We'll always have Paris, until we don't

By Sara Vilkomerson
January 29, 2017 at 11:00 PM EST
Bruno Calvo/SHOWTIME
S3 E10
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Welcome to the season finale of The Affair! Or I guess I should say “Bienvenue,” as we travel across the globe for a special Parisian edition of this show for our finale. I will be honest: I was very dubious about a Juliette perspective being half of this episode, but you know what? It was a very good episode, and a big return to form for The Affair, in this recapper’s opinion. Maybe all we needed was to drop the hysterical, crazy pill-popping flashbacks? In an ideal world, I would have liked an episode between last week’s and this one’s — maybe one that explained how Noah got off the floor in a grimy New Jersey bathroom and into a cute coat in Paris?

We begin with what seems to be wintertime in the future, and we are in France. All together now: ooh-la-la. Noah is no longer a wild-eyed lunatic but a hunky pillow for Juliette. He’s staying in a charming little garret (because, you know, France), and we are treated to a look at just what a slamming bod Juliette has. She’s nervous because she has an appointment at the university to tell them the truth about her husband. Noah is charm incarnate and lures her back to bed.

They walk around beautiful Paris and kiss a little bit. But then Juliette gets busted by some frenemies (or, rather, frenchemies). Honestly, one of them is wearing a beret. The women and Juliette do some passive aggressive chit-chat about Noah, who just stands there looking tall and handsome in a pea coat.

Juliette heads home (beautiful apartment) and her daughter, Sabine, rushes to tell her that her husband has “woken up.” I immediately get some PTSD-like feelings on remembering Awakenings. But there Etienne is: erudite and charming and eloquent. He seems miraculously back, but those of us who’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy know this can’t last. Sure enough, before long Etienne is mixing up Sabine with a young Juliette. Worse, he mixes Juliette up with his first wife, whom he does indeed seem to have loved better. Merde.

To continues Juliette’s weird day, she goes to her university and has a really terrible conversation with the meanest lady ever to rock a cashmere turtleneck. This feels pretty unrealistic to me, but the long and the short of it is, they’re furious with Juliette for keeping Etienne’s illness from them, and on top of it, they don’t see a need for her at all anymore. Or, more specifically, they don’t know where Etienne ends and Juliette begins. I’m guessing Juliette doesn’t either.

She walks to the Pantheon and — dang, nice location scouting, The Affair! — it is beautiful and solemn, and she gazes at the Foucault pendulum, watching it go around and around. (Yes, I did look up the history of the pendulum to see what it might signify beyond time and spinning, etc. )When she leaves, it is snowing. She calls Noah and runs — so French, so pretty — down charmingly crooked streets and looks at Noah from outside the window. You know that great feeling when you can see someone’s face in repose and they don’t know you are watching? He has a gift for her, an early rare edition of Le Morte d’Arthur. But then the phone rings and, ugh, it’s Sabine with some bad news.

Etienne is dead from a massive stroke by the time she is home. Her daughter’s grief has turned into white hot rage as she accuses her mother of humiliating her father on his deathbed. Juliette screams for her to leave her with her husband, and when she is alone, she solemnly apologies to his body.

There’s a bit of uncomfortable physical comedy when they can’t get the body into the teensy European elevator. Afterward, in the empty house, Sabine has fallen asleep in her mother’s lap. Noah is at the door. She pulls him into the hallway and they have sex while she whispers, No, no one is coming — about the worst thing I can think of to say in the throes of passion, but there you go.

Next: Noah’s Paris contains a Furkat

We’re in Noah’s perspective, and here he has a different and, in my mind, a lesser coat. He loves Paris, though, and enthuses to Juliette about cheese and things. Oui oui!

They again run into her friends, and I have to say, this is when I remember how amazing The Affair can be. From Noah’s English-speaking perspective, there are no subtitles, so it’s just a lot of French-talk with zero understanding. Also, I think the camera is higher up, so you really see it from his view. This was the sort of thing I missed this season.

Anyway, they part and he wanders into Librairie Auguste Blaizot. He looks at a copy of Peter Pan, flashes to his old life and Alison (hey, remember Alison?) before he finds good ole Le Morte d’Arthur. But when he leaves the store, he sees a giant vagina. Are you surprised? It’s Noah! But no no, it’s a poster for our friend Furkat’s exhibition. In fact, his gallery is across the street.

