This post discusses plot points from The White Lotus’ fourth episode, “Recentering.”
Though the premiere of The White Lotus had its fair share of shocking moments—the opening mystery of the “Human Remains,” the on-the-clock childbirth, Steve Zahn’s balls—the series has since foregone outright surprises in favor of subtler bombshells as the bruised egos at the titular resort spar for attention. But that makes the final minutes of the fourth episode, “Recentering,” all the more startling, offering the HBO dramedy’s biggest cliffhanger yet. Murray Bartlett’s Armond, fully in relapse, has convinced Lukas Gage’s surfer-hunk employee Dillon to “party” with him. Meanwhile, Shane (Jake Lacy) decides it’s the perfect time to confront Armond and “go apeshit,” so he has Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) reluctantly walk him to the manager’s office. When the pair opens the door, they’re greeted by an eyeful: Armond, face deep between Dillon’s cheeks. Shane all but twirls a mustache as he walks away from the scene, while Armond and Dillon’s careers hang in the balance.
“I can’t wait for my ass to get retweeted all over the Internet,” Lukas Gage jokes when The A.V. Club asks him about his character Dillon’s biggest showcase to date. The sight of Dillon and Armond in the buff may come as a shock to the viewer, but Gage knows to be ready for anything when it comes to the work of The White Lotus mastermind Mike White: “I expect to be surprised by Mike White because he is such a brilliant writer, and I love that there’s a natural defiance in almost everything that he does. There’s a sense of burning down the system in his writing, and I love that, in this moment, Armond kind of just says, ‘fuck it all!’”
That go-for-broke mentality certainly rubbed off on the actors on set: When it came time to shoot the episode’s climactic scene, Gage says it was written that Armond and Dillon would be caught having sex, but then he and Bartlett suggested something a little different. “We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be more interesting if [Dillon’s] getting his salad tossed?,’” the actor remembers. “I mean, how often do we see that on TV?” I think it’s much more interesting and more jarring to walk in on.” White agreed, so they blocked the shot and dove in head first—literally. Gage shares that he was completely comfortable while filming, working with an intimacy coordinator alongside Bartlett, who he calls “one of the most talented, sweetest, kindest humans and actors in the world.” And, yes, that is a real tattoo, which makes perfect sense for a surfer bro like Dillon, “and I’m sure they didn’t want to spend the hours in makeup covering it up anyway.”
But, beyond the shock value, Armond’s continued relapse and escalating entanglement with Dillon in “Recentering” highlights just how taxing work at The White Lotus can be—that disappearing behind “tropical Kabuki” isn’t a healthy coping mechanism when catering to demanding hotel guests like Shane. Through the series’ sun-drenched satire of the haves and have-nots, we’re shown how people like Armond can abuse privilege in their own ways, reflecting the self-involved, harmful behavior of the clientele back on his employees. “I think he’s on a little bit of a power trip,” Gage says. “This is his version of that abuse of power, and that results in a sort of #MeToo movement with Dillon.” Dillon’s along for the ride, to a degree, but it’s clear that Armond’s promise of giving him “whatever shifts” he wants has sway over the subordinate employee. When Shane struts away, murmuring that “dude’s going down,” it seems like Armond might be inadvertently taking Dillon with him.
“Recentering” finally brings Dillon to the forefront, but Lukas Gage has stood out to The White Lotus viewers since he was first seen seaside, welcoming guests to the resort. He’s got an unmistakable face that’s been everywhere lately— from Euphoria to Love, Victor—but he may be most recognizable to denizens of the internet for his viral audition video, a Zoom disaster in which an unseen and unknowingly un-muted director comments on Gage’s “tiny apartment.” Though he didn’t book that role, the happy ending is that it led him to The White Lotus (in response to his co-star Molly Shannon’s comment of encouragement, Gage replied, “thank god I didn’t get the part because I wouldn’t be working with you in Hawaii right now!”). But playing Dillon is something of a full-circle moment for the actor: His first credited role is in an episode of Mike White’s other HBO series, Enlightened, back in 2013.
“It was my first time on a set,” Gage recalls when asked about filming Enlightened’s “Higher Power.” The episode breaks from the story of Laura Dern’s Amy Jellicoe to follow her ex-husband Levi’s (Luke Wilson) journey through rehab, at a different kind of Hawaiian retreat. As a fellow therapy group member, Gage had no on-camera lines, but is seen frequently throughout the episode, doing trust falls and enjoying the grub in the treatment center’s cafeteria. “I just remember being so nervous, so curious, asking 100 questions to Luke Wilson and Mike White, and they were being so kind to me.” The actor sees Enlightened as the role that set him on his career trajectory, helping “a 17-year-old kid who wanted to go to film school” figure out how to get started in the industry.
Almost a decade later, when The White Lotus opportunity came his way, Gage still had to send in an audition tape—luckily, this one went over better than the last. He immediately understood Dillon, drawing influence from people he grew up with in San Diego (who moved to Hawaii to “chase that resort lifestyle”) and Bravo’s Below Deck (he says he watched nine seasons of the franchise “for homework”). Of course, a series like The White Lotus was hard to pass up, especially in the thick of the pandemic. Filmed under strict COVID safety guidelines on location in Hawaii, Gage said, “I wanted any reason to get out of LA, and get out of my apartment, and to get to do that with these comedic geniuses that I’ve looked up to for so long, in such a stunning place; it was the biggest blessing in the world.” He cites marveling at Jennifer Coolidge’s talent—fighting seasickness to play the grieving Tanya, while whales breached 15 feet from their boat—as one of the high points of the experience: “It was like Sea World!”
But the biggest draw was always the chance to work with White again, who he considers a genius. “The fact that he wrote this show in a few weeks is mind-blowing. I just feel like nobody can do this type of satire like him,” Gage states. As his own career has taken off, reuniting with White on a project that challenged them both in new ways feels like another sign that he’s on the right path. “I don’t even know what genre you would call it—dramedy, I guess? But it really is its own thing: Mystery, suspense, comedy, and it has these really touching moments that never lean into preciousness. I really think he’s created something one-of-a-kind. I’m so lucky to be a part of it.”