Ah, Noah, Noah, Noah. Just when I start to see you as a decent human being rather than a cheating spoiled brat, you go ahead and do something stupid again.
I can’t say I found the first half of the episode (Helen’s perspective) particularly interesting. For one thing, it’s difficult to understand Whitney’s sudden 180 on her father: last I remember, she didn’t want to stay at the new apartment because of Alison, she hated him for breaking up the family and her relationship with Scotty, but now she’s daddy’s girl once again, somehow blaming her mother for everything, and unlike most children whose parents recently separated, is all about convincing her mom to move on. Am I missing something?
Either way, in true teenage girl fashion, she is the typical esprit contredisant, giving Helen a hard time about going to college before she finally presents her plan to move to the city and become a model, but not before she sets up a Tinder profile for Helen and urges her to hook up with some random guy.
As any normal mother would, Helen is exasperated: she knows taking time off school is a mistake, she doesn’t think 18 year old Whitney has what it takes to make it as a model, let alone survive in the city without parental support, and she ultimately doesn’t want her daughter’s intelligence to go to waste, although from what we’ve seen so far she’s not exactly known for her smart decision making.
Noah, on the other hand, is perfectly okay with his daughter’s plan to ‘find herself’ and do the kind of crazy stuff her own mother did when she was her age. When he cleverly drives the point home, Helen is faced with a revelation that is her own worst nightmare: she should let Whitney make mistakes, lest she become her own mother.
Noah comes across as less self-indulgent during the first half of the episode. He has an insightful, honest discussion about his children and his book, and he is actually considerate enough to choose an excerpt that will not be hurtful for Helen to hear when she shows up at his (very crowded) book reading.
It’s actually nice to see the two getting along, and a pleasant change from all the bickering, custody battles and betrayal. They have an emotional intimacy that’s strengthened over time, and despite the events of this past year, it hasn’t gone anywhere. It seems effortless, comfortable and easy, and it’s even more evident in contrast to the lack of this kind of familiarity between him and Alison.
This is painfully obvious in his skype call to Alison during the second half: his mind is on the book tour, the award nomination, the rave reviews. As Helen points out, he’s been waiting his whole life for this measure of success, and now is his time to finally enjoy it. As dismissive and modest as he tries to appear at first, he has a very hard time hiding his immense satisfaction in the adulating applause he receives on the book tour, or his gratification at seeing random people reading his book. Helen knows this, because she knows him. She went through his past failure right alongside Noah, she is aware of what this means to him, of his fulfillment as well as his insecurities. She is proud of him; at the heart of it all, he is still the love of her life, and she can’t help but acknowledge the goodness in him, see him as a decent man.
Sadly, that decency goes out the window as soon as he gets his first bad review (in a college paper no one even cares about) and loses the award; a few shots is all it takes to turn him from nice guy walking down memory lane with his ex wife to the utter dick who attacks a college kid and then tries to sleep with his publisher. What’s surprising, however, is that we see the bad side of Noah in his own memory rather than Helen’s, whose memory paints him in a completely brighter picture. Perhaps it’s his own insecurities at play, or maybe it’s just guilt catching up with him.
On the other side of the equation, we have Alison, who is seeking to find her self-worth through him; if Noah is all about his book, then Alison is all about trying to make them into a family. She refuses to accept that she doesn’t come first, that his writing had been a priority long before he even met her. While Noah is away on his book tour, all she has is the apartment and the baby. When she surprises him with the nursery, the last thing she expects is a lukewarm reception an a grumpy father-to-be, upset because she moved the desk out of the room. As much as she sees this as her chance of a do-over, she can’t seem to understand that he’s done it all before – several times. He’s been the devoted family man for many years – now he’s finally an accomplished writer. That’s what he defines himself as.
Alison’s lack of insight when it comes to Noah is all the more apparent when she dismisses his wish of winning the award as his desire to ‘have it all’. To him, this confirmation, at last, matters more than any nursery. He wants to be celebrated, to enjoy this while it lasts; she just wants him to come home and give her the security and happiness she’s been missing. I would find it a lot easier to feel for her if the baby was indeed his own.
And in the flash-forwards, it’s that little detail that could make or break his case trial. I’m still confused as to how Scotty figures into all of this, but I guess Oscar and the lawyers misunderstand the exchange in the camera footage and assume the baby is Scotty’s. Somehow instead of painting Cole as the culprit, the lawyer is now going out of his way to concoct a believable line of defense that would pin the murder on Alison. Whoa. Helen, to her credit, is reluctant, but she’s up for it if it means saving Noah.