Noah looks through the window (there is an awful  lot of gazing through glass panes in this episode) and sees Furkat molesting a slender dark-haired girl who turns out not to be Whitney. Good old awful Furkat comes out and is his total ridiculous self, explaining that Whitney is out running errands and talking about the linens at their amazing hotel. He’s having a show tonight and tells Noah he’ll put his name on the list. Noah waits for Whitney in the lobby. She comes in, looking tired and drawn and totally overloaded by dry cleaning and packages. She does not seem all that thrilled to see Noah. At all.

He gets a call from Juliette — interestingly, in his mind it is not snowing, and it it is he who gazes rather fondly at Juliette through the window. She’s drinking a glass of wine and reading Noah’s first novel.  She tells him about Etienne waking up, and Noah is fairly horrified that she’s not using this opportunity to spend every moment with him. She bristles at his judgement. She’s like, Oh hey, by the by, you are not the expert on affairs. That would be my husband. She’s angry, clearly, and makes it clear she’s purposely choosing to stay away from Etienne because of past grievances. She gets that fateful phone call and yet tells Noah everything is fine. He does indeed present her with the book, but with much less fanfare and wrapping. She takes off.

Noah goes to the Furkat show and spies Whitney through the glass, looking simply stunning in a red dress but also very sad, as she’s clearly been demoted from girlfriend to cocktail server. She watches Furkat lavish attention on her replacement and tries to pull him away to talk. Noah watches as she succeeds in getting him outside, where they start to fight, and then, and then! Furkat hauls off and hits our girl! Noah goes all Incredible Hulk-y and flies to her side, but Whitney begs him not to make a scene. Oh, Whitney.

They stroll along the Seine and Whitney asks who Juliette is and if he loves her. Noah says, rather sagely, that he’s trying to more careful with that word. But he is mostly concerned about what he just witnessed. He tells his daughter that what happened was absolutely not okay. Whitney is all, but he’s an artist! He’s supposed to be passionate. And man, poor Whitney: I think your 20s are going to be very, very difficult. Noah tells her gently that love isn’t supposed to be pain.

Whitney, true to form, is ready to strike back. She says, Oh you mean like how you treated my mother? You may as well have hit her. Truth. Noah takes this and says that she right: that he has failed to protect her from men like Furkat and men like himself. She looks really young and tells him she just wants to go home. He tells her he’ll take her. (I press pause and call my father to say hi.)

He leaves her in his hotel room and gives a sweet speech about parenthood and how things get better generationally. He’s rewarded with a smile.

He goes to Juliette’s house. If they have sex in the hallway, we don’t get to see it. They have a long and very interesting conversation about watching someone you love die. About the lies we tell ourselves. She realized she didn’t mean any of the things she said earlier — she really did love him. She had this idea that she was the lady in the tower, waiting to be rescued. But now she realizes it was actually Etienne. Sheesh, this is sad.

Noah can empathize, especially the part about watching someone be sick. “After someone dies I think we want to tell ourselves a story of how it was our fault because at least that gives us some control.”  So again, here is where it would have been nice to see how Noah got himself together. But what’s important here is that he’s being very sweet and kind to Juliette in her time of need.

RELATED: Hear more of the latest TV news from this week

In the morning they say goodbye (Whitney and Juliette meet, as well as Sabine) and fly home. When the cab pulls up to the brownstone, Noah can see his family inside. The kids laughing, the pretty tree, and — hello! — Dr. Vic laughing at Helen’s side. Merry Christmas to us all. Phew. Noah tells Whitney that he shouldn’t come in, and she smiles affectionately at him when he tells her he loves her. She thanks him. So it seems like these two are on the road to recovery. Helen catches sight through the window and they gaze at each other and wave. It’s a real moment. When he gets in the taxi, the driver asks where he is going to next, and he has no idea. And, as our French friends might say, fin.

So it’s a little weird we just left Alison and Cole where we did, right? And I’m not sure where this show is going to go in season 4, but thanks to this last episode, I can promise you I’m in.

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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