The White Lotus – S01E01 – Arrivals [Transcript]

As a new wave of guests arrive at the White Lotus, resort manager Armond tries to assuage an unreasonable Shane and his easy-going new wife Rachel, while spa director Belinda calms a grieving Tanya.
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The White Lotus

Episode aired Jul 11, 2021

At the airport, Shane watches as a dead body is loaded onto an airplane. Seven days earlier, White Lotus Manager Armond and Lani, a new employee, greet the resort’s new guests. Shane and Rachel, then newlyweds, arrive for their honeymoon, but instead of consummating their marriage, Shane becomes fixated on a booking error for their hotel suite, causing Rachel to question their relationship. Tanya, who has come to spread her mother’s ashes, is desperate for a massage, but the spa is fully booked, so Belinda, the spa’s manager, guides her in a postmodernist ceremonial chant. Nicole, the CFO of a major search engine company, argues with her husband Mark about his potential cancer diagnosis, and he decides to spend time with their son Quinn. Mark and Nicole’s daughter, Olivia, and her friend Paula lounge by the pool and make subtle judgments of Rachel when she tries to make small talk, making her question her accomplishments as a professional listicle writer. Lani’s water breaks, but Armond ignores her, instead preparing for the evening dinner. As the guests dine, Lani begins to give birth. Mark receives a call from his doctor, but is disconnected before he learns his prognosis. Rachel and Shane agree to put the day’s conflict behind them and resume their earlier tryst.

* * *

♪ (THEME MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

♪ (THEME MUSIC CONCLUDES) ♪

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

ANNOUNCER: (OVER PA) Hawaiian Flight 451 to Honolulu will be boarding in 15 minutes through gate number 26.

We will be boarding by row numbers.

Please remain seated until your section has been called.

(INDISTINCT CHATTER CONTINUES)

You headed home?

Yeah.

We were at the Amanari.

It was fine. The food was good.

Not much to do there, but we just like to sit around anyway.

Which hotel were you at?

White Lotus.

PASSENGER 1: White Lotus?

Our guide told us someone was killed there.

The body’s on our plane.

PASSENGER 1: On our plane? To Honolulu?

Yeah. They’re about to load the body on our plane.

(SIGHS)

Well, other than that, did you have a good vacation?

It was my honeymoon.

PASSENGER 2: Oh, congratulations.

How wonderful. Was it everything you hoped?

(SCOFFS)

Where’s your wife?

Yeah, where’s your wife?

No offense…

leave me the fuck alone.

(SIGHS) Okay then.

(PLANE ENGINE RUMBLING)

♪ (“ON A COCONUT ISLAND” BY LOUIS ARMSTRONG PLAYING) ♪

♪ On a coconut island ♪

♪ I’d like to be a castaway With you ♪

♪ On a coconut island ♪

♪ There wouldn’t be So very much to do ♪

♪ I would linger a while and ♪

♪ Just gaze into Your lovely eyes of blue ♪

♪ Then I’d walk for a mile and ♪

♪ Come running back To be with you… ♪

PAULA: Oh my God, who are these people?

♪ You and me forever… ♪

OLIVIA MOSSBACHER: So, these two.

They just got married in the Hamptons.

Her parents have a place there.

PAULA: I bet they met on Raya.

OLIVIA: Totally.

She’s in fashion.

Marketing.

He went to Dartmouth, international finance.

She loves him, but…

He’s got a small dick.

(CHUCKLES) He’s a closet Adderall snorter.

PAULA: Gives him an edge at work.

OLIVIA: Makes his dick even smaller. (LAUGHS)

Walmart heiress.

She’s meeting her friends for a girls’ trip.

She gets on their nerves,

but she pays for everything, so they put up with her.

She’s an American Brigitte Bardot.

She loves animals.

Hates Jews.

High-end pimps for a billionaire sex pervert.

PAULA: They’re coming to recruit us

for their Illuminati pedophile sex ring.

(LAUGHS)

Hey, girls.

What, Mom?

Liv, come up front. I think you can see the resort.

Up, up, up, up, up.

(SIGHS)

♪ Just to bask In your smile and ♪

NICOLE MOSSBACHER: Quinn.

♪ To realize My dreams come true… ♪

♪ (MUSIC CONTINUES) ♪

(BOAT HORN BLOWING)

ARMOND: Here they come.

Big smiles.

(HORN BLOWING)

Wave, Lani. There we are.

Wave like you mean it, Lani.

♪ Coconut island, baby We could make our dream… ♪

ARMOND: Look, Lani, I… I know it’s your first day on the job,

and, uh, I don’t know how it worked at your other properties,

but here, self-disclosure is discouraged.

Especially with these VIPs who arrive on the boat.

You know, you don’t wanna be too specific

as a… as a presence, as an identity.

You wanna be more generic.

Generic?

Yes.

You know, it’s a Japanese ethos

where we are asked to disappear behind our masks

as pleasant interchangeable helpers.

It’s tropical kabuki.

And the goal is to create for the guests

an overall impression of vagueness

that can be very satisfying,

where they get everything they want

but they don’t even know what they want,

or what day it is, or where they are,

or who we are, or what the fuck is going on.

(LANI CHUCKLES)

It looks like you got a dollop of mayonnaise on your top, Lani.

What is that on your left tit?

Oh, uh, I… I don’t know.

RACHEL PATTON: That’s what I mean.

Oh, God. Here they come.

RACHEL: I mean, I just feel like there’s so many different trees.

Shit. I don’t know. Just hold the tray up high

and cover the stain on your boob.

Just a little higher. That’s it.

BELINDA: Welcome.

NICOLE: Thank you. (CHUCKLES)

Mr. and Mrs. Mossbacher. Hello. I’m Armond, the resort manager.

Welcome to the White Lotus.

Thank you.

ARMOND: How was your journey here?

(SIGHS) Long.

ARMOND: Oh.

But honestly, fine.

Happy to be here. (CHUCKLES)

The boat ride does add time to the trip,

but the views of the coastline are magnificent, aren’t they?

Incredible.

Yeah.

ARMOND: Simply a must for our VIPs

staying in the suites. (CHUCKLES)

Now, it’s just a short ride in the cart with Dillon to the hotel…

-Aloha. -…and then we’ll get you to your suite, the Tradewinds,

and you can freshen up.

MARK MOSSBACHER: Thank you, Armond.

NICOLE: Thank you.

Of course.

DILLON: Right this way.

Aloha.

NICOLE: Aloha.

ARMOND: Aloha.

LANI: Aloha.

Masculine for you.

Nuts. I’m nuts for nuts.

