The White Lotus season 2, episode 3 recap – will Dominic change?

November 14, 2022
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO, Premium Channels, TV, Weekly TV
3.5

Summary

“Bull Elephants” delivers a welcome dose of chaotic energy as things get darker and several dynamics reach real turning points.

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3.5

Summary

“Bull Elephants” delivers a welcome dose of chaotic energy as things get darker and several dynamics reach real turning points.

This recap of The White Lotus season 2, episode 3, “Bull Elephants”, contains spoilers.


There’s a real vibe switch in “Bull Elephants”, which is the episode in which all the dynamics that have been established so far begin to rapidly break down. This remains a show primarily about sex, attraction, desire, monogamy, infidelity, and so on, and this, I think, is the darker underside of these themes. What reveals them is simply distance; people being removed from their comfort zone and repositioned in new spaces that encourage, endorse, or at least excuse their worst impulses.

The White Lotus season 2, episode 3 recap

Consider Daphne, Harper, Ethan, and Cameron. They have all spent the first two episodes in their couplings, pretending to be people they’re not so as not to inadvertently offend anyone they’re with. But the awkwardness has stemmed from Ethan and Cameron being old college buddies and Harper and Daphne being strangers. In “Bull Elephants”, Harper is trying to make a point to Ethan that she can be cool and personable, and Daphne is trying to make a point to Cameron that she’s in control of her own life and can do whatever she wants, so they end up spending the night together in a palazzo in Noto, while the boys are left to fend for themselves.

Daphne and Harper take edibles and drink wine, and Daphne reveals what the scenes back at the hotel are confirming – Cameron is a cheat, probably a serial one, and her coping mechanism is to remain aloof and free-spirited, so she doesn’t become resentful. It doesn’t seem like a long-term strategy, but you never know. Harper is openly befuddled by what she’s hearing. She’s more similar to Ethan than she realizes, who even in the midst of a drug-fuelled evening with Isabella and Lucia folds under the pressure of cheating. At least it isn’t just his wife that he’s determined not to have sex with.

Meanwhile, and as predicted, Portia’s relationship with Albie is thoroughly compromised by Tanya having been abandoned. The poor put-upon assistant is roped into an impromptu Tarot card reading by a local mystic which Tanya ends midway through because it’s too negative, and by the time Tanya has finally given Portia some space, she’s too fried to respond to Albie’s attempts to be more “aggressive.”

Portia and Albie’s relationship is one of the funniest this season and is probably my favorite on balance. Albie is torn between Portia’s not-so-subtle desire for him to be a bit more take-charge – she expressed on the phone in the first episode that she wanted to be thrown around by an Italian dude, and Albie doesn’t seem capable of throwing a party, let alone anything else – and his perceived responsibility of being a hip feminist ally. So, his “aggression” is insisting Portia comes on a sightseeing tour with Dominic and Bert and then proudly explaining how The Godfather is a symbol of the patriarchy that conditions men to covet facile power fantasies.

But when Albie finally realizes that Portia means a different kind of “aggression”, his attempts in that regard fall flat because he’s just caught her at exactly the wrong time. The permanently crossed wires here are fun, but you can totally imagine this is how people trying to figure out who they are and what they should be and what’s acceptable and what isn’t would fumble a relationship in precisely this way.

Conversely, and probably intentionally, Dominic’s attempts to not be a sex pest are played as totally old-school, simplistic, and faintly pathetic, a man past his prime trying to buy back his lost youth. It’s a story about addiction; about greed and excess outweighing regret and responsibility. We’ve seen many of those before, and I’m probably giving the subplot too much credit here by claiming it’s intended to be superfluous to make a point. But I don’t mind this as much as I mind Tanya.

There is, simply, no reason for Tanya to be in this season. She was a one-note character in the first place, but she at least fulfilled an important function in the first outing’s skewering of – even well-intentioned – white privilege. She feels totally surplus to requirements here, and the shtick is getting old.

Still, there’s plenty here to like and plenty more that seems as if it’ll amount to something worthwhile down the line. It might not be as good as the first season, but “Bull Elephants” at least gives The White Lotus Season 2 a welcome jolt of energy.


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