“That’s Amore” adopts a darker tone and delivers sharper writing as things begin to rapidly unravel for everyone.
This recap of The White Lotus season 2, episode 5, “That’s Amore”, contains spoilers.
I’ve said this before, but it’s worth reiterating: The White Lotus is just as much about the things it’s pretending to be as the things it is. For instance, it’s a murder mystery, though nobody ever treats it like one. It masquerades as, in some instances, a romantic comedy, but every relationship is tinged with a note of tragedy or darkness, some sense of inevitable collapse. Because this is a show about fundamentally terrible people who, even if they don’t recognize themselves as being terrible at the very least occupy a position of privilege which requires exploitation in order to be sustained, there’s never a sense that any of what we’re seeing will turn out okay for anyone.
The White Lotus season 2, episode 5 recap
Mike White knows this, which is why he has so many characters reach points of perceived awakening only to cut their strings right afterward – Albie thinks Lucia is really into him, only to discover she’s a hooker and he owes her two grand; Portia has a whirlwind romance with a Jack-the-lad who turns out to be having sex with his uncle; Ethan confesses to what Cameron got up to in order to make himself look better, but seems to have pushed his wife in a dangerous direction. And so on, and so forth.
Let’s start with Ethan and Harper. In Episode 4, Harper found an empty condom wrapper and gave Ethan every chance to explain how it got there, but she kept the discovery to herself. In “That’s Amore” she confronts him directly about it, and he confesses that Cameron had sex with Lucia on the couch after they all took molly. He downplays things, obviously, and then has the gall to suggest that Harper should be pleased because even in the midst of all that temptation, he behaved himself.
Obviously, he kissed Isabella, but he really skirts around the edges of that, and he just assumes Harper will be fine with the whole thing. No such luck! On a tour of some local vineyards, Harper drinks a lot of wine, gets very drunk, and then starts asking a whole bunch of very leading sexual questions of Cameron and Ethan. It’s obvious she knows and is tormenting them, but it’s not immediately obvious what she plans to do with the information. At dinner, Cameron starts fondling Harper’s leg, and while she slaps his hand away, she doesn’t say anything. She stares at Cameron rather purposefully whenever talk of threesomes comes up. And since Daphne’s advice for dealing with the stress of infidelity is to do things that make you feel less bad about it, it seems pretty inevitable that, as we predicted way back, Harper is going to do something that probably involves Cameron.
Anyway, a quick update on Daphne. In her efforts to make Harper feel better, she tells her about the trainer she has with blond hair and big blue eyes, a really handsome fellow who she spends more time with than Cameron when he’s working, and who makes her feel much better. Daphne offers to show Harper a photo of the man, but instead “accidentally” shows her a photograph of her kids – who have blond hair and big, blue eyes. “Get yourself a trainer,” she advises.
This is a much more euphemistic conversation about sex and relationships than anything Albie might be capable of. The poor boy has fallen head over heels for Lucia and is shocked to learn that she wants to be paid for staying the night. Lucia, wily as ever, mentions how she owes the money to a nasty man, so the sex-positive young man is obviously inclined to pay up and then some. White made a point of mocking well-intentioned “woke” thought in the first season and it’s easy to imagine he’s doing the same here. Albie later berates his father and grandfather for looking down on Lucia as a sex worker, but we also get the strong sense that Lucia is planning to rip Albie off in some way, even if they have some sweet moments in the episode.
At least it helps Albie get over Portia, who spends another episode with Jack since Quentin has invited Tanya to Palermo for a couple of days to stay in his luxury villa and attend Madama Butterfly at a very impressive opera house. There’s a sinister undertone to this subplot that is difficult to put a finger on. Sometimes Quentin looks at Tanya like he can’t stand her, though has to wonder what he might be trying to gain from her since he doesn’t exactly seem to be struggling. Portia and Jack, meanwhile, look to be having a typically charming, sexually charged young-person romance, at least until the end of the episode when Tanya gets up in the middle of the night and catches Jack having sex with his uncle Quentin.
Now, let’s not be hasty here. I don’t think there’s any reason to suspect that we’ve wandered straight into actual incest territory here. I instead imagine that the uncle-nephew dynamic is probably a front for an affluent man to keep Jack around without suspicion. Either way, though, it’s a surprising turn with some interesting implications right as The White Lotus was beginning to need such a thing. With this and everything going on elsewhere, there’s suddenly a lot more playful energy in the second season as we rocket toward the end.
You can catch The White Lotus season 2, episode 5, “That’s Amore” on HBO.