Noah makes a return trip to the Hamptons—without his wife and children.

By Sara Vilkomerson
December 08, 2014 at 04:01 AM EST
Mark Schafer/Showtime
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It feels like forever since we’ve dipped our toes into the chilly, chilly Affair waters, right? Thanks a lot, Thanksgiving weekend! (It can’t be just me who desperately wanted some escapist TV after a long holiday weekend, right?)

But anyway, we’re back with our favorite adulterers and summer—metaphorically and actually—is over. Noah begins this half: It’s high school time, and Noah is working on opening the hearts and minds of the young (who, for the most part, look like they’d rather be anywhere but in class). The topic? Romeo and Juliet of course. Nothing too subtle about this one! I think we can skip the English literature parallels here, right? But we do see how at ease, how happy, Noah seems to be in the classroom. The writers definitely wants you to think about Noah’s final summation of those other star-crossed lovers: “Pure love cannot sustain in an imperfect world.”

After work he meets Helen at a cozy Brooklyn-y restaurant. Helen has news: Her store is going to be on the front page of the New York Times Styles section. Noah is Mr. Supportive husband here, clearly still on an apology tour, and even has a nice necklace from Tiffany & Co. For what reason? “Sticking it out,” he says. He’s really proud of himself for buying it, you can tell. Helen? Not so psyched about it—understandable as it’s clearly an I’m-really-sorry-I-cheated-on-you-and-ruined-the-trust-in-our-relationship-and-your-faith-in-mankind piece of jewelry. Who wants to wear that? She wants him to return it, and the mood turns sour. She doesn’t get into it, which shows some restraint; instead she says they need to pay off their credit card. Noah knows this means he’s not been forgiven yet.

At home, Martin is reading Moby Dick—a book Noah says was his favorite at his age. (I call BS on this but whatever.) Apparently Martin’s report card is not nailing it this semester, even though he used to do algebra for fun. (Gross.) Martin sort of alludes to getting bullied and wants to go to private school with Whitney. Noah thinks he should tough it out.

Speaking of tough, Helen pulls Noah into the hall to listen to Whitney throwing up. They are completely freaked out about how to handle Whitney’s maybe bulimia. (Eegads, what if Whitney is pregnant????) Helen wonders if it is her fault. Noah consoles and adds that maybe it was spending the summer with the morally bankrupt Butlers. And here we learn that Helen’s anger at Noah is always simmering just below the surface of everything (again, understandably). “We used to be a team,” she says. “Now we’re just two idiots that don’t know how to handle anything.”

At therapy Helen talks about how she’s too stressed out with the store and Whitney to go to Montauk for the weekend, but that someone should go to represent the family at a benefit where Bruce Butler is getting some lifetime achievement award. Noah selflessly volunteers—and promises he won’t contact Alison. Helen digs in a little, talking about how she married Noah because she thought he was safe. She could have had anyone and she chose him because he adored her and she thought he’d never cheat or leave and that they’d grow old together having this nice, safe life.

And Noah gets it. It’s been four months since the affair ended and he’s been beating himself up about his indiscretion, and he can’t take it anymore. He hates feeling like a fraud, hates not owning his house or paying for things. (Looooove that Helen sends the smallest kids’ clothes to the dry cleaner. “Just the French ones!”) Noah needs Helen to forgive him and to move on. He wants to go to Montauk and do this thing for Helen. Oh god, this is like watching a car wreck in slow motion.

Annnnd we’re back in Montauk. Bruce Butler gets his award and works the crowd. Noah spies Alison working the party, wearing that black dress from the beginning of the summer. Is anyone here surprised? They have a little awkward chitchat before Bruce comes over and Alison runs away. Noah and Bruce head outside and Bruce wants to know: was that the woman Noah was having an affair with this summer. This is already clearly Noah’s worst nightmare—made worse when Bruce mentions Noah’s book is going badly, too. Bruce suggests that Alison was Noah’s muse. He then tells a real neat-o story about the affair he had when Helen was young. This not the prettiest young lady made him feel lit up and awake after being asleep for his whole life, yadda yadda yadda. He ended it for the sake of his family, I guess, and channeled it into his book. “First time I was short-listed for the Pulitzer. The only time.” Oh dear lord, this is depressing.

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Bruce leaves with Harry, which leaves Noah conveniently alone at the party. He sees Alison upset on the phone and learns that her grandmother had a heart attack. She doesn’t have a car and can’t get ahold of a taxi (doesn’t her brother-in-law run a taxi company?) so of course Noah drives her. She asks him to come inside the hospital with her and he, correctly, replies it’s not his place.

When he gets back to the Butler abode he finds Bruce struggling to get out of his chair. Noah is struck by Bruce’s age, probably for the first time, and perhaps that’s why he asks Bruce what happened after he broke it off with that former student in Michigan. Does he ever think about her? “Every f–king day.” This sends Noah running to the hospital, where he finds Alison asleep curled up in her chair. Her grandmother is in her final death rattles, and so he wakes her up to tell her that it’s about to happen. I find every part of this recollection highly suspect: Alison is a nurse, after all. She doesn’t need Noah to explain what it looks like when someone is about to die. (Also, no one looks pretty or comfortable curled up in those awful hospital chairs.)

