The Affair – 308

“Why?”

It’s a question a number of characters ask throughout 308, about a number of different things. But the probing, dangling question seems to always be cutting into the same root, planted years and years ago: Alison and Cole.

After a couple weeks of the Noah/Helen show we’re back in Montauk, as Alison and Cole sort out custody and then themselves. When we start we’re in the middle of their custody hearing, Alison watching Cole as he seems to be looking anywhere but over at her. Then Luisa takes the stand and—to everyone, even Cole’s surprise—she says that not only has the relationship between Joanie and her mother improved, but shared custody should be on the table. “I’m not a fan of Alison, but this isn’t about me. She should have her daughter back.”

It’s an about face, to be sure. And though Alison is delighted at having her daughter back she understands Cole was thrown by it all happening so fast. He and Luisa seemed to be having a tense talk after the hearing, after all. Alison brings him coffee and a muffin at his in-progress house, and he says that it “seems a little fast” to him. “You haven’t exactly been the model of consistency since you got back; you’re still you,” he throws in her face before asking her to leave.

Alison moves on. The next day she gets called down by her doctor, Dr. Perry, to meet with a young woman who lost her child and has been on suicide watch since she arrived at the Woodlawn facility eight weeks ago. It’s the healthiest we’ve ever really seen Alison engage with that side of herself, that memory from her past. Though there’s something, maybe, to be said for the whole session going so smoothly, the conversation is full of an implicit understanding. The woman doesn’t try to shrug off Alison too much; she wants to get better. And Alison is seemingly able to speak honestly and without any facade, telling her: “It’s incredible to be alive. And everyone else assumes that life is a given. But you and I both know that it’s not. You and I both know that breath can end. So we know that life is a given. You’ll miss Don, but you’ll keep her with you; you’ll keep that memory alive. And you’ll live now for both of you.”

After that she goes to see Cole and tell her she’s been invited to a program at Woodlawn. Cole doesn’t take this well, but really, did we expect him to? He’s been in such a foul mood all episode, even as he tries to be friends with Alison. You can feel him pushing her away even as he draws her closer, talking about the film of grief over her eyes.

Cole can’t stand it; he accuses Alison of only thinking about herself—a fair critique, when she says she hasn’t thought about how Joanie would factor into her plan to live in New Jersey half the week, less fair when he says he “knew she was going to do something like this.” She says she brought him this news because he’s the only one who can understand, and he waves her off.

She heads to bar where she runs into…Helen. It’s their first real heart-to-heart, and they both get somethings off their chests: Helen continues to wrestle with who Noah was not only to her but with her, and Alison apologizes for the affair. 

It’s a weird day for her, to be sure. Even weirder when a cop friend tips her off that the New Jersey cops are back questioning Cole after he popped up on toll cameras close to Noah’s house the night of the attack.

And then we’re with Cole, back at his courthouse chat with Luisa post-testimony. His memory of it all looks a lot less contentious than Alison’s memory of it all, but it’s just the beginning of a bad day after the new powers that be want him to halt progress on his house due to code violations.

When he comes home, weary of the ways of the world and utterly exhausted, Luisa asks him if they’re ready to start their own family. He shrugs it off, saying he’s interested but he’d like to talk about it at a later time. 

Next day: Still hasn’t halted production on the house. Oscar gets sent from town council to tell him to cut it out, because he’s a high-profile citizen and they want to make an example of him. Eventually their conversation turns to a heart-to-heart, about love, parenting, and Alison.  Oscar warns him that she’s not worth leaving Luisa for, but Cole still seems troubled by the thought of it.

And that’s why he can’t handle when she comes by. In his version of events she doesn’t just leisurely pull over after seeing him at the Lobster Roll, she barges into the restaurant as he’s getting set up (and likely mentally lingering on his conversation with Oscar). She’s much more clear about spending more time away from Montauk, and he can’t handle it. “As long as I’m crazy you get to be sane,” she zings back at him.

It’s enough to send him back to Luisa, almost manic about the possibility of starting a family. She’s thrown, trying to appeal for him to table it until he calms down when the cops show up. They’re itching to nab him for anything they can, it seems, and when he waves his hand too close to them they grab him and take him to jail for the night.