(GIGGLES)

I’m presuming Mr. Shane Patton and Mrs. Rachel Patton?

Oh! (CHUCKLES)

That’s us.

Oh my God. Yes.

Is that not correct?

RACHEL: No, it’s correct.

I’m just, um… I’m getting used to it.

We just got married the day before yesterday.

Yeah.

I am aware. Congratulations.

Oh… (CHUCKLES)

Yeah. Thanks.

Um… Mrs. Patton. Wow.

Yeah.

Sounds so weird.

Like, am I changing my name? Is that… (CHUCKLES)

Well, how about we get you a daiquiri

before you make any major life decisions? (CHUCKLES)

Ooh, yes. Yes.

Christie will be riding with you back to the hotel.

Okay.

And she’ll escort you

to the Palm Suite.

SHANE PATTON: Palm Suite.

And I’m sure you will just love it.

Okay.

(ARMOND CHUCKLES)

Aloha, aloha.

ARMOND: Aloha.

Aloha. Thank you.

I’ll check in with you in a little while, okay?

SHANE: Okay.

Okay. Bye-bye.

Aloha.

LANI: Aloha.

Aloha.

Are you Ms. MacQoowod?

Quoid. One syllable.

MacWad?

Well, two syllables,

but the second part is one syllable, “wad.”

MacQuoid.

Is it Gaelic?

I don’t know.

I really don’t know. I… Just, listen, I…

I’m in desperate need of a massage.

Is that possible? Is there anything available?

I mean, I just… I’d take anything right now

because I have a herniated disc and I just…

Belinda behind you.

Belinda behind me?

Belinda, who is behind you, is our spa manager.

Hi

TANYA MACQUOID: Oh.

ARMOND: Belinda, Ms. Macuhwad is in need of treatment.

Would you have any openings for her this afternoon?

Um… unfortunately, we are all booked.

Oh, no. I just… Really?

Are you sure? I would really appreciate it.

I’m not picky. You know, if…

I don’t have to have deep tissue or anything.

I’d take anything at this point. Anything.

Anything but reiki, of course.

Um, you know what? I’ll see what we can do.

TANYA: Really?

Yeah.

(CHUCKLES)

Okay. Thank you.

Uh, Lani is our trainee.

Um, Lani, please ride with Ms. MacQuoid

back to the hotel and bring her up to the Hibiscus Suite.

(QUIETLY) Hibiscus.

Okay. Thank you.

Aloha.

Aloha.

TANYA: Thank you.

♪ (TRIBAL MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

♪ (MUSIC CONCLUDES) ♪

Oh, there’s a lobster bake tonight.

Oh.

Lobster. Yum.

Hey.

Hey.

Let’s get this honeymoon started.

Oh, really?

BOTH: Hmm.

(MOANING)

Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

What? What is it?

What’s wrong?

This is the wrong room.

What do you mean?

Wh… (LAUGHS)

We’re supposed to be in a honeymoon suite.

This isn’t the honeymoon suite. This…

RACHEL: Maybe it is. Why isn’t it?

No, ’cause I did a virtual tour on the website.

This is, uh, this isn’t it. This is just a regular suite.

(LAUGHING) What are you talking about?

This is like the swankiest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in.

Yeah, well, you haven’t traveled that much, so…

Plus, we’re paying for the honeymoon suite.

Hmm… technically, we’re not paying for anything.

Your parents are. I think it’s fine, Shane.

I mean, look, it’s an amazing view.

And we’re near the restaurant. And it’s convenient.

We can stuff ourselves and go drown in the ocean.

(LAUGHS) Uh…

we’re supposed to have our own plunge pool

and a private patio.

There’s a balcony. There’s another balcony.

I mean, they screwed us on our room.

Oh, Shane. I wouldn’t go that far.

Well…

RACHEL: Just talk to the guy.

Yeah. Yeah.

Is it… is it a big deal? Really?

Yeah.

Yeah?

It’s our once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon.

Yeah.

I just want it to be perfect for you, baba.

Mm, you’re the sweetest.

All right. I’m gonna go talk to the guy.

Okay.

Maybe a blowjob first?

(LAUGHING) What?

What? We had a 12-hour flight.

I’m all horned up for you.

Shane, stop.

I’m gonna talk to this guy with half a boner?

(GIGGLING) Stop it.

All right, yeah.

No, we’ll save it for the right room.

Yeah.

All right.

Wait, I’m gonna come with you.

SHANE: Okay!

♪ (TRIBAL MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

♪ (MUSIC CONCLUDES) ♪

Will you be needing anything else

at this time, ma’am?

One thing. It’s just, uh, where are the bags?

Right there. Right behind you.

Oh. (CHUCKLES) Right. Of course.

Okay. Thank you.

You’re welcome.

Wait, there’s just, um, there… There was one small bag.

It’s a small white plastic bag.

That’s the only one that’s… I don’t see it here.

Okay. A plastic bag?

TANYA: A white… Yeah, it’s very important.

Plastic bag?

TANYA: Yeah.

Do you think they could have left it on the… on the wheelie?

Oh my God. Oh my God. It has, uh… Oh my God.

LANI: I can call the bellman.

Yeah, uh, I… no, yeah… It has my mother’s ashes in it.

Oh! Oh.

TANYA: Oh my God.

Do you think it’s lost?

Oh, no, no, no.

I took two boats. We… If maybe you could call

the boat… the boat people, and then there was a…

There was a little white… A little golf cart thing.

I don’t think it had a trunk in it,

but maybe it was left on there, but I just, uh…

LANI: No, I…

Did the boat depart?

Oh my God! Oh my God.

Is this it?

Thank you. Thank you.

I just… That would have been really bad.

Thank God. Thank you.

Thank you.

I… I can’t lose these.

No.

Mahalo.

♪ (TRIBAL MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

(QUIETLY) Oh my God. (SIGHS)

(BREATHING SHAKILY) It’s okay.

Oh my God.

The beach looks sick. We should go.

NICOLE: Girls.

PAULA: Yeah, let’s go.

OLIVIA: Yeah?

I would like to talk to you guys about, you know,

just some of this clutter,

because this is gonna be our common space,

and I would love to try to, you know, just clear it out.

-‘Cause I think I’ll have an anxiety attack…

Mom.

…if I have to live in this all the time.

OLIVIA: We can take care of it later.

Well, you know what? Let’s take care of it now.

Maybe we can find a good spot to store everything.

Quinn. Why is your bed in here?

Olivia said I have to sleep here.

Olivia, your brother is not sleeping in the kitchen.

Why not?

