‘The Affair’ Recap 2×10: The Berenstain Affairs


Dominic West as Noah Solloway in The Affair. (photo: Mark Schafer/Showtime)

Intro: Fiona Apple song about echoing creation blah blah sink back into the…sink back into…sink back into the oceannnnnn. FADE OUT, TITLE CARD:

Part One: Vinnie

I hope you splurged for the extra-large U-Haul, because Noah Solloway just unpacked a whole ton of emotional baggage, people. Like therapy itself, this episode of The Affair wasn’t very pleasant, but it was informative. Noah has always been the one character we know the least about when it comes to his past, and all the unpleasantness that entails –Alison has a dead kid, Helen has emotionally stunted rich-people problems, Cole’s parents were drug dealing bandits and his granddad killed a baby. But Noah, he was just “that asshole that does asshole stuff.”

Knowing what we do now about Noah’s father–an emotionally distant alcoholic who believed himself a good person solely for staying faithful to his wife–Noah Solloway the cheating dillhole that moonlights as an author, while still not really justified, starts to make a little more sense.

Noah wants to be a great man, an accomplished, important person, but he is torn over whether that means being a good man. Ernest Hemingway was unfaithful, but a legendary author. Thomas Jefferson was unfaithful, but a founding father. Alexander Hamilton was unfaithful, but turned out to be the best battle rapper in recent memory. In fact, a whole bunch of AMAZING YET FLAWED male names are bandied about this episode, with Noah unable to decide which one he wants to relate to more. But I know which one, Noah. It’s a man whose name, if I’m not mistaken, was referenced at least four times this episode.

That man is Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America.

You see, you get the sense Noah really wants to relate to Omar Bradley, the subject of Noah’s next novel, a WW2 hero that also just happened to have a taste for side-poon. But he might as well be talking about another WW2 hero, Captain America. Noah is such a Captain America. Or, sorry, that’s not true. Noah really, really wishes he was a Captain America.

Steve Rogers, like Noah, was a writer. And Steve Rogers, like Noah, knew in his heart he was destined to be great. Not just, like, average Joe good. World-changing great. But Steve and Noah had it tough, with all these obstacles defying their destinies–Steve was too frail and scrawny to serve in the military, Noah wants to fuck literally everyone. It’s so hard, they know, to be certain there’s a great man, a superhero even, inside of you begging to get out. Luckily for Rogers, an experimental super-serum worked so well it gave him enough strength to punch Hitler in the face, both metaphorically and literally.

And that’s where Steve Rogers and Noah Solloway diverge. Because the thing about Captain America is, yeah, the super-serum turned him into the unstoppable “Captain America,” but it only worked because Steve Rogers was already a great man BEFORE the experiment. Meanwhile, Noah sits in couples therapy by himself –and boy, isn’t that appropriate–and says he’s unhappy, that Alison or the divorce or the baby or his alcoholic father or someone is still holding him back from travelling to France and fucking literature students. From being happy.

Noah totally thinks he’s scrawny Steve Rogers, waiting for a super-serum to unlock his potential. He doesn’t realize he’s already been pumped so full of the stuff he might as well be the Hulk. Noah met his muse out on Montauk. He wrote a book that not only sold a dumb amount of copies, but started an avalanche of money he never dreamed of. He has a beautiful home, a one-year old daughter, and the life he thought he wanted. Dude is OD’ing on super-serum right now, and still can’t bring himself to become a super-hero. Noah’s not Captain America. He’s…I don’t know, he’s fucking Kevin Marlow. Oh, you don’t know who Kevin Marlow is? Exactly.

So yeah, there you have it. I guess that makes Helen Peggy Carter? I mean, Captain America didn’t technically cheat on Peggy, he just crashed a plane into an iceberg and was frozen for a couple decades. But still. Oh, and Alison is Sharon Carter, Peggy’s hot young niece that Steve hooks up with after defrosting.

Haha wait, is Max Bucky Barnes? Yeah, sure, Max is totally Bucky Barnes.

Max bucky

Part Two: Drew

Have you heard about this thing called the Berenstein Bear Theory? It’s the idea that we’re all living in our own individual parallel universes, which were split from regular reality sometime between the 1992 and 2012, the year the author of the Berenstain Bears died, and somehow the title of the books (and the author’s name) changed from what we all remember–Berenstein Bears– to Berenstain. It’s kind of nuts and involves a lot of talk about an “imaginary coordinate in pseudo-Euclidean space” and phrases that really only make sense if they’re being said by Doc Brown, like: “In 1992 they were ‘stEin’ in 1992, but in 2012 they were ‘stAin’ in 1992.”

That’s kind of how I feel about last night’s episode, or maybe just about The Affair in general. So many small details have been altered in these people’s narratives about what’s happened in their lives, the Occam’s razor solution is that they are just living in parallel universes to each other. Otherwise, how would Alison know that the movie Noah was planning to see instead of going to therapy was Captain America. In his reality, he told her he’d stayed in therapy; in her reality, he not only lied to her about staying, but he gave her the same movie title that he told their couple’s counselor that he was planning on seeing…before he actually stayed for the full session. Does that mean Alison’s reality is more objectively “true” because there’s no way she could have known that Noah Solloway, with all his highbrow tastes (LOL) actually craves matinee Marvel movies without him having told her explicitly? But no, that wouldn’t work either: if he’d lied about not attending the session, he’d be stuck next time he went to therapy and Miranda from Sex and the City would be like “So, did you ever get a chance to see Captain America, Noah?” and the whole house of cards/lies/another tv show would fall down around him.

So: parellel universes it is. That also explains how Alison and Cole seem to be literally living in different timelines: like, again, WHICH house did Cole burn down last week? Because after the kid is born, he mentions all her money from the sale of the house, which was in escrow. Was that HER house? If so, why won’t she take that money? It’s her inheritance. If it’s the house she shared with Cole, then does that mean he burned down HER house instead? (Leaving aside the fact that he was somehow able to convince his new fiance that he just, um, felt like moving to Greenpoint, “No reason, no, no…no need to hire movers to get my stuff from that charred hole in the ground where I was living. Ha ha HA. No, what? What did I say? You must have misunderstood…we both know your English comes and goes.”)

But see, the thing that’s tricky about these parallel universes is how closely they resemble each other. Like: both Alison and Noah are still the world’s worst care providers for Noah’s children, seeing as Alison walks in the door of their gigantic loft to be confronted by at least 18 of the 30 Von Trapp kids not currently prostituting themselves to Terry Richardson. Where is Noah? Lying about seeing Captain America while actually fucking his student? (A student who, in Noah’s self-pitying mind, is coming on to him. It’s so hard being Noah Solloway when there are so many women throwing themselves at you with their Gatsby references and course requirements.) Doing a DNA test because that red-haired baby is SO OSCAR HODGES’ KID? WAIT, WTF??

Either that, or Noah Solloway is secretly Ray Velcoro in a parallel timeline.

ray v

Yup. Occam’s razor indeed.

‘The Affair’ Recap 2×10: The Berenstain Affairs