what has come before in this season of the show and offers a sharp U-turn to what begins to happen next. The female characters begin to, one by one, change their narratives and their relationships in interesting ways.

This sets up a pivotal fourth episode that should light the fuse for the fireworks we will see for the rest of the season.

Ethan and Harper

After Ethan reluctantly agrees to Cameron’s “bro code” pact that they can never reveal what happened during the previous night’s debauchery session, he accepts a kind of power that Harper doesn’t think he is capable of possessing. Harper admitted to Daphne in Episode 2 that Ethan is “honest to a fault.” The fact that Ethan answers that jet skis and “like, a lot of drinking” were on the menu while the ladies were gone begins to seriously muck up the idyllic yellow brick road that Ethan and Harper think they travel.

One thing Ethan does admit to Harper is that her “worst fears were true.” That Cameron did ask Ethan to invest money with him, revealing much of the motivation for the Sullivans inviting the newly-wealthy couple on the trip.

Ethan is on the defensive with Harper at dinner
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

But after Harper finds Cameron’s used condom wrapper in the couch cushions and Ethan offers no change in story after she tries to drag out the night’s details again, Harper’s actual worst fears come true. Money, the seduction of wealthy people, and newfound power have actually changed who Ethan is. The couple’s cliffhanger leaves their story unresolved after Harper leaves the condom wrapper for Ethan to find in the bathroom.

Cameron and Daphne

All seems back to normal for Cameron and Daphne’s Camelot once the ladies return from their overnight palazzo in Noto. Cameron and Daphne have developed, it seems, a strict don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy in their relationship. It allows Cameron his drug-fueled threesomes while Daphne can rent out an Italian palace, shop all day, and eat edibles all night to help her forget that she is “not a victim.”

The past two episodes triggered the memory of the very first scene of this season which sees Daphne chatting with two new White Lotus guests at the beach, telling them that she is getting in one more swim before she heads home. She is alone in this scene—no Cameron, Ethan, or Harper in sight—but tells the ladies she meets that they “had a great trip.”

Those few moments with Daphne hang over every interaction this foursome has on this trip. What would make it a “great trip” for Daphne? Why is she alone when she has been connected at the hip to Cameron and Harper the entire week?

As Cameron and Daphne reconnect after the girls’ night out, Cameron begs her to not “ever leave me again.” But she has her suspicions about what must have happened the night before. Cameron’s question is both reassuring and terrifying for Daphne as even though she is literally in the arms of the man she married, just like on that beach in the season’s first scene, she has never been more alone.

Portia and Jack

Apparently, Portia quickly grew tired of being the “wounded bird” to Albie and is still on the mission of getting “thrown around by some hot Italian guy” that she confessed to Albie in Episode 1. She drops Albie faster than a rock in the Ionian Sea and instead accompanies her boss, Tonya, to a yacht party with her newfound European friends.

This yacht party has a lot less Michael McDonald and White Claws and a lot more Royal Vauxhall Tavern vibes, but it does allow Portia to officially meet Jack, the muscly Brit whom she shared glances with at the pool the night before. Jack is seemingly along for the ride with his uncle Quentin, and he is more than happy to turn his attention away from Quentin’s merry band of men so he can focus it directly on Portia.

Jack and Portia flirt at a party by the beach
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

Portia, who has spent the most recent phase of her life trying to maintain her sanity while managing Tanya’s emotional journey, is altogether fine with turning over the power in this new relationship with Jack, which has him showing her his “sexy underwear” in her hotel room by the end of the night.

Albie and Lucia

The most unnerving part of Portia’s change of pace to the more aggressive Jack is that she makes the move in full of view of Albie the entire day. While Albie relaxes beachside, Portia flirts shamelessly with Jack not 30 yards away. While Portia and Jack mentally undress each other at the bar later that evening, she makes sure to catch Albie’s eye with a definite watch this and take lessons smirk on her face.

This sends Albie’s whole worldview into a tailspin. Apparently, the soft-spoken, gender is a construct, Stanford-grad “but I don’t like to tell people that” profile is not what gets the women to swipe right these days. So, after several attempts to rebuff her advances, Albie finally is seduced by prostitute Lucia.

Albie and Lucia at the bar watching Portia
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

Having been ushered out of Cameron’s room and dismissed by Dom (Albie’s father), Lucia decides to try the newer model on for size, setting her sights on Albie. Albie’s grandfather Bert eventually ends up being right. “Like father, like father, like son.”

Albie and his schoolboy nature resist Lucia for as long as he possibly can. It’s only when the two spot Portia and Jack in an embrace at the bar that Lucia’s statement of “don’t let her win” finally sends Albie down the same dark hole that he has been trying to pull his father out of.

Tanya and Quentin

My honest feelings on Tanya at this point is that I hope she finds happiness with Quentin (played by Tom Hollander) and his queer European chorus, but that they just stay up on that party deck and let us spend more time with the rest of the guests.

After Greg bailed on their vacation to do god-knows-what with god-knows-who, I am content to let Tanya keep spilling her guts to Quentin about her past while the rest of the resort swirls downward into a messy Sicilian bacchanalia.

If Greg should show back up in Episode 6 or 7, we can revisit my prediction that he winds up face-down floating in the ocean. But for now, the one through-line that continued from Season 1 of The White Lotus just feels like an anchor dragging down the progression of the narrative for the rest of the guests.

That’s not to say Quentin doesn’t have some dark ulterior motives here with Tanya (he assuredly does), but it is to say we’ve seen this story before and the other guest dynamics are just far more compelling right now.

Written by Ryan Kirksey

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