Well, because it’s a galley kitchen.

It’s tiny.

And we’ve got this whole beautiful room.

Mom, he’s doing fine in there. Look, he’s stimming.

He can entertain himself for hours

with just his own hand gestures.

He’s fine in the kitchen.

Olivia, no.

Mom, you want him sleeping out here with us?

He’s gonna jerk off to Paula while she’s sleeping.

I really don’t feel like waking up to that, Mrs. Mossbacher.

Call me Nicole.

And you do have a beautiful body, Paula.

Mom.

You have a beautiful body, too, Olivia.

I just don’t think it’s fair for your brother

to have to spend his entire vacation in a windowless box.

You got to bring a friend.

And I’m so appreciative, Nicole.

Well, we’re so happy to have you, Paula.

I’m fine in here.

See, Mom, he’s fine.

He’s being himself, gaming and fapping

and bye, see you later.

We’re gonna take care of this, honey.

Shortly.

(SIGHS) Okay. It’s okay.

Gotta change my shirt. I spilled…

Okay.

(CELL PHONE RINGING, VIBRATING)

(SIGHS)

DARRELL: Hey, saw you called.

(WHISPERING) Oh my God, Darrell, the baby’s coming or something.

DARRELL: No. No way.

No… no, I swear.

DARRELL: Baby.

It… it hurts so freaking bad. I don’t know what to do.

DARRELL: Just come home then.

No.

No. I don’t get off for four more hours.

DARRELL: Just come home, baby.

I can’t. I can’t, okay? Because… because…

Because no one even knows. It’s my first freaking day.

DARRELL: It’ll be fine, okay? I’m here for you.

Okay. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. I gotta go. I gotta change.

Okay, pray for me, yeah?

DARRELL: I will. I love you.

(SIGHS) I love you.

DARRELL: Hang in there, baby.

(WHISPERING) I got this.

(GUESTS CHATTERING INDISTINCTLY)

(BREATHES DEEPLY)

♪ (SOFT MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

Oh, you changed your uniform. Good.

What was that anyway? Was it tuna fish?

Yeah. Yeah. Maybe.

Are you a messy eater or…

Oh, no.

I mean, it… it’s beachy casual but always presentable,

you know, with a clean look.

Clean.

Oh, Mr. Patton and Ms. Undecided.

(BOTH CHUCKLE)

You finding everything to your liking?

Uh, actually, I think you put us in the wrong room.

We… we’re supposed to be in the honeymoon suite.

Oh, there is no honeymoon suite.

Well, uh, we’re supposed to have

a plunge pool on a private patio.

Oh, well, that would be the, uh, the Pineapple Suite.

Okay.

But…

I… yeah, I don’t have a…

A record of you booking that room, no.

Uh, my mother sent a virtual tour.

She booked the room.

Uh, well, you’re paying for a presidential ocean view suite.

Um, the Palm. That’s a very nice room.

Totally unique.

Right.

It’s really nice, yeah.

But no plunge pool.

But you still have the infinity pool,

the waterfall pool, and the fountain pool.

(CHUCKLES)

SHANE: Right.

ARMOND: The Pineapple Suite, it has the private pool

but it doesn’t have the ocean view.

Um, I think the privacy would be nice, right?

I don’t know. Maybe I should call my mother?

Do you wanna call your mother?

What do you think she’ll say?

I think she’s gonna say we’re in the wrong room, but…

ARMOND: Well, the Pineapple Suite

isn’t available, I’m afraid, anyway.

Oh, it’s not?

No. There’s a German couple staying there.

They also just got married. (CHUCKLES)

So… it is a honeymoon suite.

Shane.

SHANE: No, I just…

It’s not that big of a deal.

I mean, the room is really… It’s gorgeous.

ARMOND: Oh, well, the Palm is everyone’s favorite.

I prefer the Palm to the Pineapple.

Don’t you, Lani?

Palm, yeah. The Palm.

ARMOND: Uh-huh.

Okay. Um…

All right.

That’s a bummer.

I saw the virtual tour of it, and it’s… (CHUCKLES)

(CLEARS THROAT) We’re definitely not paying for the more expensive room?

ARMOND: No.

Right?

I mean, yes, you are not.

Okay.

Um, hi.

Hi.

Is there anything else I can help you with, or…

No, that’s…

Thank you. Thanks. (CHUCKLES)

Of course.

I think I might’ve fucked up

and double booked the Pineapple Suite.

But, you know, hopefully they’ll just get over it.

See, in situations like that, just always stay positive.

Remind these people of…

Of all the fabulous things they already possess.

Unique room, ocean view.

You have to treat these people like sensitive children.

They always say it’s about the money, but it’s not.

It’s not even about the room. They just need to feel seen.

Seen.

They wanna be the only child.

The special, chosen baby child of the hotel.

And we are their mean mummies,

denying them their Pineapple room. (SIGHS)

(BOTH CHUCKLE)

I, uh…

Are they bigger?

I don’t know, you tell me.

I haven’t seen them in a while.

Nicole, they’re fucking huge.

Huh. I wonder what’s going on.

(SIGHS) It’s cancer. I have testicle cancer.

We don’t know that yet. We have not gotten the results.

Shouldn’t we be getting those?

Tomorrow.

Well, wait. Isn’t tomorrow now?

No. Tomorrow.

No. I know. But tomorrow there is what here?

No. It’s still tomorrow.

Okay. Well, you know,

he said that it could be a lot of other things.

No. He said that it maybe could be other things.

And there’s not a lot of other things it could be, right?

I mean, uh, it’s not a family of mice

that burrowed inside my ball sack. It’s cancer.

Or maybe even something worse.

Well, let’s just wait and hear what he has to say.

Let’s not, you know…

It’s cancer!

(WHISPERING) It’s cancer.

Why are you so sure?

Nic, my dad died of cancer and he was only 46 years old.

It wasn’t testicular cancer, was it?

I don’t… Wait. I don’t even know.

You know what? I should call my Uncle Charlie and find out.

It’s just… so disturbing

that it’s in my balls, and that they get big like this.

It’s very Gogol.

Mark, whatever it is, you’re gonna be fine.

People get cancer. They deal with it.

It’s not like it was when your dad had it.

And you know what?

They’re making breakthroughs every day.

It’s like a nonstop parade of progress.

You know what? This is terrible timing.

Coming here was nuts.

Look at your son. He’s sitting in there alone.

He looks like he’s killing time in a waiting room

before a root canal. Go get him. Go have some fun.

Nic…

Quinn is the exact age I was when my dad died.

