Total Affair of the Heart – 302

This week The Affair is all about women trying to do right by their children while also doing right by themselves. But that’s about where the resemblance ends for Allison and Helen.

For Helen we get a jump in the past, a year back from the “current” timeline, and we see she’s struggling to move past her involvement in the accident. She goes to visit Noah and he seems to only swing between openly cold and openly rude, casually reminding her that it’s Helen he has to thank for landing him in prison to begin with. With his half-closed eye and cheek gash it’s a far cry from the spry, optimistic Noah we saw in the last flashback, and Helen senses that too. Allison still lingers in the air; Helen can’t bring herself to say her name, but she tries to acknowledge Noah’s actions as an apology. He shrugs it, and any relationship, off.

And his nastiness haunts her throughout her day: she can’t shake the weight, and tries to make the case for her own culpability that night at dinner with Vic, Whitney, and Furkat, Whitney’s new, much older, artist boyfriend. But—as I’m sure we’ll see her struggle with this season—without outrightly acknowledging it, there’s no way she can move past it and cope. On some level Helen already knows that. And so Whitney’s defense of her mother (which is a far-cry from their relationship in season 1) is of no help.

But as we see in her fight with Vic—which starts as a fight over a text, but evolves into a fight encompassing their whole relationship—this is the status quo for her. She’s held people at arm’s length so long she forgot what it’s like to have an elbow. And now the only person who can really see her is Noah, and he doesn’t want to see her at all.

Unfortunately for Allison, the only person she can’t see is the one she’s desperate to: Joanie. We learn (through heavy exposition with Oscar) that she had a bit of breakdown when Joanie turned four, something she relates to her daughter turning four, the same age Gabriel was when he died. It’s unclear, right now, exactly what happened. If it was Gabriel related, and not Scotty related; if she was forced to sign the papers when she shouldn’t have been; if Luisa actually hates her or just cares a lot about Joanie and Cole, who Allison has hurt immensely. Either way, she’s stuck without visitation rights and a small apartment in Montauk.

But she’s also got some thawing relationships: Cole eventually acquiesces and allows her to see Joanie (for an hour, and what looks like supervised visits), even if he’s still explicitly bitter. And though I made light of her relationship with Oscar, Ruth Wilson plays the scene exactly right, helping carry every bit of Oscar and Allison’s relationship into the conversation. When we’ve seen him in the past say he goes way back with Allison (and Cole) it seemed vindictive, but here it’s clear that they’ve been friends, or some more strained facsimile, for a long time. The way teases come almost as quickly as confessions.

She’s a much less self-assured Allison than we’re accustomed to, even in her own rendering. It’s not that Allison hasn’t always been cursed with more than a tinge of self-doubt, but in the past she was able to in some way confidently act. Her conversations with the post office lady and her wavering at the playground show play like she’s under immense self-control—for exactly what? I’m guessing that’s for another confessional with someone much closer than Oscar.

Stray Thoughts: 

  • I had forgotten about Vic. I still like him, and his ability to cut through Helen’s bullshit, even if he is sometimes also talking bullshit (like when he’s yelling at her on the street after they get back from dinner). That said the elevator ride is (even if totally on brand) interminable—and he keeps texting after the alarm, my God. He’s still an expert at dodging Helen’s knife eyes. But moving in over a fight is a terrible way to do it, and it doesn’t seem like from what we’ve seen of Helen that Vic is long for this world.
  • “They have been through a lot.” “Honestly you’d have to bring your own waterboard to fuck them up more than my Dad did.”
  • Trevor is a pain now, and Stacey looks a lot like her older sister.
  • “I have a terrible relationship with my father, and I turned out great—” “Shut up.” Oh Furkat. Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of you, and your intimate portraits.
  • “Joanie likes yellow now” is one of the coldest shut downs I’ve ever seen.
  • One thing this episode doesn’t get into is why she felt she had to tell Cole at all. Luisa seems to earn some rightful suspicion here, since I’m guessing though she didn’t tell Cole at his own wedding, it sounds like she did it shortly after. We know that the wedding was a breaking point for her needing to tell Noah, who she continued to be happily in a relationship with and raising Joanie until he went to jail. So why did she fess up to Cole?
  • A lot of modern references here, with Oscar mentioning ISIS and Helen saying a friend’s dad voted for Trump.
  • Any guesses on who she was talking to on the phone? Mother? Institution/doctor? Oprah?
  • The cab ride home with the picture is one of the funniest shots The Affair has ever done. Thanks to Decider for blessing us with the (censored) gif: 

