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Why the last 5 minutes of ‘The White Lotus’ broke the internet

Creator Mike White said the episode's "transgressive" ending was a callback to a similar scene in Season One.
/ Source: TODAY

Warning: This post contains spoilers for “The White Lotus.”

“The White Lotus” knows how to keep people talking, and the last few minutes of Episode Five of the latest season certainly did.

After Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) and her assistant, Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), are whisked away from the Sicilian hotel on a day trip to Palermo with Quentin (Tom Hollander) and his nephew Jack (Leo Woodall), Tanya hears some mysterious noises at night in the palazzo.

As she walks through the halls and follows the sound down the corridor, she finds Jack having sex with ... his uncle Quentin (or who he says is his uncle Quentin).

Quentin smiles at Tanya from across the hotel restaurant.
Quentin smiles at Tanya from across the hotel restaurant. HBO

In an apparent nod to the jaw-dropping scene in Episode Five of Season One where hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) is caught in the act with his employee Dillon (Lukas Gage), the sex scene in Season Two may have just topped the shock value.

The creator and stars of 'The White Lotus' on the scene

Mike White, creator of "The White Lotus," told Variety the scene was an "echo" of the moment in Season 1, noting both scenes feature a character walking in on gay sex behind closed doors, and both occur two episodes before the finale.

"There’s a pleasure to me as a guy who is gay-ish to make gay sex transgressive again," White told Variety. "It’s dirty … men are having sex and you have this ‘Psycho’ music underneath. It just amuses me.

"I just think transgressive sex is sexier," he continued. "I guess I’m old school. There’s this Gothic vibe of walking through a haunted hotel or haunted house and people are having sex behind closed doors."

Jack and Portia walk around Palermo on a night out. Pictured: Haley Lu Richardson and Leo Woodall.
Jack and Portia walk around Palermo on a night out. Pictured: Haley Lu Richardson and Leo Woodall.HBO

Woodall told Variety he didn't know about the scene until after he got the part, as he wasn't sent a script until a few weeks after he accepted the role.

"When I found out about the scene, I was speechless for a while," Woodall said. "I’m such a huge fan of Tom’s, and when I heard that he was going to be playing my uncle, I thought, 'That is unreal.' And then when I found out that I was going to shag him as well — that was kind of surreal."

"Anything that Mike White does with this show is kind of perfect, so there were no reservations about it," he added. "It felt like an incredibly 'wow' moment."

Richardson said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that after the ending of Episode Five, the final two episodes are going to get "way crazier, believe it or not."

"Yeah, it’s a slow burn that gets kicked into high gear," Adam DiMarco, who portrays Albie DiGrasso, told Entertainment Weekly. "Mike (White) is so great at crafting these slow burns and then at a certain point it just explodes and we’re at that point now. It’s just explosions everywhere, explosions at the fireworks factory."

Theories about what's really going on between Quentin and Jack

So what could the sex scene between an uncle and his nephew mean for the direction of the show? The internet is already stewing with theories.

This could be another case of incest on an HBO show

Perhaps this scene is exactly what it seems on the surface: Jack and Quentin are related and are having sex. HBO doesn't seem shy away from incest (we're looking at you, "Game of Thrones" and "House of the Dragon").

But given that there's two episodes left, there's ample room for more twists. Plus, White told Variety, "Well, you’ll have to see," when asked if the two are actually related.

Or, Jack and Quentin aren't related

If they aren't related, then how do Jack and Quentin know each other? Redditors have theories from Jack being a sex worker Quentin hired to join him on the trip, to Jack being in on a plot to murder Tanya.

There might be something fishy: Earlier in Episode Five, Jack takes Portia out to dinner as part of their newfound whirlwind romance. Instead of paying, Jack grabbed her hand and told her to run without saying why, leading the pair to dine and dash.

Reddit users have noted that the nephew of a filthy rich European should have the money to pay for dinner, highlighting a disconnect between Quentin and Jack.

Maybe it all goes back to Quentin's 'American cowboy'

TikTokers have also picked up on a possible link between Quentin and Tanya's husband, Greg (Jon Gries). After attending an Italian opera performance, Quentin reveals he has only been in love once: with a cowboy he met in Wyoming who was straight.

Quentin and Tanya attend the opera, "Madama Butterfly."
Quentin and Tanya attend the opera, "Madama Butterfly."HBO

"I’d have done anything for him," Quentin tells Tanya. "And the amazing thing is after 30 odd years, I still would."

TikTokers believe the cowboy could be Greg, who, despite Tanya's pleas, goes back to Denver for two days in the middle of the vacation he supposedly had wanted to go on.

Users recalled how Greg brought up Tanya's prenup agreement as a reason why he needed to go to Denver for work, and his mysterious phone calls in the middle of the night before he left. Plus, the impeccable timing of Quentin befriending Tanya almost as soon as Greg left the hotel.

Some on social media have theorized that Quentin is part of a plot with Greg to get to Tanya's money, either through murder or framing her death as a suicide. Users have pointed out that Quentin took Tanya to see "Madama Butterfly," an opera where the protagonist dies by suicide.

Redditors have linked Jack's role to stealing Portia away from Tanya as often as he can, so she can't be as close as she normally would when she's serving as Tanya's assistant.

However, as the show revealed in the first episode, multiple people are found dead by the end of the week in Sicily — could it be Portia and Tanya? Or do some of the other guests get involved?

Things aren't looking so great for Ethan, Harper, Cameron and Daphne either. Plus, the love triangle between Albie, his father Dom (Michael Imperioli) and local sex worker Lucia (Simona Tabasco) is growing increasingly intense — all while the Testa di Moro statues loom around the hotel, watching ... just like us.