And Alison visits him. She asks him what he was doing down in New Jersey that night. He admits that he drove to see Dr. Perry because seeing her up in Montauk, being good with Joanie, being clearer, gave him ideas. And they have one of the clearest conversations we’ve ever seen from them.

A: Why did you need to see my doctor?

C: I needed her professional opinion I guess. About how you are…I don’t need you, I don’t want you, I don’t miss you. Truth is I do. I need you. And I want you, and I miss you, and I love you. And i’m tired of pretending that I don’t.

A: I’m depressed with mood swings…I know that i am not an easy person to love. I love you. I always have and I always will. But this is your decision to make. And I don’t envy you.

When Cole gets released from jail Luisa asks him what he told them. “The truth,” he says; he drove down to see her doctor to get evidence for the custody case. Luisa doesn’t believe him, but when he rolls over to go to sleep she doesn’t push him either.

Only he doesn’t sleep. He goes to see Alison where they have yet another clear-eyed conversation:

A: We keep coming back to each other.

C: I know.

A: Don’t you think that means something?

C:I think that means we were unfinished. –

A: And now…we are? You’re scared. I think you’re giving up because we’ve made a mess of everything and it’s too complicated. If you leave Luisa now you can’t play the good guy anymore.

But either way, the next morning he’s in the kitchen, making up with Luisa. His face is a bit inscrutable, but it seems there’s more to be resolved here too.

 

 

Stray Thinks

  • It’s not really clear at what point this takes place. We know that it’s been a couple weeks since we last saw Cole and Alison, since they talked about the court date, but how long has Noah been staying with Helen? Why did she lie about Vick treating him?
  • “But it’s not your fault. I mean, men need to feel important in a relationship in order to stay, and I stopped making Noah feel important years before he met you.”
  • The fact that Luisa told Joanie about the court decision all alone is so indicative of her place in Joanie’s life; like that’s not even co-parenting. She’s just being a primary parent, which wouldn’t be where you’d think she is.
  • Oscar is so chill with his “She’s a solid B+ and, let’s face it, I’m a C” that I CAN’T STOP thinking he’s on to something.
  • I am far from an expert on these sorts of things, but it really feels like The Affair has gone off some sort of predetermined or mapped out plan for its plot. It kind of fits like a cheap sweater, loose in the wrong areas but so right where it’s right. But it’s officially been renewed for a fourth season, so I guess there’s more drama planned for our crew.

 

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Total Affair of the Heart – 305

We pick up right where we left it: Noah passes by Alison on her bike, and suddenly the world slows. They circle around each other: He’s interested in getting back together, she’s not. He wants affection, she wants the divorce papers signed and submitted. But no matter how they posture themselves, one thing is clear: their chemistry is undeniable.

For the second week in a row we have perspectives of Alison really aligning. Though Noah shifts from erratic naiveté to weighty romance in Alison’s and his perspective, respectfully, Alison remains even keel throughout. And though Noah’s teasing of her can often come across as almost bullying—teasing her that she “used to be more fun” when she won’t skinny dip in a hot tub with him, pulling her into a day trip to Block Island with the promise of signed divorce papers—it’s clear that they have some sort of understanding of each other. It’s one she shrugs off at first, and that he complicates with his bullheadedness, but there’s a lived-in familiarity about them. Though awkwardness should hang in the air their conversation flows. Even in its strain it never feels stilted.

TheAffair_305_3016.R.jpgAnd so by the end of their day trip, accidentally trapped on the island overnight after missing the last ferry, they find themselves sharing wounds, going deeper than they (apparently) ever have. She tells him that the woman she was before Gabriel’s death died along with her son, and Noah tells her that he helped his mother kill herself when her MS was getting the best of her.

The Affair has so often found itself tangled in bullshit grief that it can be easy to forget that the show has some kind of profound things to say when it touches on the real thing. Complications like we end with tonight when Noah crashes Juliette’s car after getting run off the road by his prison guard tormenter only to find himself on an empty road feel like conflict just for the sake of conflict; lamp-shading that Noah is popping Vicodin with a warning from Alison that they’re addictive is just adding wet logs to the fire. Listening to Alison and Noah really talk, for arguably the first time in their relationship, that’s a whole different ball game.

