“Mysterious Monkeys” finds the comedy and the tragedy in equal measure as everyone’s holidays continue to go badly wrong.
This recap of The White Lotus episode 3, “Mysterious Monkeys”, contains spoilers.
The cliff-hanger of last week’s episode – if you really want to call it a cliff-hanger – was Mark Mossbacher discovering that his alpha male dad contracted AIDs from secret liaisons with gay men, and the biggest joke of “Mysterious Monkeys” is how deathly serious he takes this revelation. It has a profound effect on him. As if he didn’t have enough to worry about. His wife can’t stop working, his son has an addiction to p**n and technology and almost got swept out to sea, and his daughter is thoroughly disinterested in him. It isn’t the idea of his dad having gay sex that disturbs him, though, but the idea of him lying about it all these years. Although, at least as far as Olivia is concerned, he’s not exactly thrilled about the gay sex either.
Olivia’s whole thing, by the way, is that she’s a woke liberal who cares about the plights of all the world’s marginalized groups but not her actual family, so she just uses the fact Mark’s obviously struggling with all this to torment and belittle him. There’s no wonder, really, that he spends all morning chugging Bloody Marys. There was a part of me that thought, during scuba school, that he might try to drown himself and Quinn, who, after being forced to sleep on the beach by his sister and having lost all his electronics to the tide, might have been thankful for it. His actual fate is way worse since all Mark wants to talk about is sex. If his dad’s deepest secrets were sex-related, then Mark is determined not to have any of those from his own son, even if he has to scar the young man in the process. So committed is Mark to his newfound sexual frankness that he even manages to proposition Armond without even realizing it.
With the mood Armond is in during The White Lotus episode 3, it’s no surprise that he’s up for it. He can’t stop hitting on Dillon (Lukas Gage), a young member of staff, either, mostly because he’s completely hopped up on the pills he found in Paula’s bag. Every time he encounters the slightest bit of difficulty in his working day, he sneaks back to the office for another livener, which only makes him more antagonistic. Of course, Shane Patton is at the top of his hit list, so when he proposes a romantic boating dinner with Rachel, Armond books him on the same hotel boat where an openly unstable Tanya is planning to disperse her mother’s ashes.
Shane is sucking up because his marriage is already falling apart, and while I don’t think he can realize the severity quite yet, he obviously recognizes that his constant nagging for boring missionary sex isn’t exactly making this the honeymoon of Rachel’s dreams. Of course, Rachel is just looking for problems because she has realized that Shane is absolutely awful, but it seems like the idea of the sex not being ideal is the one criticism that Shane has actually taken on board. After flirting with Olivia and Paula at the pool in full view of Rachel, he finally decides he needs to make some effort – hence why it’s so satisfying that Armond ruins it for him.
Essentially setting Tanya on Shane is the fate he deserves, really. Of course, she ruins the romance by making weird remarks all evening and then breaking down crying and screaming when she can’t get the lid of the urn loose. It’s hilarious, but also thanks to Jennifer Coolidge strangely sad. She’s playing this frazzled, broken woman as a kind of living ghoul, a husk of a person haunted by the specter of a cruel mother she’s unable to physically, emotionally, or psychologically free herself from. Belinda, whom Tanya talks into finishing work early just to be there, seems to be replacing that mother for Tanya, filling the void in her life that should be occupied by someone who earnestly cares about her. There’s a welcome sense of tragedy there. The comedy comes from the fact it wouldn’t be all that welcome on your honeymoon.