This one was a pleasant surprise, for two reasons: for one thing, it was a solid episode. For another, I thought this would be the season finale, seeing as there were only 10 episodes to the first season, but apparently not: we’re getting an extra couple of eps for season two, and I, for one, am not complaining!
The episode begins with a flash forward: it’s Noah’s court date and the street outside the court house is flooded with reporters, fans and onlookers, as Noah, Alison and his lawyers make their way in. Helen is there too, with Dr. Ullah! Apparently she has decided that he’s actually a good guy acting like a dick after all. I have to admit, I didn’t see this one coming.
Part I: Noah
Back to the here and now, a year has passed since last episode’s hurricane extravaganza. Alison is late for couples’ therapy and won’t answer her phone, while Noah is torn between rescheduling and opening up to Marilyn (none other than SATC’s Miranda!). It’s the first time he actually looks forward to the session, he admits, and finally unloads.
Okay, first of all, if was about time these two recognized they should be in therapy. It’s also about time Alison did something for herself: she’s back in school, studying to be a doctor, of all things. Talk about going from zero ambition to just about the most demanding profession she could think of. She did mention she wanted to be a doctor before, but is it really the right time to take on such responsibilities with a 1 year old at home?
Noah is on a roll: his divorce is finalized but he’s reluctant to tell Alison, because he doesn’t think she’s ready to make it official; he keeps catching her staring at him when he’s with Joanie, and this is not unfamiliar territory, as he used to get the same looks from Helen, and then his daughter. He’s done everything he can to make it up to Alison for not being there for Joanie’s birth, but he still feels her looking at him with contempt. Maybe he’s just projecting, because he’s definitely earned the contemptuous stares, but I’m willing to bet that Alison’s looks are all about her own guilt, or just trying to find some sort of family resemblance between Joanie and Noah to figure out if Cole is indeed her baby daddy.
Helen and Vik are off to a safari in Africa and Noah has the kids for a week, but that’s not what’s stressing him out: just when you’re about to actually feel sorry for the guy, he admits he wants to sleep with his 26 year old student, who’s made it clear she’s more than up for it. Ah, Noah, you’ll never learn. The night of the hurricane seems to come up a lot, as it was a turning point. Noah says what we’ve all been thinking: she should have left him then. Although they’ve apparently discussed it to death, Noah hasn’t been completely honest in front of Alison, but he’s ready to tell the whole story now: he was ready to jump in the sack with Eden but got distracted by a lesbian tryst at the hot tub only to realize it was his own daughter, so he split. Yep, I’d have a hard time admitting that, too.
What it all boils down to is this: I cheated on my wife of 20 years before, I almost cheated on Alison a year ago, so what’s to stop me from cheating on her with the hot 20something girl now? (Uh, a little something called loyalty? Respect? Common decency? Eh, nevermind.)
I am a terrible, terrible, f*cking sick bad guy.
Well, that sums it up pretty well, doesn’t it? Seriously though, it’s nice to see Noah vulnerable, and even nicer to know he actually feels ashamed. He talks about his absentee father, and having to take care of his sick mother: even though his dad never cheated, this doesn’t make him a good husband and father; Noah was there for his mother, just like he had been there for Helen and the kids for 20 years, until he made a mistake, and now he’s the villain in this story.
Credit where credit is due, the man has a point.
And then he goes off on a raw, very real soliloquy about his inner struggle between the man he wants to be, the man he thinks he should be, and the man he could be if he stop adhering to societal rules and self-imposed boundaries. It’s perhaps the first time we actually get a glimpse into his mind, and it’s a compelling piece of dialogue. What makes a man great? Is it his personal life or his accomplishments? Why is it that all the greats had trouble balancing both? Could he actually be destined for greatness but hindered by society’s norms or his own perceptions of what a good man is supposed to do? Did his heroes’ disregard of loyalty as a virtue make them great? Is accepting your flaws what gives you the opportunity to transcend your ordinary existence? Does Noah’s desire to shirk his responsibilities and just say screw it, I’ll do whatever I feel like doing, the key to his achieving greatness? Does he simply become one of the greats by embracing his selfishness and letting his ego lead him where it may?
