Our Hamptons adulterers return separately to the city, where the truth comes out.
Credit: Barbara Nitke/SHOWTIME

Previously: Whitney’s a bully. The Lockharts are drug dealers. Noah wants out. Oscar is a jerk. Okay? Here we go.

We begin in Noah’s memory: He and Helen and Whitney are at Whitney’s therapist’s office. Whitney, with all the awkwardness of a teen with misplaced confidence in learning therapy speak, tells her parents that a lot of her behavior could be blamed on Helen’s expectations. Man, it must be hard to be a parent sometimes. Helen’s face seems to be reflecting this a bit, but she admirably holds it together. Whitney has picked up on the fact that her parents are unhappy and having issues, but she’s off when it comes to who is the dirty cheater—she thinks Helen and Max are having an affair. Oh Whitney, so close.

We cut to the detective who is reading Noah’s second novel, so I guess this is the future? The cover treatment looks like a little Twilight-y, but that is probably not intentional. It’s title is Descent. Dun dun dun! Note: The detective is wearing a wedding ring after telling Noah in an early episode he was divorced.

Back in the Solloway mobile, Noah says they should just leave this hellhole and Helen agrees. Whitney? Not so much. She and Helen start to fight (I’m total Team Helen on this one though I do love Whitney screeching, “Why do you deny me my reality?”) while Noah tries to organize their departure. Martin wants to say goodbye to the ranch and apologize for the mare disaster the other day. Noah—deeply unpsyched to be there—skulks about while Martin tells hot Cole he’s sorry. Cole is, shocker, terrific about the whole thing. He tells Noah that Martin’s a great kid, though he seems to be attention seeking. Noah, trying hard not to chant I’ve been doing your wife all summer, smiles and hedges. Alison appears, sending Noah into a panic.

The elder Butlers are fighting amongst each other about an unflattering Vanity Fair article. Noah is, as Helen points out, just about the happiest we’ve ever seen him.

He runs to the Lobster Roll under the guise of getting gas, but wanting to leave a note for Alison. Oscar busts him and straight-up blackmails him. “You know what I just realized? I can tell your wife?” He suggests $10,000 to make sure Helen never finds out. He gives Noah a one week deadline.

As Helen bids her mother goodbye, she suggests she come with them, a suggestion Margaret rejects as it would just give Bruce Butler an excuse to hole up with his mistress. Noah takes this in and feels gross by association as he should. Then the Solloways, all smiles, beat it the hell out of the Hamptons and head for Brooklyn where their renters wrecked their brownstone. The kids adjust to being able to talk at dinner and having to clear their own plates. Helen and Noah adjust to being able to have sex in their own bed… except Noah is having a little trouble. I think I’ll skip the part where Helen talks about Noah’s “legendary hard on.”

Noah is troubled thinking about the disasters that could very well lie ahead—not helped by Oscar texting him. He heads to Max’s the next day and confesses everything in order to get a check. Max is sleeping with a 23-year-old, so he is in a generous mood and gives the money to Noah and a little free advice: Don’t tell Helen.

Noah is jogging in the park when it all gets to be a little too much, and he collapses to the ground. Everyone except Noah could have guessed the cause: panic attack. “It really felt like my heart,” he tells Helen in the emergency room. Helen apologizes for the stress of living at the Butlers for the summer. She sweetly suggests they’ll go somewhere else and decompress. Her kindness is his undoing: He confesses to the affair. It was stupid, he says. It was nothing. It meant nothing. Helen immediately nails who it was with: the waitress, Alison. Damn, Helen! Nice intuition. She finally breaks when she learns it went on all summer. Noah looks guilty and yet relieved all at once.

Back at the Brooklyn brownstone, the family greets Noah upon his return from the hospital. He tells them it was dehydration (someone has been reading US magazine) and hugs three of his kids, Helen and Martin hanging back. He glances out the window and rushes over to close the drapes as he doesn’t want to be on display. Hmmm.

