Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Why Harper's Actions on "The White Lotus" Surprise Us

The damage of dishonesty in an otherwise solid relationship.

Key points

  • People sometimes hide evidence of an infidelity until they uncover the full truth.
  • Good people can lie to their partners without malicious intent, but dishonesty is still a breach of trust.

Spoiler Alert: This post will discuss examples and plots from season 2 of The White Lotus. If you haven't seen it, you may want to watch it first and read this after.

Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition/Unsplash
Source: Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition/Unsplash

In both seasons of the popular HBO show The White Lotus, a group of wealthy strangers arrives by boat at a luxurious resort chain of the same name. In season one, the resort is in Hawaii; in the current season, the vacationers are in Sicily. Strangers interact during their time at the resort as we slowly discover the complexities of their personalities and relationships. Both seasons also feature a murder, and viewers are left guessing who dies and how they are killed until the very last episode.

A Contrast of Couples: Ethan/Harper vs. Cameron/Daphne

Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and Ethan (Will Sharpe) are one of the main couples of this newest season. Ethan, a tech "nerd," recently came into a windfall of cash. He and his wife, Harper, are roped into this Sicilian vacation with his college "friend," Cameron (Theo James), who comes from money and doesn't let anyone forget it.

Ethan and Harper are very different from Cameron and his wife, Daphne (Meghann Fahy). They value reading, keeping up with the news, voting, and participating actively in their political and intellectual community. Cameron and Daphne happily admit that they don't worry about such things and instead focus on their children and enjoying their extravagant lifestyle.

Daphne and Cameron seem head-over-heels in love and unable to keep their hands off each other much to Harper's frustration. Harper justifies why she and Ethan don't fawn all over each other, and repeatedly insists that the other couple's idyllic love is for show. And she's right. It is soon revealed that their picture-perfect marriage isn't so perfect (isn't that always the case?). With their money and prestige comes infidelity and emotional game-playing.

The Night Apart

Daphne wants to visit a local town, Noto, but Cameron quickly shoots this idea down. It's nice weather; he'd rather jet ski. Daphne is clearly hurt and claims she'll go without him and invites Harper to go along. Harper, making an effort to be nice despite her dislike of this couple, agrees to join her.

When they visit a stunning palazzo, Daphne reveals that she booked it for the night. Harper has no real way of getting out of this sleepover and acquiesces. During their afternoon together, which involves copious amounts of wine and an edible, Daphne discloses the darker truths of her marriage, such as her husband's infidelity and the games they play with each other.

Meanwhile, Ethan and Cameron remain at the hotel, drinking throughout the day and competing in jet skiing. Their day ends with dinner and Cameron inviting two local sex workers, Mia and Lucia, to join them for a meal ... and more. Ethan seems unsure of how to set boundaries with his friend and say no. Perhaps it's because Cameron has spent the day convincing Ethan that everyone cheats, and it's not a big deal to do so. Ethan kisses Mia but then stops it from going further.

Why Does Harper Hide the Condom Wrapper?

When Harper returns to their hotel room after being "kidnapped" for the evening, she is eager to talk with Ethan. He, however, is nursing a massive hangover and can barely listen, let alone respond. When he runs to the bathroom, Harper discovers an open condom wrapper tucked in the sofa.

She does not confront him. Instead, she hides the wrapper in her hand and later stows it in her toiletry bag. Her mood clearly shifts but does not show Ethan the evidence of the suspected betrayal.

People may wonder why she did not immediately address this with her husband. Why not ask him right away? How can she spend time with him, acting normally (as best she can, anyway), when she knows he may have cheated? What kind of superhuman willpower does she have, to sit on this piece of information?

The answer is simple.

Harper has the opportunity to see if Ethan will lie to her. She knows that if he was unfaithful, he would probably lie about it. By asking him about his evening — what they did, who they spoke with — she's finding out how much he's covering up. Harper is seeing if she can trust Ethan to be truthful about what happened with Cameron, and given that it was Cameron who slept with two women and not Ethan, it's too bad he wasn't upfront about the evening.

By concealing and omitting details of that night, Ethan razes his trustworthiness to the ground. Even though he didn't have sex with someone else, he lied to his wife about what happened while she was away.

Caught in a Lie

Ethan seems like a nice man. His relationship with Harper, although not perfect, appeared to be built on honesty and solid communication, even during disagreements. He treated her respectfully, even when she was rude to his friend.

This is why it was so surprising to see Ethan lie to Harper.

Harper knows someone opened a condom in her hotel room while she was gone. She asks direct questions to uncover the truth, only to find Ethan's willingness to deny and conceal.

This is out of character for him and their relationship, which likely shakes Harper to her core. Ethan is the known nerd who does not ever step out of line, and suddenly he gets rich and is lying to her. She sees her relationship as more like Daphne and Cameron's than she ever thought possible.

The hard truth is that good people sometimes lie to or even gaslight their partners. In attempts to conceal things they are ashamed of, or in an effort to protect their partners or the relationship, people may deny the truth or their partner's lived experience.

This doesn't always mean they are abusive partners who must be left. It does, however, require confrontation and change.

The Assessment: Love Them

Harper and Ethan appear to have a solid marriage overall. They have shared values, and goals, and are good communicators. This breach of trust is upsetting but not unfixable. If Ethan can come clean and apologize, they can repair this transgression.

They do have some work to do, though. (Don't we all?) They both admit that their sex life has dwindled, in part because of their different circadian rhythms but probably also due to their level of comfort and complacence. They may connect and inspire each other intellectually, but their sexual chemistry has flagged. While there's nothing wrong with a more companionate love, this doesn't seem to be what either of them really want.

Another problem for them is Daphne and Cameron. If Harper and Ethan keep this toxic couple in their lives, it will skew their reality of what a healthy relationship is. Daphne and Cameron are a bad influence, so let's hope Ethan is open to cutting ties and refocusing on his marriage.


White, M (Creator). (2021-2022.) The White Lotus [TV Series]. HBO.

More from Isabelle Morley Psy.D.
More from Psychology Today