Of course Noah is still a bit of a cad: He only brings up Joanie when he’s trying to lure Alison back to him, telling her that he’s ready to be with her and “raise someone else’s kid.” Though he may correctly intuit that Alison seeks out punishment, his suggestion that she can “flagellate herself for the rest of her life” in front of Cole and Luisa as what she is looking to do, sells that he doesn’t necessarily see her connection with Joanie as important as she does. Whatever clear eyes Noah found in prison are still a bit cloudy, Vicodin addiction or not. He stampedes past her boundaries and asks more of her than he’s prepared to return. Though at first she lets him, she holds firm on the divorce and whatever catalyst for change is within him finally gets him to sign the divorce papers.

Dominic West and Ruth Wilson both mold whole, flawed, and tangled studies of their characters here, only to find themselves a bit shortchanged by the writing, which seems more interested in the intrigue than it is in the intricate humanity at play. But when all is said and done “305” ends with Alison putting her foot down, getting space and a divorce from Noah, and a sleepover trip with Joanie for her birthday. It’s a new frontier for The Affair.

 

Stray thinks: 

  • “You got out of prison and you bought a red car?”
  • Of course Cole comes by while Noah’s there, and confronts Alison (as Noah hides, and presumably hears, although we don’t see it from his perspective) about their one night stand. He’s not interested in leaving Luisa, but tells Alison he wants to see her with full custody—even if, as she rightly points out, he won’t help her there. “So I’m healthy enough to fuck, but not to be the mother of our child,” she venomously argues back. Will the divorce make a difference?
  • Or maybe the storefront she notices going on the market at Block Island will become something?
  • “What’s she like now?” Noah asks about Joanie. “Good, intense.” “Wonder where she gets that from.”
  • The references to Camelot were a bit cringeworthy, Noah.
  • “Cole will only ever see you as a disaster, Alison. Whatever you do, no matter how competent you become you’ll always be damaged goods to him. If you really think he’s going to ever really trust you with Joanie you’re being naive. I’m just telling the truth.” Do we think this is an accurate read of Cole?
  • That same erratic comedic burst that gave Brendan Frasier a name for himself is what makes his guard persona so terrifying. When he whips out his baton it was truly startling.

 

 

 

Total Affair of the Heart – 304

Episode 304, or wherein we learn that Cole’s life remains hard.

What I found interesting was that both versions of events (his and Alison’s) were sympathetic to Alison. It’s no surprise that she sees herself as unduly put upon, however legally warranted that may be; her lawyer doesn’t respect her, Luisa doesn’t like her, and she doesn’t get to see her daughter enough all because she needed to take some time out to recuperate her mental health. But the fact that Cole sees her as an almost wounded deer of a woman is in stark contrast to her own version of how Cole sees her. More so even than Helen’s strained relationship with Noah, this seems like the most two versions have aligned, painting a very skittish, sad Alison.

It appears, however, that there’s no winning for Cole. In his own version Luisa’s mad at him for siding with his ex-wife too much, and in Alison’s Cole is a hardass who doesn’t want to acknowledge her existence.

To a large extent I don’t understand all the animosity towards Alison, who—though possibly in a bit too much of a hurry—seemed to have done the responsible thing when she “left” Joanie and checked herself into an institution. When Cole comes over to yell at her she’s right to call him on the fact that she didn’t abandon Joanie at all, she left her daughter with her father.

But Luisa has earned some cause to be cautious: The timing of it all, as she’s pointed out before, was weird, and clearly Cole and Alison have a strong connection and an equally strong pull towards each other. The scenes in Cole’s version in their house have a warmer tone, with peach colored walls and a coziness pervading. It’s the sort of feeling we don’t get from The Affair a lot, and a lot of what we’re shown seems to stem from Luisa being a good mom and legitimately loving Joanie. It’s sad because their issues seem to be having two different conversations. When they fight in the kitchen after he holds her back so Alison can comfort Joanie, she’s trying to say that she feels like a second-class parent even though she’s putting in more legwork and consistency. He’s trying to get Luisa to understand that he’s between a rock and a hard mess and that as his partner she should do everything she can to make his life easier, not really taking into account the parental dynamics at all. The result is her feeling even more put upon; even if Luisa’s acting out somewhat, she’s keeping Joanie out of it and fighting with Cole over feeling respected while still standing by her man, even offering up an alibi for the night Noah was stabbed.

