Photo: Francesca D’Angelo/HBO
Finally, after weeks of speculation and theorizing, we know exactly whose body Daphne bumped into on the last swim of her Sicilian vacation. We had to say farewell to our sole holdover from season one: Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya McQuoid. But since this is The White Lotusher death was, of course, anything but straightforward. And because of the endlessly expanding web that Mike White weaved over the last six episodes, that was just one of the many loose ends that this finale was tasked with tying up.
When our day begins, Ethan is still haunted by the thought of Harper and Cameron sleeping together, Daphne is FaceTiming her blonde and blue-eyed children, and Dominic is staring longingly at a photo of his absent wife and daughter (The photo they use for his wife, unfortunately, is not Laura Dern, but we can just pretend). Meanwhile, their son Albie is pillow-talking with Lucia and making big plans for her to come to Los Angeles. Such big plans, in fact, that he asks his father for 50,000 Euros to give her. Dominic balks at this truly insane idea until Albie calls it a karmic payment and promises to put in a good word with his mother if he agrees.
Elsewhere, in Ethan and Harper’s room, Ethan finally confronts his wife about her (real or imagined) tryst with Cameron that’s been occupying his mind for every waking moment. The pair go back and forth about who’s telling the truth about each of their respective suspicions, but finally Harper caves. She admits that they drunkenly came up to the room, where Cameron latched the door, but assures him that they just kissed. “So it wasn’t for the hat?” Ethan asks, referring to Harper’s original excuse for coming up to the room. “No, it wasn’t for the hat.” It was a drunken, stupid nothing, but the real issue, Harper says, is that Ethan isn’t attracted to her. This deflection doesn’t work because Ethan still doesn’t believe that she’s telling him the full story, and he’s convinced that more happened. Either way, one thing is for sure: Cameron tried to fuck his wife.
With this hunch now confirmed, Ethan storms out of the room in search of Cameron, who he finds and confronts while taking a swim at the beach — uh oh, the scene of the crime. Years of resentment over Cameron’s “mimetic desire” and constantly being treated as less than erupts as Ethan attacks his old roommate. The pair start brawling in the water like they’re Denise Richards and Neve Campbell in Wild Thingstaking turns holding one another down under the water and flirting with a drowning. Finally, it ends when Ethan delivers a swift punch squarely to Cameron’s face, and calmly exits the ocean.
His post-fight walk eventually leads him to Daphne lounging on the beach, who asks if he’s doing okay. He tells her that he thinks something happened between their spouses, and her face drops for a moment, but in true Daphne fashion, she bounces back. She tells him that she doesn’t think he has anything to worry about, before delivering yet another ethereal take about dealing with infidelity and how it’s impossible to know what really goes on in people’s minds. “You don’t have to know everything to love someone,” she says before echoing the same words she told Harper earlier in the trip about doing whatever you have to do to make yourself not feel like a victim. What does that entail in Ethan’s case? Well, a walk they take just the two of them implies that having sex themselves might be the thing that does the trick — Trading Spouses style.
Daphne could and should start a cult. I want to see her give spiritual advice to Oprah every week on Super Soul Sunday. She should wear flowy white gowns for healing retreats held in a field and black turtlenecks for corporate TED Talks. I want to read the book her ghostwriters put together after three stream-of-consciousness interviews over arugula salad. She should run for office. She should lead a country, for all I know! In saying goodbye to all of our guests, I’ll miss her most.
As Tanya prepares to head back to the hotel, she suddenly remembers the picture she found last night during her cocaine-fueled sexscapades. She understandably thought it might have been a dream, so she returns to the room to find that it was, in fact, real. As she examines it, Quentin walks in and tells her that the man in the photo’s name is Steve, and he worked on a dude ranch. “He looks just like Greg,” Tanya says, noting the uncanny resemblance.
Tanya has been willfully blind to every red flag that has come her way since we’ve met her — it’s a part of her charm! And she isn’t snapped out of that habit until she’s on the yacht and gets a call from Portia, who stole Jack’s phone to call her while he used the bathroom. When Portia tells her about her missing phone, Tanya finally fills her in on what she saw. “He was kinda … fuckin’ his uncle,” she says, reminding us all how lucky we are to live in a world where Jennifer Coolidge gets this kind of dialogue.
Portia thinks something bad is happening (no shit) and tells Tanya what Jack let slip the other night about Quentin not really being rich and how he’s supposed to come into a windfall. Suddenly Tanya’s rose-colored glasses are shattered, and it all hits her. Greg was the one who insisted they come to Sicily, and if they were to get divorced he’d get nothing, but if Tanya were to die … that’s another story. But when Jack returns, their call is cut short and they have to return to their respective captors.
