[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.]
New York during the holidays! A magical time of year, in theory. But for Alison, it kicks off an emotional apocalypse, after a meet-up with Noah in Brooklyn gets emotional, and she ends up drunkenly seducing Oscar in a bar.
The morning after is more than awkward, because Oscar’s trying to play things nice, but when Alison tells him she’s planning to escape Montauk with the money from selling the Lockhart ranch, he tells her the Lockhart ranch, which Alison’s family-in-law believes to be worth tens of millions, is actually worthless because of massive debt. A confrontation with mother-in-law Cherry over how she’s refinanced the house so much that the family will make no money off a sale morphs into Cherry deflecting Alison’s criticisms by not only reminding Alison of how emotionally beholden she is to the Lockhart family, but that the death of Alison’s son Gabriel might have been her fault due to a condition called secondary drowning.
Alison flees, breaking down — first, cutting herself again on the thigh, followed by tearful sobbing in her doctor’s office after he patches her up and a nearly deadly dive into the ocean. The full story of how Gabriel died comes out, along with Alison more than ever admitting her pain over his death, and she’s finally pushed into telling Cole that she wants to leave him and Montauk behind. Cole finds her at the train station, though, telling her that wherever she wants to go, he’ll follow.
It was a rough week all around for our dear Noah. After being called back into the interrogation room by Detective Jeffries, Noah was forced to recount some of his most painful memories yet: After restarting his affair with Alison, he discovered a pregnancy test in the kitchen that he mistook as belonging to his wife. And if the thought of his wife being pregnant again upset Noah, boy oh boy did he get pissed when he discovered it was Whitney who was actually pregnant.
After some calm detective work following a blow-up with his daughter, Noah made his way to her abortion appointment in order to accuse the father face-to-face. Little did he know it would be Alison’s brother-in-law Scott Lockhart — aka the deceased Detective Jeffries is investigating — who impregnated his 15-year-old daughter after some not-so-innocent flirting in Montauk. Noah had to be restrained from attacking the grown man, and then got some more sound advice from his good buddy Max. Noah, however, again chose to ignore said sound advice, and tells Helen he was in love with someone else. He then flees his wife, kids, and home to find Alison waiting on a train station platform next to her own husband.
Her Biggest Lie
After she and Noah meet up in the city for a romantic interlude, Noah takes her to see a potential apartment the two of them could “share.” To Alison, though, the apartment is a “stash pad,” not a place where they could really build a life, and thus proof that Noah will never really leave his wife for her. Herein lies the lie: It’s never totally convincing that Alison really wants a life with Noah.
Nothing about her actions over the months they’ve been together indicates she’s really ready to abandon Montauk, Cole and the memories of her son on a permanent basis. Instead, Noah has been an escape; maybe an escape for whom she has real love, but not a real solution to her problems. And it’s much, much easier to pretend that it’s Noah’s fault, that they won’t work out long term, than it is for Alison to admit that maybe she’s been playing a game she’s not ready to handle.
Her Clearest Truth
Alison wants out. Whatever reasons she might have to stay in Montauk are essentially non-existent at this point, and escape is something she craves. “I believe in hell,” she tells her doctor, and it’s clear she believes that she’s trapped in it. However, that’s a hole she seems more and more capable of escaping — and at the end of the episode, she might just be pulling it off.
His Biggest Lie
Noah was all about telling the truth this week, so much so he even provided Detective Jeffries with a clear motive for killing Scott Lockhart: revenge. Lockhart knocked up his underage daughter, and Noah went after him with his car that gets “pretty good” gas mileage and has a turning radius of who-knows-what. So when it comes down to what his biggest lie was this week, two elements stand out:
First, his witnessing of the roof-jumper’s suicide seemed a little novelistic to be believed. While it would be easy to check to see if Noah’s name came up in the police records, the whole scenario ringed a bit too random, considering Alison was trying to off herself at almost the exact same time (supposedly). Yet the bigger mystery to me revolves around who found the pregnancy test. Both claim to have discovered it in the kitchen garbage, which leads me to believe one of them told the other it happened, and now they’re getting their stories mixed up.
