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Review: ‘The Affair’ Season 1 Episode 3 Puts Forth an ‘Honest Face’

Review: 'The Affair' Season 1 Episode 3 Puts Forth an 'Honest Face'

[Editor’s Note: In an attempt to best review the enticingly blended “facts” presented by each new episode of “The Affair,” Indiewire has tasked Liz Shannon Miller with analyzing Alison’s version of events, while Ben Travers will be providing perspective on Noah. It’s purely coincidental each editor ended up critiquing their respective gender. Liz was assigned Alison because of her knack for noticing the smallest details and ability to quickly discern deviations in story. Ben was given Noah because he’s re-watching “The Wire” and insisted on talking about McNulty. Enjoy.]

He Said…

McNulty was very focused on his book this week, which I found strange considering he just found the first known photograph of Baltimore drug lord Avon Barksdale last episode and… wait. Wrong show. My apologies, but I’m re-watching “The Wire” for fun, and there’s just too much character crossover in “The Affair.” I’m waiting for Bunk to pop out of nowhere, burn the trace evidence and get Jimmy off the hook for this mess.

Take the first scene of “The Affair” Episode 3, for example. After a swim in the pool, McNulty, er, Noah is summoned into Rawls’, aka Bruce Butler’s, office to be given instruction on how to do his job. This happens all the time in “The Wire,” and neither character played by Dominic West listens to the characters so authentically created by John Doman. It does light a fire under Noah’s ass, though, leading him to call his father-in-law’s agent and set up a meeting where he reveals some juicy details about his still-in-the-works novel. Is he already thinking about killing Ruth as he says his character may do in his novel? Probably not, but those kind of ideas don’t come out of nowhere — and certainly lend to some ominous foreshadowing. 

Unlike McNulty, Noah tries to be a good guy in this episode. After an impromptu meeting at the library — where Noah remembers his loving wife via his book’s dedication — he tells Alison directly they can’t be together. Marriage means more to him than that, even if she’s willing to throw hers out the window. He again rebukes her after running into one of her husband’s brothers buying fish, but succumbs to her at his “speed” after a heated discussion with his mother-in-law and an odd confrontation with her boss. The affair in “The Affair” finally begins, at least according to McNulty Noah. 

READ MORE: ‘The Affair’ Creator Sarah Treem on Constructing the ‘Rashomon’ of Relationship Dramas

She Said…

For the record, Ben might be struggling to remember that he is NOT watching “The Wire,” but I’m haunted by Ruth Wilson’s amazing performance in the 2010-2013 British serial killer drama “Luther.” I am doing a decent job of not shouting “DON’T TRUST HER PACEY SHE’LL KILL YOU DEAD” at the screen during her scenes with Joshua Jackson, but it’s a near thing every time.

(I might also be having trouble remembering that Joshua Jackson is not Pacey.)

Anyways, Noah is only one small part of Alison’s life, which she’s in the process of reclaiming after years of grief. Unfortunately, that’s tougher than expected. After waking up in a seemingly good mood, singing along with Dolly Parton as she banters with her husband Cole, things get derailed by a trip to the local medical center where she used to work. Attempting to get her job back goes awry when she’s confronted by a sick child — she ends up fleeing the center without saying goodbye to her old boss and, in search of emotional release, cutting into her own inner thigh (adding to a collection of scars already present).

Noah asks her to meet him at the local library because he wants her help on his new book, but this leads to more stolen kisses. When he promises to keep things platonic, she invites him to a town hall meeting that night — Noah ends up missing it, which gets emotional, especially after Cole invokes their dead son in an argument against building a bowling alley. Alison is furious, and when she returns home with Cole, she curls up with her phone, texting Noah. The exchange sets her off, and she wakes up Cole for some totally-within-the-boundaries-of-marriage sex.

His Biggest Lie

Perhaps I’m too jaded by “Gone Girl,” but I don’t believe much of the femme fatale fantasy Noah is painting. So when he says she grabbed him and kissed him on the pier after they didn’t buy any fish and she says it was consensual, I’m leaning toward the latter. They disagree over which one of them called it off before anything even started, Noah saying he said no to her right then and there on the pier. I don’t buy it. Why? It’s mainly instinct at this point, but Noah has seemed too keen on painting his wife as saintly and Alison demonic for those roles to fit like he claims.

