Previously on The Affair: We all began to be convinced that baby Joanie secretly belongs to Cole, right?
We begin in the gray-toned future at Noah’s trial, and it’s a zoo of press outside the courtroom. This makes sense: If his book is as much a runaway hit as we’ve been led to believe, people probably would be interested in a big, soapy, maybe murder. (I mean, we all are, right?)
But let me pause here to really concentrate on something exciting and that is… Helen and Dr. Vic are together one year in the future! Tinder no more! This is very, very exciting to me for reasons even I can’t comprehend. Hey, at least one good thing (besides that cute baby and Noah’s rock bottom) came out of that storm.
But we’re going back into Noah’s perspective — we find him in couples counseling without Alison. His therapist, Marilyn, is played by one Cynthia Nixon! Hi, Cynthia Nixon! The following long and fascinating therapy scene is really, really wonderful. (It will probably not surprise you to learn that Sarah Treem and Anya Epstein, executive producer and writer of this episode, are both veterans of HBO’s In Treatment.)
It’s also kind of hard to recap this scene because it goes through and reveals so much. Dominic West is incredible — he starts off blithe and charming and then we’re able to watch as he slowly peels these layers off to reveal his true feelings. We learn quite a bit about what’s been going on. Here are some highlights:
- Alison wants to be a doctor and has midterms.
- Helen and Vic went on safari in Africa. (!!!!)
- Noah has been working his ass off — including couple’s therapy — as part of his redemption tour after missing his (maybe) daughter’s birth.
- Noah has gotten the signed divorce papers and isn’t quite sure anymore whether he should marry Alison. He catches her watching him with the baby like she’s trying to figure something out. (Oh, Noah: we know what she’s trying to figure out!)
Marilyn seems to be a good therapist: she presses him on why he feels so judged by the three main ladies in his life: Helen, Alison, Whitney. Noah admits he wants to sleep with Lucy Koskoff. (He does not say sleep.) Who? She’s a 26-year-old student of Noah’s (so he’s teaching again!), and he’s very tempted. He knows all the things that are wrong with him, but he still just wants to bend Lucy over his desk.
Marilyn guesses that Lucy isn’t the first temptation: Noah admits he almost slept with Eden. (Please note that Noah is either lying to Marilyn about this one point or maybe lying to himself when he says that it was he who turned Eden down when we know she was the one who declared no mixing business with pleasure until the night of the hurricane party. In fact he would have but… oh no, then we all have to relive the truly horrific Whitney hot tub incident. (And I mean seriously, isn’t this enough to keep you in therapy for life?)
He says what we’ve all been saying for the last few episodes: He thinks that deep down he might be a bad guy.
Marilyn is all, let’s go back to your past. And here is some really interesting character development. Noah’s father never cheated on his mom, but he also never took care of her once she got really sick. Noah was the one who was the caretaker right till the nitty gritty end. Noah is caught up on the point that his father may never have been unfaithful, but that doesn’t mean he was a good husband or father. He is clearly still angry not just at his dad but also that now he — Noah Good Guy Solloway — is the bad guy because of “one” mistake.
Noah has been thinking of these questions, why we live the lives that we live. He mentions that Helen (still, I would dare to say, the moral compass in his head) reads the obituary looking to see if the deceased had families. Noah’s mind was once blown by this.
His new book is historical fiction revolving around Omar Bradley, a World War 2 hero. Bradley allegedly had a wife at home but managed to have an affair with Marlene Dietrich. Noah wonders if the same drives that lead men to cheat — ”ego, intensity, drive” — also lead them to achieve? This is a fascinating idea to justify infidelity, right? Noah wants to go to France and spent six to eight weeks on research, but he can’t go because he wants to support Alison’s coursework and etc. He’s frustrated. “I want to know if it’s possible, really possible, to be both. A good man and a great man.” A.k.a. would General Bradley have stopped Hitler if he had been home changing diapers?
Man, dudes in their mid-life crises are very interesting! He rattles off a list of impressive names: Jefferson, Hamilton, Hemingway, Picasso — all cheaters! What if the only thing that separates Noah from greatness is him not sleeping with a bunch of pretty ladies??!?!? (Oh brother.)
Marilyn gently points out that Hemingway — Noah’s example of someone who never gave a hoot about anything or anyone — killed himself at age 60. A fair point, really.
Marilyn tells him to think about whether he wants to move forward to marriage with Alison. He wants it all — he wants a family and a partner and all that but he also wants to go to France and sleep with whomever and feel alive and write a great novel. He doesn’t want to be dishonest anymore. (Hmmm.) Marilyn seems to think that Noah admitting all this is the path to being his best self.
He gets home and finds Alison doing the dishes. She apologizes for missing therapy. He thinks about showing her the divorce papers but doesn’t. He does attempt to clean up. They share a nice moment.
In the future the courtroom is looking pretty grim during lawyer Jon’s opening remarks. He paints Noah as a scapegoat and someone easy to point fingers at when in fact he’s just a good guy and great dad and husband. Even Noah’s face is like, HA as if.
NEXT: Alison faces some pretty daunting truths