Well, then all the more reason

to pay him a little attention now…

while you’re still with us.

♪ (HAWAIIAN MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

(KNOCKING ON DOOR)

MARK: Come on. Get out of the closet.

Hey!

QUINN MOSSBACHER: Hey.

All right. Let’s go out and explore.

What do you mean?

Let’s get off the phone,

and let’s go have some fun, okay?

This is nature.

Nature, Quinn. Quinn, nature.

(CHUCKLES)

Well…

Yeah?

All right.

All right. Get your suit on.

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

Oh, hey.

Hi.

TANYA: Do you remember me?

Yes.

Any luck squeezing me in today?

All of our masseuses are fully booked.

Sorry.

Oh. (SIGHS)

But I actually have some free time right now, myself.

Oh.

Here’s what I’m thinking, Tanya. We could do a consultation.

That way I can get a better sense

of what’s going on with you and your body.

And I could give you a cranial sacral,

which I always recommend.

So, no massage?

I think you’ll find this really cathartic.

Will I be fully naked?

Oh, no. We’ll put you in a bathrobe

so you’re comfortable and we can do a little movement.

Okay?

Okay.

BELINDA: Okay. Right this way.

Thank you.

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

Hi!

Hi.

I saw you guys on the boat and on the plane.

Uh, where are you from?

New York.

What neighborhood?

Um, East Village.

But I’m letting go of my place. I’m gonna move into Shane’s…

My husband’s… My husband’s name is Shane.

Where’d you meet him?

RACHEL: Through friends.

Oh, not Raya?

Raya? No. (CHUCKLES) Not Raya.

PAULA: How long was the engagement?

We actually just met last September.

Oh, wow. That was really fast.

Yeah. Like, how’d you know he was the one?

Oh, I don’t know, um… the chemistry was there, and…

(QUIETLY) His dick’s not small.

Yeah.

I don’t know. Shane really wanted

to get married, and he’s very decisive

and pretty convincing, so it just felt right.

Yeah. What does he do?

He’s in real estate.

Uh, that’s what his father does.

Oh, he works for his father?

What do you do?

I’m a… I’m a journalist.

OLIVIA: Oh.

Mostly profiles and, um…

Where’d you go to school?

SUNY Potsdam.

Hmm.

Uh, and then I…

I moved to the city to change the world

and make a name for myself and pay off my loans.

All of which I have yet to do, so…

Won’t he pay off your loans?

Shane? I…

But he could?

Well, uh, yes. Yeah.

Yeah, he could.

PAULA: Yeah, of course, ’cause he’s super rich.

Well, his family is wealthy compared to my family…

I mean, compared to most families. Yeah.

I mean… it sounds like you scored.

Yeah. He’s super hot. Congrats.

Do you two go to school together?

What year are you in?

Sophomores.

Sophomores.

And your mom… Um, I’m assuming it’s your mom.

She looks really familiar. Is she… Um, what does she do?

Her mom’s the CFO of POOF.

Oh, yeah. That’s Nicole Mossbacher.

That’s your mom?

I actually wrote a profile on her.

Well, it was repurposing someone else’s profile,

but, um, it was like…

“Ten Women Kicking the Corporate World’s Ass,”

you know? That kind of thing.

Yeah.

She’s a big deal.

(CHUCKLES)

♪ (TRIBAL MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

Okay. Well, it was nice to meet you.

(BOTH CHUCKLE)

Oh, shit.

(SIGHS, GROANS SOFTLY)

♪ (MUSIC CONCLUDES) ♪

(GASPS)

Uh, I… I, uh… uh…

I think I…

Lani, are you all right?

You’re white as a sheet.

(BREATHING HEAVILY) I should… I should sit down.

Well, we can’t have you sitting in the lobby.

Just go and have a rest in my office.

Okay.

Food poisoning, you think? Maybe the tuna?

Yeah, tuna. (BREATHES SHAKILY)

(SIGHS)

Oh, Mr. Mossbacher. How can I help you?

Uh, my son and I were looking to do some kind of activity.

ARMOND: Wonderful. Of course. Fantastic.

And I thought it would be fun to try scuba diving.

Yes. A few reefs are still thriving.

Do you have your PADI license?

PADI license? No. What is that?

No, I don’t.

ARMOND: Then that would be impossible.

Uh, you can get your accreditation here, though,

in the pool.

Great.

Takes three days.

(SCOFFS) How about… water skiing?

ARMOND: Yes. Very fun.

Uh, the swells are too great right now, unfortunately.

We just had a hurricane pass through,

so it’s a bit biblical out there.

That’s too bad.

ARMOND: Yeah. Maybe later in the week.

How about jet skiing?

(CLICKS TEETH) Same. Swells. It’s a liability issue.

Mm-hmm. Um…

(SIGHS) …surf lessons?

Well, the surfing team leaves first thing in the morning.

I can sign you up for tomorrow, 6:00 a.m.?

MARK: 6:00 a.m.? No way.

Um, I don’t know.

What… what would you suggest that we do?

Well, I would suggest snorkeling in the bay.

You know, there’s not too many fish in the afternoon,

but you’ll definitely see something.

And you can get your masks and fins and things

at the beach shack.

Are there sharks?

They are actually a family of sharks

that hang out in the bay, but they’re quite small.

Like this big. They’re cute.

Okay.

Yeah, let’s do it.

QUINN: Cool.

ARMOND: Enjoy yourselves.

And I’ll see you tonight at the lobster bake.

MARK: Yup.

Oh. God. (GROANS) What is this?

Can somebody clean this up, please? Dillon?

(GROANS)

♪ (UPBEAT MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

♪ (SERENE MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

What I’m hearing is you’re having a lot of fatigue.

Yeah.

I feel like taking a nap right now.

Why do you think you’re so tired?

I think it’s ’cause I’m so close to the floor.

In general.

Well… my mom passed away in June.

I’m so sorry.

Just dealing with all the logistics,

you know, of it all. It’s… It was just exhausting.

And I’m still dealing with it.

You know, my mother…

I have her ashes, you know.

I brought them here, and I was… You know…

I was gonna scatter them in the ocean,

’cause she loved the ocean, but I… you know… I don’t…

I… I don’t even…

I don’t even know where I’m gonna scatter them.

My mother actually passed away a few years ago,

and, you know… I’m still grieving.

I’m still working through it.

Oh.

Nobody loves you like your mother.

Yeah.

But… my mother, she’s…

She was, um…

She was just…

Yeah.

My love life is a ruin.

I’ve driven away every man that… (SIGHS)

…I’ve ever been involved with,

’cause you know, I just… I get… I…

I just, you know, I get too attached.