“Can you just cut the shit? Have I been kidnapped?” Portia asks Jack outright. She tells him that she knows something is up and confronts him about fucking his “uncle.” This takes the wind out of Jack’s sails, who’s no longer in the mood to follow through with the plan of showing her around town to keep her occupied. He frighteningly tells her to just let him do his job, and Portia doesn’t understand how she’s a job to do.
Tanya, now anchored at the resort, has been informed that she won’t be leaving the yacht until later when her mafia-connected one-night stand Nicolo comes to fetch her via dinghy. Absolutely panicked, she scurries around the yacht attempting to call for help but drops her phone overboard: the sea’s first casualty. But ah! She spots the captain in his little knit cap; maybe he can help her. “Do you know these gays? Do you know these gays?” she urgently asks him, explaining everything and begging to be brought to shore. But of course, he doesn’t speak English, and the language barrier makes this whole conversation completely unfruitful. Worst of all, here comes Nicolo, who Tanya is convinced is her soon-to-be assassin.
A much different scene is playing out over dinner in the hotel restaurant, where all loose ends are tied up in neat little ribbons. Cameron finally slips Lucia the money he owes her before toasting his travel companions as if he wasn’t just pummeled in the ocean. Mia excitedly tells her number one fan, Bert, that she got the job as the pianist. And Dominic tells Albie that he made the karmic payment, and he goes to excitedly tell Lucia to check her bank account. For his part, a good word has been put in with his mother, so much so that when Dominic calls her that night, she actually answers (more Dern!).
Back in their room, Harper asks Ethan what’s going to happen to them, and suddenly they start having sex (finally!). Lifting her up onto the table, they knock over and shatter the moor heads vase that, as a symbolic omen of infidelity, has been haunting them the whole trip. Did Dr. Daphne’s advice and/or services actually work?
Things look bright for a moment, until we return to the yacht and remember that poor Tanya is being held captive. She’s haunted by Nicolo’s duffel bag, knowing from last night that it contains a gun — and now she’s trying to stall. She wants another glass of wine first, until the thought of it being poisoned seems to cross her mind.
Even though the paranoia is completely warranted, it’s such a great emotion to watch Jennifer Coolidge play with. It makes me mourn the never-made Mike White/Jennifer Coolidge project, Saint Patsy. Coolidge would have played a paranoid actress who begins to spiral when she starts to believe an award ceremony is really a ruse from an ex-boyfriend trying to kill her. It seems like we’re getting notes of that concept this season, but I hope that doesn’t stop Mike White from eventually making it happen one day.
Meanwhile, Jack has driven Portia to some creepy, abandoned locale. “Why have we stopped?” Portia asks before he gets out and lights up a cigarette. “Where are we?” Instead of going to the resort, Jack brought her to the airport, advising her not to return to The White Lotus and get right on a plane. He warns her not to mess with these powerful people and tosses her missing phone out the window as he drives away.
While Portia has been miraculously spared from her grim situation, Tanya is still in the thick of it, excusing herself to use the bathroom and snatching Nicolo’s duffel on the way. She locks herself in a room and empties the contents on a bed to discover rope, duct tape, and a revolver — like this is some kind of life-sized Clue board. Soon enough, the men are all pounding on Tanya’s door. Sobbing, she points the gun at the door. She’s been cornered. They break down the door, and she begins shooting her way through the yacht.
Bloodied bodies sprawled about, she sees that a wounded Quentin is still alive. “Is Greg having an affair? Tell me, I know you know,” she asks. Even in a world where Greg has orchestrated her murder, the thought of him cheating on her still consumes her. It’s so brilliant and classically Tanya. What happens next is also classically Tanya.
All she has to do is board the dinghy and escape to land, but as she heaves herself over the yacht railing, she loses balance, plummeting onto the side of the boat and into the sea. Drawing one last parallel to Madame Butterfly, booming opera music plays as Tanya McQuoid drowns off the coast of Italy. Of course her downfall, no pun intended, would be her own doing.
Morning comes, and we see our guests one last time before check-out time. Lucia leaves Albie, taking the money and running. Daphne bids our Survivor contestants farewell before discovering Tanya’s body. The police swarm. At the airport, the Di Grasso men gawk at a passing woman, each more like one another than ever. Our now-happy couples sit at their gate wrapped in each other’s arms. Portia buys an elaborate disguise that somehow makes her look less insane than her real clothes.
Despite her airport gift shop hat and sunglasses, Albie recognizes her as they wait for their flight and these two crazy kids reunite, bonding over their misguided rendezvous. Albie breaks the news that somebody died, all but confirming Tanya’s fate to Portia, who doesn’t let the bad news stop her from finally making a good decision and exchanging numbers with him. Another happy ending? Lucia and Mia joyously galavanting through the streets of Sicily, having had the best week out of everyone staying at the resort.