 

 

 

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Total Affair of the Heart: S2 E2

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And now the other side of the coin. This week seemed to be all about definitions. And in some ways, it was an answer to the flurry of episode one: Noah’s movements and activities in the city showing someone who isn’t a part of that life anymore, and Helen’s sadness around the shattered life she has mirrors Alison’s movements and activities in the idyllic small town showing someone who’s not sure where they belong right now, and Cole’s sadness about the life he has now that he can’t bear to live with.

Where last week we saw Noah’s life largely getting started from the affair—”finding his muse,” getting a book deal, feeling in control—we see Allie’s life has taken a sharp right, if not halted, because of the same events. And now she’s unsure of her place in the world. She’s not sure where she is with Cole, who she is without work, where she is (or where she’ll be) with Noah, and who she’ll be on the pages of the book he left on the desk.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 11.55.14 AMWhat’s nice is the way all four chapters seem to build on each other; how each character sees themselves, others, and their relationships. We know how shitty Noah’s day made him feel, and we know how Helen saw him bringing that on himself a lot too. But now we see that Allie’s perspective somewhat aligns with Helen’s (Noah’s a jerrrrrrk when he’s cranky) while also seeing that he didn’t remember the fight because the life in that cottage and resolution of the night made it so inconsequential to him. He feels confused and worried, she feels confused and trapped.

But neither of them seem to feel very sad about their decisions, unlike Helen and Cole. Like Allie we see him struggling with children and the cloud of death that their minds associate with kids, but for him the pain is magnified. Joshua Jackson is really good at looking schlubby and utterly worn down here, which is good because apparently Cole is just burning out. All he wants to do is drive, drive, drive, which is really a whole new look for him. Before he was exactly where he always wanted to be and always would be. Now he just wants to be on the move.

Right now, like Helen, he is mostly in “sad” and “transitory/unknown” part of his post-divorce life, but given that this is the first we’ve seen of him since his outburst at the end of season one, Jackson does a great job channeling all that unhappiness that’s burning inside of him without an outlet. Selling that much of a pendulum swing in a person whose point-of-view is suddenly thrust into the spotlight isn’t an easy task. Jackson doesn’t have as much to do with the character here as Maura Tierney did with Helen last week (at least for now) but he does sell that Cole would see himself as sympathetic.

Again the show seems to be doubling down on the shockingly different memories of Alison and Cole’s meeting, but I guess it makes it easier to see how they’re played (and remembered) emotionally. Something about Alison’s headspace has always seemed a bit more authentic and grounded to me. Not because her views are correct or even the most honest, but the feeling behind them is so much more real, for lack of a better term. Something about the harshness of the second interaction with Noah versus the sweetness of the first seems like a genuine way to remember the events of the day, or at least the emotional current running underneath it all. Oddly enough their life—though clearly undefined—felt like each had an established sense of trust towards the other: Noah leaves his book out in plain sight, even though he expects Allie not to read it. She remembers the whole range of emotions he made her feel that day, and ends her side on a happy note.

But as all our players converge in the future in court, no one’s perspective seems to shed much light on their emotions or expectations of the situation. Alison is a bit jarred by the new lawyer (oh Richard Schriff, you delightful douchenozzle-player) and Helen’s involvement, while Cole’s face in courtroom is observant and largely inscrutable. Now that this story is building in the future more, not just being used to draw out the memories of the couple, I’d like to see a bit more happening here, but I guess that’s just down the road.

Stray thoughts: 

  • House pooooooooorn
  • Doesn’t really seem like Cole knows what to make of the situation either
  • Alison, with baby what’s-her-name in court, doesn’t seem too thrown by Noah’s fate. But as we’ve seen Alison and Noah seem to have something they’re not sharing.
  • Alison’s day vacillates between an established couple and a formerly established couple, before ending with Noah and her: a sort-of established couple, except maybe not officially.
  •  Her memory of the reconcilatory dinner seemed to be post-sundown, whereas Noah’s was distinctly before. Hmmmmmm.
  • With Helen’s dad moving to leave her mom, this family is just getting REKT by divorce.
  • The carride with Helen’s dad and Cole was very interesting; the ways they’re able to connect but also being in distinctly different vantage points of the whole thing. I wasn’t sure if Cole knew the situation? He seemed to have a look at the end, and was curious about the “son-in-law” in particular. Maybe I’m just terrible at reading Joshua Jackson.
  • This show has me ogling at ring fingers. Hello babysitter -Cole.