His Clearest Truth

Of all the things in Noah’s third half-hour of the story, I do believe he tried to go to that city council meeting. I can’t imagine why he would lie about leaving the house if he never made it down there, as Alison would have us believe later. It was when he admits the affair actually started, and he doesn’t come off very well with Oscar in the process. That part of the story lines up with how upset the diner owner/wannabe bowler was after his motion was all but buried at the meeting. It would make sense for Alison to lie about it, because she wants the detective to believe the flirtation was as innocent as her version of the library meeting made it out to be. Noah gave the hard truth there, even admitting he sounded like an asshole in the process.

Her Biggest Lie

At the beginning of her part of the story, Alison tells our friendly police interrogator that “I wasn’t having an affair at this point, Detective — I kissed a stranger on the beach.”

It’s a nice try, but even if her version of events after the town hall meeting (the loyal wife goes home with her husband) turns out to be true, it’s clear that Noah has wormed his way into her life, at what might be the exact wrong time. It doesn’t matter what lines have been crossed — Alison’s heart is broken, and the pieces of broken things have a bad habit of getting scattered.

Her Clearest Truth

The scenes at the hospital explain why an intelligent woman of Alison’s age would be waitressing and working odd jobs; this is not her original career. Instead, it’s what she’s doing because she can’t handle her previous work as a pediatric nurse, due to her son’s death. When she tries to get her old job back, it becomes clear that Alison is the furthest thing from ready for that.

Even though she’s not able to say it out loud, Alison is very in touch with her inner torment — and her need for escape, something to change her life. That’s what set her on the path towards Noah, but from Alison’s point-of-view, their relationship is not a lustful obsession; it’s all tied up in her fragile state of being.

Montauk Facts: Summer People Edition

People only read local authors in Montauk. This is what I gathered from Noah picking up his own book and noticing no one had checked it out. One might think his relation to the area’s most famous and beloved author would perk locals’ interest, but one would be wrong. It’s Bruce Butler or bust in Montauk.

Montauk Facts: Locals Edition

Montauk used to be a bootlegging port during Prohibition! (Maybe Nucky paid a visit there from time to time?) Also, locals are loyal to each other, no matter what. That’s Future Alison’s explanation to the detective for why Oscar was invited to “the wedding.” (What wedding, of course, is unknown.)

Shut Up, Margaret! (Him)

I know we’re supposed to grow weary of the Montauk in-laws quickly — Rawls Bruce has already done more than enough to get us “rawled” up — but it was Margaret who took things too far in Episode 3. Her money-focused view of reality rubbed this writer wrong, and it certainly touched a nerve with novelist Noah. He told her to keep those kind of opinions to herself, standing up for the beliefs he wishes to pass on to his daughter, but it was Margaret’s last word that crossed a line. We may never see what she tells young Whitney, but their one-on-one conversation will be haunting the offscreen reality for the rest of the season.

Shut Up, Oscar! (Her)

Alison’s boss at the diner, and aspiring bowling alley kingpin, plays like a caricature at times — his casual sexual harassment of Alison is almost as cliche as his “progress is good!” attitude towards, in Cole’s words, turn Montauk into the Jersey Shore. Alec Baldwin had apparently been at the town hall meeting before Alison arrived (to complain about his privacy being invaded). But thanks to Oscar, he was not the biggest asshole in the room.

Was It Good For Him?

It’s hard to say whether or not the sex was good for Noah this week. He had two encounters, but only one reached “completion.” His morning delight with his wife — when he was clearly thinking about Alison — couldn’t have been too satisfactory as it was a replacement for his real wishes. Still, when he had the chance to make his dreams come true, he neglected to…”involve” himself as fully as he could have. If asked to bet which was better for Noah, though, the answer seemed heatedly clear.

Was It Good For Her?

The kisses and text exchanges with Noah seemed to trigger something intense in Alison — it’s not exactly a good thing that another man lead to her to her passionate final scene with her husband, but at least they got some great sex out of it.

That is, of course, if it even happened.

Suggested Episode Titles

[Editor’s Note: Because “The Affair” doesn’t have episode titles — they do, but they’re only the episode number, so, for instance, this week’s was titled “3” — our writers have taken it on themselves to create episode titles for the show. Please come up with better ones, and list them in the comments section.]

His: “An Honest Face”

Hers: “Dolly Parton Sings the Blues”

Ben’s Grade: B

Liz’s Grade: B+

READ MORE: Review: The Biggest Mystery of ‘The Affair’ Solved – It Just Keeps Getting Better

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