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Who lives, who dies, who commits murder? Our 7 best ‘White Lotus’ finale theories

Warning: The following contains spoilers from the first six episodes of “The White Lotus” Season 2.

If you or any of your nearest and dearest have been watching “The White Lotus” this season, your text messages are likely already full of speculation about Sunday’s grand finale. The Season 2 premiere, in which Daphne (Meghann Fahy), alive and kicking, brushes up against a corpse in the water not far from the beach, contains scant few clues to go on, though if a hotel staffer’s report to manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) is to be believed, it’s spaghetti Western-level carnage: One guest — presumably the one floating in the ocean — has drowned, and there are unspecified “other bodies” still to count.

Series creator Mike White has, if not matched the feverish watercooler buzz of the Emmy-winning first season, at least concocted a “Clue”-style mystery with a seemingly infinite number of possible outcomes. Who lives? Who dies? Who commits murder? And how will it all go down? Here are answers from seven Times staffers who are members of the White Lotus loyalty rewards program.

At least one of us has to be close. Right?

The actor dishes about Italian excursions with her co-stars, being ‘suspicious’ of Marvel and why series creator Mike White is like the ‘Pied Piper.’

Meredith Blake, staff writer

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(Fabio Lovino/HBO)

Who’s the floating corpse? Cameron (Theo James)

Who is the killer? Daphne. It seems clear to me that Daphne is far more cunning than she initially seems, and that she’s heading for a crisis that will end in violence. “But wait,” you say, “she’s the one who discovers the body in the first scene of the season. She can’t be the killer!”

Exactly! She is putting on a front. We know that Daphne is a “Dateline” aficionado who’s watched countless hours of true-crime TV and cheerfully makes jokes about killing and torturing people. We also know she’s an expert fabulist who uses devious schemes (fake trainers, spontaneous overnight trips to luxurious palazzi) to make her unfaithful husband jealous. Which makes her exactly the type of person who would make a big show of cheerfully chatting up strangers on the beach (and screaming at the site of a corpse) after killing someone in order to seem not guilty.

How did it happen? Daphne learns that Cameron owes Lucia money and becomes enraged — not because he cheated on her, a reality she has long since accepted in their marriage, but because it is evidence of an even greater betrayal: He is broke, which would explain both his reluctance to pay Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and his eagerness to go into business with Ethan (Will Sharpe). She clocks him over the head with one of those Moorish busts, then forces Lucia to help her dispose of the body. It’s a “Dateline” special in the making!

Theory of the case: This season is all about sex, desire, money and the transactional nature of intimate relationships — even those not involving sex workers. Daphne’s marriage may seem passionate on the surface — after two kids she and Cam can’t keep their hands off each other — but at its core it is transactional. So when Cameron violates the unwritten terms of their agreement, she snaps.

[Editor’s note: The following responses were not requested in the original questionnaire to Times staff. “The White Lotus” just has this effect on some people.]

Biggest problem with this theory: Killing Cameron would violate one of the fundamental tenets of “The White Lotus”: that rich white guys are never held accountable.

Elaborate supplemental theory: Daphne is involved in nefarious acts that will be revealed in the finale, but the body in the opening scene belongs to another victim of a separate crime involving the Tanya/Portia party. My money’s on Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) becoming the sacrificial lamb in what appears to be a plot hatched by secret lovers Quentin (Tom Hollander) and Greg (Tom Gries), who looks an awful lot like the “cowboy” in the photo with Quentin, to get their hands on Tanya’s (Jennifer Cooldige) fortune. I don’t think White would ever kill off Jennifer Coolidge, who is also in obvious peril, but he’d kill the younger version of her — a.k.a. Portia. Like Armand in Season 1, Portia is someone we care about enough for her death to hurt. She was so blinded by her lust for Jack (Leo Woodall) and confident in her own savvy that she ignored many glaring red flags about him and his “uncle.” Plus, she happens not to be wealthy, which by the laws of “The White Lotus,” automatically makes her more vulnerable.

Boris Kachka, books editor

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(HBO)

Who’s the floating corpse? Greg

Who is the killer? Tanya

How did it happen? Tanya is awakened by a nightmare, Niccoló (Stefano Gianino) is passed out cold. She needs to find water and some Valium and goes rooting around the house. Through the patio window she sees Greg and Quentin. Greg catches her eye and walks purposely inside. Tanya is terrified. And pissed. She goes back for the gigolo’s gun and comes to the door. Greg barges in with weird explanations, then scoffs at the gun and tries to grab it. It goes off and he’s dead. Niccoló wakes up, realizes he’ll be blamed. He and Tanya steal off together on his boat, dump the body before he returns her, at dawn, to Taormina.