And they don’t like that.

I just…

I can’t get rid of this, like… this…

This really empty feeling. (SOBS)

(VOICE BREAKING) I want…

I want someone to figure it out for me.

-(SIGHS) -Why don’t we try something, okay?

Will you trust me?

Okay.

♪ (SERENE MUSIC CONTINUES) ♪

Wow.

Boy, you know, this feels nice.

Tanya?

Mm-hmm.

I want you to repeat after me, okay?

Okay.

Every moment…

Every moment…

BELINDA: …I’m being born into this life.

…I’m being born into this life.

I will drop the story…

I will drop the story…

BELINDA: …and feel the newness of each moment.

…and feel the newness of each moment.

I am my own phallic mother.

I’m my own phallic mother.

I’m my own vaginal father.

My own vaginal father?

I fill my own cup.

I fill my own cup.

My failing body is immaterial.

The child in me is alive and fresh as the day I was born.

…is immaterial because the child in me is

as fresh as the day it was born.

BELINDA: I will connect with that child at all times

and feed and nurture her.

I will connect with that child at all times

and feed and nurture her.

(CHANTING IN SANSKRIT)

(CHANTING IN SANSKRIT)

(BELINDA CHANTING IN SANSKRIT)

(CHANTING IN SANSKRIT)

You don’t have to do this part.

I know, but I like it, okay?

BELINDA: I know. I’ll just… It’s a Hindu chant…

Okay.

BELINDA: …so just listen…

and breathe.

I love it.

(CONTINUES CHANTING IN SANSKRIT)

(WAVES CRASHING)

(CHANTING FADES)

♪ (MYSTICAL MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

♪ (MUSIC FADES) ♪

What are you doing?

Huh?

Why do you keep looking at your dick?

I’m not. I’m looking at my balls.

I’m gonna go in.

Are you afraid of sharks?

It’s just…

♪ (TRIBAL MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

Hey.

Where’d you go?

To the pool. (SIGHS)

You know those girls from the boat,

the young ones?

They made me feel, like, really, really weird just now.

Baba.

RACHEL: What?

The guy lied.

I mean, that or he’s just stupid or something.

We did book the room with the pool,

and we paid for it.

My mom forwarded me the booking.

Shane!

SHANE: What?

I’m not gonna let him ruin our honeymoon.

No. But he’s not. You are.

Like, let’s just enjoy this room. It’s nice.

Just forget about the other room.

But we paid for it. (SCOFFS)

Get over yourself.

Get over myself?

RACHEL: Get over it.

Like, why are we even thinking about this?

Let’s just enjoy our honeymoon, you know?

(LAUGHING) There’s no problem.

(CHUCKLES)

Oh my God. Baba.

What?

It’s our first marital spat.

Uh…

Is that what you want? Are you looking for fights?

Not with you. I’m not fighting.

Just come here. Come over here. Come here.

I won’t mention it again. I’ll take care of it. Okay?

I just want you have the best. The best.

(CHUCKLES SOFTLY) Okay.

Okay.

♪ (“PUA NANI O HAWAII” BY MICHAEL ALAN SCOTT PLAYING) ♪

BELINDA: Yeah. Today at 3:00?

Oh, yeah. Let me take a look. We can…

Of course, we can do the massage,

and then we can follow that with the scrub.

We can do the wrap too.

Unfortunately, we can’t do the scrubs in the room.

We have a water room for that.

Okay. Great. We’ll get you in for that.

And then, you also wanted a wrap too?

(MOUTHING SILENTLY)

We’ll do that at 3:00, massage, followed by scrub,

followed by the wrap. And you also…

(MOUTHING SILENTLY)

-Yes, yes, yes. We can absolutely do a facial. -(WHISPERING) I loved it.

Loved it.

BELINDA: The exfoliating facial is pretty intensive.

It’s about an hour and a half, so we can, um…

Oh, no. Absolutely.

We can take the whole block of time if you want.

♪ (MUSIC FADES) ♪

See anything good?

QUINN: No. Not really.

I saw… a lot of seaweed. It was… pretty gross.

Yeah.

What?

(MARK SIGHS)

Ah, I’m just thinking.

Being a man, being a young man…

in this time right now, can’t be easy.

Why? ‘Cause we can’t harass girls anymore?

No.

Well, yeah.

I don’t know. I don’t know, the modern world today

is just so… emasculating.

You mean, like, we’re cucked?

Yeah.

Unless you’re a fireman or something.

You know, I think… it’s like every kid…

like, growing up, wants to be the hero of the story.

And in the end…

you know, you’re just happy you’re not the villain.

You know what I’m saying?

Is this about mom making more money than you?

No. It’s not about that. What?

Sorry. Sorry.

I’m just… (SIGHS)

I’m proud of you, Quinn. That’s all.

Thanks.

And I just hope that you, like, think of me…

and… remember this time… in a positive way.

Okay.

I love you.

I love you, too.

♪ (UPBEAT MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

CONCH SHELL BLOWER: (SPEAKING IN HAWAIIAN)

HAWAII LOCAL: (SPEAKING IN HAWAIIAN)

(CONCH SHELL BLOWS)

ARMOND: If you like pineapple, the soufflé will knock your socks off.

That’s my tip for tonight.

Enjoy yourselves, lovebirds. (CHUCKLES)

How are you tonight, people?

Oh, good, thanks.

Good to see you.

(MUTTERING QUIETLY)

Like she actually cared about the working poor.

She was a neoliberal war hawk.

She was a neolib and a neocon.

NICOLE: I’m sorry. Did you say Hillary Clinton?

Something about Hillary Clinton?

Nothing, Mom.

Oh. Oh, is that the trendy thing they’re teaching now,

to hate on Hillary Clinton?

OLIVIA: Mom, don’t get triggered.

NICOLE: Hillary Clinton is one of the most influential women

of the last 30 years, and many women in my generation

very much admire Hillary Clinton.

Okay. Don’t worry about it, Mom. We all love Hillary Clinton.

ARMOND: How was the snorkeling?

Did you see the little sharks?

Nope. Didn’t see much.

No? Well, go first thing in the morning,

take a little bread,

and they’ll swim right up to you.

It’s like a Disney movie. (CHUCKLES)

A slightly scary Disney movie.

Oh. Excuse me.

What? What is it?

Um, Lani is in your office, having a baby.

What? Who’s Lani?

The trainee.

What do you mean she’s having a baby?

She is in labor.

Lani, the trainee, is having a baby in my office?

That’s not possible.

Well, it’s happening.

Oh, fuck.

