Sometimes the shoe does, in fact, drop
Hello! Welcome back! And how was your year? It’s June and people are just itching to adulter, so obviously it’s the most perfect time to be back with our favorite cheaters.
The Previously On made me laugh because it’s all so crazy when strung together — affairs and spirits being crushed and drunken driving and murder and jail and freakouts. If I didn’t know this show like I do, I’d suspect them of trolling me specifically. But they obviously don’t really care about me because we see not a hint of Furkat or, for that matter, our favorite Frenchie who got so much air time last year. (If you’d like to properly get caught up before diving in, you can find all the previous recaps right here.) Hit it, Fiona!
We begin in no one’s point-of-view (except, I guess, our own) with Noah on a pay phone and, interestingly, Cole (Hi, Cole!) watching him carefully. Apparently, it’s been 72 hours and no one has seen Alison. Oh, great. The Police has declared her a missing person. Trivia! Tonight’s episode is directed by none other than the great Mike Figgis, of Leaving Las Vegas fame. Or as we soon discover, more like Leaving the Tri-State Area.
We jump into Noah’s perspective and flash six weeks back. Noah is driving through California and fighting with Helen via phone. He’s irritated because he moved out to LA to be close to the kids whom he is now not seeing. And like a true New Yorker, he just can’t stand the traffic. (Feel you, Noah.)
He’s teaching at a charter school, specifically the novel Animal Farm — which I’m sure there’s some deeper meaning regarding the allegory of tyranny but we just don’t have the time — but the female students are distracted flirting with him because the entire basis on this show is that women cannot be in a room with Noah Solloway without being wildly attracted to him. He’s slightly losing control of his class — one kid’s cell keeps going off, another named Anton is sullen and unresponsive — and that’s when Principal Wilson (Why hello there, Sanaa Lathan!) enters the room in time to see Anton start to physically menace Noah. Bad looks all around.
Noah learns that Principal Janelle has a habit of dropping in on classes — and there’s come casual racism on behalf of Noah’s very annoying colleague — and also that Anton was caught plagiarizing and so failed all of last year. Noah is late getting to Trevor’s school but is stopped by a security guard and won’t let him in because his name isn’t on the list.
Noah is full on fuming by the time Helen and Vic and the kids come outside. Noah hugs little Stacey but Trevor is very much underwhelmed. Vic (Hi, Vic!) is the voice of reason, and invites Noah to join them a dinner. (God, I still love Dr. Vic Ullah so much!) When he arrives at the very loud restaurant there’s no chair for him (now that’s symbolism) and he grabs a drink and tries to insert himself to the conversation already in progress. There’s some weirdness with Trevor that Noah can’t quite figure out what the deal is as Helen gives him Meaningful Eyes as they discuss gay rights.
Noah pulls Helen aside to be all WTF. Turns out Trevor has been hanging out with this boy named Brooklyn and Helen is all, duh, he’s gay. She says he was about to come out right before he arrived but Noah counters that it appeared like Helen was pushing him. Helen says that Noah intimidates Trevor and stomps off. Interestingly, this is a divorced couple that has no issue with one member (Helen) peeing in front of the other.
Noah has a rather adorable little house out in Topenga Canyon. Noah calls Alison. He also calls Max (Max!!! Where are you? I miss you so much!) and leaves a voicemail. He reads a paper by Anton and the next day he pulls the student aside. He basically accuses the kid of not writing his paper because it’s so good. Anton levels him with his secret brilliance and huffs out leaving Noah with his bad assumptions. Noah attempts to apologize but the damage appears to be done.
