[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.]
A few months have passed since we last saw Noah Solloway begging forgiveness from his wife, a move that makes sense both thematically—as “The Affair” likes to play around with time—and practically, since we skipped a new episode over Thanksgiving weekend. Noah, on his best behavior while trying to repair his marriage, offers to go to his father-in-law’s award ceremony in Helen’s stead as she’s busy having an article written about her store…or maybe Whitney has been acting up…yes, it’s the Whitney thing. Sorry, but Helen is quickly becoming my least favorite character, and I find it hard to pay attention to her constant whining (more on this later).
So Noah goes back to Montauk and sits through what was certainly an unbearably pompous speech from Bruce Butler, but he’s rewarded with an Alison sighting. She, of course, is catering the dinner, and the two are given a bit of extra time together when Noah provides her a lift to the hospital, so she can check on her ailing grandmother. After getting his second talking-to of the night from Bruce—the first coming when Bruce spotted the Noah with Alison at the party—Noah goes back to the hospital and counsels Alison through her grandma’s death. Then, in present day, Noah attends a book signing for his new novel (soon to be a major motion picture!) with Detective Jeffries in attendance. Bum bum bum!
Alison gets a ride to the hospital from Noah, and he chooses to stay as Alison copes with the final hours of her grandmother’s life, as well as yet another instance of Athena’s abandonment. Noah gives her a ride back to the Lockhart home, where instead of mingling with her family Alison slips upstairs to visit with her dead son’s toys and photos. She’s remembering that death and mourning her grandmother’s — and then, in the future, Detective Jeffries witnesses her attending yet another memorial service — her (former?) brother-in-law Scotty’s. For Alison this week, death is very much a part of her life.
His Biggest Lie:
This one was obvious from the moment it left his lips. There was no way Noah said, “It’s not my place,” when asked to come with Alison into the hospital. It’s just so…not Noah! The Noah we’ve come to know through both versions of the story is very clearly divided into two distinct people: Noah’s Noah is who he wants to be, the man his wife is “waiting to happen.” He speaks like a character out of a novel most of the time, and acts the same way. Every once in a while, a grain of truth will slip through, but it’s usually one he deems unimportant enough to lie about.
Alison’s Noah, though, doesn’t tell the full story either. While more believable as the pushy card of a man she needs the detective to believe exists, Alison’s Noah is too pig-headed and simple in comparison to her own version of herself. Alison’s Alison is complex, damaged, and largely innocent—only Alison herself could make Alison, The Drug Dealer feel so sympathetic. We may not know either one of them until the story catches all the way up to present day, but what I can tell you is neither version of Noah said what he claims to have said outside the hospital. Dumb, horny Noah wouldn’t have thought twice about going in with her, probably thinking he could get sympathy sex out of this somehow. Smart, novel Noah should be able to tell only a character in a book—or a TV show—would know exactly the right thing to say in the moment presented.
His Clearest Truth:
Of all the conversations Noah had in this episode—Helen, Martin, Whitney (briefly), Bruce, and Alison—it’s the two key conversations with his father-in-law that I actually believed. I know, I know. Both are conveniently supportive, even if Bruce’s encouragement of Noah’s feelings are somewhat obtuse. He certainly didn’t tell Noah to continue sleeping with Alison, but he did lay out a path for success that kept Noah’s feelings for not-Bruce’s-daughter in mind. The two scenes could easily be read as Noah passing the buck yet again for why he couldn’t break off the affair.
Yet Bruce’s own affair, and his general arrogance, led me to believe he would turn his back on his own daughter—the daughter who didn’t attend his award dinner—in favor of credit for helping out a fellow writer. Bruce doesn’t want to be Noah, and Noah clearly doesn’t want to be his father-in-law. But the two are linked by their profession, a calling that demands you make connections between people even if it’s the last thing you want to do. Bruce probably has a selfish desire in mind, like staying on the good side of his agent or promoting Noah’s book as his own accomplishment. Even if he doesn’t, the old man living in a big house in Montauk still seems like the kind of broken-hearted hermit willing to save someone else from making the same “mistake.”
