The finale of “The White Lotus” season two may have been dominated by the life-or-death drama of Tanya, Portia, and the malicious plot surrounding them. But a parallel storyline was equally tense and high-stakes, if a bit less bloody — that of Daphne (Meghann Fahy), Cameron (Theo James), Ethan (Will Sharpe), and Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and their very complicated relationships.
In the finale, Ethan approaches Daphne on the beach and tells her he found out that something happened between Harper and Cameron. Daphne’s expression splinters into a look of pain for a moment before it shifts back to her usual cheery resolve. “You spend every second with someone — there’s still a part that’s a mystery, you know?” she says, revealing the mechanics of the mental gymnastics she does to find peace with her situation. “You don’t have to know everything to love someone . . . You just do whatever you have to do to not feel like a victim of life.”
She then asks Ethan to walk with her out to a scenic, secluded islet called Isola Bella. We never see what happens between them there, but afterwards, sullen Ethan looks rejuvenated. He is suddenly able to show some affection to his wife, so much so that they shatter the Testa Di Moro, a symbol of infidelity. In their last scenes, it looks — arguably for the first time all season — like their relationship might actually be salvageable after all.
Both Sharpe and Fahy were interviewed about the scene by Variety, and both had slightly different takes on what might have occurred amidst Isola Bella’s crumbling ruins. “I definitely think something happened. I don’t know what exactly happened, but I do know that it was something,” Fahy said in the Dec. 13 feature. “Honestly, in that moment, I think Daphne just saw this broken man and wanted to do something to make him feel more empowered in her own strange way. I really don’t think that she led him there to get back at Cameron or Harper.”
She also said that Daphne’s briefly heartbroken expression might actually have more to do with Harper’s betrayal than Cameron’s. “Someone said something really interesting the other day, which was like, ‘Do you think that part of Daphne’s sadness comes from her betrayal from Harper?’ I was like, ‘Totally,'” Fahy added. “I think she’s been through this with Cameron who knows how many times, but I think she really thought that Harper was maybe her friend or wanted her to be.”
In another interview with Vanity Fair, Fahy elaborated on the scene, saying she thinks Daphne was genuinely trying to make Ethan feel better in her own way. “Like, who knows what they did there,” she said. “I don’t think that she does that to get back at Cameron or anything. I genuinely think in her strange way that’s like an empathetic thing that she’s doing, the way that she’s trying to take care of these people.”
Sharpe also said he thought something intense and significant had happened, though like the rest of us, he’s not clear on what. “That is open to interpretation. But I feel like whatever happened, in a literal sense, that moment between them is definitely a moment of connection,” he told Variety. “It’s a moment of intimacy. I think there’s something about Daphne’s sense of self, and the accommodation she has found with who she is, and how she’s living. Something about that, I think, affects Ethan.” He also noted that the conversation was one of the first times their characters actually spoke directly to each other. “Often, Meghann and I were in scenes together, but that was one of very few actual interactions we had,” he said. “I really felt like Meghann did such an amazing job in that scene.”
Daphne and Ethan’s mysterious moment was, of course, triggered by Cameron and Harper’s rendezvous the episode prior. Early on in the finale, Harper confesses that Cameron kissed her when they went back to their hotel room. Ethan still suspects something more happened, though, and so does Plaza. “I know what happened, OK?” Plaza said on a Dec. 12 episode of “Late Night With Seth Meyers.” “And what happened is, we did some stuff, and I hated every minute of it,” she said. “It was disgusting, and there was no penetration.” Meyers suggested that someone might have “grabbed the other one’s butt,” and Plaza said, “I think I grabbed a little more than that.” She also revealed that at one point, she and Fahy did mushrooms, got lost, and ran into a biker gang, making a documentary on the filming of “The White Lotus” season two more imperative than ever.
James also offered his opinion in an interview with Vulture. “In terms of what specifically happened,” he said, “it was probably more than she let on by half. Maybe not the most extreme version of that scenario, but there was something else.” Still, he said, like most of the other sexual encounters in the show, Harper’s decision to briefly hook up with Cameron was really driven by her desire to attain some level of power. “I think she feels oddly attracted to this monster that is Cameron, but she’s also trying to use the incident to wake Ethan from his existential and sexual reverie,” he added.
Even showrunner Mike White weighed in on the scene in a segment following the episode. “Did [Ethan and Daphne] have some kind of little dalliance on the island?” he mused, per Decider. “Whatever happened, it allows him to let go of the jealousy that has been brewing with him. And it kind of brings back that first kind of sexual charge that happens in the beginning of relationships and sometimes fades away over time. By the end, you’re maybe like ‘Well, maybe what Ethan and Harper need was just a small dash of what Cameron and Daphne have’.”
At the end of the show, Ethan and Harper do seem to reconnect — ironically by using the same tactics as Daphne and Cameron, who frequently cheat on each other yet at least seem to enjoy each others’ company. Sex is at the center of “The White Lotus” season two, along with all the twisted power dynamics that come with it. Just as the first season showed that money can’t buy happiness, the second makes it clear that no amount of sex or beauty can buy or replace the love and loyalty that the characters crave.
Of course, a new perspective can always make a difference. “I think that the whole storyline there is meant to challenge the parameters of what we would call a functioning relationship are,” Fahy told Vanity Fair. “I think that with, with Daphne and Cameron, Daphne is trying to teach not just Harper but also Ethan that they have other options. Because that’s how she lives, you know? She’s kind of like, ‘It doesn’t have to be like this. You could get a trainer. Or like, You could take a walk with me to this island.'”