So we have no way of verifying this without calling up Joshua Jackson (and he’s probably busy, so why bother him?), but this week’s episode features a long and incredibly emotional dinner scene that we’re fairly sure was the scene Mr. Jackson described filming, when interviewed last summer about the upcoming season.
“It was a single nine-page scene, which in television is unheard of. Nine straight pages of screen time. I’ve only done a couple of those in my TV career. And we got there and the group of actors stood outside and we talked about it for a little while, and then we put it on its feet and then we talked about individual beats, and then we put it on its feet again,” Jackson told Indiewire. “And then we brought the writers out and we put it on its feet for them and they made some notes to it and we added something and we took out a couple of things. And then we brought the director in and we put it on its feet for them and they had their notes and they pushed and pulled in a couple of different ways. So by the time we got it in front of the camera, we had run this thing 30, 40 times probably, and it was dialed in in a way that if we were just fumbling around during a first shot, you would never ever get to that place.”
It’s up to you as to whether or not you agree with Mr. Jackson — that the Lockhart Thanksgiving scene was honed to a razor edge — but we’re inclined to agree with him. It’s one of two incredibly tense and intense dinner scenes in this episode, which reveal so much about the characters involved — things that have been repressed for far too long — and leads to maybe one of the series’s best installments yet.
We find Alison, following last week’s revelation, still with Noah, and now living with him in New York City where she’s easily six or seven months pregnant. It’s immediately clear what day it is as Thanksgiving parade balloons drift by the windows of the fancy high-rise party they’re at, where everyone’s super-duper excited about Noah’s newly released book. Asked if she’s read it, Alison says no, and after getting scolded by Noah’s publicist for talking to a woman revealed to be a Page Six reporter, bails out of the party to meet her mother at her and Noah’s new apartment. It’s extremely nice, except for the part where they don’t have a nursery yet for the upcoming arrival.
Athena isn’t impressed by that, or the fact that Alison is selling her house in Montauk to live in Manhattan with Noah. But that’s hardly the biggest disappointment suffered that night. Our old friend Max (who helped finance them acquiring this fancy apartment) and Alison’s old friend Jane (who is basically there as a set-up for Max, in theory because Noah and Alison don’t know about Max sleeping with Helen) and Noah’s publicist Eden also show up for Thanksgiving dinner; which is turkey-less, because Noah got distracted by drinks with the literati.
The lack of turkey isn’t what spurs Alison and Noah into a massive fight, though. It’s Alison’s accidental conversation with a reporter about Noah’s marital status that triggers them going back and forth over Noah’s book versus reality. Turns out Alison has read it and has real problems with it, including the fact that, in her words, “You killed me at the end of your book.” Noah attempts to reconcile with her, blaming the ending on his editor (despite what we saw last week) and they seem close to a resolution… when the doorbell rings.
No better way to begin Thanksgiving than by making passionate love with your beautiful ladyfriend, at least if you’re Cole in Montauk. Unfortunately, things go south when Luisa gasps out “te amo,” and when she tries to get him to talk about it, he flees for muffins.
This turns out to be the worst decision ever because, at the place where one buys muffins, he runs into his brother Scotty. Scotty pressures him on the nightclub he wants them to invest in, then in a totally classy move tells Cole that the only reason Luisa is sleeping with him is for a green card. The only way to make this moment better? Have Oscar the Grouch stop by and rub in the Lockhart boys’ faces that Noah’s book features a lot of nasty history about the Lockhart family.
Cole goes home, deliberately picks an awful fight with Luisa, then goes out to buy “Descent,” reading enough for himself to have some opinions. So he shows up at Thanksgiving to confront the family about the stories told within and, thanks to his mother Cherry, learns that the Lockhart family history is far far worse than he could have known. The situation only gets worse when Whitney, still heart-eyed-emoji over Scotty, shows up at Cherry’s house. Cole pulls her away and drives her home into the city, specifically to Noah’s apartment. He then goes to Luisa’s family’s place in Queens, and — let’s be quite frank — apologizes like a goddamn man. The two kiss and make up, and Cole confesses that he loves her, too.
Meanwhile, In “Law and Order”-Ville
In the timeline surrounding Noah’s future trial, Alison goes over her potential testimony with Lawyer Gottlieb, saying that she and Scotty ended the evening on good terms. However, later on, surveillance footage indicates that Alison is lying about that, and that Oscar, who happened to be nearby as Alison and Scotty fought, heard Scotty say, “That’s our baby.”
The Clearest Lie
So in last week’s episode, Alison was vague about the last time she’d had sex, before revealing that she was pregnant. This week, she flat-out lies about having been to Montauk briefly before going to stay at the yoga retreat. And by the end of the episode, it’s relatively clear that the parentage of Alison’s daughter is at the very least suspect. It’s not a huge shock, given the way things were hinted at last week, but having it be somewhat more explicit this week just clarifies the situation.
The Closest Thing to the Truth
The Lockhart family tree is full of rot. Whether or not the particulars of their history were exaggerated by Cherry for effect, the fact remains that they’re a family without much luck, too many problems and way too much brutality. “Last time I saw a man as bad off as you, he hung himself,” is a thing that a mother says to her son, in this episode, and it’s something that Cole has internalized. “I come from a long line of unforgivable men,” he tells Luisa. Hopefully, it’s a cycle he can escape.
Shut Up, Noah!
Here’s the exchange of dialogue that landed Noah into this category:
Alison: “You followed me home one night and watched me having sex with my husband!”
Noah: “Which you did for my benefit!”
Alison: “I didn’t even know you were there!”
“Which you did for my benefit.” That’s incredible. Just incredible. Maybe the most Noah line of all time (uttered by Noah during a section that’s not from Noah’s perspective). Noah might not be a murderer, but increasingly it seems like that if there’s a villain on “The Affair,” it’s him.
Was It Good for Her? Was It Good for Him?
Alison’s pregnant, and Cole lost his erection. Things ended better for Cole than Alison, but not a particularly sexy episode, on balance.
That may not be a perfect transcript of Cole’s apology to Luisa, but capturing something so earnest and heartfelt goes beyond words. Cole has always been a somewhat challenging character, but this is him at his most real, and damn do we want to believe him.
Name the Episode!
Because the writers of “The Affair” choose not to name the episodes, we do it for them. This week: “Unforgivable Men.”