Previously on The Affair, ‘203’
Helen and Noah are, somewhat understandably, so wrapped up in their own feelings surrounding the divorce and custody case, that they’ve forgotten what should be the most important thing: their children. Within the time frame of The Affair we’ve always seen Noah as being fairly distant from his family. It should come as no surprise then that, even after Whitney’s little visit, he’s still completely oblivious about the pain he caused his children by leaving Helen. On the other hand, since this is only the second time we’ve been allowed into Helen’s POV, witnessing her downward spiral was a bit surprising. She’s always seemed relatively put-together and watching her unravel made for a very entertaining half hour.
It’s hard not to sympathize with her during the custody hearing. I mean, how many times can a reasonable person hear the word “paramour” before they want to throw up? Then again, it’s easy to lose some of that sympathy when Helen’s biggest concern following the hearing is that the judge “doesn’t like rich people.” It’s unfortunate – albeit predictable considering the Butler family’s wealth – to see the issue of their children’s future devolving into a battle over money. As Margaret points out however, Bruce is good at protecting his money, a fact that will only come in handy if they can actually track him down. Confirming the conversation we saw in Cole’s POV, Margaret reveals to Helen that Bruce has indeed left her for another woman. I can hardly believe, it but I think I may actually feel slightly bad for Margaret.
When Max shows up with tickets to Buenos Aires, Helen is overwhelmed and not in a good way. Add to that his confession about giving Noah $50,000 to speed up the divorce, and it’s no wonder Helen puts the brakes on this rapidly advancing relationship. Looking for an escape, Helen partakes in some day drinking while singing angrily along to Lucinda Williams. We’ve all been there in some capacity at least once, right? Her next decision, to eat the weed lozenge, is one that takes Helen on an interesting trip, ultimately resulting in one giant clusterfuck of an afternoon. The escalation of the subsequent events was perfect.
First, Helen makes a complete ass of herself at her store by essentially running her only customer out the door. It gets worse when she’s a little too friendly with her stylist, admitting not only that she’s high as a kite but also that she’s queefed, twice – I have honestly never felt so awkward watching TV. Then she gets a call from Trevor and Stacey who have been waiting for her to pick them up at camp. Realizing she got her days all mixed up, Helen runs out of the salon without removing the cape or the foils from her hair. Forgetting your children and showing up late to collect them with foils in your hair is embarrassing enough, but wait, it gets worse.
Before Helen can drive away and curl up into a ball inside her apartment, she has Stacey move the rocket ship she made at camp from blocking the rear window. Just then, an elderly man points out that she has parked in a handicap space. Without looking, Helen pulls out of the spot and hits the car behind her. Stacey, still unbuckled, is left with a nasty bruise on her forehead and the woman whose car she hit has a baby in tow. When the police arrive and ask for ID she accidentally reveals the vaporizer in her purse. Mortified, Helen is arrested in front of her children. When Noah arrives – looking like the hero by default – all she can say to him is, “why are you doing this to us?” I look forward to learning whether Helen’s hit rock bottom or if it’s just the beginning of a trip down a darker path.
In Noah’s mind, he probably had the best of intentions when being honest about living with Alison. Unfortunately, it came across as rather selfish. It seemed more important for him to live with his girlfriend than to consider what living arrangements would be best for his kids. So, when Alison is given a court order to stay away from the Solloway children, it’s easy to feel unsympathetic towards Noah. At least he doesn’t try to fight it or hesitate in telling Alison. Not that it’s necessarily her job to focus on the welfare of Noah’s kids, but even Alison seems to miss their importance in the situation. Instead she worries only about how this affects her and goes so far as to suggest giving Helen full custody. Alison needs to get her shit together.
The events at Trevor and Stacey’s summer camp are relatively the same from both Helen and Noah’s perspective, with just two conflicting details standing out. Instead of a bruise, Stacey may have had an open gash on her forehead, and Helen looks a lot more intoxicated in this version. The latter of which makes sense since we don’t typically remember how outrageous we can become when we’ve indulged too much. Regardless, the outcome is the same: Noah gets to swoop in like a hero while Helen in carted off to jail.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#4a7097″ class=”” size=””]“Why do you get to fuck up and I don’t?” – Helen[/pullquote]
Noah takes the kids home and he’s immediately uncomfortable with what he sees. Helen’s bra, flowers from another man, and two wine glasses in the bedroom. While it’s possible that Helen and Max did have a little afternoon delight before he gave her those plane tickets, we did see Helen flinging her clothes around during an angry sing-along, so it could be mere coincidence. Either way, Noah’s not sticking around to find out more and for the first time we get a glimpse into his family life.
Immediately we come to understand that Noah’s relationship with his father isn’t great. Hell, it must be rough having Hector Salamanca for a dad. It’s clear that Mr. Solloway doesn’t approve of the choices Noah has made and asks his son to “tell Helen I’m sorry.” Noah’s sister, Nina, never liked Helen but she’s also not super supportive when her brother talks about gaining sole custody of his kids. Nina makes great points, though. Noah has already disrupted his children’s lives so much, is it really a good idea to uproot them right now? The tension here felt a little contrived, we needed to see more from the family before they were used as a plot device to illustrate the size of Noah’s ego. Nevertheless, they fulfilled their purpose to get Noah and the kids back on the road. They make it as far as a motel in Jersey before Martin is sick.
The tension between Noah and his father, mirrors the current situation he’s facing with his oldest son. Martin barely speaks to Noah anymore and the pain of his severe stomachache is only heightening his anger. Noah tries to help but is only pushed further away. The hope is that this whole ordeal has given Noah a new perspective. Perhaps seeing his father has made him realize that he doesn’t want the same, strained relationship for him and his son. Putting his children first is the right move but it does come at a cost. Alison’s uncertainty, “what’s gonna happen to us?” is perfectly reasonable, and Noah’s uncertain, silent response is completely fitting.
The Affair S2E4
Helen’s part of this episode was great. The mounting intensity and growing pressure from scene to scene was truly palpable. There was barely any room to breathe and by the time she was arrested, you could really feel the whirlwind of a day this woman had experienced. The visual effects in the salon scene, where Helen is seeing movement in what was almost a slow motioned pace, were so on point. The quick succession of events at the kids’ summer camp heightened the tension just enough to make the outcome feel believable and not over-the-top.
Where I’m less impressed is with Noah. I honestly don’t know what The Affair wants me to think of this character. I’ve never really liked him but more often than not I just feel indifference towards him; I’d much rather be watching any of the other three POVs. His character continues to make the same, selfish choices and because of that we don’t get any real, nuanced development. Hopefully, because of his apparent realization that leaving your wife and four children doesn’t come without major consequences, we will start to see some change in that problem.
The present day/future plotline barely fits into this story anymore. Or maybe it only feels that way because it’s getting so little attention. Aside from the fact that Noah’s book has been pretty successful, all we learn this week is that Noah’s lawyer was unable to move the trial from Montauk. With more than half of the season still remaining I’m trying my best to stay optimistic about where this is all going.
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