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'The Affair' Season 3 finale recap: A Paris rendezvous

'The Affair' Season 3 finale recap: A Paris rendezvous
Dominic West as Noah Solloway and Irene Jacob as Juliette in the Season 3 finale of "The Affair." (Bruno Calvo/SHOWTIME)

Part One: Juliette

The Season 3 finale of "The Affair" opens on Juliette and Noah in bed, in Paris. As the sun rises, Juliette remarks that they haven't slept all night.

So they were up reading books, right? Probably.

Juliette starts dressing for her day, and explains to Noah that she'll spend it explaining to her university why her husband won't be returning to teach there. She bought time by asking for a sabbatical when he first showed signs of dementia, but now the jig is up. Noah says he'll spend the day walking around Paris, and working on his writing. What he really wants, though, is for Juliette to dump her responsibilities and spend the day with him.

With an eye on her watch, Juliette agrees to sightsee with Noah, and the two walk around Paris canoodling. Juliette isn't into public displays of affection, and lets Noah know that. "Paris is a small town," she says, not wanting to be seen in a compromising situation.

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As they kiss, right on cue, two of Juliette's colleagues approach. They comment on her handsome American friend, and ask whether her husband is well. Juliette insists that he's fine, just getting older. Her colleagues insist they won't tell on her, and say their goodbyes. Uncomfortable with how all of this went down, Juliette heads off to meet her husband, Etienne, and daughter, Sabine.

When Juliette arrives, Sabine alerts her that her husband is awake and is showing no signs of the dementia that has been plaguing him. "Hello, my love," her husband says in French. "It's like he came out of a time machine. It's crazy," Sabine says.

Etienne fires off a to-do list for Juliette and explains in great detail the work to be done with Livingston, the American university where she was teaching.

Just as things are looking up, Etienne confuses Sabine with Juliette and Juliette with his first wife, and the reality of his condition hits home. Juliette's face falls, but she assures her husband that everything will be fine, and urges him to rest.

Juliette heads to the university for her meeting and informs the head of the faculty that Etienne won't be returning to teach there due to his Alzheimer's. The university representative is surprised, especially since she's been corresponding with "Etienne" by email in the years that he has been on sabbatical. In reality, Juliette knew of his diagnosis when she arranged for the sabbatical, and sent emails in her husband's name.

"You have to admit, this feels very close to fraud," the faculty member says. "I didn't want to admit that he was sick," Juliette says. The faculty member suggests that a review of Juliette's status with the school is in order, sending Juliette to wander the streets and contemplate her lot in life.

She meets Noah for dinner, and he greets her with a Christmas gift — a rare book. Noah thanks Juliette for being good to him, and for bringing him back from the brink. The dinner is cut short by an emergency call from Sabine, who tells her that Etienne has taken a turn for the worse.

When she arrives, Juliette learns that Etienne suffered a massive stroke and died. As Juliette wonders how that could be, given how alert he seemed earlier in the day, the attending doctor explains: "It's what we call terminal lucidity. The patient surfaces right before the very end. Life a sort of final gift," he says.

Juliette asks Sabine to leave her alone with Etienne, but her daughter snaps, and tells her that she could have had plenty of time with him if she hadn't been away in America — or even that day, if she hadn't been running around with her "[expletive] American."

"You've humiliated him on his deathbed," Sabine says, and Juliette insists that she should leave. "Forgive me, Etienne," Juliette says, and the coroners take her husband away.

When Noah arrives later, Juliette grabs him and kisses him passionately and they make love in the foyer of her house.

This is a judgment-free zone, but isn't that just a touch disrespectful?

Part Two: Noah

Noah's point of view begins with his recollection of meeting Juliette's colleagues on the street, and again we see Juliette heading off to the university while Noah roams the streets of Paris.

