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Review: ‘The Affair’ Season 1 Episode 4 Exposes Lies Outside Our Unhappy Couples

Review: 'The Affair' Season 1 Episode 4 Exposes Lies Outside Our Unhappy Couples

[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.]

He Said…

Episode 4 began with Noah out with Allison on a ferry, under the ruse of research for his book. After courteously buying her a coffee, he spills it on himself and seeks comfort from his date. Allison, though, is spotted by a friend and thus unavailable to the married man with no good excuse to be seen with a married woman alone on a ferry. They meet up, make out in a changing room after Allison seductively invites Noah inside, and then swap stories of their youth while looking at a lighthouse. 

Noah’s Oedipal issues come out during the discussion (even if Allison’s versions of events favor a different balance), exposing a possible fear for his wife’s well-being. His description of losing his mother at 17 frames his scandalous actions in a pitiable light, portraying someone afraid of committing to a mother again and being abandoned once more.

After a fight with Allison threatens their relationship, the two can’t resist each other any longer. They rent a hotel room, briefly discuss what’s about to happen, and then do the deed — though, technically, we don’t see anything serious happen until we’re under Allison’s perspective. 

She Said…

After their day trip becomes a Starland Vocal Band song, Alison gets a bad case of nerves — especially after Noah discovers the scars on her inner thigh. Whatever has pulled them together becomes something she wants to push away, repeatedly shutting Noah out only to reconnect with him again all the more intensely, a cycle which leads to awkward conversations and property damage.  

Returning to Montauk on the ferry is silent and awkward, especially after she receives a reminder that she is married to Pacey Joshua Jackson and has thus done a very not-great thing. But when Noah gives her a ride home, she tells him about her son, and about so much of her grief and frustration with life — which proves to be a prelude to them having sex yet again.  

His Biggest Lie

I know I’m supposed to be talking about Noah here, but today “his” biggest lie doesn’t apply to our Irish-looking protagonist. The biggest lie in “4” came from Detective Jeffries, played by ex-“King of Queens” actor Victor Williams. At the beginning of Noah’s segment, Jeffries tells the father of four that he lost his kids in the divorce. He claims to have twin boys that he never gets to see because his wife got full custody. Yet when he meets Allison outside during her smoke break, Jeffries tells her things are ideal between he and his wife, that they still act like newlyweds. 

Clearly, the detective is telling his suspects what he thinks they want to hear, or at least what they need to hear. It could mean he wants Noah to identify with him and open up, since they both have lost wives and kids. Or, maybe Noah’s still married and Jeffries is using his own fake background as a threat for what might happen if Noah doesn’t tell him the truth. Either way, Jeffries is certainly more suspicious of these two than he leads on, and something is bound to come of it soon. 

His Clearest Truth

It’s a rather easy choice, but Noah only offering half the room rate because he was strapped for cash seemed like the only aspect of his story that could be true. The rest seemed like erotic fiction, or something Noah might have put in the book because it sounded better than what really happened. I don’t think he hooked up with her in a dressing room. I don’t think he’s actually only had sex with three women in his life (though this could explain his sudden and ferocious curiosity with a woman on a purely physical level). I don’t even think he asked her if she thought she was a good person while they had drinks at an island bar. 

I believe part of what he said about his mother — that she died when he was 17 — because Allison “confirmed” it in her own version of the events. Yet even the surrounding circumstances don’t line up. The aforementioned Oedipal complex is certainly prevalent, but I doubt for the reasons he’s provided. The “how many people have you slept with talk” conversation was lacking from Allison’s story, making it feel like a man’s perspective more than a possible reality.

If this were the story in a novel — and it very well may be — that part of the conversation would be seen a writer’s device to make the reader feel okay about their own sexual history or even better had they bedded many more women than the protagonist (mind you, this only applies to people who think something like this matters, which Noah clearly does). As a whole, Noah’s version of the events is starting to sound more and more like a novelization of the facts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if much of it was drawn from this second novel he’s apparently had published. 

Her Biggest Lie

It’s a small thing, but while in the past, Alison is never seen smoking, in the future she’s clearly hooked. Is it a new habit or one she’s used to hiding, much like the cutting? Only Alison knows for sure. 

It was a big episode for Alison and honesty, but I do struggle to believe how many times she tried to break things off with Noah — how many times she was so wracked by guilt over what they were doing. And without seeing Noah’s side of things, I can’t trust the second-to-last scene, when she tries to give him yet another out, and he doesn’t take it. One theme that’s been built up over the first four episodes is the question of who’s to blame for the actual beginning of the affair: Noah the obsessed, or Alison the seductress? Neither one of them, in their recountings of events, wants to bear full responsibility for what happened. Which is fine, because neither of them do. 

So, actually, the biggest lie might be when Noah tells her that he knows she didn’t come and she says that “it’s fine.” No, Noah. It’s not fine. Fortunately, he makes it up to her at the end.   

Her Clearest Truth

Alison might be hiding so much inside her, but her confession in the car to Noah about her grief over her son feels like the most honest thing she’s done yet. Especially telling is the detail about how much her husband’s tattoo bothers her — she’s gone from waking up to his laughter to seeing a permanent reminder of what she’s lost. 

(We also now know how her son died — he drowned. Which makes the fact that she doesn’t know how to swim even more important.) 

Montauk Facts: Summer People Edition

People would be happier if they stopped doing yoga and had sex instead. This seems pretty straightforward to me, and I will thusly be skipping my yoga class Monday for more productive endeavors. 

Montauk Facts: Locals Edition

Very little time was spent in Montauk this week, but we learned how to identify a shipwreck off the coast — look for a darker splotch in the water. Also, maybe ghosts are real. 

Shut Up, Helen! (Him)

Okay, that was really hard to say. I have no real reason to dislike Noah’s wife, but Mrs. Solloway is earning this week’s prize for character most-in-need-of-a-slap based purely on her annoying devotion to the couple that birthed her. When she called Noah to inform him there was something wrong with her mother, I was inclined to trust Noah’s assessment of the situation (“Isn’t there always something wrong with your mother?”) despite his clear biases. He wanted to stay and sleep with his new mistress, not go home and take care of the woman who is brainwashing his daughter and biding resentment against her own cheating husband. That doesn’t sound like fun whether you’re an adulterous beau or not, and frankly, Noah would only make matters worse by mocking the old woman instead of supporting his worried wife. So shut up, Helen, and deal with your crazy parents on your own.

Shut Up, Noah! (Her)

There weren’t a lot of contenders for this slot, as Episode 4 was almost entirely just Noah and Alison together, but Noah’s frustrations and rantings make it easy to single him out here. Noah flat-out says to her that he can tell there’s a darkness inside her, but he can’t give her the space and patience she needs to cope with it? At least he was aware that he didn’t make her come. That’s maybe the only thing he proved sensitive about. 

Was It Good For Him?

Hell yes! Whether Allison’s version of the couple’s first full-on sexual encounter was accurate or not — we’ll never know seeing as Noah’s perspective wasn’t represented — Noah appeared to have enjoyed himself thoroughly. Allison showed him with no regrets post-coital either, other than hoping she’d be able to finish the next time, but that didn’t seem to bother him too much. Plus, the first time has to be at least decent if there’s going to be a second.

Was It Good For Her? 

On a base physical level, not really at first. But their final encounter of the night seemed to work out a lot better for them both. 

Suggested Episode Titles: 

[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.]

His: “Dirty Squid”

Hers: “Some Easy-Going Girl” 

Ben’s Grade: B+

Liz’s Grade: A-

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

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