On page 2: Helen fears the big one is coming
We switch to Helen’s perspective. Because she is in California she is attempting (and failing) to meditate on her incredibly beautiful deck overlooking Los Angeles. Vic joins her—and boy does he looks good in California—and asks if she’s obsessing. Inside, there’s a lot going on in the kitchen: Trevor is non stop texting with Brooklyn, a boy (ahem); Helen’s young, comely neighbor is gathering fruit in a flimsy nightshirt; Vic comes in to brag about how much weight he’s lost. Vic tries to get Helen to relax but she’s all wound up. “I’m not worried about anything,” she says convincing no one. He reminds her how nice the house they live in is, how great things are going, and then they make out. But Helen’s mind is definitely not as rest as she hallucinates an earthquake. (Note: I’m glad I’m not the only New Yorker for which this is a giant and all encompassing fear while in California).
We learn the pretty woman next door has a famous mother but also never takes in her trash cans. Vic teases Helen for being overly interested.
Helen is driving and hears from Martin that Noah forgot to put money into his account. She sighs the sigh of a woman who has an ex-husband who does this kind of thing all the time. At therapy, she’s not really leaning into the whole California chill way of doing things. Her therapist — an Alan Alda-like man called Ezra — points out that if she’s thinking about earthquakes, things inside her are not exactly at rest. Helen is uncomfortable in Los Angeles, she says. It makes her feel unsafe. She throws out that she thinks Trevor might be gay. Ah, maybe that’s the earthquake, says the shrink. She unconvincingly goes on and on about how she doesn’t care a bit and how she always wanted a gay son. She says it’s Noah who will have a problem with it. She says Noah annoys her more than anything else.
The shrink rattles off some of the trauma Helen might be hiding in her body and it is eerily similar to the ‘previously on.’ Helen is like, look, I left it all behind when I came to California. There’s nothing to worry about here! Well that’s tempting fate a bit, isn’t it? But then I fall in love with Helen a little more because, like me, she is unnerved by the perfect LA weather and that the ocean is on the wrong side of things. I don’t know if I would go so far to call the Pacific “an attention whore,” but I like where her head is at. The shrink, however, does not.
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Helen arrives home to find Vic’s mother in the house, tailoring his pants. The mother clearly loathes Helen like nobody’s business. She’s also filled the fridge with Vic’s favorite food and makes a few barbed comments about Vic’s happiness level. “No man is truly happy till he has children of his own.” Helen grabs a bottle of wine and takes it to her bathtub which is the smartest thing I’ve seen her do yet. But she can’t stop hallucinating earthquakes so we know all is not totally well.
She sneaks out to her living room to find Vic’s mom gone but the next door neighbor, Sierra, breezes in with some extra avocados. Sierra has the kind of beautiful skin and shiny hair that only super rich women do. But Sierra thinks Helen has beautiful skin and their whole exchange feels weird and there’s a lot of talk of energy and the whole thing loaded for reasons I’m not sure about.
At Trevor’s school night, Vic and Helen talk to Trevor’s teacher and learn just how close Brooklyn and Trevor have become. She walks away and Helen and Vic are like, oh wow, so Trevor is gay! (“As the day is long,” says Vic.) In Helen’s P.O.V. Noah storms up out of the parking lot and starts yelling at her. Vic tells both of them to cool it. In Helen’s memory, the restaurant is much more civilized and quiet and they’re all having this really important conversation. And indeed it does seem as if Trevor is about to come out to Vic and Helen when Noah comes barging in like a big ole Solloway bull. Interestingly, their memories differ as to who pees in front of the other, as they squabble about Martin’s money and etc. Weirdly, Helen comes off as nuts in her own memory as she does in his. She tells him he is the earthquake. Every time she sees him she’s waiting for the next disaster to happen. She tells him he broke their family and she has this great new life but he’s still in it. She thinks they should stay apart as much as possible.
Later, back at the house, Helen seems much calmer. She thinks she’s beginning to like Los Angeles. She even tells Vic she thinks they should get away up to Big Sur. Great, everything is great! Except…No! Vic is collapsed on the floor. HOW CAN THIS SHOW DO THIS TO ME??? Seriously, it has to be Vic? We couldn’t have just gotten rid of one of those Sollaway kids instead? All together now: one two three —UGH.