'The Affair' recap: Noah and Helen reunite, and it's as dark as you'd expect
By Ethan Renner
For The Baltimore Sun|
Jan 09, 2017 | 11:03 AM
Part One: Helen
"I need help," Noah says, as Helen drives him away from his father's home on this week's episode of "The Affair." Helen takes his hand, assuring him she will see to it that he gets that help. This is good news for Noah, since the last time we saw him he was chasing a figment of his imagination into the middle of a lake.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to tell the kids. Or Vic, I guess," Helen rambles to Nina's voicemail as she takes Noah in, setting him up in her basement.
This whole situation is becoming a mess very quickly. Helen checks on Noah as he showers, you know, as you do with your ex-husband, and finds him sitting in the tub. She helps him to his feet and starts drying him off, before he snaps back to reality and takes the towel himself.
Helen heads upstairs to prepare some food, and Vic enters. He is aware that Helen left in the middle of the night to check on Noah, and asks how he's doing. Helen alerts him that Noah is in the basement. "I don't get it," Vic says. "What about the kids?" Helen says she's decided not to tell the kids that their father is in the house, and that she just needs some time to figure out how to handle all of this.
Helen asks Vic to check on Noah's wound, and he reluctantly agrees. After some verbal sparring, Noah submits to an examination and tells Vic how much pain medication he has been taking, — or, more accurately, how much pain medication he has been abusing. Vic prescribes an antibiotic, but Noah isn't pleased with that. "I need pain meds," he says. Vic ends the consultation with a terse "It's been a pleasure."
Helen and Vic head upstairs, but not before Noah instructs her to beg Vic to give him some drugs. Vic declines the request, stating that he could lose his license for prescribing opioids to someone in Noah's state. "I want him out," Vic says, and urges Helen to involve Nina. "If anyone has an obligation to him at this point, it's her, not you," he says.
After Vic leaves, Helen takes Noah what pain medication she had in the house, along with a sleeping pill. Noah is agitated, but starts to calm down as the medication kicks in. "It actually feels good to be back here," he says, as Helen tucks him in.
After he drifts off, Helen takes the liberty of calling Noah's parole officer, alerting her that he is in her custody, and that she will bring him to check in after the weekend.
Whitney then arrives at the brownstone, looking for a tent. "Furkat camps. ... Why is that funny?" she asks as Helen laughs. "I'm not sure, but it is," Helen says. I agree. That moment provided a nice bit of levity in this intense episode.
That levity is broken when the mother-daughter chat is interrupted by a skirmish outside the house. Furkat is on top of Noah on the sidewalk, striking him. "He attacked me," Furkat says, as Helen pushes him off of Noah. Helen tries to ascertain what happened, but Noah is out of it.
As Furkat climbs into his car, Helen tries to talk Whitney into staying to talk through the matter, but Whitney isn't interested. Helen makes a final appeal to her daughter — saying that Furkat attacked Noah, that he's twice Whitney's age, and that it's time for their relationship to end. But this is all too intense for Whitney. "He's the only one who cares," she says.
Further, Whitney tries to turn the conversation to Helen and why she has allowed Noah back into the house after everything that he has done to their family. "Why do you hate yourself so much?" she asks. "I used to think that Dad was the crazy one. Now I realize it's you." And with that, Whitney leaves.
Nina calls, but Helen ignores it — and any potential help that she could provide — and crawls into the bed with Noah as he sleeps.
Helen awakens, hours later, to the sounds of her kids and Vic arriving home for dinner. "How's downstairs, all taken care of?" Vic asks, careful not to mention Noah's presence around the children. "Yep," Helen lies.
The family dinner is interrupted by a crashing sound from the basement. "I think I'm finished," Vic says, and leaves the table. Helen shoos the kids away and sits in silence, contemplating how to handle things.
She heads upstairs and finds Vic packing his bags. "There's nothing to talk about. You lied to me, repeatedly," he says. "The only explanation is that you still love him." Helen denies that, but can't offer any other reason as to why she has taken Noah in. "I'll miss the kids," Vic adds, as he grabs his things and leaves the house.
