A Helen/Noah split — hooray! (More Helen, all the time, thank you.) We begin with Helen trying to get her kids ready and out of the house in order to go to a baseball game with their dad. Not for nothing, Helen’s crazy blond streaks ended up looking kind of great? (What can’t money fix?)
Trevor, true to form, doesn’t want to go. Margaret, also true to form, is no help whatsoever. (I wish the Solloways supported the Mets, but alas, they are Yankees fans.) Margaret natters on and on, and Stacey tattles that Martin’s stomach is hurting. Margaret keeps pointing out that these pains happen when his father is near.
Poor Martin. He doesn’t seem well; he can’t even get a shirt over his head. Margaret, meanwhile, is yelling at Noah about how the mind and the gut are connected, and Noah suddenly remembers he’s no longer obliged to listen to this lady and locks himself in the car. Helen and he exchange some terse words and get onto the subject of Martin. Noah pushes to take him to a specialist, and Margaret appears out of nowhere to tell Noah he can’t make medical decisions for the children. Martin sums this all up nicely by announcing he hates everyone. Word. “The only thing wrong with that boy is Noah effin’ Solloway,” Margaret spits as the car drives away.
The Butler women ride quietly up the FDR. Helen asks if her parents are getting divorced and Margaret says that Bruce is too cheap to divorce her. Famous last words.
In front of fancy lawyer, Jon, Bruce and Margaret start sniping at each other immediately, and Helen sits by passively. They discuss how the custody is now up for grabs because of Helen’s arrest and the kids will have to talk to a court-appointed shrink, and Helen doesn’t want any of it. The elder Butlers are full-on screaming at each other when Helen gets a call that Martin is being rushed to the emergency room.
What on this earth is worse than an emergency room? We have a nice and realistic depiction of chaos and disorganization and utter franticness. Martin is clearly in bad shape and barfs horrifying green bile all over the floor. Noah finally grabs a doctor who gets Martin on a gurney and into an examination room. The nice doctor tells Helen and Noah that Martin has a perforated bowel. Yeow. They start squabbling, and the doctor is all, “Cool it, I have to operate right now.” Martin starts babbling about wanting to go to Hawaii. (“Not Montauk,” he pleads, and I feel you on that one, kiddo.) Helen and Noah are left helpless in the hallway calling out weak “Alohas.” (A reference to a Cameron Crowe disaster, perhaps?)
As they wait side by side, Noah can’t resist a, “psychosomatic, huh,” and as much as I’d like to jump on him about this one, I can’t because I don’t even know if a saint could resist an I-told-you-he-was-sick at this particular moment. Helen notices that Noah has called Alison multiple times. He tells Helen that Alison used to a pediatric nurse and that he should have listened to her. They start arguing about who is to blame for poor Martin’s intestines. The doctor comes in to be like, “Keep cool, people.” Martin made it through the operation okay. He most likely has Crohn’s disease which is chronic, but treatable. They both need to work together to help Martin lead a normal life.
They sit on opposite sides of their son’s bed. Noah is texting, and Helen tells him to just go ahead and call Alison back. She tells Noah she doesn’t want to do this anymore; she can’t keep fighting with him; she wants it all over and to go back to mediation and will give him anything he wants — that includes custody and Alison. Way to take the high road, Helen! She even goes the extra distance and tells him he’s an excellent father. Martin wakes up, and they smile at each other. This particular hate storm seems to have passed.
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Helen gets home to find Margaret asleep on the couch. Margaret wakes up, immediately concerned about Martin. But she’s horrified to hear that Noah is with Martin at the hospital and starts going on some rant about not letting the courts see that Noah is such a good father, etc., and that is IS IT. Helen has had it. She explains to her mother that her son almost died because Helen had been listening to Margaret. There are no words here to convey just how incredible Maura Tierney is in this scene. She simply crushes it. (Please remember this scene, Emmy-nominating committee!) A lifetime of resentment boils over: “You wanted my marriage to fail because yours was a sham and you were jealous.” She goes to tell her mother that Margaret made her feel like Noah was never enough and that she’s ruined everything — her marriage and her entire life. “I hate you. I really do. I want you to get out of my house.”
I’m totally with Helen on this one but can’t help but feel a little sorry at the sight of the big suitcase and Margaret with her good posture making her way down the stairs. She tells Helen that Bruce is indeed divorcing her so…Margaret isn’t exactly having an aces time of it anyway. Helen holds her ground, though, and watches the car take her mother away.
She comes inside and is just starting to allow herself the luxury of a cry when Whitney comes down the stairs and ask after her brother. Helen tries to plaster a happy face on it, but it’s too late, and even the most self-involved teenager (Whitney) can see that it’s Helen who presently isn’t doing okay. Helen bursts into tears and hugs her daughter. (Um, I may or may not have burst into tears here, too.)
In the sepia-toned future where Helen has bangs, lawyer Jon tells Helen there’s someone who has a piece of evidence on Scott Lockhart but it’ll cost money: $100k. Of course, it’s Oscar, who else? Helen doesn’t hesitate to agree to pay — she says she’ll sell the house if she has to. (My theory from last season is holding steady: I think Whitney killed Scott, which is why Helen is being so so helpful. Now you are all my witnesses if I turn out to be right.)
Next: This show takes tree hugging to a whole new level
Noah wakes up in his own old bedroom, which must feel a little weird. He makes breakfast for Stacey as part of our brave new Helen-and-Noah-being-friendly world.