TANYA: Uh, Armond.

Oh my gosh. I have to tell you something.

I have to tell you.

I had the most amazing treatment today.

You know, I’ve had a lot of treatments in this lifetime.

And I swear to God, the one that I had today

was probably the best treatment I’ve ever had.

It was incredible.

-It really was. -I’m sorry, madam. I’m needed in the office.

TANYA: Okay, but listen. Listen,

I have a massage scheduled for tomorrow.

And, um, I want to request Belinda.

Belinda is the best.

I’ll make a note.

TANYA: Can you help me with that?

I’ll make a note.

TANYA: All right.

LANI: God! (BREATHING HEAVILY)

ARMOND: Lani, what’s going on?

(BREATHES HEAVILY)

Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?

I’m sorry. (SOBS) I needed work, okay? I…

You… you can’t have a baby the first day on the job.

I didn’t know. She’s early. Oh, she’s early.

Well, do you have a doctor. Lani?

Dr. Rezz is on his way.

(GROANS)

But he is coming from the other side of the island.

Oh my God.

CHRISTIE: He’ll be here.

Somebody should get Belinda up here.

Seems like she might have dabbled in midwifery.

Yeah. M… maybe one of the guests is a doctor?

What? I’m supposed to walk around the lobster bake, Dillon?

“Is there a doctor? Our trainee is having

a baby in the lobby.” Idiot!

♪ (FAST PACED MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

(LAUGHS)

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

It’s like the only activity they have here.

What are you doing? Stop. That’s embarrassing.

I’m helping.

Mom, what the fuck?

Lobster is very tough. It’s very tough.

LANI: (SOBBING) Oh, it hurts. I can’t!

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

(SOBS)

Oh God, oh God, oh God.

CHRISTIE: You’re okay.

(GASPS, GROANS)

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

(LAUGHING)

♪ (MUSIC CONTINUES) ♪

I’m gonna go back up to the room.

Thank you.

(COUPLE TALKING IN GERMAN)

Hey, I bet those are the German fuckers that got our room.

What?

That’s all right.

You look beautiful.

Thank you.

Sir! Hey, sir. Hey.

Y… yes?

Um, I have an email here… uh, about the booking.

Can I talk to you about this in just a minute?

Uh, yeah. No problem. Yeah. Whenever.

Or never. It’s all good. (CHUCKLES) It’s all good.

(WHISPERING) Thank God I caught you.

What’s going on?

I have no idea what to do.

Oh, hey. Hi. Hey.

(WHISPERING INDISTINCTLY)

Hey… Wait… Belinda. Belinda.

Belinda, it’s me.

To… the adventure of a lifetime.

There’s no one I’d rather be doing it with.

Cheers.

You’re doing great, Lani, okay? Breathe for me.

You gotta breathe. Give me your eyes.

Breathe deep in, okay?

(LANI SOBBING)

In. (INHALES) Out.

Hey. Doctor’s here.

(LANI WHIMPERING)

Oh, thank God.

(LANI GROANING)

Hey, Lani, I’m Dr. Rezz.

LANI: (CRYING) Thank you.

We’re here to take care of you.

LANI: Thank you, thank you.

Let me get some gloves, check your vitals real quick.

LANI: It hurts so bad. (SOBBING)

DR. REZZ: How far apart are your contractions?

BELINDA: Two minutes.

LANI: Two minutes?

BELINDA: Yeah.

I just thought she was chunky.

You know, the poor woman was having a baby

and I… (SIGHS) …I didn’t even notice.

(LANI WAILING)

Fuck.

♪ (TRIBAL MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

(SIGHS)

(BED CREAKING, THUDDING)

OLIVIA: Did you think that guy was hot?

What guy?

That guy you were gawking at by the tiki torches.

I don’t remember seeing a guy by the tiki torches.

(BED THUDDING)

Quinn, what are you doing in there? Are you fapping?

Fuck off!

(CELL PHONE RINGING, VIBRATING)

Shit. Nicole, it’s the doctor.

I told you, today is tomorrow. Answer it.

Hello.

NURSE: Mark Mossbacher?

This is he.

NURSE: Hi, do you have a minute for the doctor?

Yeah. Of course.

NURSE: Okay. One second. I’ll put him right on.

(LINE BEEPS)

♪ (HOLD MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

He’s calling me first thing.

Don’t read into it.

(MARK EXHALES)

♪ (HOLD MUSIC CONTINUING) ♪

(LINE BEEPS)

NURSE: I’m so sorry, Mark. I just lost him.

What?

NURSE: Can we call you back in a few minutes?

Hey, I’m on vacation. It’s very late here.

Can you just please get him back?

NURSE: I’m so sorry. It’ll just be a few minutes.

I promise. Call you right back.

Okay.

NURSE: Okay. Thanks.

(LINE DISCONNECTS)

(SIGHS)

NICOLE: It’s gonna be okay, Mark.

♪ (MELLOW MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

It’s… it’s gonna be good news.

Good things happen to good people.

(SCOFFS)

(CHUCKLES)

We’re married.

We’re on our honeymoon.

Yeah. Yep.

(CHUCKLES) I’m happy.

Yeah. Me, too.

I just hope that we don’t become

like one of those old, depressing couples

with all this baggage and resentment and regrets.

And…

I just hope it always stays this way, you know?

Yeah. It will, baba.

Promise?

Yeah.

Come here.

(BREATHES DEEPLY)

We are always gonna feel like this.

We will always be young.

And we will always be in love.

And there will be days and days just like this.

Okay?

Okay.

Hmm.

♪ (MUSIC PLAYING) ♪

♪ (MUSIC CONTINUES) ♪

♪ (MUSIC FADES) ♪

OLIVIA MOSSBACHER: I wish we had drugs.

I’ve got Ambien, Xanax, and a few Klonpin,

but we can’t use it all, ’cause…

I need them for my panic attacks.

♪ (TROPICAL MUSIC PLAYS) ♪

Oh…

You think you could have dinner with me at the hotel tonight?

The hotel doesn’t really like it

when the staff interacts with the guests.

This is like some kind of caste system…

Thank you for bringing me here.

How are you, having fun?

(ECHOING) You have the most beautiful skin I’ve ever seen.

We got… we gotta go…

Girls, you left your…

If it turns up, I will call immediately.

(INHALES SHARPLY)

Surprise!

Mom!

A lot of great girls came and went, but you won.

RACHEL: You’re making me sound like a trophy wife.

Well, what’s so wrong with that?

I do not see what the big deal is.

RACHEL: It’s our honeymoon!

