The Affair Season 5, Episode 5 Recap: Helen & Sierra Are At The Center Of The Universe

Photo: Paul Sarkis/Showtime.
We’re treated to a new point of view to start this week, or to muddy the waters, with Sierra (Emily Browning). The overall theme of this episode seems to be about selflessness, and the acts of seeking, accepting, and giving help — yes, it’s a very New Age L.A. spiritual vibe. Sierra is struggling to balance motherhood and her career (and spirituality and self-indulgence). There’s a lot of struggling with care for the baby while she goes on auditions, the difficulty of having a baby with colic, and unpacking her stuff. The biggest unpacking moment comes when her mother, Adeline, who is played with a keen eye for a specific kind of selfish by Jennifer Jason Leigh, stops by and we get an idea of Sierra’s upbringing. She grew up on sets, carted around by a mother who is a lauded actress, frighteningly myopic, and immature. How could Sierra be any other kind of mother, any other kind of human? 
There are so many potentially disastrous moments in her part of the episode that I hesitate to pick through them. I think her reckless choices might resonate in the series: leaving the baby in the car while she auditions, taking the role of Madame Bovary (which is not exactly empathetic to children), and that car accident when we don’t know if the baby is alive or dead. But I also filed away that she’s another person who sees Helen (Maura Tierney) and Noah’s (Dominic West) youngest daughter, Stacey (Abigail Dylan Harrison), as older and wiser beyond her years — it’s starting to be a pattern. I am beginning to suspect that while everyone else is long dead or gone, Stacey might be the person left to deal with Joanie (Anna Paquin). And, another mystery solved: the incredibly expensive house in the heels Sierra lives in was her father’s, taken in a divorce settlement by her mother. 
We leave Sierra stunned and bloodied after her car accident, but is there any chance it was enough of a wake-up call for her to get over her mommy issues? Smart money is on no.
Then there’s Helen, who barrels with all guns blazing down the trail she has been forging of prioritizing Helen first. As it was always going to, that idea goes to shit when she watches Sasha (Claes Bang) dick over...everyone — his not-quite daughter, his friend who needs another movie — and some part of Helen knows, as he does what he can to make her dependent on him, that he’s going to do it to her too. At the same time, Helen is dealing with the repercussions of fucking over Vik’s mom, Priya (Zenobia Shroff), who wants her to bring Vik’s baby to meet her estranged brother. Helen wants to go to a party with Sasha that she’s under the impression will be a big deal, both for him and for her coming out as his girlfriend. And it all amounts to nothing for Sasha, and nothing for her — but is devastating for Priya.
Helen’s arc in this episode made me wonder: can she see that the situation she was almost tempted into, one where her partner controlled the money and social connections, including a father who is a well-respect author, echoes her relationship with Noah? Except, she was the Sasha in that relationship. In a rare moment of empathy for Noah, can she see how constraining their relationship must have been for him, even before the affair? Noah does show up to declare his love for her earlier in the episode. Was this all just clearing a path to make him look like...not such a terrible, but still flawed, choice?

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