I try to lead a pop-cultural life free of regrets, but a couple of Sundays ago, in a nearly postprandial fugue following a viewing of “The White Lotus,” I did something I wish I could take back.
I read every comment, every fan hypothesis, every impeccably researched theory for how the season will turn out in the aftershow discussion thread on Reddit.
I did not intend to ruin the show for myself. I wished only to convene with (or lurk among) other enthusiasts, to enjoy the glorious and increasingly rare experience of processing an episode of a show in real time, just after it’s aired, before the rest of the internet has had its way with it.
Instead, I emerged from a hallucinatory hour (or was it three?) of reading certain that I knew exactly how the season would play out, who would double-cross whom, who would live and who would meet with a watery death. (The fact that there is, indeed, watery death in the offing was established in the season’s first episode.)
While I wish I hadn’t entered Reddit’s den of Lotus sleuths, I do not regret the other slightly obsessive — but, crucially, plot-preserving — fan research I’ve been conducting.
I am glad to have listened to this week’s “Fresh Air” interview with Mike White, the show’s creator, in which he discussed how his love of “Fantasy Island,” “The Love Boat” and “Laverne & Shirley” informed this season. I am also glad that I looked up White’s favorite books (he, like Torrey Peters, who spoke to The Morning earlier this year, loves “Independent People” by Halldor Laxness) and reserved many of them from the library. I read with gusto this interview with Simona Tabasco, who plays Lucia, and listened to this episode of “Las Culturistas” with Meghann Fahy, who plays Daphne. I watched Aubrey Plaza respond to fans on social media, and I rewatched Jennifer Coolidge’s charming Emmy acceptance speech.
I’m happy to know more about the people who make the show that I find so compelling. I just wish I hadn’t let my fandom lead me into the fluorescent-lit land of plot despoiling.
And so it is that my excitement for tomorrow’s finale of “The White Lotus” is mixed with some grief and some relief. I’m sad to bid ciao to the enchanting vistas of Sicily; to the characters I’ve found myself wondering about as if I knew them personally; to what has become, for me, appointment television. But I’m looking forward to having this season’s mysteries resolved definitively and, maybe even more, to watching next season spoiler-free.
“The White Lotus” is “positively haunted by movies and the fantasies they engender,” writes Carina Chocano in The Times.
F. Murray Abraham and Michael Imperioli got Covid at the same time while filming in Sicily.
The show’s costume designer discusses dressing the Gen Z characters.
“If on a fine day the unsuspecting visitor strolls to the parapet to look at the view, cardiac arrest may be the reward.” From 1979, “The Scenic Overkill of Taormina,” the town where this season of “The White Lotus” was filmed.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
🍿 “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Friday): Several weeks later than seemingly everyone else in my life, I finally saw “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Many of that film’s antagonists are blue humanoids who live underwater, so I feel pretty primed for the “Avatar” sequel, which is in part about blue humanoids who live underwater. (If you haven’t already, please read this incredibly entertaining GQ profile of James Cameron, the director of the “Avatar” films.)
📺 “Kindred” (Tuesday): In this FX series, based on the classic Octavia Butler novel, a Black woman finds herself sliding back and forth in time between the present day and a plantation in the antebellum South. The series has been adapted for television by the playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, whose “An Octoroon” is one of the great American plays of the past few decades. (Looking for more about Butler, a true sci-fi master? Try our list of her essential books.)
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
Have you been meaning to bake some festive holiday treats for your friends and neighbors? Genevieve Ko’s chocolate hazelnut cookies would be an excellent choice. Her contribution to our epic Cookie Week, these elegant confections consist of buttery bittersweet rounds filled with chocolate hazelnut spread and a sprinkling of roasted hazelnuts. If you can, give these out on the day they are made, when the contrast between the silky filling and crisp cookie base is at its most pronounced. But if that’s impractical, fear not: They’re still utterly wonderful, if a bit softer in texture, up to two days later. Note that this recipe makes a small batch, so, if your cookie-gifting circle is large, consider doubling the yield. Any extras will not go to waste.
A selection of New York Times recipes is available to all readers. Please consider a Cooking subscription for full access.
Stress relief advice: Here’s how to actually enjoy the holidays.
On the lookout: A profusion of symptoms, and their sudden onset, are signs of flu in children.
Stand-up standout: Watch the best comedy of the year.
Wardrobe staple: Find the ideal pair of black pants.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Secret Santa secrets
Gift swaps like secret Santas and white elephant exchanges can be fun and festive, but also stressful. Nothing snuffs holiday joy quite like budget shopping for a relative stranger. But the tradition doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Wirecutter has ideas both for when you know the recipient and when it’s a free-for-all. The key is selecting a gift anyone might like — something useful and a bit whimsical, like a 3-pound pail of fancy sea salt or a box of pickle bandages. If you’re exchanging gifts with a more serious crew, try one-size-fits-all tech doodads like touch-screen gloves or a wireless charger. — Hannah Morrill
Boston Celtics vs. Golden State Warriors, N.B.A.: When these teams met in the Finals last year, the Celtics were a defensive force (though not quite forceful enough to stop Stephen Curry). This year the Celtics are even better, but instead of the league’s best defense, they have history’s best offense. Their young star Jayson Tatum is a front-runner for M.V.P., and the team is on pace to set a record for three-pointers. The N.B.A. is only about a quarter into its season, so the Celtics may not be able to sustain this pace, but for now they are the team to beat. 8:30 Eastern tonight on ABC.