♪ (UPBEAT MUSIC PLAYS) ♪

NICHOLE MOSSBACHER: I’m on vacation.

I’m trying to unwind…

(CRIES)

…from the stress that is my life.

OLIVIA: So, who’s the guy?

The one you’ve been sneaking out every night to have sex with?

You’re so real.

I’m very real.

So, what’s your guys’ secret? How do you keep the spark alive?

(LAUGHS) The spark?

No, it’s not alive, it died.

SPEAKER: Goodbye, mother!

(CRIES)

SHANE PATTON: I don’t want a free massage.

I don’t want cheap champagne.

Enjoy.

What I want is to speak to your boss.

ARMOND: He thinks we’ve ruined his honeymoon,

I will ruin his honeymoon!

(LAUGHS)

(COUGHS)

♪ (MUSIC SWELLS) ♪

Honeymooners… Whoo!

♪ (ETHEREAL MUSIC PLAYS) ♪

♪ (ETHEREAL MUSIC PLAYS) ♪

I always wanted to do a show about

the issues of contemporary zeitgeisty anxiety,

and a little bit of the comedy of trying to vacation,

get away from your problems and instead,

the sort of crucible of being stuck with somebody

and some of the drama that could come out of that.

♪ (MUSIC SLOWS) ♪

It’s a high-end hotel,

and the guests can be quite demanding,

and Armand figured out a way

to make sure that everyone get their needs met.

He’s on. It’s like a show for him.

ARMOND: The goal is to create for the guests

an overall impression of vagueness.

They get everything they want,

but they don’t even know what they want.

SHANE PATTON: We did book the room with the pool,

and we paid for it.

My mom forwarded me the booking.

RACHEL: Shane!

SHANE: What?

I’m not gonna let him ruin our honeymoon.

No, but he’s not. You are.

ALEXANDRA DADDARIO: Rachel is a woman who has entered

into a marriage abruptly,

with someone who she was only dating for a few months.

And she is on her honeymoon,

and is just now beginning to have doubts and questions

about what she’s gotten herself into.

Uh, about the booking.

Can I talk to you about this in just a minute?

Uh, yeah. No problem. No, whatever.

MURRAY BARTLETT: I really love the scenes

between Shane and Armond

because there’s this sort of, like, competitive thing,

and they’re kinda tryna one up each other.

And there’s this build of their interactions

throughout the show, which is really satisfying,

because Shane is such a dick.

JAKE LACY: Shane lives in New York,

works at his dad’s commercial real estate firm,

newly married, and has not experienced a lot of setbacks.

In the vacuum of his existence, like, it isn’t fair

to just assume that he’s a certain way.

But also, he is a certain way.

It’s fun to try to give voice to lots of different people

with different perspectives and give a real variety

to the voices.

I have testicle cancer.

We don’t know that yet. We have not gotten the results.

Nicole is in charge of everybody. (CHUCKLES)

She is the corporate epitome of mama bear.

Nicole’s relationship with Mark,

they’ve been married for a long time.

She is the bread winner in the family,

and I think that has taken its toll

on both of their psyches, but also at the same time,

has created the structure of their marriage

and of their family life.

NICOLE MOSSBACHER: It’s gonna be okay, Mark.

Good things happen to good people.

STEVE ZAHN: Nicole and I are the classic upper class parents.

We’re busy, busy, busy,

and it doesn’t bother her as much as it bothers me.

My focus is the kids, all of the sudden,

and that’s why I have this really cool journey with my son.

As in all families, dysfunctional or otherwise,

it’s a very authentic and complex relationship.

Why is your bed in here?

Olivia said I have to sleep here.

I just don’t think it’s fair for your brother

to have to spend his entire vacation

in a windowless box.

Why not?

You got to bring a friend.

And I am so appreciative, Nicole.

SYDNEY SWEENEY: Olivia and Paula met each other in college.

Paula introduced her to different beliefs

than what she grew up with,

and she’s learned a lot through being Paula’s friend,

and how the world affects Paula

in a different way than it affects Olivia.

And she’s more cautious and conscious of how her parents

and her family speak and what they believe in,

and she kind of wants to stand up against them

because of Paula.

Paula definitely loved the idea

of trying to dissect different people,

this holier-than-thou attitude

that creates this connection with Olivia.

PAULA: She’s meeting her friends for a girls’ trip.

She gets on their nerves,

but she pays for everything, so they put up with her.

She’s an American Brigitte Bardot.

JENNIFER COOLIDGE: Tanya is introduced to the story,

like a very lost, very vulnerable person,

shows up with a backpack of mental baggage

and her mother’s ashes.

She truly thinks that Belinda is a genius,

because she’s someone who’s incredibly wealthy

and has been in spas all over the world,

and no one can really seem to fix her.

NATASHA ROTHWELL: While the details of everyone’s

individual story are different,

fundamentally, like, the desire’s the same.

In the Venn diagram of Tanya and Belinda,

heartache is definitely an overlap.

It’s a perfect storm, the timing that they meet,

the sort of spiritual experience of the massage that they have

that allowed for this very unusual friendship to develop.

It’s like any really great recipe.

One thing, if it’s not there, then it’s off.

And under any other circumstance,

I don’t think they would be friends, or even attempt it.

But at the White Lotus, anything’s possible.

♪ (MUSIC CONTINUES) ♪

* * *

The Brilliant, Biting Social Satire of “The White Lotus”

Mike White’s HBO tragicomedy is one of the best shows of the year.

by Naomi Fry
July 26, 2021

Aboat ferrying a gaggle of rich American tourists makes its way toward a Hawaiian luxury resort. At the shore, the resort’s decidedly less wealthy, more ethnically diverse staff waits to greet the guests. The groups face each other, as if they were equal expressions on two sides of a mathematical equation, but the equivalence is just an illusion. “Wave like you mean it,” the resort’s manager, Armond (the Australian actor Murray Bartlett), instructs Lani (Jolene Purdy), a native-Hawaiian trainee. Armond explains that the guests expect a kind of pleasant blandness, or an “impression of vagueness,” from the staff. “We are asked to disappear behind our masks,” he says. “It’s tropical Kabuki!”

Welcome to “Upstairs, Downstairs,” Aloha State edition. The series, called “The White Lotus,” named for the fictional resort where the action takes place, is a near-note-perfect tragicomedy, created by Mike White for HBO. White has written mass-market Hollywood fare like “School of Rock,” but he is better known for his work on small-screen comedies such as “Freaks and Geeks” and, more recently, “Enlightened,” a short-lived cult favorite, also on HBO. Much like the latter series, in which Laura Dern plays an executive who tries to make a comeback after suffering a public nervous breakdown, “The White Lotus” is an examination of what happens when the veneer of conventional sociability dissolves and the power struggles stoked by race, class, and gender erupt from beneath the surface of everyday life.

