The White Lotus (Season 2) Episode 1: Mike White’s “The White Lotus” emerged as a surprise hit from HBO last year thanks to its razor-sharp writing, eccentric characters, wonderful performance from the acting ensemble, and the overall morbidly funny vibe they managed to create. The vacation-themed satirical take on “rich people’s failing to get their shit together” eventually managed to become an award darling at the Emmys, where it practically swept every category in which it was competing.
With 10 Emmys in the bag for the first season, The White Lotus is back now for a widely anticipated sophomore season with the hope of another successful outcome. The (almost) anthology series has now moved to Sicily from Hawaii, where a new set of characters have arrived to have “The Vacation” of their life; along with that, Jennifer Coolidge and Jon Gries are returning from the first season to reprise their former characters but this time as a married couple. Just like the last season, White himself is directing all the episodes.
The White Lotus (Season 2) Episode 1: ‘Ciao’ Recap
It is a seemingly lovely and beautiful day at the beach of Sicily, where we meet Daphne (played by “The Bold Type”s Meghann Fahy), who is really sad about going home after a great vacation where everything from the hotel to food was great, as she describes to two newly arrived tourists. Things soon turn chaotic when Daphne discovers a dead body floating in the ocean while taking one final splash at the water.
The focus shifts to the seemingly tense manager of “The White Lotus,” Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore), and her assistant Rocco (Federico Ferrante). Looking at the beach scene from afar, Valentina tries to comfort herself with the denial of the ocean not being hotel property, so the dead body is not her responsibility in any way. But that wears off when Rocco gives her the news of “a few” guests being dead at the hotel.
And then, the story moves back to a week earlier
In a fittingly titled Ciao episode, Valentina and her staff welcome a group of people at “The White Lotus” resort in Sicily.
Amongst the newly arrived guests, we have three generations of the Di Grasso family with obnoxiously flirty old man Bert (F Murray Abraham), his Hollywood bigshot producer son Dominic (Michael Imperioli), and his grandson Albie (Adam DiMarco). He happens to be a recent Stanford graduate. The Italian-American family is here to reconnect with their Sicilian heritage, as Bert was born here.
Then there are the two couples, Daphne (Fahy) and Cameron (Theo James), and their invitees, Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and Ethan (Will Sharpe), who have this really awkward energy going around them. At the same time, Daphne and Cameron seem like a conventional, happily married couple still very much in love with each other, while Harper and Ethan appear to be much more restrained and gloomy. Harper doesn’t even try to hide her perpetual state of annoyance, clearly hinting at her disliking towards Cameron and Daphne.
And last but not least, we are reintroduced to Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya, who is now married to Greg Hunt (another character from last season, played by Jon Gries) and is going to meet her husband, who has already arrived at the hotel. Traveling with Tania is her new assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), a girl in her early twenties.
But there’s more in the mix
The guests are watched from a little distance by local sex workers Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and her friend Mia (Beatrice Granno). Lucia has befriended a man on the internet who is supposed to be on the same boat in which the guests have arrived. Looking at the men, the two keep speculating about “who” this man might be.
All is not well with the Di Grasso family
Bert flirts with hotel employee Bella (Eleonora Romandini) first in front of her, like “nothing happened,” which embarrasses both Dom and Albie. Dom has trouble dealing with this as we find him at the receiving end of a highly volatile phone call where this woman (most likely his estranged wife, voiced by Laura Dern) literally asks him to “fuck off” despite him being all apologetic.
And Greg is not the same anymore
Tanya and Greg’s honeymoon period is over, and the Greg we meet in season 2 no longer resembles the sweet, attentive Greg from season 1. Greg here seems to be a condescending old man who is (possibly) hiding things (secret affair maybe?) from Tanya.
Things get more troublesome when Greg gets mad at Tanya for bringing Portia with her on what is supposed to be a “romantic getaway.” Seeing Greg that mad, Tanya asks Portia to stay hidden all day in her room, which naturally upsets Portia. However, Portia’s day gets a little better when she meets Albie by the pool, and the two strike up a pleasant conversation.
Tanya’s day doesn’t get better, though, as a sexual romp with Greg in the afternoon ends up in a fight between the two.
Back to the couples
The awkwardness between the two couples further intensifies when Rocco tries to show them a door connecting their two adjacent rooms, but Harper flatly says they are not going to use it.
Pointing at the strange human head vase Ethan asks Rocco what’s the deal with it, as he has noticed similar things ever since they arrived. Rocco tells them about the legend of Testa Di Moro, which is the story of a woman finding out about the wife and children of her moor, which he hid from her, and subsequently punishing him by chopping his head off.
Later that day, the couple discovers they couldn’t be more different when they sit at the poolside while having lunch. Harper and Ethan find it really hard to digest that Cameron and Daphne don’t read the news and (most likely) don’t vote. Their hobbies and everything else doesn’t really match either.
In the middle of this, Harper returns to their room to take sunscreen while Cameron follows her to borrow one of Ethan’s swimsuits. Inside the room, Cameron gets completely naked to try on the suit which Harper sees while standing in front of the bathroom mirror.
The White Lotus (Season 2) Episode 1: Ending, Explained
Upon Ethan’s request, Harper makes an effort and warms up to the other couple, which overjoys Daphne. At night, Cameron and Daphne go full unhinged and make loud sex noises which the other couple hears while sitting quietly in their bed. Harper tells Ethan about what Cameron did when he came to the room to try the suit on, but Ethan doesn’t seem to be bothered much. After Harper turns away, we see Ethan strangely staring at the vase.
It is entirely possible at this point that Ethan, who seems seemingly normal and overall harmless, is not quite how he appears to be, and he is probably hiding some huge secret.
At some point, Harper actually asks him why and how he is friends with someone like Cameron, who makes fun of him and even belittles him for being a nerd. We also wonder the same, especially when Ethan is rich, loaded with money from the tech company he has just sold.
What’s up with Greg?
Tanya’s doubt grows when she finds out Greg is whispering during a call inside the room and confronts him. But Greg avoids that by giving a vague excuse, as he thought Tanya was planning to sleep, and it was nothing but a work call.
Considering how Greg has been behaving from the very beginning, that call is most likely not a work call, and for Tanya, the vacation will only worsen.
Small things, but it might matter eventually
Lucia and Mia attend the dinner in search of Lucia’s mysterious man, where Mia is approached by the lounge singer, Giuseppe. But while Mia takes a genuine interest, Giuseppe appears to be sleazy and wants to pay for having sex with her. This doesn’t end well, and Mia storms off after (rightfully) throwing her drink in his face.
Portia is seen going over Albie’s social media, hinting at some romantic possibility between the two.
Who is Lucia’s mysterious man?
And finally, Lucia’s mysterious man is revealed, and it is none other than Dominic Di Grasso. Ironically, just a while earlier, we see Dominic criticizing his father for flirting with every woman he can find, followed by a conversation between the three Di Grasso about whether Bert can still have an erection.
While Lucia seems interested in having a conversation, Dominic seems tired and stressed, and he says that given a lot going on in his life, he is not really up for “talking much.” Taking the hint, Lucia moved forward to do what needed to be done.
Lastly, this is something we are going to do every week:
Victim(s): Definitely not Daphne, Valentina, and Rocco
Killer: It can be anybody at this point.