Total Affair of the Heart 211

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This week we pull back the curtains and let some light in on our relationships—and it’s not always pretty.

“211” draws a lot of comparisons between the states of Noah and Alison’s relationship with the state of Cole and Luisa. When Cole pitches the Lobster Roll-buyout idea to Luisa they’re overlooking the ocean, on one bench, bathed in sunlight, and constantly affirming their love and support for each other. Once Noah finally gets a hold of Alison and they sit down, they’re on opposite sides of the table, while a storm whistles outside. They are literally surrounded by the decaying bones of where their relationship started. Again, The Affair is not a visually subtle show. But it is affective.

Whether or not Luisa and Cole’s warmth could survive Scotty’s revelation that if he told Cole would “blow up his whole life,” is less clear. On the bench Cole swears to Luisa that there’s no chance he’d ever go back to Alison, who multiple people this week call a liar (Oscar even goes as far to say she’s “pathological”). The way they work their shit hasn’t always been healthy, but they do seem to come back to each other stronger, and more open, each time. Cole really is in a much better spot, and Luisa seems pretty sensitive to that. God help me, I love these crazy kids.

Meanwhile Noah’s relationships continue to crumble left and right. He finds out Alison has been lying about med school, and then he finds out that she’s absconded to Montauk, purchased a restaurant, with her ex-husband, and plans on potentially splitting her time there. In his defense, he had a long day. So he goes to visit Max, where truths are spoken, harsh words exchanged, and so much light is let in that it makes sense that we see Max testifying at Noah’s trial in the end.

To Max, Noah is the guy that has it all, no matter how much he tries to blow it all up. The guy who left the girl Max has always loved, only to have her continue to love Noah. To Noah, Max is the guy who’s always tried to buy the love of those around him. The guy who paid his girlfriend’s estranged husband $50,000 to set out on his own. Both of these viewpoints are said to the other. A glass is whipped at a wall.

And yet, Noah gets a lot of tough, wise love this week. Oscar seems to have some sort of read on him, Max understands that “sometimes people are going through something and you can’t be a part of it,” and even Alison is clear and unflinching about her wants and needs in this relationship. Alison and Noah talk

Maybe she gets that from Cole; it’s clear this week that there’s still a lot of warmth, love, and support there (Cole, actually, seems to have that with everyone, even Scotty). Hopefully she knows that Noah’s demands and pleads (“Do you love me?…Then don’t do this” is some manipulative bullshit) can’t be part of her anymore. She may not have seen Luisa and Cole’s heartfelt parallel conversation, but hopefully that’s what she’s working towards anyway.

Stray Thoughts

  • I know it’s courtroom grandstanding, but did Noah really destroy the reputation of the Lockharts? Like anyone who knew of “their curse” (which, none of the boys did, so that feels like either a small pool or a major coverup) or their dealings already knew, and anyone who didn’t thought it was just local color for the novel, right?
  • Also in the courtroom we hear a bit more of the events from last season’s finale’s divisive use of perspective. Does that mean the happy medium is the events from Alison’s memory but the location of Noah’s? And are we to read this as the writers admitting that they overstepped their bounds a bit?
  • Man that was a really awkward way to meet Cherry. Hoooooo-boy.
  • And to add awkward to awkward, Margaret is very close to Luisa. Honestly surprised she didn’t garner some favor by noting how much she too hates Noah.
  • Also I really appreciate that whole chunk of that being in Spanish; takes some realism like Jane the Virgin.
  • Luisa is smart—don’t get into debt in the U.S.
  • And rightfully wary of Alison’s involvement, perhaps the only one who really should be. It explains why she would let Alison be at the wedding, but letting her bring Noah still seems like a mistake.
  • Lol at Noah’s bathroom office. Not-lol at his complaints about it. (Rent work space? clear out a corner of the bedroom? You’re a rich guy?)
  • Oscar has one thing right about Noah: He’s a tourist. He wants something so badly but also doesn’t want it. This week and last we’ve seen him wrestling with that. But Oscar also sounds like a major fuckboy straight from the friendzone when he talks about Alison, so there you go.
  • Max to Noah: “You man, you, everybody just lets you go. No matter how hard you try to blow it up. I don’t get it. What do you have that I don’t?” NOBODY KNOWS, MAX

Total Affair of the Heart (S2 E1)

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I feel like I’ve said this before, but “The Affair” has never been the most nuanced show with its visual imagery. And clearly, season 2 is ready to double down on that.

