We’re back to our original pairing of POVs — Noah and Alison — which actually feels right in an unexpected way. Though Helen and Cole got the opportunity to tell their stories over the last two weeks, co-creator Sarah Treem has said it’s unlikely “The Affair” will introduce any other character perspectives. And honestly, four is more than enough for us to chew on.
Watching this week’s episode, I had a realization that made me respect the show’s commitment to depicting subjective truths on a whole new level. When reading a novel, writers have an opportunity to intimately spell out the thoughts of characters. Filmed media sometimes tries to replicate this with voice-over, but it can often go awry. Season 1 of this show even toyed with voice-over, but it’s much stronger without, and with “The Affair’s” approach to depicting subjective narratives, we’re not being encouraged to figure out “the truth.” We’re instead getting a window into who these characters really are, based on how they choose to tell these stories; a whole new take on the concept of first person perspective.
Maybe you guys had that all figured out already, but I thought it was pretty cool. Anyway, what happened this week?
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Noah made a couple of big moves this week; first, asking Alison to marry him, despite the facts that they’ve been together a super-short time, and he’s still legally married to Helen. He also got closer to Yvonne, the publisher who owns the cabin where Noah and Alison are staying, which might be good news for Noah’s book, as he’s still struggling to find an ending, and she might be able to help.
All of these come with a major setback, though. Noah’s daughter Whitney, she of the love of profanity and unplanned pregnancy, decides to pay him an unexpected visit, and has plenty to say about finding her father shacking with up with his mistress-now-fiance. Even after he gets her back home to New York, it might be her fault that Noah’s divorce proceedings escalate from “peaceful mediation” to “all-out war.”
And as the cherry on top of the sundae: Noah’s good buddy Max decides to give him $50,000 out of nowhere, but Noah is at this point completely oblivious to the fact that the girl Max is dating — the one where “things are getting serious with” — is Helen. I’m sure that won’t cause any drama down the line.
Things pick up later than you might expect with Alison’s side of the story, near the tail end of their post-engagement dinner with Yvonne and her husband Robert and only a little bit before Whitney enters the picture. (And boy, if Noah’s memory of what Whitney had to say about Alison was harsh, Alison’s memory is like an acid bath to the face.) It triggers some tough conversation between Alison and Noah. From Noah’s perspective, Alison is a mystery, but from Alison’s perspective, she’s just doing her best to protect herself.
Also, from Alison’s perspective, Whitney’s visit features one additional wrinkle. Whitney believes herself to be in love with Scotty and wants Alison (who, remember, is Scotty’s ex-sister-in-law) to get his number. Does that request come in the form of a threat? Sorta-kinda, and Whitney isn’t happy when Alison refuses.
After they leave, Alison spends the day with Yvonne and Robert, who seem prone to their own sort of dramatics. There’s an extended sequence involving Robert’s pet dog, who is apparently “part wolf,” running wild and murdering chickens. Robert agrees to go into the woods to kill it himself, but as Alison witnesses, he instead lets the dog run free. The two of them also have a serious conversation about grief and marriage. It seems to help Alison find some peace, enough to go swimming in the pool for the first time and maybe really reconnect with Noah.
Meanwhile, In “Law and Order”-Ville
As we predicted last week, Jon Gottlief, the lawyer hired to defend Noah’s case, has a deeper history with the Solloways: It turns out Gottlief was the lawyer of record on the Solloway divorce, which makes Helen’s decision to hire him now make sense (she already knows him) and deeply ironic (Noah must be feeling pretty conflicted about the man who probably put him through the ringer now being his only hope).
Thanks to Noah and Alison’s sit down with Gottlief at the end of this episode, we now have a concise explanation of what happened the night Scotty died, and why Noah tried to cover up the truth (well, his version of the truth, anyway). Gottlief thinks the real killer is on the loose. We’ll see how that shakes out.
The Clearest Lie
We only saw the scene in which Alison tells the story of how she and Noah first met from Noah’s perspective, but wow what a whopper of a tale. Given all the unpleasant truths about how they came to be a couple, it’s understandable that they want to dodge specifics. But sometimes a romantic lie is a lot more dangerous than something more casual. Maybe next time, Alison, just say “OKCupid”?
The Closest Thing to the Truth
It was Cole’s wedding! Cole’s wedding! Cole got married, you guys! It now makes sense why Scotty, Noah and Alison would have all been in Montauk (albeit reluctantly) on the fateful night that might change everything forever, but also whoa, sounds like Cole’s situation is going to change dramatically in the next little while. (Stay tuned next week?)
Also, while Noah and Alison had very different takes on some of the episode’s more intense conversations, there was one commonality. Both of them remembered Alison offering the ring back to Noah. It’s funny, what you remember and what you don’t.
Shut Up, Whitney!
Shockingly, this is only Whitney’s second appearance in this category since Indiewire began reviewing “The Affair,” but this week she more than earned it. The teenage girls of cable drama are usually a reliable source of frustration for audiences (“Homeland” Dana, we will never forget you, and we mean that in a bad way), but the combination of entitlement and idiocy that came roaring onto the screen when Whitney made her unwelcome appearance negatively affected this episode’s grade. It’s not that she’s an obnoxious teenager. It’s that she quite often verges on completely unrealistic, which always stands out on a show as grounded as this one.
Also, it’s pretty clear that the reason Helen has abandoned mediation and is suing Noah for divorce is because Whitney told her that Noah and Alison are engaged. So there are two good reasons for Whitney to shut her trap.
Was It Good for Him? Was It Good for Her?
Well, Noah got his needs met, but I’m not so sure about Alison. We never got to see the opening scene of Noah’s section from Alison’s perspective, so there’s no evidence to support my theory Alison faked that orgasm. But it kind of seemed like she faked it, to wrap things up a little faster, because sometimes you’re just not in the mood. Later, with Noah in the pool, she seemed more engaged, but also caught Robert watching them. So far, Robert seems like a likable sort, and he and Alison are forming a nice bond. It’s only Episode 3, though, so the smart money is on that not remaining the status quo.
“Why do they ever have to grow up?” Noah moans to Alison, which is a super-considerate thing to say to your fiancee who will never stop grieving over the death of her son and would give anything to be in his position. I’m calling out the line for two reasons: One, it’s such a subtlely-executed slap in the face, and two, it highlights a key aspect of Noah as we’ve come to know him — just breathtakingly self-centered. In Noah’s version of that conversation, earlier in the episode, Alison called him a good, kind man. Here he was anything but, and more and more we need to acknowledge that.
Name the Episode!
Because the writers of “The Affair” choose not to name the episodes, we do it for them. For this week of hasty proposals and pool sex, I’m going with something slightly literal: “Dive In.”