The Affair recap: Solloways Just Can't Help Themselves
Helen and Noah act out in very different ways.
Tonight’s episode poses a few big questions: How well can you ever really know someone? Can fathers and sons become reacquainted? Can husbands and wives? When is it okay to be your true self? What happens when a lifetime of pretending to be someone else catches up to you?
We begin the hour from Helen’s perspective as she and Vic are having dinner with Bruce Butler, who’s as much of a blowhard as we all probably remember. He wants to introduce them to his new girlfriend: Margaret, Helen’s mother. (Ha!) The Butlers are pleased as punch about this; Vic is amused and so am I, but you know who isn’t? Helen.
“At the end of the day, your mother just knows me better than anyone else ever will,” says Bruce. Start the ticking time-bomb at this exact moment.
The Butlers seem to like Vic and sort of casually hate on Noah, which makes Helen even angrier. She explains Noah is showing up for Martin at a big school meeting the next day (news to Vic, clearly).
After dinner, Helen is still fuming on the walk home. Vic is essentially like, “They’re crazy but that was fun.” He’s happy he finally met them, even half-seriously suggesting he and Helen have a double wedding with her reunited parents. Helen laughs in his face, so Vic pretends he’s joking, too. Uh-oh. Helen, please don’t ruin things with Vic!
Unsurprisingly, Noah doesn’t show up to the aforementioned school meeting for his son. As it turns out, Martin’s been skipping a lot of class and is in danger of having to repeat his senior year — again. Helen is pissed but makes all the excuses: Martin’s illness, the divorce, the murder, etc. A silent and surly teenager, Martin isn’t exactly helping his cause.
Helen, still enraged over Noah going AWOL, goes to see Noah’s sister, Nina. And you know who else has had it? Nina. She tells Helen off, delivering a pretty amazing yet devastating speech. The long and short of it? Nina thinks Noah used Helen as an escape from his horrific family life. Moreover, Helen doesn’t know Noah at all — for example, she doesn’t even know (as we do) the truth behind his mother’s death or just how screwed up it made him. (In fairness, Helen was 18 when she met Noah, an age not exactly known for bestowing people with great empathy.)
Helen and Nina go a few rounds, but Nina clearly wins the fight, especially when she lands the knockout blow by correctly guessing who was really driving the night Scotty Lockhart died. Is Nina the smartest person on this show? Perhaps.
Helen leaves immediately, almost barfing on the driveway on her way out. She’s clearly spiraling and ends up calling poor Max. Max! Who, thankfully, has been out of the Solloway orbit for some time now. He’s made good use of that time, too: He’s packing up his apartment for Brooklyn Heights and is engaged to a beautiful and smart Vogue editor. Helen is unfairly stung, saying something along the lines of “I guess I’m not the love of your life after all.” And THEN she aggressively seduces Max despite my screaming NOOOOO at the TV. Ugh.
Afterward, Helen continues acting like a lunatic as she presses Max for how much he knew about Noah’s troubled childhood. Max, finally, loses it. “I can’t believe I fell for this sh-t again. It’s never about us, it’s always about him,” he says. Correct. Even so, Helen can’t stop herself from asking if Noah cheated on her in college, which results in Max (fairly) throwing her out. Go live your life, Max!
Back at home, Dr. Vic is just minding his own business and reading her father’s book because he’s trying to establish a rapport with his girlfriend’s parents. Helen, on the other hand, is being straight-up awful and I hate it. She tells him he doesn’t know her and she doesn’t know him. She’s incredibly dismissive and monstrous, and the fact he doesn’t break up with her on the spot is some real TV fantasy. Instead, he gets right to the heart of the matter: “Tell me, Helen: How have I failed you?” Could Helen just be waiting for people to fail her?
Martin is AWOL and when he finally shows up, he tells Vic to f-ck off (not nice!), after which Helen piles on with the whole “Yeah, you’re not his dad.” Finally, Vic says he needs a drink and takes off. (Call me, Doctor!)
Helen goes to talk to Martin, who tells her he was at his grandfather’s lake house with Noah. Helen doesn’t like that one bit, immediately jumping in the car and arriving in Pennsylvania just after dawn. Noah’s not at the house, but there’s blood in the bathroom and she can hear Noah shouting Martin’s name. She finds him at the lake and when she calls for him, he turns around — looking straight-up like a wild animal.