He and the kids prepare to welcome Martin home in style: a banner, a vegan cake, all the kids pitching in and, for a change, not being total nightmares (even Whitney!). Martin walks in, looking better already (he even met a chick at the hospital!), and it’s all Brady Bunch-style happiness. Helen and Noah chat civilly, and they all sit around like a real happy family. And it’s super nice and super weird feeling for everyone, I’m sure. Especially when it’s time for Noah to leave. He tells the kids that they can come visit him in his new two-bedroom in Crown Heights. Whitney is all, pass. Helen, in a show of ultra niceness, offers to have Noah stay at the house while she’s away on Shelter Island.
Noah leaves with a backward glance at the house (is it real estate or family envy?). He drives up the West Side Highway with a smile on his face and some flowers on the front seat. The song by Golden Smog, “You Make It Easy” is on the stereo, and he’s tapping out of time, ignoring a call from Harry, and feeling pretty good about heading up to see Alison.
She’s staying at a place called the Sousanna Institute, where a a lot of yogis are running around. He gets to a cabin, and guess who’s there? It’s Alison’s hilarious mother, Athena! She’s staying with Alison, and Noah seems horrified that his sexy fantasies have been dashed, but duh, mother and daughter are sharing energy.
Noah goes in search of Alison and finds her down by the water, where there are a lot of half-clothed and unclothed people. He sees her in the water and seems relieved to discover that she’s still wearing a bikini. Noah is looking a little unsure about Alison’s new naked friends but seems determined to go with it.
As they sit, Noah apologizes to Alison: Martin’s near-death experience has made him realize how terrible Alison losing her son really was. (Uh, really? Okay, well whatever.) She listens calmly and tells him not apologize. She’s being perfectly friendly but a little remote. He tells her the good news: He and Helen are divorced, and they can be together and la-la-la sunbeams and kittens and roses.
Alison doesn’t do the happy dance and is all, “Oh so we’re a couple, then?” I love this move of Alison’s — what is better than being perfectly friendly and polite when there is clearly so much seething rage underneath? Because apparently it’s been six weeks without any real communication. She also tells him that she read his book. He’s all, “Uh-oh.” She goes on to talk about how now she knows she’s sex and sex and more sex. Noah is all, “Well I wanted to prepare you!” Then he pulls the old writer’s trick — it’s fiction! He then turns to a different approach: He’s written them a happy ending! “I’m the a–hole,” he says (tell us something we don’t know, Noah). Alison, correctly, points out this is the ending that Harry wants him to change.
She then goes on to say: Hey, maybe you are right maybe I DO have too much sex. Sex for her became a way to feel things after Gabriel died. She started using reckless behavior in order to feel things — her friend Sebastian thinks it comes from the same impulse as cutting herself. (Who is Sebastian? Oh, just you wait.) Alison hasn’t had sex in six whole weeks and her head is really clear. Noah is all, “Neat! How’s that going to go when we leave here?” Alison is all, “Oh, yeah, about that.” She can’t just pick up and leave — she’s working and taking yoga-instruction courses. She suggests he stay with her for a while.
Next comes some hilarious scenes of Noah trying to work on the grounds. There’s a bench he’s on, but all the chanting distracts him. Next, he tries going outside a yoga studio, but he can’t settle down. Then there’s a picnic table where a bug crawls on him, and city boy that he is, he flips out. The stone bench doesn’t really do it for him, either, and that is where he runs into Alison’s mother. Well, technically he’s running from Athena, but she catches right up to him. She busts him on having writer’s block. Athena is like, “Hey, isn’t it great to see Alison happy instead of dark?” He’s like, “Sorta?” She then riles him up by suggesting maybe he’s attracted to Alison when she’s unhappy rather that not. He gets more and more mad, brushing off her suggestion of a session of reiki to help unblock him.
He brushes her off and stomps through the woods. He finds Alison talking to a handsome man who is…author Sebastian Junger! Hahahah. Oh, The Affair, I couldn’t love you more. Noah fans out about Junger’s books, The Perfect Storm and War. Junger informs Noah he loves it at the institute, and Noah, very transparently, is suddenly like, oh maybe I do, too. And then Junger suggests reiki, and soon there’s Athena working on Noah’s chakras.
Is anyone at all surprised that it’s Noah’s, um, root chakra (aka where he zips up his pants) where all his angst lives? Athena diagnoses him as being trapped between wanting stability and being attracted to darkness. Noah looks as though he’s beginning to believe. He gets on his stomach, and Athena gets real witchy, and Noah starts seeing that dark road we’ve seen before. He tries to shut it out, but he sees himself — sees himself driving behind the wheel, and then we see that figure ahead, and it’s Alison in the road, and he…. maybe runs her down?
He goes straight to Alison and grabs her and takes her into the woods. He tells her he’s done everything for her; he’s blown up his life for her; he’s jealous of her relationship with Sebastian Junger. He’s letting the darkness in all right! She says he can’t control her, but as if to prove her wrong, he pushes her against a tree and sort of roughly turns her around and has sex with her against the tree (shades of season 1 with Cole and the hood of the car), which might be nice for him but most definitely does not look at all fun for her. (That tree looks awfully uncomfortable.) And why doesn’t he respect her no-sex rule? Why can’t this happen in a place where she has a place to rest her head that isn’t scratchy bark? Alison puts up with this, with what degree of passivity, I’m not sure. Afterward she turns around, and they look at each other, and Alison tells him she’s pregnant. (So yes, that means it’s still totally possible that if she had sex with Cole, she could be pregnant by him, but I am not committed to that theory.)
That night Noah types frantically, remembering the road, the figure of Alison, and the smile as he runs her over. He picks up the phone as Harry calls right in time: “It’s done.”
And so is this episode. See you all next week!