Noah (Dominic West) is in an uncomfortable situation, once again, and slipping under the pressure of confronting his past actions. He’s being interviewed by a journalist for Vanity Fair about his new book. Yes, that’s still a huge deal in the literary world — when my book came out, being in “Hot Type” was the one dream I had that I didn’t even dare tell anyone. Yes, of note, he wrote another book while he was in prison for the death of Scotty Lockhart (Colin Donnell), after taking the rap for Helen — who actually killed Scotty. In the course of the interview, she summarizes the last 10 years of his life, from the affair to that crime, calling it his “fall from grace.” His face as she describes what is certainly one description of the events, if not an entirely accurate one, is desperate.
The pressure mounts for Noah as the episode goes on. There’s dinner with Whitney (Julia Goldani Telles), who outlines her perfectly normal struggles as a 20-something (well, normal except for trying to get citizenship for her fiancé — and I doubt she’s keeping up with the Kardashians). It builds further when Noah meets with Sasha (Claes Bang) on the set to discuss his character’s motives, and their conversation ends with Sasha demanding a new ending or he’ll write it himself, he threatens. The question at the heart of what Sasha wants to talk about is one that has followed Noah throughout The Affair: why would you destroy your whole life? Did he, as the Vanity Fair reporter suggested, drink his own Kool-Aid? Or is there a deeper self-destructive flare that he’s not dealing with?
After spotting Sasha and Helen in his trailer, and assuming they’re fucking, Noah stops by Janelle’s for a talk, as she requested. She asks him to hide their relationship so it doesn’t affect her run for the school board. Oh, and she’s getting back together with Carl (Russell Hornsby). Noah goes batshit at karaoke after this wild day and ultimately blacks out from whatever he’s drinking. Sasha makes good on his threats and does the most insulting thing you could do to a screenwriter by writing his own ending for the film. Kicking Noah off the lot is the chef’s kiss in their power struggle. The fit Noah throws about it has been a long time coming.
Can we just talk for a minute about how Helen’s karaoke song is the Liz Phair 1994 gem “Divorce Song”? She makes it look like it was a hit when it...wasn’t. It’s a serious Gen X moment. It’s way better than Sasha’s ardent Springsteen choice or Noah’s absolute butchering of Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart” by singing it through his clenched teeth. Trying to sing in an American accent must be hard.
In Helen’s world, her mother, Margaret (Kathleen Chalfant), finally tells Helen her father, Bruce (John Doman), is suffering from dementia. And her mom wants her to move back East to help care for him. It’s an idea she tries to (rather rudely) sow in the whole family’s mind for the entire episode.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting Keanu Reeves if he were British vibes off of Helen’s version of Sasha. I love seeing a powerful Hollywood star fall for an age-appropriate woman. I love that it is as much about her personality as her looks. And I love that she’s making him chase her, even though that’s not a game for her — she’s still getting over Vik (Omar Metwally) and is in the depths of family drama with his baby, Sierra (Emily Browning), and her mother. We learn a bit more about why Sasha is the way he is when he talks about his fiancé Lily overdosing, and that the way he handled his fame was a factor in their relationship dynamic. My kingdom for a self-aware man and dear lord it’s nice to see one in Noah’s orbit. With Sasha’s encouragement, Helen is working through putting her happiness first as a lifestyle.
The loudest of laughs to the script supervisor who Noah keeps interpreting as being meek and having a crush on him, but who, as seen by Helen, is outgoing and calls Noah a prick.
And then there’s Joanie (Anna Paquin), who’s out to make all the bad choices. She plays a game of a girl walks into a bar, picks up the bartender, and has extremely unsettling sex in which she gets choked out and asks for it to be tighter. Slapping a stranger across the face to get them to...what, escalate the danger in a situation that’s already incredibly dangerous? It’s not the behavior of a person who’s in a good place emotionally. We like what we like sexually, but it seems Joanie enjoys the thrill of being near death. Was she always like this, or is it turning the same age her mother, Alison (Ruth Wilson), was when she died that is driving some unexplored need in Joanie to face her own mortality?