Well, well, well. The Affair seems to be upping the ante as its third season draws to a close, and it’s a definite improvement from its slow start. I can’t say I loved this episode but at least we finally see some of the pieces falling into place.
For one thing, Helen is much less of an asshole this week – in her own, charmless way. She would be even less of a jerk had she decided to come clean about Scotty after seeing the damage Noah’s prison stint did to him, of course, but it took a bit more than Noah’s shoulder injury and painkiller addiction to give her a nudge to the right direction: last week, she finally had Noah in her bed and it wasn’t exactly a happy reunion. Add to that the eye-opening conversations she recently had about her marriage and it’s easy to see how she finally worked up the courage to tell the truth.
Did she pick the optimum way to broach the delicate subject with her kids or her crazy parents? Quite the contrary, but at least she finally told the truth. Did she tell the complete truth to Vic though? I just don’t buy that the only reason she invited Noah into their old home was out of guilt; she clearly still loves him and wants him back, and that takes away from her tear-soaked confession to Vic, but hey, at least now she’s making an effort.
Helen goes from zero to hero in the span of a few seconds this week, but she does so in such a clumsy way that she’s still a long way from making me feel sympathy for her. Not only did she pick the worst possible time to tell her children the truth about the accident – in front of her Noah-hating parents – but she also decided to share the news with the one person who’d most want to see her behind bars: Mrs. Lockhart. Normally it would be hard to side with one of the Butlers, but in this instance, I’d probably want to slap my daughter and lock her up in my panic room too. (By the way: a panic room? Seriously?)
As a side note: does hit & run actually equal murder? It’s an awful, horrible thing to do, but it is neither premeditated nor is a motive involved. It was an accident – a terrible, avoidable accident, but an accident nonetheless. I’m not a legal expert here but as far as I can tell, some states don’t even classify hit & runs as felonies. So why has no one made the distinction between murder and what was clearly an accident in Noah’s case?
Sigh. I guess it doesn’t really matter, because it does serve its purpose in this episode: Mama and Papa Butler may not exactly be model parents (by their own admission, no less), but they won’t let their only child go to jail, especially for something their hateful former son-in-law has already served a prison sentence for. Helen, on the other hand, is on a roll: telling her family isn’t enough; she wants to share the news with Scotty’s mother, but also just about everyone else in her life: first Alison, in a chance encounter, then Vic, whom she waits for outside the hospital to apologize.
Let’s start with Vic: I must say, his assessment of himself (he may not be a coward, but he IS kind of an asshole) rang more true last week than it does now. Sure, he sees things under a different light now that Helen shared her secret with him, but wasn’t he pretty much justified to act like a dick towards a partner who snuck her ex into their house and generally acted like a dick? Yes, he was pretty cold to Helen in this episode, but he did extend a white flag as she turned away to leave, and that’s probably more than most people would do, especially since her whole spiel about ‘feeling guilty’ about Noah’s situation and not having feelings for him is really hard to believe at this point.
He’s even less of an asshole considering we know something he doesn’t: her only reason for going back to him is the fact that she finally has the last piece of the puzzle, courtesy of Alison: Noah was covering for his current (at the time) wife as much as he was covering for his ex. His plea of guilty was not a big declaration of love (or, at least, remorse) for breaking her heart and their family apart – at least not entirely. It was a brave move to protect not just her, but Alison as well. Two birds, one stone, and Noah went from a despicable, self-centered jerk to a self-sacrificing hero in the blink of an eye. This immediately shatters any hopes she might have of Noah coming back, and naturally she runs straight back to Vic, pleading for forgiveness.
This is why Helen’s heart to heart with Alison was much more interesting this week. In this episode, we see a completely different version of their encounter through Helen’s memories than we did Alison’s. Helen was at the bar before Alison walked in; Alison appears as a remorseless bitch when Helen first accuses her of “stealing her husband” (and then progresses into a sanctimonious bitch when they start getting into the thick of things). In Alison’s memories there’s no mention of Helen’s revelation about the accident, which is a bit bizarre but makes sense in terms of being really old news to her by now. She is very matter-of-fact about what happened and especially about the fact that it’s ancient history at this point. As far as Alison is concerned, better let sleeping dogs lie – and she’s right: what good would it do to anyone if Helen were to tell the world who was to blame for the accident? Noah already paid the price for it. And as cold-hearted as that may sound, it’s one more piece of evidence to support her complete turn-around from her previous unstable state to a woman who seems to really have it together.
Noah, on the other hand, is not just losing it, but seems to have lost it completely. His entire POV segment is one long sequence of confusing scenes that make it virtually impossible to tell where the memories end and the hallucinations begin, and the plot thickens. Just like Helen went from zero to hero in the first half of the episode, here Gunther follows the same trajectory – except it’s a bit harder to swallow in this instance. It’s not the first time The Affair paints someone as a villain only to give us a different view after we’ve established just how big of a jerk they really are, but this turn-around seems to come out of nowhere. I must say though, the mentally challenged son was an especially nice touch.
Did we suspect Noah was paranoid about his former prison guard? Yes, but we were steered into believing his paranoia was rooted in actual fact, exacerbated by his drug-altered state of mind and the physical and psychological trauma sustained during his imprisonment. This week, we see that not only is his version of the events following his release inaccurate, but that his entire perception of reality even when he was still in prison was completely skewed. Sure, it makes for an interesting plot twist, but it just doesn’t feel very believable.
On the upside, we didn’t get a surprise entry of a new villain as the culprit for the stabbing. As we learned during the Scotty mystery, The Affair likes to keep things in the family: involving an outsider would have made little sense at this point, and at least they didn’t go the Helen route (which wasn’t really much of a possibility, but would have still made for an interesting, though completely unbelievable, twist). If, however, we’re to believe what we saw in the episode’s final scenes, and Noah’s neck would was indeed self-inflicted, then I guess we’re dealing with a very, VERY incompetent police department here, and I’m curious to see how they’re going to explain away this particular plot hole, if at all.
More intriguing than the actual stabbing, however, is everything that preceeded it. We already knew Noah’s memories of his mother’s death weighed heavily on him since his father’s funeral, but we were led to assume that returning to his family home was what triggered those memories and conversations. This week we get new insight into what prompted him to open up about his mother’s assisted suicide and it seems to have started much, much sooner than we initially thought. Did being forced to conduct some heavy introspection while alone in his prison cell lead him to relive those painful moments? Was his admission of guilt for a crime he didn’t commit penance for the one he actually did? I guess it might be a little bit of both, but what’s more crucial to the story right now is the fact that we can’t be sure, because he sure as hell doesn’t seem to be sure of anything any more.
I’m interested to see how they’ll wrap up this story line. If anything, Noah should take a trip over to that psych institution Alison disappeared to a few months ago (plus a rehab facility, while he’s at it). As far as the interconnecting relationships go, it looks like the show is pretty much back where we started: with the affair officially over, we’re now exploring the dynamic of Helen and Noah’s relationship as well as Alison and Cole’s. With one more episode to go this season, we’re either looking at a shocking twist or a major cliffhanger to hold us over until next year.