HBO’s The White Lotus: The Lotus-Eaters (Episode 5) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of HBO’s The White Lotus, The Lotus-Eaters, the vacationers begin to unravel as tensions boil over and some experience surprisingly warm growth.
Last week, we saw the Mossbachers go through some turmoil with Mark (Steve Zahn) revealing to Quinn (Fred Hechinger) that he once cheated on Nicole (Connie Britton) and some political dinner conversations causing rifts. Now, we get some more fallout within Nicole and Mark’s relationship as his disclosure to Quinn doesn’t sit right with Nicole. It’s amazing how ignorant Nicole chooses to be about her own behavior as she once again criticizes Mark for “ruining” this vacation by actually wanting to be honest and change his behavior while she continues to ignore her family throughout this vacation. When Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) gives her crap about being on her phone the whole vacation, you literally want to yell “finally” or just stand up and cheer because it’s so true. Nicole chastises Mark for going through personal turmoil throughout this vacation, but at least he makes a reasonable, worthwhile effort with Quinn through reflection unlike her who is just solely focused on herself.
Look, Mark is far from perfect and just because Nicole might be self-centered on this vacation, doesn’t mean that she deserves to be cheated on or that her feelings about it are invalidated. However, it’s clear that this problem has totally consumed her and Mark’s relationship and she desperately needs to find the confidence to confront the problem – regardless of the result. Their relationship doesn’t need a vacation, it needs real talk and Nicole needs to be more open to hearing about herself or just end the relationship since she’s starting to look as bad as Mark. The same can be said for Mark since staying in this relationship hasn’t helped him either as he’s weakened himself to “make up” for what he did to Nicole.
Mark’s time at the White Lotus has definitely shown his weakness in his relationship with Nicole and within his family. He pathetically swoops in to defend Nicole when conversations between her and Olivia get political and at times it’s almost like he doesn’t even believe in what he’s saying. He’s just coming in to defend Nicole in the hopes that it gives him respect – something he says he’s desperately after. Mark’s arc in this series definitely reflects his search for his confidence and strong masculinity. His worries about his ball cancer, his father’s secret sex life, and what Quinn thinks of him really reflect the issues Mark finds in his relationship with Nicole. His insecurities about her being empowered make him feel lesser compared to her and he fear that he can’t be a man of action or at least someone respected. It’s an arc that takes an interesting turn when Paula (Brittany O’Grady) makes a tide-turning choice with Kai (Kekoa Kekumano).
Paula’s relationship with Kai has been one of the more wholesome moments of the series because it shows who she is when she’s not with Olivia. She genuinely feels for how Kai’s family has had so much stolen from them and that his attempts to make a decent living at the hotel is scoffed at by his brothers. Even for his pleas for her to stay on the island, she’s forced to be real with him that they’ll likely never see each other again. It’s the sad realization of a deep relationship just being a summer fling and it cuts deep because these two are so damn likeable together. Paula isn’t just going to leave him hanging though and attempts to offer him a way he could financially afford to fight for his people.
It’s clear that Paula’s friendship with Olivia isn’t that strong and takes a big hit when she finds out that she was flirting with Kai the night before. Not to mention, her family has shown themselves to be despicable throughout this vacation, so it’s no surprise that Paula concocts a plan to have him steal their jewelry from a safe while they’re all out on a boat. It’s definitely pretty extra for Paula to set up her friend’s family like this, but all of the motivations were there and given how the Mossbachers have been on this vacation, I was all for it this little Robin Hood mission. However, it pretty much immediately goes to shit and creates this very tense sequence that’s excellently directed by Mike White.
The White Lotus is undoubtedly a dark comedy, but it’s great that White shows some great versatility in his direction with Kai’s robbery being interrupted by Nicole and Mark returning to the room after a spat. This sequence legitimately leaves you on edge with how it’s going to play out and only gets more tense when Kai and Mark get into a small scuffle. It’s genuinely relieving to see Kai be able to make an escape, for now, but this act doesn’t go unpunished for all and leads to a surprising turn for the Mossbachers. Mark’s attempt to save Nicole might have left him bruised and battered, but it ultimately gets him the respect from everyone he’s desperately wanted. As much as they’ve been despicable throughout, there’s something oddly warming about Mark finally getting respectful compliments from his kids and Nicole and Quinn waiting to go scuba diving with him is incredibly touching. It’s a moment that’s nice, but one that reflects the rich getting richer as Paula is left uneasy with Olivia knowing that she had a hand in the robbery. No good deed goes unpunished.
As for Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), she goes through more emotional turmoil with this new guy as she continues to leave Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) on the bubble. Tanya’s offer to Belinda is starting to feel too good to be true as she continues to blow off Belinda’s seriousness for this new “relationship” that she’s struggling to keep afloat. To be honest this guy clearly wants an extended one-night stand and Tanya’s dealing with too much to be involved in this. Her emotional struggles and mental pain inflicted on her by her parents and undesirable lifestyle come out in a big emotional outburst that Coolidge really nails. Up until this point, Tanya has felt like a wandering comedic plot thread, but this episode gives her some real heart and opens up some of the pain she’s been feeling.
The same can be said for Rachel (Alexandria Daddario) as she finally realizes that her marriage to Shane (Jake Lacy) is a total sham. Finally, after so many red flags, Rachel realizes that she should end things with Shane. Throughout her time at the White Lotus, Rachel has been questioning her career and Shane’s mother Kitty (Molly Shannon) basically saying that she should be proud to be a trophy wife finally makes her snap. There is some satisfaction to Rachel finally seeing his toxicity, but it leaves me worried that this realization could lead to something more destructive. Pretty much since the start, I’ve pegged Armond (Murray Bartlett) to be the one in the coffin we saw in the premiere, but now I’m not so sure.
After being caught by Shane, there’s nothing too drastic that happens between Armond and Shane and he seems pretty cool-headed all things considered. Rachel on the other hand looks scared and legitimately ready to do anything to get out of this relationship. You’d have to imagine that a divorce from Shane would get pretty messy considering his wealth and power and it could even threaten her family. With the way she walks away at the end of the episode, it’s very fearful that she could be heading towards somewhere really scary. It would sadly kind of make sense if Rachel committed suicide to get out of this relationship given how Shane looks at the coffin in the first episode, but we’ll have to wait until next week to get answers.
The White Lotus mixes engaging thrills with warming growth to create a strong penultimate episode. Paula’s action definitely leaves her in hot water with Olivia and Rachel’s realization about her relationship with Shane could lead her to do the unthinkable. There’s definitely a spicy finale in store.