The Affair Recap: Trouble Me

Photo: Phil Caruso/Showtime.
This week on The Affair, every train goes off its tracks. Okay, not every train — Helen (Maura Tierney) and Noah (Dominic West) go off their tracks. It’s not unexpected in Helen’s case, as she has been pushing her crazy train down this particular life path since the last season ended. Noah, on the other hand, is finally making sense. To me. Not to himself. The writers give us the gift of a flashback to Juliette’s (Irène Jacob) class lecture that foreshadowed it all. So let us start this recap with some words of wisdom from Carl Jung, for both Helen and Noah: “It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going.”

We start the episode with Helen, who is feeding her tragedy a healthy diet of bad decisions. We pick up after she and Dr. Vic (Omar Metwally) broke up. Rather than tell the kids or deal with it herself, she packs everyone up and heads out to her parents’ Hamptons house. She finds a photo of herself with Noah at their college graduation and the cascade of guilt she’s feeling keeps on flowing. Speaking of people who’ve gone off the rails, her parents are now about yoga and therapy as they work through their reconciliation and it’s weird for all of us. To stop their meddling, she tells them Vic left her. Naturally, they decide this means she needs to fix it and offer up some solutions along with an absolution for how “utterly disastrously” her life has turned out because they were bad parents and they’re not afraid to admit it. This is the dream scenario for every Gen Xer whose parents got divorced, but it would be weird if it happened.

Her guilt drives her (and the kids) to the Lobster Roll for lunch where she buys three of Cherry Lockhart’s (Mare Winningham) pies because what else can she possibly do to absolve herself? Or, as Carl Jung said, “We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” While the family sits down for dinner, there’s a fight about her allowing Noah back into the house. It makes her daughter cry and that’s the moment for Helen. That’s the catalyst for her to tell everyone that she was the one who killed Scotty Lockhart (Colin Donnell). Her parents lose their shit when she stands up to leave and go tell the Lockharts. They drag her into their panic room. The situation culminates in her mother slapping her across the face, telling her it would be “truly selfish” to confess, and Helen runs out. She locks them in their panic room, and I completely relate to this course of action.

When she runs, Helen heads to a local bar, and we get her version of last week’s run-in with Alison (Ruth Wilson), which could not be more different. The 10,000 Maniacs track, “Trouble Me,” that is playing in the background of this scene is one hell of a commentary on the conversation happening in the scene. As Helen remembers things, Alison comes up to her as she’s having a white wine and starts talking. After some small talk, Helen proclaims, “You stole my husband! Are you even sorry?” Yes and no, the point of Alison’s answer is that when seen through the eyes of anyone but herself, Alison is a horrible, selfish person. Alison gives a speech about losing her son that can be summed up with this quote from Jung: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

After Alison lays it all on the line, Helen tries to confess to her that she killed Scotty. Alison stops her because she already knows. She was there, and she was the one who pushed him into the road because he was attacking her. Noah knew it all and, it would seem, never told Helen that part of the story. It doesn’t absolve Helen’s guilt; Alison has no guilt. Helen can’t bring herself to confess to Cherry, so she apologizes to Dr. Vic instead. Amazingly, he takes her back.

Now to Noah, with whom we make a trip to the town where John Gunther (Brendan Frasier) lives. Here’s what Jung would have to say about what we’re about to learn about Noah: “The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.” Prison, and repressing his history with his mother for all these years, messed Noah up a lot more than we knew. After tracking down Gunther’s mom in a previous episode, he finds Gunther’s wife this time and follows her home from work. He knocks on the front door, upsetting everyone including Gunther’s disabled young son. Gunther, as Noah sees him this time, is nothing like the man in his memories. Gunther seems surprised to hear he’s been following Noah, that he was at Noah’s home, and that he tried to hit Noah with his car. He even attempts to nice about it, so naturally, Noah pulls a knife on him. Now, everything about Noah’s memories is in question. Did Gunther torment him in prison? Is Gunther the person who broke his shoulder? Did any of it happen or is Noah suffering from dissociative disorder? Did he experience a break from reality? If so, what else has Noah shown us that wasn’t real? Or, as Jung might say, “Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event.”

In a whirling haze of memories, we finally see that the version of himself Noah chased into the river was a memory — his father chased him in that way after he had realized Noah had helped his mother kill herself. We see that Noah does know who stabbed him in the neck. He did it to himself, in a fugue state when he thought he was Gunther.

My main question leaving this episode is: is Juliette real? Please let her be real.

As for what the parting wisdom Jung might offer for Noah, I leave you with this quote: “No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”

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