Helen is having a hard time, understandably, processing. Maura Tierney crushes this scene. She’s breaking as she reaches the conclusion that their marriage and friendship is a lie. Noah says that he loves her. They’re yelling pretty loudly, so I can’t believe the kids can’t hear them. Noah tries a few different defenses: I was in a bad place; she came after me; he was feeling weak after his book came out; the pressure of writing a new book blah blah blah, but Helen is not having it at all. (This is the most annoyed I’ve been with Noah the whole season.) However, I think there’s some truth in this fight: that Noah feels like Helen looks at him like potential unfulfilled. “You’ve been waiting for the guy you married to… happen.” “Only because you are,” she shoots back. They are exhausted.

But only Helen sleeps. Noah is awake enough to get a taunting text from Oscar. Noah calls him back and tells him he told Helen so that Oscar can go f— himself. Now that was satisfying. Noah rips up the check.

NEXT: Just a small town girl living in a lonely world

Interestingly, we open with that detective still nosing around. He seems particularly struck by a small blue rowboat with grass growing out of its hull. He takes a picture and notes a sign that points to The End. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, Allison is literally mending some fences. “The whole thing is rotten, we’ve got to replace it,” says hot, wonderful Cole. Is he speaking in metaphors?! Alison wonders too, suggests painting over the problem. No way, says Cole. Nuts, he’s just talking about the fence.

And then we’re back at the barn and seeing the same conversation between Noah and Cole that Noah remembered. But in this one, Noah comes off way worse: He’s not loving the parenting advice: “Get back to me when you have a teenage son.” Oooof. Meanwhile, Cole introduces Alison to Noah, which is some awkward times all around. Noah plays the old, oh I think I’ve seen you at the Lobster Roll. Sheesh.

Speaking of the old Lobster Roll, the season is winding down and so Jane is heading back to Brooklyn. They agree that winter is rough. Jane urges Alison to come visit. And then, gross pants Oscar is a total jerk about Alison’s last check. He tells her to get the hell out. So Alison takes a couple pies instead and puts them in her bike basket. She brings them over to Cherry’s and offers to help with dinner. Alison sticks her head in the dining room, where the Lockhart boys are confabbing regarding what to do with the rest of the stash and how to make peace with Oscar. One of them, Scottie probably, thinks they should just beat the stuffing out of him. Cole, sweet sweet Cole, argues for more level heads.

Alison goes back to the kitchen where Cherry is acting real strange. She goes on a long, seemingly irrelevant story about when she was able to know when Cole’s stroller rolled into traffic after grocery shopping. Cherry knew, she just knew he was in danger. Alison is all, cute story? But then, oh god, then Cherry lowers the hammer: “It still happens with my boys. I know when something’s about to hurt one of them… Who’s Noah?”

That sound you hear, in the silence that follow, is of me screaming and diving under my blanket. Alison doesn’t actually scream, but you know she wants to. She pulls out that note we know Noah left in Alison’s bicycle basket. It was stuck to the bottom of the pie box. Alison feebly tries to deny, but curiosity gets the better of her. She wants to see it. Cherry denies her and immediately goes all Laura Linney in Mystic River: how dare you and etc. And gotta say, I’m on Momma Bear’s side on this one. Then she goes one step more awesome and lights the note on fire before Alison can even read it! The best part is the note probably is the dullest thing of all time. But I guess we’ll never know. Cherry demands she end it, and Alison tells her it’s done. She also begs her to never to tell Cole: “You’ve been selfish enough already.” Daaaaamn. She doesn’t let Alison run away, but insists she stay for dinner.

Sidenote: At dinner we hear Mary Kate ask Scottie about his new girl, some little brunette. I want you all here as my witness when I say that my guess is that the little brunette is none other than Whitney Solloway. Okay.

