Did you all realize that this is the penultimate episode of this season? I did not! But the way things were getting dealt out in this installment suddenly makes sense. Quite a reveal at the end, was it not? But let’s back up in the beginning.
We begin with a Helen perspective. Our favorite lady left standing is, it must be said, a bit of a mess. She’s in the kind of depressed funk where you can’t bring yourself to get out of bed, shower, or wash the dishes. The whole brownstone reflects this — even poor Rex the cactus is still where he was left, spilled unceremoniously on the floor.
Downstairs the kids, no doubt picking up on the whack energy, are quiet. Trevor and Martin watch TV mindlessly. Little Stacy asks: Where’s Vic? Yeah, can we call Vic up and explain this mess or what? Helene instead chooses avoidance (respect) and tells the kids to pack up their stuff, and they head to the Hamptons. That’s a nice option to have, right? Pause to imagine what it’s like to have rich parents with a huge beach house less than two hours away. Okay, moving on: She drives past where Scotty died. There’s a makeshift memorial there and, oh boy, tick tock on the Helen explosion. Her parents appear to be delighted to see them, and it’s the kind of gorgeous autumn day at the beach where everything is golden and there’s a chill in the air but it only makes things prettier and throws into sharp relief how miserable things are. Sorry, Helen.
She heads to her room — remember this room from season 1? There’s a picture of her and Noah from college graduation looking ridiculously young (and photoshopped) with the kind of giddy grins on their faces that shows they have no idea what is ahead of them.
Downstairs the elder Butlers are, as usual, amazing. Margaret sits on the ground, meditating while Bruce drinks a gin and tonic. Helen pours herself a healthy glass of wine into a glass — no seriously, the kind of glass you drink orange juice, not booze, in — but whatever, Helen, get it. The Butlers keep chirping about how much they love Vic — and I mean, join the club, you guys. They extol how how classy he was for paying the bill, how his core work makes it looks like he does yoga, etc. Helen chugs. But then she admits Vic left her. The Butlers get real un-Butler-like, hugging her, pledging their support. Turns out they’re in therapy and now realize they’re totally responsible for ruining Helen’s life. Well, not totallllly. Helen does the only thing left to do and knocks her glass back.
She takes the kids to Lockhart’s Lobster Rolls, which makes exactly zero sense. Why would she go there? There are tons of other places in Montauk to get lobster rolls! She’s going to go to the one co-owned by the woman who stole her husband and the man whose brother she killed? Lord. She is at the register, and she sees that Cherry Lockhart is selling homemade pies. So, what’s up, The Affair? We couldn’t get Mare Winningham? Helen buys three.
Back at the Butlers’, Helen continues to guzzle white wine and the kids now chirp up about how great Vic is. He taught Martin chess! He taught Stacy how to make chicken vindaloo — and Helen’s inner bomb goes tick tock a little louder. Then Stacey pipes up that she knows why Vic left — because Noah was in the house. And then kaboom! Things really start to hit the fan: The kids freak out, Bruce screams about Noah being a criminal, and then, finally, Martin informs everyone that Stacey is crying.
Helen leans down, gets serious, and tells her that she’s sorry. Then, out of nowhere, the truth: It was Helen driving that night. Where the heck is Vic when you need him? The Butlers completely lose their minds and grab Helen by the arms and pull her out of the room and down to a panic room, which in itself is amazing. They start talking about how maybe Helen is just tired or too much of a mess to live outside a rehab place, and finally Helen is like: You guys, I killed someone. Margaret slaps her across the face and Bruce tells her she’s opening them up to a lawsuit. Ah, maybe that’s their main motivation? Helen makes a break for it and gets out of the panic room and locks them in. I guess that’s the thing about panic rooms…
Helen parks in front of Cherry’s house and remembers the accident. She loses her nerve and goes to a bar, and now we’re back to the scene we saw last week but from a different perspective. And this one really is different. I don’t just mean the choice of drinks Alison and Helen share (I knew it couldn’t have been a Long Island Iced Tea!), but the music playing — the song is “Trouble Me” by 10,000 Maniacs and is about being in love with an alcoholic. And then there’s Alison herself. This Alison is a cool, loose-limbed, easygoing townie with a lot of attitude who orders two shots of whiskey. She’s sexy and confident and smart, and I would like to think this is the Alison that all these dudes get so head-over-heels for. I get it with this one! The real question is why Alison doesn’t see a shadow of this self in her own perspective. (This episode also reminded me of what an incredible actress Ruth Wilson is.)