NEXT: Noah’s brain seems like an unreliable narrator
In the second part of the hour, we’re seeing things from Noah’s point of view as he returns to Juliette’s with her wrecked vehicle. Real cool, Solloway.
He’s not quite as apologetic as I think he should be, especially since the police has continued to question Juliette about Noah’s stabbing. He also has no other place to stay, so he’s crashing (no pun intended) with the mysterious French professor.
Things get awkward fast. As they make the bed and talk about how they don’t have real relationships, she’s like, hey, you can sleep with me. He inquires after her husband, and she tells him the truth about the Alzheimer’s and shares this heart-breaking confession: “Half the time he doesn’t remember he has a wife. Or he thinks I’m his first wife, whom he loved better.” Ouch.
They start getting hot and heavy, but then Juliette opens her robe and tells Noah she wants him to tie her up. “You wrote about it in your book.” Noah looks vaguely tempted, so she drops the robe and turns around. Only then does he decline her offer, which is sort of a terrible thing to do to a woman who is literally standing naked before you. She’s not thrilled and stomps off. Merde!
Noah realizes it’s best he leaves town, so grabs the keys to his father’s lake house and hops a bus to his hometown. He sees Gunther’s family gun shop, so that’s a nice trigger to start his descent into seeming madness.
Inside the house, Noah surveys he the hospital bed and the mess his father left behind. He starts cleaning up, or rather, throwing everything away. He finds a tin of old letters and dog tags and medals.
He heads to the hardware store and runs into an old classmate, a genial fella named Grant. They chat it up a bit about their kids and jobs, and this dude tells him he’s famous. But he also, very sweetly, invites Noah to dinner.
Later, Martin scares the hell out of Noah by sneaking into the lake house. (Question: Do Martin and Helen both have cars? That seems kind of unnecessary for a New York City family). As it turns out, Martin’s dear old departed grandpa told him he could come to the house whenever he wanted. So, this is where he’s been spending time instead of going to school!
He’s not excited about Noah’s presence, but Noah presses on and invites Martin to Grant’s house for dinner. Noah hands him the tin with his father’s things from Korea and spies an envelope addressed to “My Family” — along with his acceptance letter to Williams. While Noah gets emotional, Martin confides in his father about hating school and wanting to join the Army. He was clearly very close to Noah’s grandfather. Noah pops some more pills. (Uh, we get it, show.)
Father and son arrive at Grant’s house. They’re friendly and even have a cute teenage daughter for Martin. Noah gets teased — in the way everyone is when they’re around people who knew them when — about how serious he was back in the day. Later, Grant says Martin is just like Noah (hmmm).
Some doofus named Stevie arrives and he’s clearly got a bone to pick with Noah. He’s read Descent — as it turns out, they all have. (I do enjoy when they call it 50 Shades of S0lloway.) Things get worse when the high-school yearbook is passed around and Stevie ribs Noah about how he always thought he was better than everyone else. As Noah starts looking the worse for wear, the cute teenage daughter (Lila) invites Martin to a party, and he accepts.
Noah takes the opportunity to ask Grant and Stevie if they remember Gunther, but they don’t. He eventually staggers home and tries to change the dressing on his neck — which explains the blood in the bathroom — and passes out right there. Martin finds him and slaps him awake; when Noah goes straight for the pills, Martin (Martin!) is like, dude, you are a hot mess.
Noah does some confiding of his own, handing Martin his mother’s suicide letter and explaining his role in her death. (Martin officially knows the real Noah better than Helen does.) He says he knows he let Martin down in a big way, and though Martin might never forgive him, he loves him — more than he can imagine. He wants this to be clear so there won’t come a day when Martin is cleaning out Noah’s apartment and wishing he could talk to his dead father. For his part, Martin seems to be absorbing what Noah’s saying. Finally, Noah begs him to go back to school for Helen’s sake. They hug.
In the morning, Noah wakes up and is happy/relieved not to see Martin, as he’s clearly gone back to New York and school — right? It’s when he steps out to the back that he sees a hooded figure walking out to the lake as if to drown himself. We know it’s not Martin, but Noah doesn’t.
Noah dives out to save him, but when the hooded figure turns around, we see it’s just a young version of Noah himself staring back at him. Dun dun duuuun.