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‘The White Lotus’ Episode 2 Recap: Tensions Rise as a Murder Looms on the Horizon

Drugs, booze, guilt and a business offer someone could find too tempting to resist – just another day at the tropical resort

“The White Lotus” is back to make us both laugh and cringe — in a good way, of course. The latest episode of the darkly comedic HBO series sees storm clouds forming over the idyllic island oasis.

Missed Episode 1? Be sure to catch up here. Otherwise, let’s see if this week’s episode answers the question of which guest winds up murdered at The White Lotus resort…and by whom.

“New Day,” the second installment of the six-episode series, opens on our favorite terrifying 20-somethings Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) and Paula (Brittany O’Grady) reading Nietzsche and Freud in the hotel room, as one does. They soon find a far more exciting pastime. The girls discover that, between the two of them, they’ve brought a whole pharmacy’s worth of drugs, including some ketamine Olivia “totally forgot about.” 

As morning breaks, we find that Loni, the trainee, had her baby and Armond (Murray Bartlett), the “Fawlty Towers”-esque resort manager, is feeling a bit guilty that Loni had no choice but to take this job, where she, ultimately, gave birth in his office. He admits to Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) that he was really in need of a drink last night but, alas, he’s five years sober.  

 “What if I just can’t f—ing do this anymore?” he asks. 

At brunch, Shane (Jake Lacy) and Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) discuss Rachel’s potential new story. Shane is angry that his new bride could be taking time away from their honeymoon to hammer away at “some disposable clickbait garbage,” but Rachel knows that even “clickbait garbage” is a vital component of the online journalism racket — and she could be out of a job if she declines the assignment. 

Across the property, Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) is a new woman now that she’s found a new partner, er, massage therapist in Belinda. Tanya tells her that most people just lay you down and get you “lubricated” but, “you, you really know where you’re going.” 

This is all leading up to Tanya inviting Belinda to join her for dinner that night, which the put-upon masseuse reluctantly accepts.

Later, Rachel works up the courage to approach Nicole (Connie Britton) about her “career crisis.” Nicole is the CFO of a major company, so who better to ask, right? Not exactly. Rachel expresses her fear of losing not just her “mediocre” career but herself within her marriage to Shane. Nicole is supportive and advises her to not give up her power. But the heart-to-heart turns cold when Nicole finds out what Rachel does for a living. 

Rachel says she’s a journalist and that she even profiled Nicole once. But, apparently, what read like girl boss industrial complex fodder to one woman read like a “hatchet job” to the other. Nicole accuses Rachel of intimating that her ascent to CFO was a result of #MeToo-influenced corporate window dressing when in fact she’d “climbed a hellish ladder” to the top. 

Thankfully, this intensely uncomfortable scene cuts to something slightly less awkward: Tanya deciding where to dump her beloved mother’s ashes with zonked-out Olivia and Paula. “What if she splashes onto the beach? It’d be like littering.”

Coolidge’s casting may be the best of the entire show. 

Let’s move on to the main event: dinner. At the newlywed table, Shane offers to double the rate Rachel would be getting for the article. Still hurt by her conversation with Nicole, she accepts. Tanya has an offer as well. She tells Belinda that, if she were to ever start her own spa business, she’d bankroll it. 

Olivia splits from her charming family dinner to see if the contraband backpack she and Paula left on the beach earlier has been found. Armond says no but, little does she know, he’s been getting high on her supply.

Once back at the Mossbacher table, Olivia’s dad Mark (Steve Zahn) shares his new lust for life, having learned that he does not have cancer. He testifies to how truly lucky they all are to have found themselves in this family on this vacation. His earnestness is met with blank stares.  

Cut to Quinn (Fred Hechinger) being cast out of the hotel room by Olivia once again. Comforter draped around his shoulders, Quinn wanders off to the beach, where he ends up finding the slice of gratitude his father was speaking of, stopping to watch a whale breach in the distance at sunrise. Will this moment of peace last? Unlikely. 

Well, as of Episode 2, a murder victim (and culprit) have yet to reveal themselves. Given the multiple rising tensions amongst the guests and staff at The White Lotus, however, I’m willing to bet that we’ll know at least one very soon. 

“The White Lotus” will return for episode 3 on July 25 on HBO Max.