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Review: ‘The Affair’ Season 2 Episode 11 Invokes the Male Gaze

Review: 'The Affair' Season 2 Episode 11 Invokes the Male Gaze

Checking In

This week’s “Affair” surprise: A same-sex pairing! Which is to say, for the first time in the show’s history, tonight’s episode featured the perspectives of our two leading men. Not that the women in their lives don’t play a major role in the action (even off-screen, Helen has a major presence), but Cole and Noah, paired together, prove an interesting contrast, especially as both grapple with key male relationships in their lives.

READ MORE: Review: ‘The Affair’ Season 2 Episode 10 Features A Lot of Real Talk

This switch-up inspired me to do some counting I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. As of this episode, here’s how things add up POV-wise (not counting Episode 9, which featured all four points of view):

Noah: 7 parts
Alison: 5 parts
Helen: 4 parts
Cole: 4 parts

So what happens in Episode 12? Well, a Cole/Alison episode makes sense, given the fact that we’re clearly building towards the flashback revealing both Cole’s wedding and Scotty’s death. If that’s how it goes down, it would make the final stats for the season look like this:

Noah: 7 parts
Alison: 6 parts
Helen: 4 parts
Cole: 5 parts

Not quite a perfect balance, but when you watch enough of “The Affair,” you come to believe that such a thing can never exist.

He Said

Cole’s really come a long way, it appears, since Episode 9. Burning down Alison’s house and seeing the vision of his son appears to have given him the closure necessary to really move forward with Luisa. The two of them head to Montauk to handle some wedding plans and officially introduce Luisa to his mother. That introduction happens in the worst possible way, though, because– Surprise! Cherry is working as a housekeeper at the resort motel Luisa and Cole are staying at it.

Luisa’s mother is also a housekeeper, but her boss is Margaret, Helen’s mother, who offers to pay for Luisa and Cole’s wedding and host it at the beautiful Butler estate. Cole declines, but between that and Luisa constantly getting pestered by her boss back in the city, that gets Cole thinking about the Lobster Roll — not just getting married there, but buying it and running it together. He comes up with the plan to use the money from Alison’s house sale to buy it with Alison as a partner.

The plan’s problematic, especially after their initial plans to cut out Scotty (who’s completely unhinged) get derailed, and Cole agrees to make Scotty a partner if he goes to rehab. But rehab is not going to solve all the Lockhart family problems.

He Also Said

Noah’s getting up at 4:30am these days to attempt to write in his “office” — a nice way of referring to the corner of the bathroom he’s claimed as his own. Alison wants to talk to him, but Noah can’t make the time that morning. He’s got a meeting with Harry, who encourages him to write a sequel to “Descent” instead of the more ambitious historical project Noah has in mind.

Noah might have spent more time moping about this, except that a text from Oscar brings him out to Montauk to find out about Alison and Cole’s new business partnership. Oscar has nothing nice to say about the kind of person Alison is (remember, he too is a little bit in love with her “wounded dove” persona), so Noah goes to console in his ol’ buddy Max. That goes sour, too. Their surprisingly intimate conversation includes the reveal that not only did Max sleep with Helen, but that he’s in love with her and has been waiting for his chance for years.

Noah and Alison finally meet at the Lobster Roll (remember, the first place they ever met) and in the episode’s last tense exchange, Alison asks Noah to help her figure out how they can make their lives work together, with both of them pursuing what they want. It seems like he’s agreed, though of course nothing is as easy as that. Because…

Meanwhile, In “Law and Order”-Ville

Cole takes the stand! And faces some rough interrogation from Gottlieb about whether or not he hates Noah. But his testimony also includes the fact that Noah threatened Scotty and beat the crap out of him. (Maybe a separate time from the abortion clinic in Season 1? Wouldn’t be surprising, when it comes to Scotty.) And the prosecution brings in a new witness — Max(!), who testifies that he saw Noah hosing blood off his car the night of the accident. Is his testimony revenge, or the truth?

The Clearest Lie

Luisa’s willingness to go along with the plan to partner with Alison in building the Lobster Roll feels a bit… let’s say wobbly — especially given that she wasn’t at the auction to see the purchase go through. I don’t think she’s as okay with this as she might seem, and hopefully that doesn’t complicate things down the line. Noah also isn’t okay with it, though he has good reason with being worried about Alison partnering with “your ex-husband, who also wants to kill me.”

Also, while Scotty’s hinted at a big secret that would “blow up [Cole’s] life,” it’s pretty doubtful that he has anything but the memory of Alison in Montauk at the appropriate time to confirm that Cole is the father of Alison’s daughter. That being said, the baby pacifier Helen stole for Gottlieb is now back from the lab, waiting in the wings…

The Closest Thing to the Truth

“You must be the one who pulled a gun on Noah Soloway,” Margaret asks Cole. Cole takes this as a sign to leave, not realizing that having pulled a gun on Noah might make him one of Margaret’s all-time favorite people.

I’ve quoted this adage at least once in covering this show: “The way you get them is the way you lose them.” And that’s been so central to this season as a whole, especially when it comes to issues of trust surrounding Alison. Easily the series’ most guarded character, much time has been spent devoted to digging into — as Oscar referred to it — her “wounded dove” thing. Is that mix of sensuality and vulnerability what men are projecting onto her, or something she’s putting out herself? Either way, the fact is that of course it’s not real. Alison’s just a person, with plenty of flaws and strengths, as we see at the end of Noah’s part. Her confession to him about who she is and what she wants is the most honest and direct she’s ever been.

Shut Up, Scotty!

You might have thought that Max or Oscar would end up here! And true, both men are alumni in this category. But Oscar was just too sad and Max was too honest and real. Meanwhile, Scotty’s strung out collapse, violent outbursts and threats make him a dangerous and unstable presence. Most importantly, “The Affair” hasn’t handled Scotty in a particularly subtle way, and his appearances pull the show’s otherwise suggestive approach to drama into a melodrama place. Whoever killed Scotty is increasingly on my good side.

Who Killed Scotty?

It’s late in the game to create this category, but I’m going for it. At this point, I’m guessing that Alison’s the culprit. We’re allegedly going to find out either way in the finale, but Alison had the most to gain, and Noah could easily be covering up for her with the car. Feeling good about this prediction, but we’ll see.

Was It Good for Him?

Things seem great between Luisa and Cole — at least for right now. Though who knows how this new partnership with Alison might affect things.

Best Quote

“It wasn’t Gabriel’s death that broke her heart. She never fucking had one,” is how Oscar describes Alison to Cole. I don’t think Oscar’s correct, but I do think it’s a perfectly phrased summation of how Oscar thinks about Alison — and how a lot of men do, it seems.

Name the Episode!

Because the writers of “The Affair” choose not to name the episodes, we do it for them. This week, Noah’s blunt way of admitting his status with Alison haunts me: “I’ve Lost Her.” She’s a person, Noah. She’s not something you lose.

Grade: B+

READ MORE: Who’s Telling the Truth on ‘The Affair’? Golden Globe Winner Sarah Treem Shares Secrets

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