Let’s start things off with a random bit of trivia about an actor who we might not be seeing again this season. Peter Friedman, who plays Yvonne’s husband Robert, was a Muppeteer in the 1970s! Try not to think about that when we describe what happens in this episode, a relatively calmer installment when compared to last week, but with some real intrigue.
Things begin with Alison in flux, waking up alone in the Hudson Valley cottage and unsure where things stand with Noah. Things only get more complicated when she goes to the main house to perform her assistant duties for Yvonne and Robert: Yvonne is hyper-critical of Alison’s wardrobe and professional competence, while things get way too personal with Robert as Alison helps him with his exercises. So far this season, “The Affair” has demonstrated a sharp uptick in bluntly acknowledging the reality of male genitalia, which at the very least ought to appease Kevin Bacon to some degree. (Okay, all that happens with Robert is a clothed but obvious erection, but still.)
Overall, it’s a bad afternoon which ends with Robert, as gently as possible, telling Alison she’s fired. When she goes to confront Yvonne, she instead ends up finally sneaking a peek at Yvonne’s copy of Noah’s book. In the flashes of words she reads, she sees herself painted as a figure of seduction, a symbol of “pure sex,” and the hurt sends her literally packing up her belongings and heading into the city to confront Noah. At the brownstone, though, she finds Helen, which leads to an intense confrontation over who Noah really is. Alison takes off her engagement ring on the train, arriving back in Montauk in both a literal and metaphorical fog.
Oh, Cole, we know that you’re in a kinda sucky place right now mentally, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to hook up with rich married ladies with weird hangups. After getting booty called by one of his previous taxi fares, Cole gets a punch to the face that sends him back to his trailer outside Alison’s old house. He wakes up to find that his brother Scotty has sent appraisers to check out the property, which is worth a fortune. Confronting Scotty about this, though, leads to a few interesting revelations: One, Scotty wants a million dollars to take over the development deal that Oscar was plotting last season. Two, Scotty is dealing drugs again. Three, Scotty has been sleeping with Luisa (Catalina Sandino Moreno), who happens to be both a bartender at The End (Montauk’s most notorious bar from Season 1) and the nanny of Cole’s booty call from earlier in the day.
Luisa needs a ride to The End, and Cole is happy to provide. He ends up hanging out at the bar all evening, getting to know her in a real way. But when he gets back to the house, he finds Alison there, and after a heartbreaking conversation, they reconnect tenderly.
Meanwhile, In “Law and Order”-Ville
Thanks to the action being firmly grounded in Alison and Cole’s perspectives, there’s no real follow-up on Helen’s actions from last week. The closest thing we get is that Helen is back in the brownstone with her kids, so at the very least, Mr. Gottleib has worked the sort of legal magic high-class lawyers always seem to manage for their high-class clients.
Speaking of Gottlieb, though, he has an intriguing encounter with our old friend Detective Jeffries in the future, pointing out that half the town had reason to want Scott Lockhart dead. What’s intriguing about the encounter isn’t just that Gottlieb’s on the case (and talking with our old buddy Oscar about it, it looks like), but that the whole scene takes place in what’s now known as Lockhart’s Lobster Roll. Things are going to get much better for the Lockhart family in the next little while… At least, that is, some of the Lockharts.
The Clearest Lie
In past weeks, Cole’s take on his encounters with Alison was much rosier than her perspective. While he saw her as kind and nurturing, she saw him as almost a threatening presence. So when we end this week with the two of them in a gentle, understanding place, I’d want to see Alison’s side of it to be really, genuinely sure.
And that’s leaving aside all of Scotty and Cole’s discussions over starting a new business. As Gottlieb says at the end of the episode, Cole (or one of the other Lockhart brothers — it’s never specified) eventually stole Scotty’s business plan to his own financial benefit, so Cole’s perspective on those scenes seems like something we should not be trusting.
The Closest Thing to the Truth
Whatever was really going on between Robert and Alison, it’d clearly gotten too close for comfort. Initially a paternal relationship, they’d developed a bond that went beyond any appropriate levels. It’s for the best that they’ve shut it down — presuming, of course, it really has been shut down.
Shut Up, Yvonne!
This section is increasingly becoming a place to kvetch about a character who in previous episodes was interesting, well-drawn and full of nuance, but then took a sharp left turn into over-the-top awfulness. Yvonne’s abrupt awfulness to Alison (to be fair, as seen through Alison’s eyes) stretched beyond believability, if we’re to infer that Yvonne’s fascination with Noah’s book has colored her opinion of Alison as a person — because, as seen through Noah’s words on the page, Alison is quite the temptress.
To be fair, it’s doubtful that Yvonne hadn’t noticed how close Robert and Alison were getting, and we learned this week that Robert cheated on his first wife with Yvonne before they eventually got married. Yvonne is probably all too aware of an old adage that Helen also rubs in Alison’s face this week: The way you get them is the way you lose them.
Was It Good for Him? Was It Good for Her
None of the sex seen this week seemed particularly sexy or satisfying, but one of the things that “The Affair” does best is acknowledge the depths to which sex complicates relationships — nearly all relationships, across the board. And this episode was a perfect encapsulation of that, whether it was in the form of Robert’s boner, Cole and Luisa’s respective choice of casual sex partners or Cole and Alison reconnecting at the end of the episode. Good or bad, sex is an escapable fact of life.
Helen’s blunt assessment of her now ex-husband — provided for Alison’s benefit — is full of barbs, but this is the line that lingers with me: “And then you become the enemy, just because you know who he is.” It’s not so much what it reveals about Noah as a character as it is what it says about what sours so many relationships; the fear and terror at revealing your true self to another person, and not liking what they discover about you. Noah is a pitch-perfect example of this trait, but there’s a universality to it we can all acknowledge.
Name the Episode!
Because the writers of “The Affair” choose not to name the episodes, we do it for them. This week, in honor of Cole and Luisa’s toast at The End: “To Something Else.”