Noah and Alison drive and park in an empty parking lot by the lighthouse. She’s asleep, and he’s pensive.

Suddenly we’re in the future/present and the detective is watching Noah read from the apparently best-selling novel, soon to be a movie, The Descent. Sounds like someone took Bruce Butler’s advice, doesn’t it? Noah reads about driving fast and seeing the blue boat with the grass growing out of its belly, which we know the detective has pictures of, and which is at the entrance of The End. Dun Dun Dun…

NEXT: Musing right along…

We open in the Lockhart ranch, where Alison apparently has been welcomed back into the bosom of her noisy, drug-dealing family. They’re talking secret Santa, celebrating the beat-up brother being off crutches, and talking how to make the ranch look appealing to rich people. There’s a tense moment when Scottie brings down a box of what must have baby Gabriel stuff.

At dinner everyone’s talking about what they’re going to do with their hypothetical money once the sale goes through. (Note: Scottie has been going into the city a lot—could this be to visit our gal Whitney perhaps?) But Cole knows not to count chickens and spend the cash just yet. The boys snipe at each other a bit about real estate issues and when to sell, when they notice water coming through the ceiling. Cherry forgot to shut off the tub.

At home, Cole is worried that Cherry is going senile. Alison thinks she’s trying to slow down the sale of the ranch. They lay in bed together and seem closer than we’ve ever seen them. Alison wants him to use the money to buy something that he’s always wanted. “I have everything I’ve always wanted,” he replies. (And to those of you who are upset by my adoration of Cole because he is a drug dealer, here is where I tell you once and for all I do not care. Love you, Cole!) They get busy under the sheets.

Alison takes a pregnancy test (looks negative) and makes breakfast. Her mother calls with the news that her grandmother has had a heart attack and is in the ICU. Cole offers to cancel his appointment and take her, but Alison gets snippy and tells him no.

At the hospital, Athena is with Dennis, a new “friend” who spouts exactly the same kind of hippy crap as Athena. Alison is not having it and boots him so she can fight with Athena about whether or not to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order. Alison is all no way. They fight, each woman becoming the worst version of themselves. Athena and her higher power especially.

Back at the ranch, Cole is exasperated with the appraiser’s lack of understanding that Cherry is bad at keeping receipts. (Me too, Cherry. Me too.) Cole is uncharacteristically cold when she talks to him about her grandmother. I know I’m a Cole apologist, but I’m betting this has something to do with their kid, but I don’t know what. He changes the subject back to the appraiser, and Alison sort of shrinks back into herself. She tells him she has a catering job, but she doesn’t know what it is for.

Wearing a much different outfit than in Noah’s memory, Alison sets tables and arranges flowers. She learns the event is for Bruce Butler. She asks to go home, but they’re understaffed so the boss comes up with the idea she can work coat check rather than the room. She’s just taken Bruce Butler’s coat when she sees Noah. Time slows, birds sing, etc.

She’s reading Bruce’s crappy book when Noah approaches. “Traitor,” he says, which is a pretty good line. They go outside for a smoke (she claims she hasn’t had one since summer). He tells her she’s beautiful, she nervously chats about how great things are with Cole. They’re even trying to get pregnant! He takes the hint and makes a move to go inside, but not before he hears her get the bad news regarding her grandmother.

At the hospital he offers to come in. (Interesting change, no?) She tells him thanks, but no thanks and walks in for a massive fight with Athena about western medicine. The basics: The grandmother is being kept alive by machines. Noah arrives, or as Athena calls him, the calvary.

In the waiting room he brings her some food from the vending machine and very gently tells her that this isn’t the same thing as with her son. That sometimes letting go can be the most compassionate thing you can do. And guess what: I like Noah again. Sorry.

Apparently the grandmother has passed, and Alison is looking fairly destroyed as she sits by the empty bed. Athena and Dennis come in with the news that they’re leaving right away, and then Athena spouts just the most infuriating, worst kind of garbage ever, making excuses about healing and maternal archetypes and just total crap. If it seems like I’m being particularly harsh here, let me just tell you that I’ve dealt with this personality type before and they are the absolute worst. Okay.

Where on earth is Cole? I know where he’s not, and that’s waiting for Alison in the hallway because we see Noah doing just that. Alison looks profoundly grateful. He drives her back to the Lockhart ranch (which seems a little dicey to me, right?) and before she gets out he tells her that he loves her. She says she loves him too. Oh god. Helen!

Inside the Lockhart family is buzzing around, having fun, maybe playing some sort of game that Alison wants no part of. She slips upstairs to what I’m presuming is Cherry’s room. She opens that box of Gabriel memorabilia and reacquaints herself with his things. It’s heartbreaking, but it also seems to be the most at peace we’ve seen Alison in a while.

Cut to present/future and Scottie Lockhart’s funeral. The preacher lets us know this funeral has been much delayed. The detective notes, as we do, that Alison is decidedly not sitting with the Lockhart family but sort of randomly in a row toward the back.

This must give him some sort of idea because he heads back to The End and asks the desk clerk to check under cancellations for Labor Day. And this time, he finds one under Noah’s name. He also says he was in a fender bender and gets the clerk to give him the name of the car guy everyone uses on the island. We end this week with him getting into his totally not banged up car and driving away as the cameras pull back ominously. WTF everyone? See you next week.

Episode Recaps

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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