Jams of All Kind
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Affair finally has given us a nibble of its central mystery (not that I’m trying to complain, this is the second episode after all). As was sort of implied last week, someone died but it was never really confirmed, so it was just left up in the air. This week, as Alison reveals towards the close, the death had occurred on a road that was quite tourist-heavy. We don’t know who it is, but the episode basically confirms that it was a male and that’s about it, which is a smart move on the part of the writers as it basically leaves about half of the cast open to doubt. Noah is surprised that it was a murder. “I thought it was an accident!” he blurts to the detective, who offers no reactionary expression to confirm or deny that exclamation. The little differences between Noah’s and Alison’s account continues as the story begins to coalesce more and bring its various characters into each other’s circles. The affair between the two shares its real beginnings here, but it is not as over-dramatic as one might expect. It’s rather quiet, understated, and perfect.
As with the pilot, the episode splits the narrative between Noah and Alison and already I have to make a confession. Dominic West is great, but for the love of God, Noah’s accounts just brim with an overbearing sense of entitlement and annoyance, which I guess is the whole point. Anyhow, the episode opens up with him quietly noting that he had no idea that Alison was married. “She seemed lonely,” he notes and that certainly rings of truth. “I was going out go my way to avoid her,” he adds to the detective, which quickly is revealed to be an absolute farce. No matter what Noah is doing, whether that’s jogging along the docks or trying not to touch his mother-in-law’s precious espresso and coffee maker (“It’s delicate,” she notes and I applaud Noah for not doing the implosive thing and smashing that damn coffee machine or even driving his children to go grab flowers, he’s thinking of Alison. She’s basically anywhere and he can’t truly figure out why. She just exists there and without any effort it seems, she’s entrenched in his memory, to the point where he’s masturbating in the shower to Alison having sex with her husband in the shower, preferring that to showering with his wife. The “I Spy” game he plays with his daughter Stacy is cute. She spies a dress, he spies Alison selling jam. Ah, to be young and naive once more.
Alison’s account as always is a bit more darker and a bit more reserved. Noah is more irritable and moronic in her account and Cole is as always a bit more calmer and kinder. In a moment that’s perhaps a little too much on the nose was almost unfortunately hilarious, she’s riding her bike past a “Dead End” sign, soon to pick up a bucket of dead fish, a metaphor for the burden on her shoulders if there ever was one. She arrives at a little train stop office, finding her friend and noting that Cole always wanted the door to be closed. Her friend is reading Bruce Butler’s Castle of Man, much to her distaste (which apparently is a minority). As she leaves, she looks towards the train platform, noting how she had never thought she would see Noah and his family again. “The summer people come and leave,” she notes. “We might as well be traffic signs to them… We blend in.” But as the narrative propels forward, it’s clear that there was no traffic sign between the two of them as they find each other going to the beach. “Marriage means different things to different people,” she notes before the kisses begin.
Horses come into play this episode and with how everything is laid into place with care (thanks to the efficiency expert, of course), I expect that to come into play sooner than later. Thankfully, Noah and Helen’s children are sort of normal for once, with Stacey learning equestrianism and Max learning how to be a help at the ranch. As it is, Helen used to ride horses there as a young girl, and all of the little brothers have quite grown, one of them catching Whitney’s eyes. But one of the brothers is Cole, whose presence there is certainly going to complicate things but also welcomingly condense the narrative. Speaking of Whitney, the behavior between her and Scotty was completely inappropriate. Her this-is-so-not-subtle flirting of how “loose her hips are” perhaps makes sense for a teenager whose dress is smaller than the principality of Monaco on the world map. But for Scotty to return the flirting (for business reasons, uh-huh) is ridiculous. At the party it goes further, but thankfully it’s stopped.
The party is fantastic, if a honking metaphor for class differences in this small Long Island town. Quick note on how class differences can be perceived, the farmer’s market scene where Noah buys the jam is amazing. Noah remembers being sold a $12 jar of jam but Alison remembers selling five jars for $8 a pop, almost accidentally selling them for $6 apiece. That notable difference in the perception of money. The party itself is an interesting setting that proves that Bruce is an a**hole but also notes that Noah lacks patience (which to be fair, few have with their in-laws, but still). Here the narrative reveals that Bruce had an extramarital affair and he had the nerve to invite his lover to the party. Helen is understandably pissed. Noah finds Alison as a waitress at the party, a much more despicable, airy event from her pony of view. It’s notable that Helen is a lot more aristocratic from Alison’s point of view, but the best moment is when Margaret calls Alison “the poor girl who had lost her baby” (it was apparently in the newspapers) and with about as much tact as a loud orchestra offers her a grand to dump a drink wall over her husband. As with the pilot, the episode begins on Alison in the detective’s office, mulling over the beginning of the actual affair and her driving off into the city. But the final shot is of her going back home. Is she lying or is the show tricking us? Until next week, folks.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Love is all you need.”
+“A macchiato.” I am not looking forward to teenage children who order coffee drinks they probably don’t even know the mixtures of.
+“I spy… disaster.”
+“He’s excited. It’s a miracle.”
+“He’s a dick… That was a rhetorical question.”
+The music is fantastic
+Fiona Apple’s theme song
+The expensive prostitutes quips were hilarious
+“He’s married.”; “Like that ever stopped anyone.”
+“I felt like I had to be strong for them, because if they knew what I was really thinking they’d be terrified of me.”
+The way the camera makes Alison look almost ethereal in Noah’s narrative as she’s in the water and yelling “Join me!” is sublime work.
+Noah advocates for the brown dress, but Helen wears red.
+The sandwich containing Alison’s jam.
+“I love to see that smile.”
+“$8? God bless those summer people.”
+Noah published his second book. Is it called The Affair? Would that be cheesy?
Alternative Title: The Price of Jam
Written by: Sarah Treem
Directed By: Jeffrey Reiner
Image Courtesy: Seriable