- Creator: Mike White
- Starring: Jennifer Coolidge, Aubrey Plaza, Michael Imperioli, F. Murray Abraham, Haley Lu Richardson, Meghann Fahy, Theo James, Will Sharpe, Beatrice Grannò, Tom Hollander, Simona Tabasco
Warning: Reviews of The White Lotus season 2 will contain spoilers.
It’s a classic bit of screenwriting: give your characters what they’ve been pining after for so long, and then make them realize it wasn’t actually what they wanted after all. That’s what Abductions is all about, and it’s what we see for a majority of the characters. They came to the White Lotus expecting one thing, and now that they’ve gotten it, they’re left wanting more. Mike White’s writing continues to be excellent as he shows all the different permutations and consequences of this theme. Naturally, with such a large ensemble, someone’s bound to get left out, but the highs of this week’s episode are incredibly high.
The first to get left out this week is Daphne, who spends almost all of the episode off-screen. Still, Meghann Fahy gets some killer line readings in, like her exasperation at seeing so many sausages at the buffet. This leaves Harper, Cameron, and Ethan alone, which quickly turns into Ethan alone by himself after Cameron and Harper sneak off. White smartly stays with Ethan to give us a glimpse inside his head as his insecurity rears its ugly head. The episode didn’t have too many flashy sequences, but the way White depicts Ethan’s increasing suspicion was a highlight of Abductions. And it’s another credit to Aubrey Plaza for playing it perfectly where we’re unable to tell if she did, in fact, have sex with Cameron or not.
So now that Ethan and Harper are supposedly back on good terms, will they go back to normal? Maybe normal wasn’t so great to begin with for them; it seems that Harper’s fear of not being wanted has been festering for a while and has only been brought to the surface by their vacation. (Another brilliant piece of writing from White: Harper’s “Do you still want me?”, and Ethan’s “I still love you” as a response.)
Albie, Dom, and Bert may receive the harshest lesson this week by discovering that what they wanted was perhaps a little misguided. After finally returning to their Bert’s mother’s village, they’re greeted by a shrieking woman who threatens to throw an artichoke at their heads. And Albie sees firsthand that he may be in over his head with Mia, when her pimp* follows them and takes her away. His scenes with Mia continue to be incredibly sweet, though, and I still very much want things to work out for both of them, no matter how awkward things will be with his father.
*I still don’t totally buy that the guy that follows them is her pimp. I’m more convinced that he’s either a jealous ex or her current lover or a relative, who is helping her scam the hotel guests.
Portia played the short game by choosing Jack over Albie, and Abductions shows exactly what she gets for doing so. Jack reveals himself to be the polar opposite of Albie this week (his choice of hats is a little much, but still made me laugh) as he gets drunk and shrugs off Portia’s concerns about the state of the world. Sure, Portia’s probably having some great sex, but when she looks back on the vacation, I imagine she’ll look more fondly on her time with Albie than with Jack.
Valentina doesn’t get what she wanted, but she at least gets what she needed, which is to feel love and connection with someone on a deep, romantic level. The reveal that Isabella and Rocco have been secretly dating is an interesting bit of a left-field development, but not a total dealbreaker. I worry that Valentina’s story will ultimately end in heartbreak, if Lucia confesses that she was simply using her to get more gigs at the bar. It’s a credit to White, and especially Impacciatore’s performance, that I’ve become so invested in a character with so little screen time.
It’s been increasingly clear to me that perhaps Mike White didn’t have any grand plans for Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya. This week’s episode didn’t assuage those feelings, but Coolidge was at least allowed to let loose and have fun. The thesis of Tanya’s story early on was her dissatisfaction with Greg – or, more accurately, his dissatisfaction with her – so now that he’s gone, she’s simply gone from place to place with no real direction. Of course, Coolidge has continued to be solid from week to week, but to me, Tanya lacks the rich person’s malaise that defined her last season. Perhaps she’ll wake up next week from her coke-fueled evening and see she had a good thing going with Greg all along. Perhaps she’ll realize that she had been relying too much on Greg to provide her with happiness.** Perhaps she’ll be one of the mystery casualties; there’s no hiding the menacing nature of the guy that Quentin hooks her up with, even without the extremely prominent gun.
**Thank god for Twitter, which astutely noted that the second person in the cowboy photo that Tanya picks up looks an awful lot like Greg. So what does this mean? Will Greg pop out of the estate next week and reveal that that’s where he absconded to, and Quentin was the mystery person on the phone? Regardless, I don’t expect that Tanya will get a straight answer out of the increasingly shady Quentin.
Whether a character gets what they wanted or not, things are coming to an end in one week. (For at least a few, it’ll be a permanent end.) It’s clear that White still has more tricks up his sleeve, and I have no doubt he’ll be able to bring all of the season’s conflicts to a head next week. The penultimate episode for TV shows can often be the most dramatically impactful, leaving the finale to pick up the pieces, but Abductions continues to build up the tension and momentum, while standing on its own perfectly.