Happy belated Thanksgiving! We made it! And here’s something to be really thankful for: Episode 2 kicks off with Helen. I could watch an entire series about Helen and Dr. Vic Ullah, couldn’t you? I love this guy! I mean, he’s no Furkat, but I get ahead of myself…
We open to a year ago and some hot morning sex with Helen and the good doctor. We also learn that he has a cactus named Rex and he lives in the downstairs of the Solloway brownstone. Helen goes back upstairs with the kids who are having breakfast — there’s a moment when they talk about some jerky dad who voted for Trump, which is TOO soon I say — when Vic comes upstairs. Remember when we first met Vic that Helen said, “I don’t know if you are nice guy who is pretending to be a d— or a d— pretending to be a nice guy”? Hmmm, yeah. This still seems to be an issue. On the one hand, Vic says funny things like, “You have many, many offspring.” But on the other hand, Vic also gets phone calls where he says things like, “Hey, you,” in that tone (you know the one) and Helen has been burned before, so we see her shut down just a tiny little bit.
Helen now works in real estate (what happened to that nice overpriced store full of unnecessary but totally covetable things?). She works with a lady named Trish to help yuppies stage their apartments in order to sell, and Helen tries to convince her friend on the idea that she is happiest in a relationship with no strings. She’s never been happier, okay? Like, totally, totally happy. Hmm.
She visits Noah in prison and, oh boy, it is grim by grim. He’s clearly been beaten up and is lying about it; she exposits that this has happened before and she’s tried to move him out of there to a different jail but failed. She does refer to Brendan Fraser as “fatty,” which is pretty good, and Noah growls at her menacingly that he doesn’t want her help. He first tries to distract her concern by recognizing the earrings that she’s wearing as the ones they got during a different lifetime in Mexico. Then, after pressing and finding out that the kids aren’t coming — they are understandably stressed out seeing him in this condition — he tells Helen he doesn’t want her coming back. Ouch. Looks like Noah has still found ways to hurt Helen.
Rattled, she gets back in the car and gets a text from Vic that’s clearly meant for someone else — one about how nice lunch was with a smiley face emoji to boot (Vic, you’re better than this).
But no time to sulk, it’s time for dinner at Whitney’s new boyfriend’s loft in Greenpoint! As Helen and Vic ride a rattling elevator, Helen looks nervously at the flickering lights and Vic looks only at his phone, texting away like a teen. Since we are seeing this from Helen’s perspective, you can practically feel her fears and insecurities bubbling under her full body eye-roll.
Oh, and how to recap the next scene? There’s the loft — covered in stark pictures of female naked bodies. And then there’s Furkat himself — much older and all eyeliner and rings and tattoos and hard-to-place accent that no doubt hails from Planet Pretension. (I also appreciate that the writer of this episode gave us recappers a break and had Furkat spell his name.)
Whitney seems happy and enthralled by her new beau (she loves an older man) and tells Helen she considers the School of Furkat her education (even though Helen has been paying for school). Helen, understandably, has some issues with this and Whitney is ready to strike, spelling out Vic and Helen’s odd living arrangement to the point where Vic almost chokes on his Patagonian Toothfish. When Helen says they’re like that for the benefit of Whitney’s siblings, Whitney calmly replies, “You’d have to bring your own waterboard to f— them up more than my dad did.” Oh Whitney, you’ve still got it.
Helen sticks up for Noah, and the mother-daughter duo start to bicker about him, and it comes out that Helen had seen him that day at the prison. This is news to Vic, who is clearly displeased. Helen comes up with a lame cover story about her feelings of responsibility for That Night, something something about letting Noah drive drunk. The whole table — even Furkat! — looks at her like she’s lost it.
Helen decides to leave, and Vic buys a giant framed photograph, and it’s a tense cab ride home with a giant picture of a vagina literally between them. Helen calls Vic out on the lunch thing, he looks pained but admits that it was just a daughter of a friend and it meant nothing. This leads to an explosive fight that continues upstairs as he brings up that Helen, after all, drove up to see her ex without saying anything. Helen goes nuclear and does the whole what-the-hell-are-we-even-doing-here rant and he tells her he was taking his cues from her. I sort of believe this! But Helen is all, no I can’t deal with this anymore and Vic walks out.