In the first of six episodes, Armond tells Lani to make each guest feel like the “special chosen baby child of the hotel.” These baby children include the Mossbacher family: Nicole (Connie Britton), a Sheryl Sandberg-like tech C.F.O.; her beta husband, Mark (Steve Zahn); their porn-addicted sixteen-year-old son, Quinn (Fred Hechinger); and their daughter, Olivia (“Euphoria” ’s Sydney Sweeney, once again playing a parent’s nightmare), a bitchy, performatively woke college sophomore, who has brought along a friend, Paula (Brittany O’Grady). There is the obligatory newlywed couple—Shane (Jake Lacy), a real-estate scion in a Cornell baseball cap, and his wife, Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), a clickbait journalist who, hours into her honeymoon, is starting to have second thoughts. There is also Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), a lonely alcoholic who carries around her dead mother’s ashes in an ornate gilt box. The chief coddlers are Belinda (Natasha Rothwell), a soothing, long-suffering spa manager, who is perhaps the only truly likable character on the show, and Armond, a mustachioed dandy and a recovering addict whose sobriety is tested by his stressful job.

The White Lotus is a breeding ground for conflict, not unlike the Hell masquerading as Heaven in “The Good Place.” Nicole, who complains that her suite doesn’t provide “nice feng-shui” for her “Zoom with China,” feels attacked by her daughter’s mocking of her Hillary-style feminism, and insulted by Rachel, who once wrote a profile of her insinuating that she had capitalized on the #MeToo movement to climb the corporate ladder. (Rachel’s defense: “I was just basically repurposing the profile of you from the Post.”) Shane, who becomes increasingly consumed by his belief that Armond is cheating him out of the top-rate suite his mother paid for, feels that he is being unfairly persecuted for his privilege. “People have been coming for me my whole life,” he says. “I’m just playing the hand I was dealt!” The guests’ awful behavior is a vehicle for satire. “My mother told me I would never be a ballerina, and that was when I was skinny,” Tanya says, while attempting to scatter her mom’s ashes in the ocean. But White has an affection for his characters, who never feel like caricatures. When Tanya murmurs, “Oh, my mother, mother, mother,” we hear the call of a soul in true distress.

White’s greatest sympathy lies with those who have a more tenuous connection to power and money. One example is Belinda, who not only tends to Tanya in the spa but also tucks the grieving woman into bed when she is blackout drunk. Belinda hopes that Tanya will pay for her to open up her own wellness center. Rachel, meanwhile, is adjusting to the idea that being wed to Shane means being rich—a blessing and a curse. When she is offered a reporting assignment during their honeymoon, he tells her, “Whatever they’re paying you, I’ll double it.” Paula, one of the only nonwhite guests at the resort, has a fling with a native-Hawaiian employee, and is perturbed watching him do a traditional dance for the guests. “Obviously, imperialism was bad,” Mark tells her. “But it’s humanity. Welcome to history. Welcome to America.” One thing that White captures, through Paula, is what it’s like to be on vacation with your friend’s family—a tiresome experience of being dragged into tensions that are not your own and still being expected to perform gratitude, which ultimately ends with you despising everyone, including your friend.

“The White Lotus” is largely a character and relationship study, but it does have a plot. The series opens with an ending: Shane, sans Rachel, waits to board a flight back home as a box containing human remains is loaded onto the plane. Someone has died, but who? We are then hurtled, backward in time, to the beginning of the vacation. This makes the show one of many recent HBO series to use nonlinear storytelling (“Sharp Objects,” “I Know This Much Is True,” “Made for Love”). It is also yet another series on the network that seeks to unravel a mysterious death (“Big Little Lies,” “The Undoing,” “Mare of Easttown,” “Sharp Objects” again).

And one would be remiss not to mention “Succession,” given White’s focus on the wealthy ruling class. But, unlike that show, which relies on crowded plots and multiple locations to sketch out the lives of its characters, “The White Lotus” was shot in one place, the Four Seasons in Maui. The focus on a single site—apart from making filming easier during the pandemic—gives the show a Pinteresque airlessness. The guests and the employees crouch and circle one another like animals in a cage. Sometimes the characters have difficulty escaping White’s gaze. At breakfast, Rachel tries to talk to Shane about her career, and he abruptly leaves the table to chase down Armond. In a later scene, of the Mossbacher family fighting at breakfast, we catch a glimpse of Rachel, still alone at the table, staring down at her plate.

White is obsessed with reality television; he has even been a contestant on “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor.” Perhaps this is why “The White Lotus” is the most reality-TV-like scripted series I’ve seen in a long time. The naïvely blissful guests on the boat reminded me of the horny contestants on “Too Hot to Handle” docking at Turks and Caicos, not yet knowing that they’ve agreed to participate in a game of abstinence. The character of Tanya, in Coolidge’s hands, is as heartrending and unbearable as any Bravo housewife. And owing to a slew of rivalries, and a foreboding, tribal-drum-heavy score, composed by Cristobal Tapia de Veer, White’s show also has ample tinges of “Survivor.” After duking it out for a week on an island, who will come out alive?

“Is this like a kamikaze situation? Are you gonna take me down with you?” Dillon (Lukas Gage), an employee, asks Armond, who—spoilers ahead—has broken his sobriety and is in full fuck-it-mask-off mode. “What do you care?” his boss answers. “You make shit money. They exploit me, I exploit you.” (The actors are excellent across the board, but Bartlett, whose practiced amiability turns progressively feral throughout the series, is a revelation.) Later on, Armond, in a drugged haze, enters Shane’s room, drops his trousers, and squats, straining out a memento in his rival’s suitcase.

Watching this hilarious, horrifying moment, I thought of Jamaica Kincaid’s “A Small Place,” in which she derides the tourists who come to her native Antigua in search of a scenic vacation. “You must not wonder what exactly happened to the contents of your lavatory when you flushed it,” Kincaid writes. “The contents of your lavatory might, just might, graze gently against your ankle as you wade carefree in the water, for you see, in Antigua, there is no proper sewage-disposal system.” Staying at the White Lotus might seem like the most wonderful thing in the world, but don’t be surprised if, by the end of the vacation, you end up with shit in your luggage. You’ve more than likely done something to deserve it.

The New Yorker, August 2, 2021 Issue

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/08/02/the-brilliant-biting-social-satire-of-the-white-lotus

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