He enters a bookstore, and settles on "Le Morte d'Arthur" as a gift for Juliette. After more wandering, Noah sees a poster advertising a Furkat exhibition at a local gallery, with an explicit photo of the female anatomy front and center. Enraged, Noah heads to the gallery. As he arrives, he sees Furkat groping a woman, and calls him outside to have a chat.

Noah asks whether Furkat and Whitney are still together, and Furkat says that they are, but that she's off running errands while he mans the show. Furkat goes on to brag about how busy he is and how well his work is selling. "I guess I'm having a bit of a moment at the moment. I'm just feeling really blessed," he says, taking a drag of a cigarette. For all of my problems with this show this year, Furkat has been a delight. Their awkward meeting ends with Furkat inviting Noah to return later for the opening of his exhibition.

Noah finds out where Whitney and Furkat are staying, and heads off to the hotel to try to intercept his daughter for a conversation. Whitney arrives, and quickly dismisses Noah, who then runs off to have dinner with Juliette.

Juliette tells Noah that Etienne was his old self earlier that day, and Noah tells her to go be with him. "I wanted to be with you," Juliette says. Noah's take on how the women in his life speak to him is a low-key highlight of this series. "Juliette, I've been here before. You haven't. These things can turn quickly," Noah tells Juliette, urging her not to do anything she will regret.

Juliette turns the tables on Noah, and tells him that her husband had affairs for years. She turned a blind eye to them, she says, and now, on the one day he actually wants to spend time with her, Noah should understand why she wants to be elsewhere.  A call from Sabine interrupts their conversation, and after Noah gives Juliette her book, she rushes off to her husband's deathbed.

With his evening free, Noah heads to Furkat's exhibition. Rather than entering, he creepily stands outside the gallery, and looks on while Furkat is dismissive of Whitney. Moments later, Noah witnesses an argument between the two, which quickly escalates. Furkat strikes Whitney in the face, sending Noah rushing into the scene. He checks on Whitney, who says she's fine, then heads inside to fight Furkat. Whitney begs him not to, then rushes off. Noah decides to go after her, rather then create an even bigger issue with Furkat.

As father and daughter walk together, Whitney tries to explain her boyfriend to her dad. "He's an artist. He can't just turn his passion on and off," she says.

"Love isn't supposed to be pain. Love is supposed to make you feel wonderful about yourself," Noah says. That might be the most poignant line in the history of this series.

Whitney throws that back in Noah's face, and calls him out for not doing that with Helen. "I never hit your mother," Noah says. "You may as well have," Whitney fires back. Noah says he doesn't think he's better than Furkat, but that Whitney is better than him. Seeing her defend Furkat kills him, because it means he failed in protecting her "from men" he says, then leaves a pregnant pause. "From men like me."

After Noah pleads some more, Whitney agrees to take a break from Furkat, and father and daughter agree to fly back to America together the next day. Noah gives Whitney his hotel room for the night, and heads off to Juliette's.

Juliette apologizes for her demeanor earlier and talks about her husband — the guilt she feels now for how she thought of their relationship, and how she handled it at the end. "I abandoned him when he was helpless," she says. Noah urges her not to put any of the weight of Etienne's death on her shoulders.

Noah escorts Whitney back to New York, and drops her off at Helen's. He tells her that he loves her, and she thanks him, but doesn't profess the same. Baby steps, people. Martin sees his dad outside, and comes out to invite him to go sledding with the kids the next day.

As Noah gets in a cab to leave, Helen comes to the window and they exchange waves. "Where we going, buddy?" the cab driver asks. Noah doesn't answer.

Final Thoughts

As a standalone episode, this was probably the best of the season. As it relates to the rest of the story that came before it, this finale left me scratching my head. We didn't see how Noah got better after his psychotic episodes, and I have issues with spending a finale episode with Juliette. She's a character worth getting to know, and she injects some much-needed life into the narrative possibilities for the show's future, but I think her point of view would have played better in next season's premiere.

Indeed, where are we going from here? Season 3 was the weakest of the series by far. I'm hoping for a quick return to Season 2's form.

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