This could either be construed as a deep philosophical debate, or just Noah’s effort to argue his way out of whatever reservations or guilt he may feel about cheating, but Marilyn is quick to ground him to reality: what about the great men who remained faithful? Why not use them as examples?
It’s refreshing to see Noah so open and honest. Even if his logic is flawed and his desires – as expressed to Marilyn – just confirm what we all know about his character, his actions during the last year do speak loudly enough to at least give him some credit. He doesn’t want to lie any more (uh yeah… let’s see how that goes). He definitely doesn’t volunteer the truth about the divorce when he goes home to Alison, but the two seem to be doing better.
Back to the flash-forwards, the lawyer’s opening argument does a decent job of painting Noah as a scapegoat and pointing the finger to a number of other possible suspects for Scott’s hit-and-run, given his character, history and illegal activities. Noah might not have proven he deserves the benefit of the doubt as a loving partner, but let’s see how he fares as a possible killer.
Part II: Alison
Okay, first of all, Joanie is cute as hell, and Cole is looking damn fine these days.
Let’s take it from the top:
Alison is trying to balance motherhood and pre-med school, and it’s not as easy as she expected (duh). She seems to be in way over her head and struggling with her biochemistry class, so she simply decides to drop it, despite the professor urging her not to. Willpower was never one of her strong suits, but this really annoys me. One year later, she seems to have settled into her new life; you’d expect her to be less of a quitter. You know how mature students are supposed to be more focused and determined? Yeah, scratch that. If Noah’s introspection redeemed him a bit in my eyes, then Alison’s lack of confidence and drive just infuriates me.
On her way back from school, she runs into a very sweaty, strung-out Scotty. Apparently his forays into the city require him to suit up? Either way, it’s unsettling; he doesn’t look good. He explains his business plan for the Lobster Roll, and immediately goes on the offensive when Alison says she can’t help him. Having been turned down by his brother, who doesn’t even want to touch his share of the house sale earnings, Alison is his only hope.
Before the situation can get any worse, the babysitter rolls around, pushing Joanie’s stroller, and Scotty meets the adorable little girl. Everyone says it looks like Alison, she says, but I think she looks like her daddy. As far as foreshadowing, ambiguous statements go, this one hits the nail on the head. You can almost see the bulb light up above Scotty’s head as he takes a good look at the kid.
Alison walks to a bar nearby, to find Cole in his work clothes. The man looks good. Alison is obviously nervous, which makes for a very awkward conversation, but she does say the one thing I’m thinking this entire scene: Cole looks happy. It was about time.
Did she plan on telling him the baby was his? We’ll never know: Luisa works across the street and she’ll be off momentarily, so Alison will finally get the chance to meet her. Before she gets there, Cole makes his big announcement: they’re getting married. This definitely halts whatever plans Alison had for this heart-to-heart, and she does a lousy job of pretending to be genuinely happy about their engagement. This entire conversation was way too uncomfortable for a friendly chat between exes who have known each other their whole lives.
Luisa walks in, introductions are made… and is it just me, or was Luisa smug as hell? Not cool, Luisa.
Alison comes home to find Noah’s two youngest kids playing video games while he’s cooking up dinner in the kitchen, and that’s vastly different from Noah’s own memories of that day. His decision not to lie any more doesn’t last for very long: in his own memories he admits to having a nice talk with the therapist; in Alison’s, he not only lies and says he left and went to the movies (Captain America was a nice touch), he also suggests they stop seeing Marilyn altogether.
Later that night, it’s back to familiar territory for the couple: sex makes it all better, doesn’t it? As they’re about to finish, they hear Joanie on the baby monitor, saying ‘Dada‘ for the first time, and it’s the happiest we’ve seen these two in a long, long time.
The episode comes full circle with another flash forward: court’s in recess, and the lawyer (whose name I’ll never learn, it seems) is grabbing some lunch, when his assistant shows up: the DNA test results are back on Joanie’s dummy. And, of course, we’re not privy to the information that is obviously quite interesting to the lawyer.
Maybe we’ll get to find out next week? It’s nice to know that we might actually get some answers to this season’s questions by the time it wraps up in two weeks.