Who Is Having the Worst Time On 'The White Lotus'?

Welcome to the luxury Hawaiian resort where everyone is stressed, depressed and rimming.
Emma Garland
London, GB
White Lotus Mario Perez/HBO
Photo: Mario Perez/HBO

“Sometimes things that are expensive... are worse” – a prophecy delivered by the comedian Jason Greene, and the founding premise of The White Lotus, the new HBO show from Mike White that transforms a luxury Hawaiian resort into a locus of deep anxiety. 

The White Lotus begins by letting us know: death is coming. The opening scene takes place in an airport departure lounge, where a pleasant couple are having a frosty conversation with honeymooner Shane Patton, who’s on his way home from a stay at The White Lotus – where, it is revealed, someone was killed (!). We flashback one week, watch the staff greet the new arrivals with a combination of fear and hatred, and prepare for a series of IBS flare-ups as the lives of everyone on screen implode in slow-motion.


A masterclass in edging, The White Lotus identifies all the tensions at the forefront of modern life and takes them on holiday to a location so extravagant that it should, to all intents and purposes, be free of concern. That illusion is immediately shattered – first as farce, then as tragedy. There is racial tension, generational tension, tension between the staff and the guests, tension between the guests themselves, tension between men and women, tension between the hotel manager and his employees... No vacation from our patriarchal capitalist hellscape, baby! 

Absolutely everyone is having a bad time at this resort, but – besides the mystery of which one of them literally expires as a result – the question is: who is having the worst? Let’s investigate.


Kitty White Lotus HBO

Photo: Screenshot via HBO on YouTube

We don’t have much information about our newest arrival yet (why is she here? What does she want?) – but so far Kitty appears to be a wealthy lady with potential brain damage having a delightful time imposing on her son’s honeymoon. Bad omens lie behind those eyes, but presumably no more than usual.

Stress Level: 0/10


Rachel and Shane White Lotus HBO

Photo: Rachel (left) and Shane (right). Mario Perez/HBO

How much of a bad time can a guy like this have anywhere? As a character, he is deeply terrifying; born into such an enormous degree of privilege that he has to actively seek out conflict in order to have a personality. However, I wouldn’t necessarily call him stressed. He probably wasn’t aware of the existence of stress until he married Rachel, who he assumed would be a trophy wife, but turns out to have some crazy ideas about “a job” and '“being a proper person.” 


But based on how many times he can be bothered to finish an argument with her (so far: zero times), I think he’s yet to learn what true stress is. The only thing he’s feeling right now is mild rage/pleasure over the ego warfare he is engaging in with the hotel manager.

Stress Level: 0.5/10 


Nicole White Lotus HBO

Mario Perez/HBO

One of those freaks who can only function in high pressure environments. A shark-like woman who literally cannot stop for “downtime”, lest she be forced to confront her demons and sink into the abyss. She is constantly working, or thinking about working, or tidying up, or trying to force her family into doing arbitrary things just to have something to focus on.

I wouldn’t want to be Nicole, with her neurotic approach to Zoom backgrounds and inability to go near the pool without a laptop, but she seems calm enough. Not deep down, probably, but too late to change anything now without the help of a full mental breakdown.

Stress Level: 2/10


White Lotus cast HBO

Dillon (far right). Mario Perez/HBO

Began as an unbothered member of staff with gorgeous hair, became a willing participant in a night of ketamine and arse play with hotel manager Armond in exchange for preferential treatment. At this point, it’s unclear whether he’s genuinely into it or just super enthusiastic about the prospect of easier shifts, but being solicited by your boss and embroiled in a workplace scandal within the space of an evening is bound to shave at least a few minutes off your night’s sleep.


Stress Level: 3/10



Quinn (left) and Mark (right). Mario Perez/HBO

Quinn is the only person on this godforsaken resort who is vocal about not wanting to be there, which makes him the most trustworthy. He started off having one of the worst deals out of everyone – constantly humiliated by his sister and her friend, patronised by his mother, burdened by his dad’s masculinity struggles, being made to sleep on the beach while his gaming devices washed out to sea – but now seems to be turning a corner via a series of magical aquatic discoveries.

Stress Level: 4/10


Olivia Paula White Lotus HBO

Mario Perez/HBO

Paula is a secretive girl with several low-level medical ailments, Olivia is the villain of the decade whose friendship is offered conditionally in exchange for control. So far they seem to be having an equally bad time, because Paula is trapped on holiday with Olivia’s family, and Olivia has brought Paula as a buffer from the experience of being actually in the family.

