This week on The Affair, garbage person Noah Soloway digs himself into a deeper and deeper hole after multiple misconduct allegations are leveled against him.
We pick up with Noah just days after his recent trip to Montauk. He’s back in the city and hanging out with old college friend Ariel Hoffman (returning guest star Janel Moloney), who was first introduced to us in the Season 4 finale. Over coffee, Noah tells her that Petra recently got in touch to inform him that Eden had come forward about an unwanted sexual encounter; she claims that Noah pressured her to sleep with him while she was his publicist. Noah swears it’s not true; if anything, Eden threw herself at him. [Sigh.] Ariel tells Noah that he doesn’t exactly have the best reputation within the publishing world; he’s seen as something of a loose cannon because of his storied past. She then brings to his attention a forthcoming memoir written by his former student Audrey Nelson (who in Season 3 was played by Parenthood alum Sarah Ramos). In the book, she alludes to an abusive relationship with an older male professor. She doesn’t name Noah in the book, but she’s going around town telling publishers that the character is based on him, and the book is getting a ton of buzz.
After coffee, Noah meets with his publisher, Harry, to discuss getting ahead of the allegations. Harry brings in the firm’s public relations guru Joyce (played by the ubiquitous Tracie Thoms), who has already been filled in on the alleged incident involving Eden. She then asks Noah what he said to Petra when she called. He says he denied the incident, but can’t recall exactly what he said. Noah assures Harry and Joyce that there’s no truth to this story, but recalls a flirtatious relationship that maybeeee culminated with a kiss in his hotel room. He swears it was totally consensual, but he was married to Alison at the time. “There’s a difference between poor judgment and being a criminal… right?” he asks. But Joyce warns that the court of public opinion isn’t as rigorous as the court of law these days, something that Noah should already know seeing as how this storyline takes place in 2022, years after the #MeToo movement first reared its head. Noah suggests that he go to Petra, say he misspoke and confirm that there was a flirtation, but Joyce doesn’t think that’s a good idea. She wants to draft a prepared statement about how much he respects Eden for stepping forward, how he respects women and how he supports the #MeToo movement as a long-overdue correction of the wrongs in our society. But Noah doesn’t listen to Joyce’s advice. He’s a dolt.
Noah phones Petra and arranges a meeting at her office. There, he tells her that he’s been thinking a lot about the conversation they had the other day and wants to clarify his earlier answer — off the record. He tells Petra that it’s been so long since he and Eden had any involvement with each other, and he needed some time to truly remember what happened between them on that book tour all those years ago. The truth, he says, is that he and Eden engaged in “some flirtation, but it never went beyond that.” Petra thanks Noah for clarifying, then asks if she can proceed with some on-the-record follow-up questions. Noah says he wants to be completely transparent, but is somehow unaware of the line of questioning he’s about to endure. First, Petra asks Noah to confirm that they never had sex. She then brings up a party at the house of a famous publisher. “You didn’t pressure her to have sex that night?” Petra asks. “Absolutely not,” Noah exclaims. When asked if he’s sure, he says he recalls the night well; it was the night that Alison went into labor, and he was doing everything in his power to try and get home to her.
Believed to be the last of Petra’s questions, Noah gets up from his seat and walks towards the door, then Petra asks if he can stick around to do some more fact-checking. She goes back to the origins of Descent. She found out from other interviews at the time that much of it was written in a rubber room where he was sent on probation from his teaching job at a Brooklyn high school. Noah confirms that much is true; he says he had recently split from Helen and had a “completely consensual liaison with another teacher.” But according to Petra’s research, the aforementioned teacher was a student teacher at the time; Noah swears that she was not under his supervision. Petra then asks Noah if he recalls a student by the name of Audrey Nelson. She presents him with a copy of her aforementioned memoir, titled How to Break a Girl, and says that it centers on the main character’s relationship with her seminar professor — an aging white novelist who is verbally and emotionally abusive. “At one point, he literally tells her that she can’t be a writer because she has no inner life,” Petra recalls. “She also describes a conversation in which the professor claims that sex doesn’t need to be consensual in order for a woman to enjoy it.” When asked if he’s the professor, Noah says that it’s a possibility, “but if so then she has taken a few very nuanced and complicated conversations completely out of context.” Petra then tells Noah that she spoke to Audrey, who painted Noah as an unapologetic misogynist. In response, Noah accuses Audrey of trying to conflate the current political climate with his very brief association with her in order to direct attention to her book.