Her Biggest Lie:
It’s not Cole’s fault he wasn’t there; she could have called him at any time. But instead, she took comfort in Noah’s presence and sympathy, clearly broadcasting the impact of their affair on her life. And that was even before Noah and Alison exchanged hushed “I love you”s in his car.
Her Clearest Truth:
Whereas in Noah’s version of events, Alison is striding seductively through Bruce’s awards reception wearing a halter and tight pants, to hear Alison tell it she’s dressed conservatively and chooses to work coat check, in an effort to avoid contact with Noah. It’s not the first time that “The Affair” has used Alison’s wardrobe as a signal that Noah and Alison aren’t on the same page, but it’s easy to believe that Alison might be the more honest one in this case.
Montauk Facts (Summer People Edition):
Montauk is constantly short on waitstaff. One would think a town built on the tourism industry would make sure to keep an ample supply of the people who, you know, serve the tourists, but one would be wrong. Not only was Alison’s agency short-staffed the night of Bruce’s event, but she was able to hop from one job to the other easily and she’s literally been on duty for every single event in Montauk for the last six months. Get some seasonal hires going, Montauk. Come on.
Montauk Facts (Locals Edition):
There are no other ranches like the Lockhart Ranch. Not in Montauk, anyway. Which makes the place hard for an appraiser to appraise, but should hopefully make its value to a new owner all the more important.
Shut Up, Whitney!
I’ve had it with Whitney. Don’t ask me why her five-second appearance in the eighth episode of the season was what broke me, but something about her better-than-thou sarcasm finally proved too much. She lives a pretty cushy life, and all she’s done is spend it ruining everyone else’s. I know she’s a teenage girl, but come on. They can’t all be this bad (or as bad as TV makes them out to be in general). Also, I’m calling it now—she’s not bulimic. She’s pregnant.
Shut Up, Athena!
Athena was slightly more bearable this week than she was in her original appearance, but that’s not saying much. As selfish as ever, Athena once again dumped the burden of her mother’s life and death on Alison’s shoulders, so that she could continue her own spiritual journey. Seriously, shut up Athena. Shut. Up.
Was It Good For Him?
Noah’s account of things suggest “it” hasn’t happened, let alone been good, in a long, long time. Though he didn’t say as much in Episode 8, it could certainly be implied from his disturbing misread during therapy with his wife. In a blunt and rather horrifying statement, Helen tells Noah she married him for all the wrong reasons. “Do you know why I married you?” Helen asked. “Because you love me?” “Because I thought you were safe.”
Despite Noah’s hopelessly romantic and woefully incorrect guess to her question, Helen goes on to tell her husband she only married him because it looked good. She could have had anyone she wanted—yes, Helen, that was a very crass thing to say—and she “chose” Noah above all others. Good to know you believe in equal partnership, Helen! Great to hear you’re so “okay” with making a lifetime commitment to someone who, by your own admission, worships you! So glad you feel like dropping this bomb after you have three children together!
Noah may have said none of that was “news” to him, but it clearly was because of what he said next. He says he knew he had “the perfect life,” and he was sick of hearing about how he screwed it all up. Um…Noah? That’s not what she just said. She said your life with her was a fraud, and that she never really loved you. Time to pick up and move on, Noah. That’s pretty much all you need to hear to go ahead and file for divorce. That and the fact that you’ll never “make love” to this woman again.
Was It Good For Her?
The holidays in Montauk mean desperately cold winters, but things between Alison and Cole start in a place so good that she’s willing to surrender layers of clothing (despite the chill) to make love with him. However, a night of successful sexytimes is followed by a failed pregnancy test in the morning; sex with Cole, despite all their progress, is still about saving their relationship — a desperate act, rather than a loving one. It’s all the more reason for Alison to idealize her relationship with Noah, a relationship where sex is still about the joy of sex.
Suggested Episode Titles:
His: “Sticking It Out”