On the one hand, these ladies are bound by their Red Scare podcast-inspired rapport, love (at least aesthetically) of political theory books and an ongoing quest to reclaim a bag of stolen “medicine”. On the other, Paula is sneaking out every night to embark on a holiday romance she is trying to hide from Olivia, but Olivia already knows and is trying to steal her man. It’s one of those obsessively close friendships that will either escalate into sex or a Cold War-style feud for the ages, and based on their ability to humiliate each member of the Mossbacher family in half a sentence, I firmly believe that either one of them has the capacity to kill.


Stress Level: 6/10


Belinda Tanya White Lotus HBO

Photo: Belinda (left) and Tayna (right). Mario Perez/HBO

Spa manager Belinda is coping astonishingly well with the fact that an emotionally manipulative white woman has chosen to view her as an angel sent from the heavens to personally see to her maladies, but there’s a lot going on behind the face of customer service.

Among them are: intrusions upon her personal time, working away from her partner, ambitions to start her own wellness business which have only been stoked by aforementioned white woman casually dangling a carrot of investment in front of her over dinner… Serenity now!

Stress Level: 6/10


Tanya Armond White Lotus HBO

Photo: Tanya (left) and Armond (right). Mario Perez/HBO

Perhaps the most impressive case of main character syndrome ever seen on television, Tanya – played by the inimitable Jennifer Coolidge – has ostensibly gone on holiday alone to scatter her cruel mother’s ashes in the Pacific. She has tried and failed to do this each episode, which begs the question: does she really mean to scatter the ashes, or does she just want to carry her mother around around in a box to “watch”, as it were, while Tanya attempts to locate the maternal love she never received in other people?

Stress Level: 7/10


Nicole and Mark White Lotus HBO

Photo: Nicole (right) and Mark (left), Mario Perez/HBO

Mark is a walking masculinity crisis. So far on this vacation he’s had a testicular cancer scare, been constantly sniped at by his wife (who is clearly repulsed by him because he cheated on her), and learned that his late father (who he admired as a John Wayne-esque beacon of all-American bravado) died of AIDS after leading a double-life having sex with men. 


His response to all this, naturally, was to get blackout drunk and tell Quinn that sex with his mother was like “eating a plate of worms”.

Stress Level: 8/10


Rachel White Lotus HBO

Photo: Screenshot via HBO on YouTube

You will find Rachel under the dictionary definition of “struggling girlboss”. She’s married to a guy she fundamentally does not respect, has high ambitions for herself and the kind of lifestyle she wants, and yet is adamant about pursuing a career in journalism even though it is a carnival of humiliations that pays dust. Also, she received an ass-whooping from Nicole for writing a bad profile of her within a listicle, and now her mother-in-law is on her honeymoon encouraging her to pursue a life of “being on boards” as opposed to doing real work.

Honestly, she would be higher up, but with so much hanging in limbo things are about to get a lot more stressful for this poor gorgeous woman, so we have to allow room for give.

Stress Level: 9.5/10


Lani and Armond White Lotus HBO

Photo: Lani (left) and Armond (right), Mario Perez/HBO

As far as “bad first days at work” go, watching your water break in the lobby of a five-star hotel when your boss doesn’t know you're pregnant, before you start giving birth in his office, is, I would say, up there.

What’s worse is we haven’t heard a thing from Lani since, so it’s unclear whether she’s busy enjoying the magic of parenthood or… died during childbirth? I do hope it’s not that, because that would be really dark, but her plot line in episode one is still worse than everyone else’s combined.


Stress Level: 10/10


Belinda and Armond White Lotus HBO

Photo: Mario Perez/HBO

Add 1 x hotel manager on a downward spiral to 1 x stolen bag of sedatives and 1 x resort full of entitled rich arseholes and you get: chaos. Armond is the sentient heart of The White Lotus, and arguably the symbolic force that will be its undoing. If you think about it, every grievance goes directly to him. Everyone with a petty gripe and entitled demand goes searching for him like a heat-seeking missile. All the pressure and expectation of alleviating a lifetime’s worth of misery and disappointment – off it goes, straight to Armond, who will absorb every ounce of it until he swells into a grotesque mass of hubris like Tetsuo at the end of Akira and explodes.

That relationship is two-fold, though, and like an Australian Basil Fawlty he does seem to get a sadistic kick out of torturing his guests. So that’s probably fun for him, even if he was caught rimming.

Stress Level: 1000/10