Moving on: Alison looks like she wants the earth to swallow her up whole. She and the boys drive over to Oscar’s house, with the plan being that they’ll make peace. Give that jerk his stupid bowling alley and be done. And it seems like all is going according to plan till Scottie can’t take it anymore and hauls off and punches Oscar hard in the gut. Oscar loses it and completely blows up Alison’s spot—she only knew that he called the cops because she was sleeping with some dude. (He doesn’t say “sleeping with.”) The boys take this opportunity to beat the living hell out of Oscar. Alison knows the jig is up.

At home Cole wants to know if he knows the guy. This reaction makes me think that maybe this isn’t the first time? After what was surely the worst night’s sleep in forever, she decides to get out of town for a few days.

She heads to New York, a small smile on her face. She goes to Jane’s (palatial no-way-she-could-afford-it) apartment and fills her in on everything while they smoke some pot. Alison, stoned, is pretty hilarious. She thinks her real life is the Sliding Doors version with Noah and everything else is a memory or something. (And then she eats Oreos and talks about them for a while, which makes me inexplicably happy.) Jane sleuths around and finds where Noah’s home and Helen’s store are located. Jane convinces her to go.

I swear I have been in Helen’s store, Solloway Green, or at least some version of it, at least a hundred times. You know, the kind with cute bowls and high-priced candles and driftwood coasters.

Helen spies Alison and comes right over, saying her name. My heart sank right into my stomach, imagining her tearing Alison apart. Except! This is clearly before Noah tells Helen the truth! (I know this because I watched this scene four times and when the girls are leaving the store you hear someone calling Helen to the phone, something urgent about her husband, which is when he had his panic attack). Helen simply thanks Alison for her help with keeping Stacey from choking. Alison is totally still high and freaked out, so she vamooses.

Alison wanders the streets, looking pensive, and she manages to find herself outside the Solloway brownstone. All lit up in the window, on display some might say, is Noah getting greeted by his children post hospital (in this version he hugs Helen, too). Noah sees her on the street like a stalking freak and that’s when he weirdly walks over and shuts the curtains. Makes sense now.

When she gets back to Jane’s, Cole is waiting and Jane peaces out. He tells Alison the coke is gone—the stash has been stolen and he thinks Alison’s lover may have taken it and wants to know who it is. When she says no way, he correctly makes the point that people who sleep with other people’s wives do not have the highest morality meter. Cole berates her. She finally tells him: Noah Solloway. “Martin’s dad?” Haha, yeah Cole.

They walk around the city. “This place is like hell,” Cole says. “You’d have to have a death wish to want to live here. (I’m guessing this is not who Alison is living with in the future.) He asks if the affair is because of something he did. She says no. However, and this breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces, when Alison makes to sit on the curb he stops her and pulls something for her to sit on so her dress won’t get dirty. Cole, you are the best. Marry me. Alison looks him straight in the face and apologizes. Cole talks about how he handles grief: about breathing and counting through his pain, like a wave that passes. But it didn’t work when their son died. But he felt better when Alison was nearby and now I’m crying. Cole is broken. He wonders if it’s him, the baby, who doesn’t want them. Alison suddenly seems to realize her stoic husband has been suffering internally without her and you get the sense that if these guys had this honest a conversation months ago, we might not all be in this mess. She comforts Cole for a change.

The next day they drive back to Montauk, with Alison longingly gazing at the disappearing skyline, when an emergency text comes in. “Something’s happened to Hal.” The answer: totally, horrifically, beaten up. Turns out he tried to reason with some unreasonable drug dealers. Cole is mad. He hears that Hal will be in the hospital for maybe another month and Cole realizes that they have to sell the ranch. Cherry (who apparently knows all about this drug business) wants to save it, but Cole has had it. “This trouble isn’t worth it.” And then he takes Alison and goes home.

The detective checks The End to see if Noah made a reservation. He’s as surprised as me when nothing comes up.

Back at the Lockhart home Cole is ready to begin again. “Let’s make a baby.” Oh boy.

Episode Recaps

The Affair

Two marriages collide when a tragedy brings an affair to light; the Showtime original series stars Joshua Jackson and Maura Tierney.

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