The White Lotus episode 2 recap – “New Day” pineapple express

July 19, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO, Weekly TV
4

Summary

“New Day” doesn’t make it any clearer who’s going to snuff it, but it is a biting class-conscious comedy.

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4

Summary

“New Day” doesn’t make it any clearer who’s going to snuff it, but it is a biting class-conscious comedy.

This recap of The White Lotus episode 2, “New Day”, contains spoilers.


I didn’t get a proper job until I was almost thirty years of age, and I raise this because it’s relevant to why I identify so much with Rachel, the character Alexandra Daddario plays in The White Lotus. I was the only child of a single parent who has worked the same job for peanuts over half of her life; upon leaving high school, I got really into drinking and doing drugs and meeting women, and I bounced around between minimum-wage jobs and ill-advised relationships on the vague proviso that I was working towards building something for myself that would support me long-term. It took me all of my twenties to build that thing – this site! – and in that time I thought about money every day. I never stopped worrying about whether I could pay the next bill. When I wasn’t so self-medicated that I wasn’t worried about it, I was thinking about what I was going to do with my life.

This is Rachel, in a nutshell. She doesn’t come from money. She has been quietly toiling away at a fairly thankless career that has her writing puff pieces for barely anything, and she’s so singularly focused on that endeavor she’s willing to write such a piece on her honeymoon. But that’s the thing. Rachel never made it on her own terms. Instead, she met a very rich guy, and married him, and is now stuck trying to figure whether she has made a terrible mistake and how, if she has, she’s going to rectify it. I relate to her because she sees Shane, his lifestyle, and his viewpoint as completely alien. Perhaps more to the point, she sees him as something of a threat to her personal sovereignty. I’m not saying she was right to suggest writing the piece while on their honeymoon. But she was right to feel a pang of horror at the idea of Shane’s money meaning she’ll no longer have to carve out her own identity.

Admittedly, it’s easy to root for Rachel because Shane is absolutely awful, and his constant bellyaching about their suite – even going so far in The White Lotus episode 2 as to get his mother’s travel agent to harass Armond about it – honestly nauseates me. It makes perfect sense that his solution to everything would be to throw money at it, so his suggestion that he pays Rachel at double her rate to not work is on-brand, if insufferable. But the point here is Rachel’s existential crisis. She’s seeing the idealized go-getter version of herself dematerialize in real-time. So, there’s no wonder she shares all this with Nicole.

The problem with Nicole – and Rachel has to learn this the hard way – is that she’s inscrutable. This makes sense, too. You don’t become as successful as her as a woman without being able to play the game, so she’s an expert at letting her face say one thing while her voice says something very different. One of the best scenes in The White Lotus episode 2 is when she smilingly eviscerates Rachel after learning it was her who wrote a disingenuously flattering article about her. This comes as a great surprise to Rachel, who assumed Nicole was like Shane, susceptible to flattery and sycophancy. But there’s a difference between power that has been earned and power that has been given.

This causes Nicole problems with Olivia, admittedly, since she’s so used to being immovable and implacable that she struggles to compromise in her family life, too, which manifests as her either not seeing Olivia’s kind of valid perspective on her work to simply playing dumb about what Olivia and Paula are really up to, which in “New Day” is getting very high indeed. (And tormenting Quinn to a degree that most parents wouldn’t allow.)

Speaking of Quinn, he’s having a hard time not just with his sister but with his dad, whose discovery that he isn’t dying of cancer has somehow made him even more determined to seize the day and repair his relationship with his son. This is partly inspired by the fact he wants Quinn to idolize him the way he idolized his own macho outdoorsman father, which is understandably complicated when he discovers at the end of the hour that, rather than dying from cancer as he spent his life believing, dad actually died from AIDs contracted via secretive extramarital sex with men. Mark might not be the likeliest holidaymaker to die at the resort anymore, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to have a good holiday.

This begs the question: Who is going to die? Someone has to, after all, and at the moment it could be anyone. It could be Tanya or Belinda, whose one-sided business arrangement and borderline obsession seems very much like it’ll end in disaster for all involved. It could be Shane, at the hands of either his increasingly resentful new wife or Armond, who has committed the unforgivable offense of treating him just like everyone else. On that note, though, it could be Armond himself, a relapsing drug addict who has turned to self-medication at the prospect of dealing with an endless stream of people very much like Shane. I can see his point.

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