Are you a fan of a social satire set at an exclusive Hawaiian resort? The White Lotus follows the vacations of various hotel guests over the span of a week as they relax and rejuvenate in paradise. But with each passing day, a darker complexity emerges in these picture-perfect travelers, the hotel’s cheerful employees, and the idyllic locale itself.
Mike White's scathing show is the story of privileged families on vacation, dealing with personal crises that wear on those around them. It's full of amazing characters and incredible surprises. If you're a fan of the show, then you know the pilot begins with Jake Lacy's character admitting that someone died on his vacation to the White Lotus resort. For the rest of the show, we're trying to figure out who died and why.
Well, without spoiling anything, there is one scene where I think if things had gone different, no one would have died. It happens early on in the series, and as a result, someone dies and everyone gets in trouble.
Let's diagram that scene together and talk about how it set everything in motion toward a point of no return. Check out the clip from HBO and we'll talk after.
Spoilers for White Lotus follow.
In this scene, Shane's romantic dinner with Rachel is awkwardly interrupted by Tanya's grief-stricken eulogy. It seems like a simple setup and payoff. But it's so much more complicated than that.
See, if Shane got his romantic dinner perk, he may have let Armond off the hook for the room. Shane is a terrible person, but getting his dinner would have possibly caused him to find a fault in something else, besides Armond. That would stop him from making Armond suffer, which causes him to relapse and sets forth the course of action that got him to poop in Shane's room and get stabbed.
Let's not forget Tanya at the boat. If Shane and Rachel are not there, who's to say she doesn't find the gumption to let her mother go? Or, at least, throw the ashes. That might clear her head and allow her the time to focus on Belinda later. But instead, it clouds everything she does from there on out.
Also, consider Rachel. Because of the way Shane treats Tanya, with disdain and anger instead of compassion. Rachel's actual feelings about him begin to crack and have substantial backing.
I know what you're thinking, the Mossbachers aren't even there, so how could this scene affect them? That's a good point. Their arcs are all dependent on a big part of trauma—their guest getting a hotel worker to steal a bracelet set. That theft thrusts them toward a battle royale that is steeped in forgiveness all around. It doesn't redeem them as people, but it does explain them as a family.
I don't think I can tie them into Tanya's boat funeral, but if you remember, a crazy Tanya approached the girls and scared them away from their drugs. That was in the episode before the ashes. If she had dumped the ashes, she might have left the resort and never seen the girls again. Because she does see them again, she tells them Armond has their bag (with the drugs in it).
After they can't get their drugs, the girls argue, and Paula gets so mad at the family, she manipulates Kai to take the bracelets. Even though her heart is in the right place, if she and Olivia were still looking for the drugs, they actually might have been too busy to fight and set that chain of events in motion. But that's just speculation.
All this proves is that the story beats matter. Make sure you plan your story so that the choices your characters make have ripple effects that change the plot and our perception.
Let me know what you think in the comments.