Finally, Petra asks Noah about how much of Descent was autobiographical. “Your second wife, Alison Bailey, committed suicide,” she says. “Could that be, in any way, related to your depiction of her in that book?” At this point, Noah is on the brink of tears. He chooses to ignore the question and leaves her office. Noah then arranges a meeting with his former attorney, Jon Gottlief (again played by Richard Schiff), who tells him that he’s “f—ked.” When Noah asks if there’s anything they can do, Jon says that standard procedure is to try and discredit the accuser, then they can threaten Vanity Fair with a character defamation lawsuit. The problem is, in this day and age, Vanity Fair will tell them to go “f—k off” and publish it anyway. Noah suggests that he reach out to Eden personally and find out what she wants in exchange for retracting her story, but Jon tells him under no circumstances is he to contact this woman. The best they can do is present Eden with an under-the-table settlement in exchange for her silence, but Noah doesn’t have that kind of money. Out of options, Jon advises him to let his family know what’s coming.
Later that day, Noah heads to the airport to return home to Los Angeles. While he waits for his flight, he has a few stiff drinks and googles Eden. He finds out that she has an event at an L.A. bookstore later that night, then fills out a contact form on her website and says that he’d like to talk. As soon as his flight lands, he heads to said event. Eden sees Noah from across the room and attempts to distance herself from him, but he follows her to a discreet area in the store and says he wants to talk. She keeps her cool and advises him to walk away, but he doesn’t listen. He says he has a very different memory of what went down between them and insists that they were friends. Eden says she worked for him, and it was her job to keep him happy, even when his demands got more and more ridiculous — demands like she come to his hotel room when he was drunk, that she do drugs with him and that she have sex with him. Noah says all of that was her idea, to which she scoffs and tells him to be honest with himself. He then tells her to recall how she was dressed that night, and how she danced with him. “You were coming on to me!” he exclaims. Eden then excuses herself to get back to her event, at which point Noah follows her and grabs her by the arm for everyone in attendance to see. “You wanted to f—k me, and I walked away,” Noah says. “Now I don’t know if that pissed you off and this is some kind of sick revenge, but I have a family. I have two daughters, and you’re going to ruin my life. So please, this is not a game.” He lets go of Eden’s arm, and she tells him that she’s no longer afraid of him. She says she didn’t go looking for this; a reporter called her, and she decided to tell the truth. She then gives Noah one last opportunity to walk away before she alerts the press about this incident.
Afterwards, Noah heads to Helen’s in time to wish her a happy birthday. Sasha, Sierra and Adeline, all of whom were present in Helen’s recollection of events, have already cleared out. It’s just Helen, Trevor and Stacey, and they’re all delighted to see him. But before they can cut Helen’s cake, she receives a phone call from an unknown New York number. She tells Noah that she’s been getting calls from the same number all day, but she hasn’t picked up. This time she does, and it’s Petra. Noah tries to get her to hang up so he can be the one to tell her what’s going on, but Helen ignores Noah’s gestures to get off the phone and leaves the room to speak with Petra.
Elsewhere in the episode…
* Helen gets a job at a high-end design firm thanks to raves from Carolina Wineman.
* Following the car accident in Episode 5, the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services is on the verge of taking Eddie from Sierra and placing him in Adeline’s custody.
* Adeline crashes Helen’s birthday dinner. She intends to take Eddie back to her house and send Sierra to a psychiatric facility, but Helen won’t stand for it. She tells Adeline that Sierra suffers from postpartum depression and doesn’t need to be institutionalized. She then invites Sierra and Eddie to come stay with her.
* Lily’s daughter Christianna gets in touch with Helen and asks if they can talk. She needs Helen to convince Sasha to give her access to Lily’s trust. Later, when Helen confronts Sasha about her meeting with Christianna, he tells Helen that his sort-of step-daughter, who alleges that he got her mother hooked on drugs, is “full of horses—t.” He claims that Christianna once sold naked photos of him and her mom to the tabloids. Now she is planning to release a tell-all book, and he has another four years until he is required by law to give her access to Lily’s trust. In the meantime, he hopes to convince Christianna not to publish the book.
What did you think of The Affair Season 5, Episode 8? Hit the comments with your reactions.