If the mess of emotions we left our characters in at the end of last season didn’t tip us off, the premiere of season 2 did: A storm is coming. And our web of people and lies is smack dab in the middle of it.

Only know we get to see them grow: This season has already seen the introduction of Helen’s point of view, and next episode will be Allison and Cole. And though the show seems to be committing to more dramatically different memories of events (if you’ll recall, last season’s finale really took divergent memories to the extreme) it seems to be committing to them a bit more honestly here.

Of minor note: Helen wears white in Noah's memory, and a more solemn black in her own.
Of minor note: Helen wears white in Noah’s memory, and a more solemn black in her own.

The narrative device—at its best—serves to show us not just how the primary characters are seeing the world, but also what those around them are playing off of. It’s not that memories IRL are necessarily so different, so much as the emotions that cloud what we remember about a scene or event effect what hurt and feelings end up sticking with us.

The wildly different memories of the mediator scene actually felt more natural to me; it makes sense that both halves of the former couple would feel talked down to, bruised, and miffed at the other’s curt reactions. It explains the gulf between them, if it doesn’t necessarily excuse it.

Helen’s POV is new, so let’s start there: Here we see that Noah is a jerk (no surprise, for either us who have already found him to be a jerk in basically every POV, or for an ex-wife to feel that way about her philandering ex-husband), and Helen is sad. It should be an interesting exercise now that we get to see Helen in her own right, not through her husband as he falls of love or his mistress as she falls deeper into an affair.


So far it’s been a lot of how we manage our grief and, sadly, how others do. Throughout her half Helen is indulged, somewhat, but often it’s limited by others; the most heartbreaking scene comes as she arrives home after a rough afternoon and finds Whitney screaming about her essay, her mother micromanaging her house, and her youngest son weeping because he’s learned that his whole world is permanently upended.

On the flip side, Noah’s world has him really (and somewhat finally) grappling with how decisions can affect and ricochet through the lives of others. It’s present in the more obvious interactions with his family—very heated arguments with his ex-mother-in-law, his kids removing themselves from his presence—but it’s also in the small conversations with his friend, who plans to have his wife call Helen and set up a dinner. It may all feel worth it when Noah comes home to Allison, but the conversation that these two will have for the rest of their lives, or at least for the forseeable future, isn’t going away. For him the storm seems to be just brewing over his shoulder, just out of reach. And for Helen the storm is in full swing.

Stray thoughts:

  • It’s one of the more “classic” books my somewhat unorthodox education covered back in the day, but I loved the dance around/spoiler alert for “Of Mice and Men.” Thanks for lookin’ out guys.
  • In neither reality is that a mediation guy I’d want to have. You’d think it was his first mediation, I mean damn.
  • The characters of color number is going up!
  • Future Watch: We know he’s happy with Allie, but there seem to be some smoother waters with Helen, he’s finally able to accept money for a lawyer. Or he’s just that desperate.
  • Peen sighting—ok cable tv, I see you.
  • Should be interesting to see how this show starts to develop now that they’re playing with four irons in the fire. It almost feels like the story itself is going to be less sprawling. With four POV we may cover less ground and stick to a core couple of months, given that for the most part they’d save 4-memories of one day/event/episode for bigger happenings. I’m also wondering if the show will continue to split evenly, or if they’ll find themselves playing around with last minute reveals by quickly changing character POVs. Long story short, excited to see what they do with the expanded landscape.
  • Welcome back everybody!