What leads me to believe it was Noah who lied is simply that, again, Alison’s version of the events makes more sense. She was upset because she thought Noah was still sleeping with Helen, so she got pissed off and panicked when he showed her an apartment. Noah’s eagerness to house his fuck buddy in the city — as well as his obliviousness to how that place would make her feel exactly as such — rings true to our oft-frazzled Mr. Soloway. Why he’d want to hide the fact he took her to an apartment or even just that he didn’t find the pregnancy test, however, isn’t so clear.
His Clearest Truth
Noah was on that train. When thinking about that fact — confirmed by Alison’s texting and blank expression when her husband showed up, bag in hand — I may have stumbled across another lie, so indulge me for a second: What if Noah never told Helen about the affair? What if he took his buddy Max’s money to answer Oscar’s blackmail, then called the whole thing off on his own because he was scared? Alison’s story indicates that Helen knows as well, but she’s just as unreliable a narrator as Noah, and Noah’s lack of a moral compass puts him more in line with a cowardly liar than a guilt-riddled truth teller.
I’m not sure how the first season of “The Affair” will end next week. Perhaps the mysteries will continue to add up, with lies and truths blending together into an indecipherable ocean of deceit. I’m hoping, though, “The Affair” is as brave as Noah may have pretended to be when “telling” his wife, and give us some indisputable truths. Right now, I’m almost too far out into the ocean to be reeled back.
Montauk Facts (Locals Edition)
Shampoo is much cheaper there. Either that, or Alison was being deliberately malicious when she emptied Helen’s shampoo down the Brooklyn drain. Actually, given her unease at being in Noah’s home, the latter might be more likely.
Montauk Facts (Tourist Edition)
Killing yourself is as simple as making a choice in New York City. Noah was a little too moved by the jumper he spotted from Max’s balcony, but the police officer taking his statement was also a bit too lax. It was an oddly tossed-in scene, made to feel more so by the characters involved. I’m still betting it didn’t happen.
Shut Up, Cherry!
Not only has Alison’s mother-in-law been lying to the entire family about their finances for years now, but when Alison tries to talk to her about the situation, Cherry’s response is cowardly and cruel. First, Cherry tries blackmail, threatening to reveal Alison’s affair to Cole, and then when that doesn’t work, she tells Alison that it’s her fault Gabriel died.
Do you have a mother figure in your life who’s not a selfish manipulator? Maybe give her a call today, tell her that you really appreciate her presence in your life — all thanks to “The Affair.” Seriously, Oscar might not be my favorite character, but at least he told Alison the truth when she really needed it.
Shut Up, Noah!
Good Lord. Can the man not listen? Is he stone-cold deaf? I mean, how many times does Max have to tell him to cool it with this whole affair thing before he’s going to listen to reason? Sure, Max’s “woman are like long-term bonds” speech was a little pig-headed, but his heart’s in the right place and he truly seems to care about Noah’s best interests.
Noah, on the other hand, is completely freaking lost. Caught in a whirlwind of lust, lies, and liability, Noah made the most insane choice possible by not only telling Helen he was still seeing Alison, but going so far as to burn every bridge back to the home he’d spent half his life building. Noah is now betting it all on a woman who’s just as confused as he is, and — considering where we first met Noah and Alison — it doesn’t look like things are going to go smoothly for the not-so-happy couple.
Was it Good For Her?
Never believe your partner in adultery when he says he “won’t fuck you in his wife’s bed.” But while Noah and Alison’s first post-“I love you” rendezvous lead to some satisfying sex, the emotional repercussions ended up driving Alison to drink and to Oscar, who does not come off as a particularly good lay. Most importantly — sex isn’t solving any of her problems.
Was it Good for Him?
It sure had to be. Last week, I said it had been a while since Noah was getting any from anyone, which meant great things for the man’s libido when Alison found her into Mrs. Solloway’s bed to kick off the episode. Noah seemed to get off on the intimacy of the entire exchange. Between having her in his home and performing as if he were a teenager again, Noah took things to another level when he asked Alison to repeat the phrase “I’m yours” again and again until he finished. Given what unfolded after, it very may well have been the best sex of Noah’s life.
Suggested Episode Title:
His: “The Biggest Mistake of My Life”