They have a pretty different kind of conversation than the one Alison participated in, but the gist is sort of the same — Alison is sorry she caused her pain. She talks about Gabriel and cause and effect and recklessness and freedom. Everyone starts telling the truth! Both women admit their part in Scott’s death — and Helen suddenly realizes that Noah wasn’t just protecting her that night. Helen wants to go to Cherry, but Alison calmly points out that would do a whole lot of nothing.
Helen drives back to Cherry’s and cries and cries. Oh Helen, I root for you. Let’s get it together!
It’s like she hears me because the next day she waits for Vic and I scream YAY at the television screen. He’s understandably a bit short with her, but she launches into a speech about why she behaved like she did. She’s totally honest in the way that honest can be so unflattering that it is totally flattering. At the end of all that, Vic remains rather opaque. He says thank you and goes to leave. Helen stops him and tells him she doesn’t know how to live with this. Oh Helen, tell him how much you love and need him and beg him to come home! She doesn’t do this, but her look of total despair moves Vic and he tells her he’ll find her after work. So maybe there’s hope after all?
NEXT: The first rule of Noah’s fight club is…
Buckle up everyone, ’cause it’s Noah time! And Noah is quite changed from the smooth professor we met way back when, right? He’s a straight up creeper these days. He goes and finds Gunther’s wife at the salon and tries to get a haircut from her (a lovely enough seeming lady). Then he follows her home. Knocks on the door! A little kid comes out, one clearly with disabilities, and when the wife sees it is Noah she understandably freaks out. We see what is perhaps the real John Gunther through the door, expertly comforting his child, a large man full of sweetness. Hmm! (It’s nice to see nice Brendan Fraser again.)
Noah is confused and even more so when Gunther comes outside and is gentle and asks how he can help. Noah starts to unravel, accusing Gunther of following him and trying to kill him, and Gunther is like, Yo bro, I have no idea what you are talking about. Gunther, in fact, starts using the tone of voice one uses when trying to talk a real crazy off the ledge. Noah, somehow, goes even crazier and threatens Gunther, who puts him in a headlock — not a violent one, but one that should calm Noah down.
Faced with his own crazy, Noah runs down the street as we see a very Flatliners-like flashback. Then we’re back in prison and huh! Gunther has read Noah’s book, and the long and the short of it is that maybe Noah manipulated his mother into committing suicide? Which, if true, is a real yeeeeesh. Memory Gunther talks about how the interpretation of the truth can mean it’s either mercy or murder. “Memory can be faulty.” Sing it, tagline!
He tells Gunther, I took the fall for my wife. “I met a girl, I thought I could save her.” And, at this point, I’m sure all of you were as suspicious as me about all of this. Gunther sounds like a shrink as he asks Noah to explain why, why, why. He tells Noah the reason he’s in jail is that he murdered his mother. Noah rushes Gunther and slams into the wall (injuring that shoulder perhaps?) and Gunther has somehow managed to be in a different part of the cell, smoking a cigarette. And yes, Gunther is Noah’s very own Tyler Durden. How do you all feel about this? I’m still thinking.
Anyway, he rambles through the streets and back to his New Jersey apartment. He flips through his manuscript and starts putting the pieces together, including, yes, that it was he who stabbed himself.
We end with a vision of himself in the hoodie running down to the lake with his dad calling after him, asking what he has done.
Oh Noah, what have you done!