Which is strange since Cole doesn’t have an alibi for the night Noah was stabbed. That feels like a misdirect to me, at least in terms of what it means for Noah’s case. It does seem like Cole is up to something if not far more nefarious than at least shadier than his warm, homey life suggests. Perhaps because The Affair touts itself as a show where there’s always more than what you see, but the fact that the police seemed so much more sympathetic to Alison’s plight seemed more suspicious to me. I don’t think she knows what’s happening with Noah, but the fact that they’re resuming contact seems like a good place to start. Especially since—if Alison’s memory is to be believed—they were there for a full day, at least.

Stray Thinkings

  • Alison did know the officers were going to go talk to Cole, but didn’t warn him. I’m inclined to think it’s just a slip of the mind with everything going on, but she was interrupted in the process of considering poisoning Luisa so who knows.
  • Joanie is the cutest, ok?
  • Oscar’s schtick seemed suspicious when he was just talking to Cole (“Luisa’s been good for you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this happy”), but coupled with his small talk with Alison where he (seemingly) contradicts himself over his baby’s sensitivity to noise, seems suspicious. Kudos to Darren Goldstein for really selling the subtle, smarmy vibe, where he always seems to be thinking three steps ahead even if he’s headed off at the pass.
  • It was like, classic weird thing with the cakes, but Alison’s didn’t look big enough for a kid’s friend birthday party, when it’s normally more about quantity than quality, and would probably make a better treat for just having as mother and daughter together anyway.
  • Of course, then Noah shows up driving past Alison, so I guess we’re about to get into it. Here we go…

 

 

 

 

 

Total Affair of the Heart (Episode 9)

For previous posts, check the tag here

Often I think “The Affair” is clever, but not as clever as it thinks it is. But the one thing it consistently does well is Alison.

1031103_1_3406312_07_800x600Obviously Ruth Wilson plays her spectacularly, but there’s definitely more to the character than that. The complexity that Wilson and the writers instill into Alison’s character is so mesmerizing because it draws you into the character when we really have no business being there at all.

She is, after all, an adulterer (which despite many media’s attempts–including this one–will never be a romantic or exciting plot line, for me) with a major self-destructive streak who’s still mourning the loss of her only child. That’s not always a fun thing to watch.

But “The Affair”‘s Alison is a firecracker; she’s built her unpredictability on all the things above, and that’s what makes her so much fun to watch. We’re given to believe that this is the first time she’s really done this, or at least Athena seems to think so, and also that it all stems from losing Gabriel.

It’s what makes the end work, because you honest to God have no idea what Alison is going to do or who she’s going to do it with, or even what would be best for her. It’s also what makes the scene with Cherry so revealing. All that complexity is built on her desire to be somewhere or someone new while simultaneously punishing herself, so she stays and listens through Cherry’s spiteful speech–where Cherry is quick to assure her, that Gabriel’s death is all her fault–because she feels like she deserves it. Like Cherry’s right.

By this point I think I can safely say that Noah is a shitbag, but he does have her pegged: she needed (needs?) a little faith, in something. And somewhere in the full range of emotions she goes through here she finds guidance, or at least a facsimile of it.

Stray thoughts: 
  • I, of course, would be remissed if I didn’t mention the Helen scene, which is a tour de force in the greatest, most unfortunate sense. From what we’ve seen of Noah, we know he feels the weight of this decision, even if he’s making it a bit recklessly. And he honestly thinks he’s being an adult about this, and expects Helen to react the same way. THANK GOD SHE DOESN’T. Maura Tierney goes through a whole different field of emotions here than Wilson, and damn is it a sight to behold.
  • That Cherry scene really got to me, guys. To have the closest thing she has to a mother figure (especially after her Grandmother passed so recently) chew her to bits like that. Knives would’ve been cleaner.
  • Alison is a much different person to herself than who she was in the beginning, while Noah stays largely stagnant except for his love of Alison. I’m wondering if there’ll be something in the future about this retelling about Alison and her relationship to sex through both her and Noah’s eyes.
  • Obviously a lot of other stuff happened here (Noah’s daughter was pregnant! Alison slept with Oscar!) but I’ll get to that next post. One more episode of the season…