A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Affair continues its dichotomous mystery in its third week, making the case a bit clearer. From the clues garnered, it seems that a male was run over, a male belonging to the Lockhart family, into which Alison has married. The small details differing between Noah and Alison continues this week but there’s one glaring omission from Alison’s account that Noah remembers quite vividly. It’s clearer than ever before that one of the two is lying outright in some instances, but who is it? Last week I was convinced that Cole was the murder victim, but now I’ve added Oscar and Scotty into the mix. And what if it’s Bruce? Ah, so many options! And I’m sure we’ll have about seven more possible victims by the time the next few episodes are over. But even with all of the clues thrown in this week’s episode, the noises of Alison’s child she has to pick up and the revelation that Noah is married (to Alison or Helen?) hang above the entire proceedings, their shadows casting vast doubts over everything.
The episode opens with Noah swimming in a pool, adrift amidst the water. As far as Bruce is concerned, it’s Noah trying to avoid the page (all writers can attest to that). Noah proceeds to go meet the agent Harry, pretentiously describing his book as being about “the death of the American pastoral.” As I noted last week, it’s about a city man and a local woman having an affair, but when Harry insists he’s read that before (heck, we’ve read it before and we’re watching it right now), he adds an intriguing twist. “He kills her in the end,” he announces suddenly. What if it changed to a he in real life? Or am I reading too much into this? The question of why the man would then commit such an act is raised. “To protect himself,” Harry announces grandly, answering his own question. He proceeds to go the lobster place, buying what seems to be 5-6 t-shirts for $100 because he’s an idiot and doesn’t meet with Alison anyhow. Instead he goes to the library (wouldn’t he know where it was?), where he finds a book with a dedication to Helen and Alison immediately after. She offers to take him on a tour of the island and they kiss before they have sex, with Noah wanting to be in charge after his escalating feelings of losing his masculinity.
Alison’s account as always is more depressing than Noah’s but continues to be infinitely more fascinating and that may partially be attributed to how amazing Wilson is in this role. Wanting (rightfully so, I might add) to avoid working at Oscar’s for much longer, she decides to go back to her old nursing job. She’s greeted warmly, but much to her dismay the only position that’s open involves pediatric work. She waits patiently in the hallway, but then she sees a woman with a child who’s clearly stricken with cancer. The reality understandably overwhelms her and she runs out of the hospital, but not before grabbing some pain medication. The library scene from Alison’s perspective is fascinating. For one thing, Alison isn’t wearing a skirt like Noah remembers, she’s wearing a much more conservative jean and shirt with sweater. There’s no surprise meeting involved and the two actually sit down and talk about the research Noah is doing for his book. He describes it as a fisherman having an affair with a waitress (clues?). Alison perks up at the mention of the waitress, but quickly Noah drops the changes: she’s blonde and has bigger breasts (because of course she does).
Despite the attraction between them, they decide to remain friends. When they were kissing her, a random young man sees them together and Alison completely panics. From Alison’s point of view, this potential affair has nowhere to go. For Noah, he may get over it or not, but does it really matter in the end? In the end he gets to go back to his job in the city before he comes back in the next summer. Alison has to live there, work there, exist there in that small Long Island town. She doesn’t have the option of escaping potential ignominy if their affair is discovered. And to be frank, there’s a high chance of that, with Oscar suspicious of Noah’s lie about not looking for Alison earlier and their tendency to make out in the most obvious and public places in existence. “How did the affair begin?” the detective asks her quietly. “The affair didn’t begin at this point,” she quips quietly. There was no sex on the beach with Noah in charge. Who’s lying? Both of them?
The most intriguing narrative drive in the episode comes from the small town feud between the Lockharts and the Hodges that’s apparently existed since basically forever. At the town hall, that enmity openly erupts. Oscar, taking advantage of the summer influx and his lowering cash flow, wants to open up a new entertainment center, complete with a bowling alley. Initially it looks like that the entire enterprise is going to go well for Oscar, but then Cole speaks up. He talks about the escapism Montauk provided for city folk and the natives of the town. The summer folk came and went, but they forged a relationship with the natives in the process, back when the town hadn’t become so commercialized. He equates progress as being a euphemism for greed, wanting to preserve the town and its quiet beauty for the people that lived there. For a man who doesn’t speak publicly, Cole grabs the attention of the town hall but the moment he steps over the line for Alison is when he uses their dead son to evoke sympathy for what he’s saying. He may or may not have done that on purpose, but she, with full righteousness, calls him out on it. Towards the end of the evening, after the town hall is over, Alison doesn’t remember having sex with Noah. Instead she is laying right next to Cole as Noah texts her “What are you doing now?” She takes one good, long look at the phone before she turns Cole around and they begin to have sex. Best. Text. Reply. Ever.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Noah: “What’s on the agenda?”; Alison: “Mostly bullshit.”
+“Why do you love?”
+Montauk being a moonshine production center during Prohibition
+Helen on Whitney’s complaints about bratty, spoiled children: “Really? What’s that like?”
+Alison’s nasty look at Scotty is definitely hiding something.
+Tying in Ferris Bueller to lives being imminently torn apart
+Alison listening to Dolly Parton was oddly endearing
+ “People need to change in order to survive.”
+ “You couldn’t quite believe anything he said.”
+ “The ocean is mean.”
+“You have a fantasy of what life is like out here.”
+ “Alec Baldwin was just here, defending his rights to privacy.”
+It’s kind of hilarious how Noah is being forced to buy so much stuff.
+Alison despises commercial, corporate fishing
“She said we can’t do anything.”
+Despite my annoyance with Noah, I have to sympathize with how ****ty his in-laws are.
+So Scotty is a good public speaker?
+The two thinking about each other with their respective spouses.
+Alison and Noah saying the exact same words to Cole and Helen respectively is ingenious.
Alternative Title: Adrift in Fantasy
Written By: Eric Overmyer
Directed By: Jeffrey Reiner
Image Courtesy: Seat 42f