A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
“Do you want to run away with me?
There’s a club in Montauk called The End because subtlety is a rarity. And there a man named Scotty died. He died on the night of the wedding. Alison saw him there. It’s kind of remarkable and pretty great how mundanely The Affair answers the question of not just who died, but also where and what the main event of the night was when he did die. But I can’t help but feel that somehow, somewhere the show is cunningly lying to us. Or maybe that’s just how the show has wired me. Anyhow, this episode continues the trend from last week that flips the episodic structure around and to my delight, we being with Alison and not Noah this hour. It’s not as if I don’t like Noah, but his petulant whining and hypocrisy get on my nerves constantly. What “5” manages to build successfully off of the previous installment is a fractured continuation of the affair while expanding the room for the supporting characters to get more screen time and fill the world of The Affair and it largely works.
Alison and Cole’s marriage is about as functional as a smartphone you drop into the water seven times or perhaps even once and then it just gives up. She’s clearly lying to him in the morning when she wears a new dress to go out but his comments is basically “Love that dress on you.” It’s perhaps the most humanizing moment that Cole has gotten and it says more about the state of their marriage than any drawn out conversation ever could. Switch to Alison receiving oral sex from Noah in what is a welcome sexual development for television after Outlander. We learn more about Alison, who had aspired to be a doctor before the expenses set in and she couldn’t afford it. The crux of Alison’s emotional arc arrives in the form of her mother Athena, introduced by Alison by a thundering barrage of expletives. Athena is one of those free spirit individuals who thinks that any form of stability is utterly pointless and her parental responsibilities mean that she has to take her child around the world while she studies spiritual healing in Jaipur. And at last we understand why Alison consistently seeks out forms of stability in her existence. Having your parent abandon you to go around the world can be traumatizing, pushing you to be the complete opposite of that parent. She’s the stable one, the kind one, the one who is there for her grandmother and the resentment towards her mother lies there, constantly simmering and waiting to blow up. Despite all of this, this is the first time we truly see Alison happy, something Athena wastes absolutely no time in pointing out.
Noah wakes up next to a sleeping Helen, going out on the excuse of a run and simultaneously grabbing her favorite bagels, which happen to be poppy. He stupidly makes a note of taking his car keys while going on a run, which both his younger son and Helen spot over the course of an hour. Now having become embroiled in the affair far more so than either of them had ever intended, he suddenly receives a major crisis text from Helen and leaves before coital completion. As Noah is racing back, he hilariously gets a flat tire (it reminds me of when a dog actually eats one’s homework). And who should run into him outside of Oscar? He gives him company, driving off with the promise of meeting up later sometime. As Cole receives more humanization of his own, Helen receives her own extended screen time and character development. From her standpoint, the money issue isn’t an issue at all even though her parents constantly remind Noah of that reality. After they die, she’s going to get all of it anyway, so why not now?
That money issue comes to head when Whitney comes to the forefront, having been caught in a cyber bullying attack on a girl who later tried to commit suicide. Noah is understandably distraught at his daughter being a bully and driving a girl to kill herself. His distraught is amplified significantly when seemingly no one else is taking this issue as seriously, merely rushing to protect Whitney and their money. Helen advocates for therapy and moving back to Brooklyn. Noah panics, worried more about Alison in that moment. Slowly things begin to simmer down before Oscar arrives at their home and everything goes to hell. He mentions finding Noah in Ditch Plains (aptly named), which assumedly is nowhere near a bagel store. Noah’s anger amplifies and he takes Whitney to Jodi’s home without notice. The scene with the two of them in the car gives Noah a much needed character heft as being a good and moral father, reminding his daughter that just because she did a bad thing, that doesn’t make her a bad person. “Actions and words have consequences,” he reminds her, his eyes glazing over a bit as the hypocrisy of what just came out of his mouth overwhelming his senses slightly. The best thing about Noah in this scene is how carefully he approaches this conversation with his daughter, telling Whitney “You don’t have to be an asshole” before she does go and apologize. It’s one of the most decent moments from the character, arriving ironically when he’s in the midst of an affair. For a couple of moments it seemed that Noah was going for peace and quiet before Helen notes that he should stay after school if he doesn’t want her to in order to keep more supervision on their children and finish his next book. As expected, the money question comes back around and the conversation explodes into a heated argument. To note, this is from Noah’s perspective and considering how we got so much supporting character action this episode, I would love to see an episode from Helen and Cole’s perspective. Is she truly that absorbed in her wealth or is Noah trying to simply patin a sympathetic portrait of himself?
Another thing we learn this week is that family dinners rarely are the happiest of occasions. The tensions between the Lockhart family are constantly simmering, reaching several crescendoes over the course of just a few minutes of screen time. As it turns out, the family is getting a ton of offers for the ranch, the latest one clocking in at about thirty million. Cole remains adamant about keeping the ranch within the family. It’s a matter of absolute indignation to him that anyone is even considering selling a piece of their heritage that has been in their family for seven generations. Scotty is adamant that they should sell it. After all, thirty million is a hefty sum. Arguments erupt between the brothers, with one of them mentioning that he wanted to go back to school, echoing Alison’s sentiment from earlier. Cherry takes her own wedding ring, giving it to Alison as a thank you for being there for Cole. Athena has a field day over it, bursting when Alison apologizes for her mother’s behavior. Cole’s anger gets the better of him as he reminds Athena of how much Cherry cared for Alison after the death of their son while she was off learning about spiritual energy. Alison dropping Athena off wraps her half of the story, leaving behind a plethora of questions behind. It seems inevitable that Scotty’s death is related to the land sale, but how?
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Noah: Father truck, mother waitress
+Athena not being recognized by her own mother
+Oscar asking about Phoebe’s house
+“Oscar had a relationship with the victim. They were friends.”
+“Were you worried then?”; “No.I should have been.”
+“Don’t say things that aren’t true.”
+“I love teaching, it makes me feels pure.”
+“You’re having an affair.”
+“I want to thank you for taking care of my son. I know he needs you.”
+“Nah, I called Triple AAA.”; “Good for you.”
+“I’ll keep you company. That way you won’t look like such a douche.”
+Is that mechanic coming back? It sure seems so. The line “Just in case you get in trouble again” sounds too foreboding to be a throwaway piece of dialogue.
Alternative Title: An Oppression of Freedom
Written By: Kate Robin
Directed By: Carl Franklin
Image Courtesy: Hitfix