[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.]
Alison and Noah’s affair has escalated from clandestine sex to clandestine post-sex cuddling and sharing. But an early morning encounter gets interrupted by a call from Alison’s grandmother’s nursing home, to which Alison rushes because her typically-absent mother Athena (Deirdre O’Connell) has suddenly appeared. Claiming to be an “energy healer,” Athena stomps around Alison’s life: Interfering with the treatment of Alison’s Altzheimer’s-striken grandmother, picking nasty fights with Cole and catching Alison and Noah together, putting their secret at risk. All Alison can do is try to contain the damage, in between stolen moments with Noah and dealing with the increasingly combative Oscar.
I think it’s safe to say the stress of an extramarital affair is getting to dear Noah. This week, all he wanted to do was sneak out of the house early — in order to keep his banging another lady from being burdensome to his wife — and instead his daughter acted out, his wife flipped out, and poor Noah didn’t get his dick out until the very last minute of this week’s telling episode.
Noah did successfully get out of the house, though not without waking Helen after a misunderstanding led him to spoiling his own stealth horndog tactics. From there, he met a more-than-willing Alison at her friend’s house for what he hoped would be a “quickie” but turned into a “never was.” Then, as luck would have it in cliche-ridden TV, Noah got a flat tire and ran into Alison’s annoying boss Oscar, creating an issue that’s bound to keep creeping up whenever Noah thinks he’s getting away with the affair.
Finally, Noah got into yet another skirmish with his in-laws after finding out his daughter cyber-bullied a “friend” into a suicide attempt. This led to an all-out screaming match with Helen and some very poor sex-brainstorming with Alison. They’re going to run away together now, a plan that clearly worked out just as they planned it.
Her Biggest Lie
Alison tells two lies in this episode, one at the beginning and one at the end. First, Alison begs off watching Cole surf so that she can “get some extra sleep” — a lie told to cover her slipping out to her friend Phoebe’s empty house, where she and Noah can get in some sexytime. Cole catches her leaving, but says nothing.
Her biggest lie may be the last one: When, in the future, Detective Jeffries asks Alison what she did after “the wedding,” she said that “they” went straight home — and thus didn’t see what happened to Cole’s brother Scotty (our now-confirmed “victim”). Alison has a lot of skills. Lying is not one of them, and in that moment, it shows.
Her Clearest Truth
There are a few separate moments over the course of Alison’s part where we see that while she’s loving her time with Noah, the guilt of adultery is really starting to bother her. When Cole’s mother (Mare Winningham) pulls her aside at dinner to give Alison her old wedding band, Alison is visibly shaken, especially when Cherry reminds her just how much Cole loves her.
But the more heartbreaking moment is the more subtle one — when Cole catches her sneaking out of the house that morning, all he says is how much he loves her dress, before leaving the room, defeated. He may not know exactly what’s going on, but he can tell that Alison is hiding something that’s pulling her away from him. Try as she might, Alison just can’t hide that.
His Biggest Lie
Honestly, none of what Noah had to say or do this week rang untrue right off the bat. His ordeals seemed too taxing and unfortunate — and Noah himself too hot-tempered — for much of it to be so obviously false. To me, it’s about choosing whether or not you believe the casual and cool Noah, who showed up to bed Alison in a flirty and energetic manner or the nervous, rushed Noah who tried to knock out their time together on a very limited schedule. The latter seems more accurate, especially knowing parents who do everything on the clock, even when it’s something that should be savored.
So what was Noah lying about? My guess is the flat tire. I know, I know. That, too, created a scenario our dear Noah doesn’t want known to the cops, especially if Oscar is as involved in the “accident” as Noah wants the detective to think he is, but getting a flat is such an unbelievable cliche it rings false from a viewer’s standpoint if not a diegetic one. Something so easy and predictable is either bad writing on the part of Noah or the screenwriter, so I’m hoping it’s Noah.
His Clearest Truth
What scares me about my pick for Noah’s most obvious honest moment is that it also might be his most clever lie. I want to believe Noah stands up to his in-laws, railing against their conservative beliefs and lack of moral coda. Then again, I’m not so sure Noah is as bold as he wants his interviewer to believe. Both are playing a dangerous game with one another where they’re trying to get the other to like him. Detective Jeffries wants Noah to like him so he might say too much, and Noah wants the detective to like him so he’s not a suspect.
So would Noah make up this kind of persona? There’s bound to be a twist coming we can’t predict. The structuring leads itself to such a shock, but claiming this is the one may be a bit of a reach without proper evidence as to why Noah would make himself into the hero of the everyman. So for now, I”ll say it’s his clearest truth, if only because it’s his most likable characteristic.
Montauk Facts: Locals Edition
It only takes 10 minutes to get bagels in Montauk. This is according to Alison in Noah’s version of events, who demands that Noah come up with a better, lengthier excuse for leaving the house. I guess that’s the benefit of living in a small town?
Montauk Facts: Summer People Edition
The county needs to do something about those pot holes out in Ditch Plains. Now, whether or not this really happened is up for debate, especially with that name — Ditch Plains? Why not call it Accident Way or Pothole Place? — but if the county would have just done what Oscar asked and fixed those roads, maybe Noah wouldn’t be screaming at his wife so much… That is, if he actually did.
Shut Up, Athena! (Her)
No contest this week. No. Contest. Alison’s mother may mean well, but she embodies the worst sort of hippie cliches while also simultaneously unloading metric tons of passive aggression on her daughter. For someone who claims to be in tune with the universe, Athena is a toxic blight on those around her. In the right hands, Eastern philosophy and metaphysical spirituality can offer wisdom and balance. In Athena’s hands, it’s justification for irresponsible, selfish behavior. She is the worst ever. Die in a fire, Athena. Your presence knocked this episode down at least two notches in my grading.
Shut Up, Trevor! (Him)
Kids are the worst. All you want to do is leave the house to “go get some bagels,” and they want to tag along with you. Don’t they understand it’s your morning run? Don’t they understand even parents need some “me” time? Don’t they understand to eliminate the words “go” and “bagels” from Daddy’s excuse to decipher his real agenda? Trevor sure didn’t, and he paid the price. Maybe you should’ve stopped at three kids, Noah.
Was It Good For Her?
Very, very good. Well, until Athena showed up. Even under normal circumstances, having your mom comment on your sex life isn’t conducive to having one. Athena is the coldest of showers.
Was It Good For Him?
Yes! Why? He earned it. The amount of nonsense Noah had to put up with this week was preposterous. He had to get bagels, then fix a tire, then take care of his daughter, then fend off Oscar, and then take care of his wife — the last of which he did not do. Instead, he went over to Alison’s to have sex. I don’t blame him. It’s such a hard life he leads.
Suggested Episode Title:
[Editor’s Note:”The Affair” doesn’t have proper episode titles — they only use the episode number — so our writers have taken it upon themselves to create episode titles for the show. Please come up with better ones, and list them in the comments section.]
Hers: “Fucking Athena”
His: “You Can Run With Bagels”