“Recentering” opens some eyes and exposes the cost of upper-class white luxury, but chances are this mob will be able to foot even that hefty bill.
This recap of The White Lotus episode 4, “Recentering”, contains spoilers.
You can say this about The White Lotus – it really knows what’s annoying about rich white people, and I say that as a non-rich white person. There’s obviously some overlap between their class and mine, but blessedly less than I thought. Either way, the show has made no secret of its disdain for these people, expressed through their own obviously awful behavior and the reactions to it of the various hotel employees, most notably Armond and Belinda. Here in “Recentering”, that idea is made more explicit through Kai, while various other characters, for a variety of reasons, are forced to reckon with their own dysfunctionality.
The White Lotus episode 4 – enter Kai
All throughout the season, Paula has been carrying on a relationship with Kai, a Hawaiian hotel staffer whom we learn in “Recentering” has a longstanding and complicated history with the resort since it was built on the land his family used to farm. He works there because he needs a job, obviously, and those are hard to come by, but it isn’t a decision that has been taken lightly by Kai himself or indeed his brothers, who are contesting their displacement and aren’t happy about him helping the place foster a luxurious environment for rich white folks to gawp at his peoples’ traditional ways (this last bit is made super explicit during an evening meal that all the families attend, during which Kai and several other natives provide the entertainment and Paula watches on, slightly disgusted in her complicity.)
Paula finds Kai’s explanation about all this to be very impressive, one assumes because, hanging around with Olivia and the rest of the Mossbachers, she has never encountered a person being honest either to or about themselves. Paula’s in a weird spot. She’s obviously aware that Olivia is the kind of person who takes from others if they have something she doesn’t, but she’s also not the kind of person who has bothered to do anything about that, instead using her family for swanky holidays and continuing to support Olivia in her at this point literally dangerous bullying of Quinn. But maybe she’s finding herself, since later, she asks Mark what he stands for, and knows as much as we do that the fact he can’t answer means he doesn’t stand for anything at all.
The Messbachers, amirite?
Speaking of Quinn, he’s sleeping on the beach every night now, and Nicole is still remarkably unconcerned about this fact, but it does lead to something of a breakthrough for him in “Recentering”, which was nice to see. See, thus far, Quinn has been presented as antisocial and misanthropic; he’s permanently absorbed by his phone or Switch and isn’t interested in those around him. But, frankly, who can blame him? I wouldn’t be interested in these vapid people either – he’s sleeping on the beach and nobody seems to care. There’s no wonder he’s so utterly uninterested in Mark’s pathetic attempts to bond with him, even when he opens up about him having cheated on Nicole years ago and bought back her affections with bracelets that cost $75K – of his own money, not hers, he’s quick to clarify, obviously not realizing that having $75K in disposable income means he’s not as much of a martyr as he thinks.
Quinn sees something in the paddling locals which is presumably similar to what Paula sees in Kai – honesty, and authenticity, both of which are in short supply.
The White Lotus episode 4 – Patton recognition
The fact that Alexandra Daddario has been shackled to Shane is just depressing to me. This guy has nothing interesting to say, ever – he’s the quintessential obnoxious rich guy, defined entirely by an obsession with getting his own way. He’s much more of a cipher than any of the other characters, who even if they are obnoxious – and my goodness, they are – at least seem to have something going on beneath the surface. Shane’s relationship is characterized by his complete disinterest in it; Rachel is just a leggy accessory to hang from his arm at expensive dinners. The introduction of his mother, Kitty, in this episode only reinforces the idea that he has nothing to say for himself. He either parrots her or gets her to speak for him. His childish obsession with destroying Armond is a weaselly little boy trying to get his toy back from another kid in the playground.
In desperation, Shane tries to pull the classic move of going above Armond’s head to his big boss, and it’s genuinely comical how little Armond cares about this guy, printing off a fake business card for him after putting the matter off all day. Admittedly, he had other things to worry about, which we’ll get to in a minute.
But Shane, man. At the episode’s obligatory fraught dinner, he tells Kitty about Rachel’s plans to abandon journalism for non-profit work, which she seems to miss the point of. She’s utterly perplexed by the idea that Rachel wants to get an actual job. In some ways, Kitty is Nicole’s opposite, but neither is the kind of role model Rachel is looking for.
Tanya takes up activism… sort of
“Recentering” doesn’t have much for Tanya to do, admittedly, but what’s here for her is pretty telling. At the very least, we get some kind of confirmation that her going into business with Belinda is a complete bluff. She once again offers to fund her wellness center here, but immediately cancels their business dinner when she encounters a very bald and very drunk deep-sea fisherman who shows her an ever-so-slight bit of attention. She thinks he might be the one since she believes he’s vacationing with buddies from Black Lives Matter, but he laughingly explains that BLM stands for the Bureau of Land Management. Understandably, she’s disappointed. She sleeps with him anyway.
The White Lotus episode 4 – the ending explained
First, a bit of context. Armond is spiraling, badly. He has relapsed, continues to pop and snort pills from Paula and Olivia’s go-bag, and is being driven to the brink of madness by Shane’s petty crusade. Just when it looks like he’s going to fix himself up, he’s given yet another reason to rack up a line. And I know how he feels. I don’t take drugs anymore for the usual reasons, but if I had to be responsible for someone like Shane, and I had drugs nearby, I couldn’t make any promises to sobriety.
And this is the thing. Armond’s not a bad guy – he’s my favorite character, actually – but he has been ground down to dust by the petty wants of the hyper-privileged. Getting blotto is the only way he can tolerate their horseshit. What’s really funny now, though, is he has stopped particularly caring about maintaining a façade. When Paula and Olivia confront him about their bag, he ends up just giving it back, knowing they can’t exactly report that their ketamine has gone missing. He gave Shane that fake business card. And, high as a kite, he finally propositioned Dillon, offering him his choice of shifts, plying him with drugs, and encouraging him to get naked with him in the office.
There’s a problem, though (one beyond this being deeply unethical and a bit predatory, obviously). This is the exact moment that Shane, who has figured out the business card is fake, chooses to confront Armond about it. When he gets down to the office, he catches Armond and Dillon in the act and walks away cackling, having clearly found the perfect way to destroy his adversary. At no point does he realize – and, I’m willing to bet, at no point will he – what his desire to destroy a man’s life over something as minor as a hotel suite says about him.