Helen sits alone once more in her bedroom. But wait! Vic is back! He’s brought his stuff and, without saying a word, just puts clothes in the drawers and Rex, the cactus, on the nightstand. Oh Vic, who knew you’d be the one to make me believe in love again? His one request is that she untangles from Noah, to which she agrees. He wishes her a good night and she takes the earrings out.
NEXT: Alison returns to Montauk
We see Alison on the train back to Montauk. Her hair is long and lustrous, even if her posture is guarded and she seems a little frail.
She’s rented a condo apartment near the water — I can’t be the only one missing that old charming house that she sold — and the young dude who helps her settle in doesn’t recognize her as a local, going so far as to welcome her to Montauk (sigh) and suggesting the Lobster Roll for food.
We see her set up the apartment and make up a little bed that is presumably for Joanie. Then we see her skulk about on a playground watching Joanie play. Alison is straight up a wreck and then she, and we, see the amazingly hot sight of sweet, sweet Cole picking up his daughter. All together now: awwwww.
Alison is on the phone with someone — a therapist, I’d guess? — saying she froze. She practices saying things like: I’m still her mother. Oh boy. She heads to the Lobster Roll, and Cole is sitting doing paperwork in the back. He looks up and his whole body sighs — that’s how unpsyched he is to see her. He hustles her out of there and tells her off in whispered fury in the back. She up and disappeared for six months! She explains that she was sick, and Cole is not hearing it. Alison says she’s better now and really wants to see Joanie; Cole relents and tells her that they’ll be home later that afternoon.
Alison gets a much warmer reception from the post office lady, who chats her up and gives her a huge stack of mail — all from Noah. We learn he sends her letters one to two times per week. I appreciate that Noah has bad handwriting.
Cole now lives in a sweet-looking house that is the picture of suburban bliss — soccer balls and a bike in the yard, etc. Alison carries a present, and when Cole lets her in, her eyes take in how lived-in and happy this house looks. Cole starts to tell her how well business is going and that he and Luisa are building a new place, but Alison doesn’t care and interrupts to ask where Joanie is.
That’s when Luisa appears and they tell her they’ve decided it’s not a great idea for her to see Joanie. They make a lot of compelling points, such as that Joanie cried for hours and asked for her mother for months, and they looked for her and couldn’t find her. Alison keeps saying she didn’t have a choice.
Luisa has had it and who can blame her? She’s like, you drop this news that Cole is her father, and you want to co-parent. We already share the Lobster Roll and basically we do whatever you want, and then you disappear. “There’s something deeply wrong with you.” Sing it, Luisa!
Alison says they can’t keep her from her child. But, in fact, it sounds like they can as there was some mysterious paperwork signed. Plus, guess what? Joanie’s favorite color isn’t purple anymore… it’s yellow. And she’s having less nightmares and tantrums. Alison is devastated.
So it’s the perfect time to run into ol’ creep-o Oscar. Oscar is in great spirits, his wife/girlfriend is pregnant and he seems genuinely happy to see Alison. Please correct me if I’m wrong (and readers, I know you love to) but didn’t we last see these guys on terrible terms? But Oscar has a role here and that’s to chat with Alison and fill in the gaps for us about what’s happened.
And it boils down to this: She started to freak out when Joanie reached the same age Gabriel was when he died, which makes total sense. When Joanie got the flu, Alison got overwhelmed and took her to Cole’s. Then she checked herself into a hospital and signed over custody to Cole. I still don’t understand if that’s where she signed the paperwork that Cole and Luisa are referring to but whatever. Oscar tells her all she needs is a good lawyer.
She goes back to her condo and repaints Joanie’s bedroom yellow. She even takes the stack of letters from Noah and starts reading them. But there’s a knock on the door, and it’s Cole and Joanie! Joanie hurls herself into her mother’s arms. Alison thanks him, and Cole makes it clear he did not do this for her. She gets one hour.