The White Lotus Season 1 Episode 5 Recap – “The Lotus-Eaters”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: August 9, 2021 (Last updated: December 4, 2023)
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The White Lotus episode 5 recap - "The Lotus-Eaters"


“The Lotus-Eaters” has a regretful morning-after vibe as several characters suddenly realize there are consequences to come.

This recap of The White Lotus Season 1 Episode 5, “The Lotus-Eaters”, contains spoilers.

Every week, I have recapped HBO’s The White Lotus and mentioned offhandedly that someone will eventually die in it. The show itself teed up this particular narrative development nice and early, but both it and the audience seemed to have forgotten all about it for the last few weeks. A scathing, often very funny attack on rich white people, this dramedy hasn’t exactly felt sinister. Well, until this week. There’s something about “The Lotus-Eaters” as a title, and the Tennyson poem that is being evoked by it, that’s a lot darker. Suddenly, with only one episode remaining, it feels like one dead body can’t possibly be enough.

The White Lotus Season 1 Episode 5 Recap – the morning after

There’s a prevalent sense in “The Lotus-Eaters” of regret, that moment of blurry post-coital realization that your basest impulses have driven you to do something stupid. Dillon, having been tempted by Armond’s drugs and promises of flexible shifts, is immediately told he’ll be in work the next day. Tanya, after realizing that her suitor isn’t the Black Lives Matter activist that she thought, has to face the prospect that he isn’t all that into her, despite having taken her to bed anyway. And Kai, having confessed so much of himself and his family history to Paula, is told that she’ll probably never see him again.

Mark, too, made an error last week in telling Quinn about his affair and buying back Nicole’s affections with ludicrously expensive bracelets, though this turns out to be an error in more ways than one. Just like how Shane having caught Armond and Dillon in the act brought two personal storylines crashing together, so too does Mark’s revelation entwine more plot strands. But more on this soon.

The Mossbachers are, in many ways, becoming the show’s center, its best critique of rich white privilege, at least in part because Paula is associated with them, and she seems like the only non-staff character who can see the issue, even if she hasn’t quite plucked up the courage to do anything about it – yet! Mark casually dismissing imperialism, though, positions him as the mouthpiece of the upper classes, the delivery mechanism for those hollow justifications of wresting land away from native people to use it for leisure and entertainment. It isn’t just about displacing people and then making them dance for their oppressors, but the hand-wavey way he brushes aside possible reparations. “What are we supposed to do, give away all our money?” He knows that someone like Olivia, despite being performatively progressive, wouldn’t give up her comforts under any circumstances. But his dismissal strikes a chord with Paula, who’s hatching a plan.

The Hawaiian Job

It’s not a good plan. She knows that there are very expensive jewels in the suite’s safe, and she knows the code to that safe, so she reckons she can get Kai to steal everything and then use the proceeds of selling them to hire a lawyer and fight the hotel, thus making his brothers happy. It doesn’t really work on any level. It’s hard to see why Kai goes along with it, really – perhaps out of sheer youthful enthusiasm for Paula, since it’s hard to imagine he thought it’d work. Needless to say, it doesn’t.

It’s hard to say how well the heist might have gone had Nicole not returned to the room early after an argument with Mark, followed closely by Mark himself, whom Kai has to fight off during his escape. Nevertheless, this somehow rather magically repairs all of the Massbacher’s problems. Mark assumes some kind of hero status, finally getting the respect from Quinn and Olivia that he has been desperately craving after discovering the oh-so-shocking news that his tough-guy father was secretly a homosexual. Nicole finally begins to tolerate his presence again. Everyone seems weirdly better off for the experience, except of course Paula, and indeed Kai, who will presumably have to pay the price in one way or another.

The White Lotus Season 1 Episode 5 ending explained

Maybe, though, Tanya is the best metaphor for Western imperialism, since she immediately started making empty promises to Belinda about supporting her business venture and now isn’t remotely interested because she’s too focused on Greg, who keeps promising to contact her but never bothering. If it wasn’t for the whole matter of investing in Belinda’s wellness center, Tanya might be sympathetic, but her own neuroses aren’t enough to justify how dismissive she becomes of Belinda, who has been nothing but a friend to her, just to be idly booty-called by a man who clearly thinks she’s a nutcase. Even when Tanya has a full-on meltdown and tries to force Greg to leave her room, outright confessing she’s a nutcase and that her neediness will destroy him just as her mother’s abuses destroyed her, she somehow takes his smug, “I still want to f*ck you,” as romantic. And she lets him!

Earlier I said that Paula is the only non-staffer who realizes that The White Lotus is built on a bedrock of exploitation, but I forgot about Rachel. Admittedly, she isn’t exactly opposed to the whole thing on moral grounds, but throughout “The Lotus-Eaters”, thanks both to Shane’s mother and Shane himself, she realizes what a terrible mistake she has made getting hitched to this s**t-eating douchebag and actually says it out loud, I think for the first time. Of course, Shane never really listens to her, so there’s a good chance he didn’t even hear it, but it’s a start either way.

HBO, Weekly TV
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