Theory of the case: Greg and Quentin hatched a plan to trap Tanya into adultery and nullify their prenup. Greg never went to Denver. He wasn’t ever sick. Niccoló will tell Tanya this on their long boat ride of death. Symbolically it makes sense, since the flowerpot statues Mike White is always lingering on relate to the legend of a traveler from a foreign land who has a family back home, and who is beheaded as revenge. The twist here is that Greg’s “family” is in Palermo. As for the other bodies, possibly Dominic (Michael Imperioli) and Lucia, the pimp being an actual danger, after all. But more likely it’s a red herring and there were some murders of guests we didn’t know.

‘The White Lotus’ (and Jennifer Coolidge) are back, this time in Sicily. More dark romp than mystery, it fails to build up a narrative head of steam.

Josh Rottenberg, staff writer

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(Fabio Lovino/HBO)

Who’s the floating corpse? Portia

Who is the killer? Jack

How did it happen? He drowns her after she realizes he’s been deceiving her all along

Theory of the case: In the “White Lotus” universe, the wealthy evade consequences while those who support and enable them pay the price. The scheme to scam Tanya out of her riches will unravel and the Mafia will take out Greg, Quentin and Jack — the other bodies referenced in the premiere — to cover up the mess. Portia will be a collateral victim but fan-favorite Tanya will survive to bring her special brand of chaos to Season 3.

Matt Brennan, deputy editor, entertainment & arts

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(Fabio Lovino/HBO)

Who’s the floating corpse? Bert Di Grasso (F. Murray Abraham)

Who is the killer? Time

How did it happen? A moonlight swim in the sea.

Theory of the case: As my friends will laughingly report, I’m about as credulous as it’s possible to be when it comes to narrative construction — I quite literally gay gasped when that door opened on Jack reaming his “uncle” Quentin (Tom Hollander) at the end of Episode 5. So grain of salt and all that. But I can’t help think that White, who capped Season 1’s lacerating satire with one of the most ignominious screen deaths in recent memory, is likely, once again, to land a coup de grace aligned with the mood of the piece. And no character more closely captures the simmering melancholia of “The White Lotus” this season than Bert, who’s spent his time in Sicily up close and personal with the son and grandson to whom he’s passed on his sins. As he says in the penultimate episode, after the Di Grasso men find their return to the ancestral seat stopped at the point of a nonna’s knife: “There is no homecoming. Not for me. Not anymore.” I take him at his word.

Anousha Sakoui, staff writer

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(Fabio Lovino/HBO)

Who’s the floating corpse? Cameron
  
Who is the killer? Ethan

How did it happen? They fight in the water and Ethan kills Cameron by holding him underwater in a wrestling grip as appears in the teaser trailer for the finale.

Theory of the case: It’s clear Ethan and Cameron’s beef goes way back to their college days, and Ethan’s frustration might have suddenly been uncapped. In Episode 6 it seemed like Ethan had some kind of psychotic break after suspecting Harper (Aubrey Plaza) was cheating with Cameron. Ultimately, they thought they were the sane couple and its slowly emerged they were not! There is clearly more than one fatality, as was flagged in the first episode. I think Jack and Quentin will come to blows too as that uncle/nephew pretense unravels.

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Mary McNamara, columnist and culture critic

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(Fabio Lovino/HBO)

Who’s the floating corpse? Albie Di Grasso (Adam DiMarco). The others are his father and maybe his grandfather or Lucia (Simona Tabasco).

Who (or what) is the killer? They were killed by Alesso, Lucia’s pimp/boyfriend/brother.

How did it happen? Albie confronts Alesso in an effort to “free” Lucia.

Theory of the case: Bert Di Grasso brought his son and grandson to Italy with some “Godfather”-romanticized idea of finding their roots despite never having bothered to learn even rudimentary Italian or why his family left or anything much about the region. While his father and grandfather are exploiters of women, Albie has positioned himself as a savior — but none of them has any real understanding of the individuals or culture they are dealing with. This fits with the series’ overarching theme of the elitist obliviousness and the dangerous chasm between White Lotus guests and the people who serve them, with the added pathos of seeing punishment for the sins of the father(s) being visited upon the son.

Suzy Exposito, staff writer

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(HBO)

Who’s the floating corpse? Greg. Or Quentin.

Who is the killer? Greg, Quentin, one of his goons, or — gasp! — Portia.

How did it happen? We see Tanya on the boat in the season finale preview, right? So we know that she makes it out of her sexy coke bender/blackmail attempt alive. I think there will be an altercation between the scammers — the deal Greg made with his posh friend Quentin goes awry, and someone will deviate from the plan. The gun we saw in the last episode may come into play. Maybe Portia finally gets a grip, grabs the gun and fires it off during the fracas.

Theory of the case: Greg hasn’t been married four times because he has issues with commitment. He’s been married four times because he’s a grifter! But will he have a last-minute change of heart?

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