"Was it because of me?" Noah blindly asks, as he emerges from the basement to asses the situation. "Why are you doing this to yourself?" Helen asks, fighting back tears. "You need to stop punishing yourself. I forgive you. What if we could start over, just erase everything?" The two kiss, then head inside and have sex, setting new standards for awkward reunions and bringing this awkward scenario full circle.
Part Two: Noah
As Helen drives Noah home from the lake house, he insists that she stop at the Gunther family business so he can investigate his tormentor's roots. Noah browses the shop, settling on a small knife, and takes it to the register to purchase. He brings up John to the woman behind the counter, who turns out to be the prison guard's mother.
Noah fishes for information about Gunther and determines that he's married and lives near the prison, so it seems unlikely that he's been traveling all over the region, stalking a former prisoner.
Back at Helen's house, we see Noah's version of Vic's examination. Not surprisingly, Vic isn't very sympathetic to Noah's plight, even as he explains away his painkiller addiction as a byproduct of poor medical care in the prison system. As Helen steps out of the room, Vic threatens Noah, telling him to get out, or he'll have him sent back to prison.
As Noah drifts off to sleep with the aid of Helen's meds, he flashes back to that prison. Gunther taunts him with a hamburger and fries, before entering his cell under the guise of looking into a broken faucet.
Once in, Gunther asks Noah how he ended up in jail, which Noah answers. "Why were you driving that night?" Gunther asks, and Noah explains that he was driving Helen home from a party. "You had an affair," Gunther says, pressing on with his psychological torment. He questions Noah as to why he cheated on Helen, given the life that they had together. "I'd kill to live that life, just for a day," Gunther says.
Gunther tells Noah that he was jealous of him back in high school, but not anymore. "You're no better than me. In a lot of ways, you're worse off," he says. Gunther clamps down on Noah's shoulder, and asks him to admit that he thinks that Gunther is better off. Noah says he doesn't think that's the case, "because I'm getting out of here in six months, and you're stuck here for the rest of your [expletive] life."
Gunther strikes Noah in the face, and Noah grabs his leg as he falls to the floor of the cell, which Gunther claims is an assault. Noah just earned himself another 90 days in solitary confinement, and another nightmare to think back on as he sleeps in Helen's basement.
As Noah wakes up from the flashback, he hears Furkat outside, and goes to investigate. Furkat introduces himself as Whitney's "lover, and her boss. Her lover-boss," before knocking Noah out with one punch.
Noah awakens later in the basement and hears the family having dinner over his head. He steps into the bathroom looking for pills, but is startled by a sound coming from the bed. It's Gunther, smoking a cigarette and taunting him with the knife that he bought at his family's shop. The two struggle over the knife and Noah gashes Gunther's hand, causing him to run off.
Noah heads to the door to give chase, but Helen's voice snaps him out of his delusion. "You're not leaving are you?" she asks. "Did you see him?" Noah asks, desperate to confirm his imaginary stalker's existence. Helen says that Noah is confused, and offers to confuse him more, feeding him a pain pill and a glass of red wine.
Helen tells Noah that Vic has left her for good, and that she's glad. "Vic doesn't belong here," she says. "You belong here." She slides him another pain pill, and assures him that everything is going to be OK. "You deserve to be happy," she says. "I know you. I know who you really are, and I forgive you." Noah pops a couple of more pills then follows Helen inside, where they sexually reconnect.
"I know you, I know you, I know you," Helen says. "You don't know me, Noah repeats, again and again, as things turn rough. After Noah finishes, Helen turns away, in tears, while Noah stares at the ceiling with a crazed look.
I buy Helen and Noah ending up back together. They aren't happy without each other, and they've likely forgotten that they weren't very happy when they were together for many years. Or were they? We really don't know much about their marriage pre-Alison.
The rough sex scene at the end of the episode was awkward and seemed designed to unsettle viewers. But to what end? Where is this reunion going? Is it already over, given Helen's tears?
As good as Brendan Fraser has been in his limited duty this season, I am hoping that we can be done with his character now. His inclusion was a cheap parlor trick, and when a show resorts to such deception to shock the audience and provide twists for the sake of having twists, it tells me that the show doesn't have much left to say creatively. Prove me wrong, "The Affair." Give me some clarity as to where any of this is going. Give me a narrative to follow besides Noah's descent.