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The Affair - 5.10 - Review

29 Oct 2019

The Affair (mostly) takes place in a not-so-distant future and while it gets some things wrong (Busy Tonight still being on air, to name one), it also gets some stuff very right, unfortunately. As California suffers through one of the worst fire-seasons it has ever known, Helen and Noah find themselves in a very similar evacuation situation and it's all the more chilling (bad wording choice, admittedly) when it's happening in real time on the other side of the screen.

Following Noah's descent (ha) into (public) persona non grata, and Whitney's reveal that he had almost hit on her at a party, things between Helen and he are finally coming to a head on this week's episode. Helen has often been accused of enabling his more than sketchy behavior, even to the point of sacrificing her own happiness and still forgiving him after everything he's done, and maybe it's time for her to change that.

For such a momentous episode, with destruction raging on all fronts, it does contain some very welcome levity and it begins with something I probably should have noticed during the last episode but I was too busy having a sudden epiphany about Colin being a worthy boyfriend. In fact, I was so focused on him shouting about godforsaken countries and green cards, that I completely missed the shirt he was wearing. Either that, or we didn't see him completely facing the camera. Regardless: Colin is a Timothée Chalamet fan! So we can conclude that this is still a thing in 2024 or whenever this is taking place. Maybe he's (finally) gotten an Oscar in the meantime. Little Women has come out! Maybe the Dune sequel is filming! Also, I need that shirt.

Colin, however, is not in a very chill mood since he apparently thinks this is a fantastic time to ask Helen for Whitney's birth certificate, further explaining that if they don't get it immediately, they won't be able to get married. You'd think that 1. he could've asked for this a little earlier 2. he might have realized this probably wasn't the best moment to harass Helen. There goes all my goodwill vis à vis Colin, I guess. That shirt only goes so far, sorry! Helen being Helen though, she gives up trying to smooth things out with Whitney, barely berates Noah for having taken off -as she warned him not to- and sets off to look for the missing birth certificate. Which is how she ends up at Noah's, tenderly gazing at his passed-out form after he (successfully) tried to drown out his sorrows with liquor.

Once both Noah and Helen are awake, the birth certificate proves difficult to locate "Helen, it's not with my SPOONS!" as they frantically search around his house, and leads to more yelling with Noah finally accusing Helen of being obsessed with him and screaming at her to leave him alone. If I were more naive (I wish), I would like to think he was trying to get her to leave so she could save herself from the fire, while he was clinging to the only stuff left from his marriage & kids: photo albums. Sadly, even I can't delude myself into thinking that and Helen leaves, cursing him all the way. By then, the fire situation is dire and people are evacuating left and right, causing something else California is sadly well-known for: massive traffic jams. Helen, still in Sasha's batmobile (seriously, the thing almost has wings) car, finds herself stuck after picking up a couple of hitch-hikers. Noah, meanwhile, is having a bit of a cry while listening to some old footage from his and Alison's police interviews, which suddenly spurs him to stop wallowing and get a move on. As his newfound motto implies "movement is life" and he sets off to find Helen.

Apparently, Noah has been holding out on us since he's allegedly an experienced hiker (when, exactly, did he have the time to explore the hills?! Inbetween classes? Off time on the set of the movie?), and after some half-hearted arguing on her side, they set off to escape from the fire and the stand-still traffic. And with this, launches for the first time in The Affair history, a dual point of view: Helen AND Noah. From then on, unfurls a lengthy conversation about their marriage, the affair's impact, and how ultimately they failed at what had seemed so easy in the beginning. The reminiscing gets rudely interrupted by Helen suddenly getting bitten by a rattlesnake (yet another strange plot choice for a series' penultimate episode), but all is well that ends well (for them anyway, not the poor souls who were stuck on the road...) and as the episode closes, the reconciliation is all but set in motion.

Joanie was MIA again during this episode, but she's in the previews for next week's so one can hope her story will finally be wrapped up too. All in all, this episode was satisfying because it touched upon what has been 5 seasons of back and forth following that fateful stop in a seaside diner. And despite Noah's character assassination over the course of this last season, it's pretty obvious this will (probably, it's still The Affair after all) end with him and Helen reuniting.
Sidenote: it was nice seeing Alison again, even through scenes from previous seasons. She and Cole are sorely missed, and I wish the finale could have included them (maybe an ageing version of Cole?!).

What did you all think? It this season closing in on a satisfying end, or are you disappointed that Noah will -yet again- escape mostly unscathed from his actions? Check back in next week for the finale! (And in the meantime, be safe, California)