Phil Caruso / Showtime

The Affair Learns You Can't Go Home Again

'This is supposed to be a happy occasion, and as usual, Noah Solloway is ruining it,' declares Bruce Butler, who could be referring to dinners, homecomings, and furtive snoggings with Max and still be accurate.

Our Players

Hello, I'm Previously.TV Contributor Philip Michaels.
Hello, I'm Previously.TV Contributor Lisa Schmeiser.

The Talk

So, after a holiday where many people may regret spending the time and money to return to their hometown and see people who still treat them like teenaged losers, we get an entire episode dedicated to this very premise. I...may not recover.

Three simple rules to live by, Lisa. Never start a land war in Asia. Never follow a hippie to a second location. And never, ever go back to your hometown.

That goes for Helen, too. She spends the entire episode effectively acting like she's nineteen years old after Noah's sister Nina delivers the unwelcome truth that Noah was a hot mess even as a teen and latched on to Helen as his ticket out. Though, to be honest, looking at Western Shitsville, Pennsylvania, one cannot fault Noah's motivation.

I'm not saying that this episode made me feel sorry for Noah, but I understand him a little bit more now.

Phil, are you familiar with the crab pot theory?

I'm familiar with dozens of theories, but do go on.

The theory is that people trying to escape from one dysfunctional situation are often pulled back into it by so-called friends and loved ones who do not wish to see anyone else leave a situation they also find miserable. And when Noah had that terribly awkward dinner with his old classmates, apparently crab pots were on the menu!

If there's one takeaway from this episode -- besides the aforementioned wisdom of leaving your hometown as the smoking husk of a city in your rearview mirror after you've made your escape -- it's "don't eat out with other people."

Jeff Neumann / Showtime

Jeff Neumann / Showtime

Yeah, Helen's meet-the-parents dinner with Vik and her parents was measurably worse. And that's in an episode where Noah dines with ex-classmates who revel in his return to squalor.

Oh, Helen's dinner was a shitshow, aside from Vik delighting me with his very existence. We had the (joyful?) reunion between the Gorgon and her favorite stone-hearted bastard. We had Helen not reacting well to this news at all.

Helen spends a lot of this episode making it All About Her. She loathes the idea that her parents got back together for two reasons. First, because her mother's choice invalidates Helen's, in her wine-soaked brain. Second, because Helen knows she and Noah will never get back together. His doing time for her canceled anything he owed her, in their marital calculus.

I don't want to disagree with you because I do think Helen's segment was Helen making it all about her, but it was also a segment that makes it all about Noah -- even the part where she inveigles a pity schtupp out of the newly-affianced Max.

I did enjoy how tired and disgusted Max looked by both Helen and Noah. He is just over them. I mean, he would go Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind if it meant never thinking about Noah Solloway again.

Between Helen's dad talking about Noah, Noah's sister talking about Noah, and Helen making Noah the topic of her cheat-y pillow talk with Max, it almost felt like this part of the show was giving Noah the full-on Poochie treatment.

Frinkiac

Frinkiac

Sadly, Poochie is not dead. He's merely doing an Ophelia in the river by the end of the episode.

At least he's not drowning Martin, with whom he attempted to break the generations of dysfunction.

Martin still has plenty of dysfunction to fuel his adulthood, but baby steps.

Jeff Neumann / Showtime

Jeff Neumann / Showtime

And we finally have confirmation that Noah's lost his ever-loving mind to a cocktail of pills and PTSD.

And we have four episodes left to devote to everyone else talking excessively about Noah and his mental health. Hooray!

On that note, my LVP for the episode is Madame Professor Eau So Franch, whose attempt to play Fifty Shades Of Solloway with Noah fizzles out. She really serves no other purpose in this episode but to demonstrate that something is definitely wrong if the priapic pulp author can't even bestir himself. And the MVP is Vik -- always Vik! More Vik! Why are we not talking about Vik?

At this point, the only conversation we should be having is how long it will take Vik finally to flee Helen and, I hope, live a better-adjusted life well away from any of these people. Run, Vik! Flee! Helen is spiraling and you will want no part of that. But enough about our mutual favorite character. My LVP for the week is the poor guy who invited Noah to dinner, because man, he did not invite asshole Steve along for apps and 'zerts. My MVP actually goes to Nina, because she gets a chance to finally bitch out her ex-sister-in-law -- you know she's wanted to for years -- and she gets to settle many, many longstanding hurts, from Noah's naked social climbing to Helen's obliviousness, from her own sense of being left behind to her outrage over how Helen didn't see Noah. I like a woman who can let her fury age like a fine wine and then uncork it when appropriate.

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