 

Black’n’Orange: Season 3 Episodes 2 and 3

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Chapters 2 and 3; in which we see a lot of people getting what they need, if not what they want.

Though I wrote “awww Dennett/Baya so doomed” in my notes, it’s hard to not see this coming. From the beginning their plotline has been doomed majorly challenged, and the passage of time hasn’t helped much. In their own way they both have a pragmatism that had gotten them this far in life, but they were constantly blinded by each other, the baby, and the idyllic life that could live in their futures.

I’m not sure Bennett’s flashbacks really did much to illuminate the story here, beyond establishing that his behavior at the end (with a touch of dramatic flair) was part of a pattern rather than finally seeing the writing on the wall about him and Daya. Similarly, in the next episode Nicky’s days on the outside didn’t illuminate too much anything that the episode’s arc didn’t accomplish. We saw how destructive drugs made her in her choices and relationships to others, Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.38.18 PMand her aloof relationship with her nature finally coming tragically down to Earth was clear thanks to Natasha Lyonne’s acting chops.

What I will say is that the flashbacks did a great job highlighting something OITNB excels at: making characters three-dimensional without making excuses for their behaviors. Nicky’s relationship with her mom—though slightly redundant, as I said before—were actually some of the most interesting scenes, and a great way to grow on the seed planted in the season opener.Likewise, Alex and Piper’s relationship benefits a great deal from the flashbacks. Getting to see them play out across time gives some context for the rush of emotions—good and bad—they get when they’re around each other. Piper is used to feeling like the smaller of the two in their relationship, and though she’s able to see how she was wrong, she’s still immature about letting Alex deal with her feelings. These weeks their plot lines have seemed like the least important of the bunch, but what time they do have they sell the hell out of.

Caputo and Healey are probably two characters the show has the shortest patience with, but even they are given the time to balance out their bad behavior. Caputo is really trying his darndest to make this prison work, and Healey is still terrible at working out his feelings (and is no better at dealing with women). They’re not great, but they’re not entirely wrong either.

 

Orange-is-the-New-Black-John-Bennett-Daya-Diaz-Season-3There’s a metaphor for the prison system as a whole buried somewhere in here. Trying your hardest but still being part of the problem. It’s something Alex mirrors when the new guard tries to get her to engage. “Everyone thinks they’re one of the good guys,” she says, but that doesn’t make the system any less forgiving.

In some ways the inmates are forced into more clarity on this than the guards. In their own way they are dealing with a lot and as Regina Spektor is quick to remind me, they’ve got tiiiiiiime to really focus in on it. And though the guards may all sympathize or even feel the heel of the system on their back, it’s the prisoners that are feeling the effects of it.

Stray thoughts

-Alex has a salt tattoo on her shoulder, which I find interesting and maybe no one else does.

-“Nice is for cowards and democrats”

-I will, apparently, forever associate Mary Steenburgen (Pornstache’s mom) with playing awkward mother characters. See this, and “30 Rock.” Really that’s it, but I suppose we can throw “Back to the Future III” in there for good measure.

-God help me I root for those two guards in love.

-“I will potato her at a later time” says Suzanne towards Penn. Please do.

-Given the kind of hopeless nature of the plot line, it was nice to have Daya’s mom being so anti-Bennett talking in their meet-up. A little silver lining on a very dark cloud. “Really shit, tbh” as my notes say.

-Aww, Red does know about her store. And she’s not afraid to call Piper, Healey, or anyone else on their shit.

 

-I always read Piper’s sabotage of Alex as a sort of protection, and it felt like the show was leading me to think that as well. Maybe they’re just really cooling on her, but now the whole thing seems kind of selfish—which, really, is just classic Piper. Right down to the line of “helpfully” calling Alex a cockroach.

-I’m not sure why we needed that extended “Hollaback Girl” but also we needed that extended “Hollaback Girl.”

 

-Taystee bringing the analogies this season