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: 204

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Well that really hit the fan, huh?

This episode actually got me thinking about my own parent’s divorce. Not because they are in anyway as boneheaded as Helen and Noah are here, but because the show does manage to capture that hurt that permeates and radiates through you during a divorce. Helen can’t find a release, whether it’s with Max or at the bottom of a bottle, and Noah can’t seem to face it at all.

Again the show makes no real movements to make Noah a sympathetic character: While Helen’s problems are technically of her own making, this episode seems to lay out why exactly her stability has always been so important. At the very least, it established that even when those around her complain about it, her “perfection” is what her world is built around. Noah, meanwhile, is so intent on making everything right for him that even though he makes mistake after mistake in the eyes of what’s best for his children, he still gets to end the day with a brew and a girl.

Dominic West as Noah and Nadia Gan as Madeline Lim in The Affair (season 2, episode 4). - Photo: Mark Schafer/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: TheAffair_204_9626

Obviously Noah’s actions do have consequences. The way his children look at him and will feel about him from this point forward will likely be a reaction for his, essentially, total obliteration of their home life (Richard Schiff lawyer may have overused the term “paramour” but he did tap the right emotional vein there). But the show doesn’t seem as interested in the immediate consequences for him.

The introduction of his sister, though, indicates at least someone will be able to call him on his shit. A major sticking point for Noah has been that people see his value, appreciate what he does for them, all the while not seeing that much of his actions revolve around what he needs. Though his sister is only introduced this episode, she had an understanding of his character and a sort of established camaraderie that felt believable to me. Though they clearly don’t see eye to eye on this (or Noah just didn’t want to hear it) she gets him, in that way where only a sibling who has seen you grow can.

As for Helen, she seems to have no one. Hell, she even tells the hairdresser that no one would come with her to court. I’m not entirely sure, but it felt almost like they were trying to play much of Helen’s screw ups and misfortunes for laughs, but it felt so cringeworthy to me. The entitlement, the sadness, the aching pain that Maura Tierney is able to communicate; it all made me want to curl up into a ball. And for God’s sake PULL THAT FOIL OUT OF YOU’RE HAIR!

This was so hard to watch...
This was so hard to watch…

It’s clear that they want Helen to be out to sea here (a parallel I found somewhat reminsicent of Alison at the beginning of last season). Before she seemed to be willing to be pulled in whatever way seemed best—her kids, Max, her mom, etc.—but all the while she was still waiving her arms, searching for some attention. It seemed like maybe Max would be the guy to give it to her, but as it turns out he was just as selfish as…well, honestly, most people on this show. Whether she picked up that Max gave Noah money largely to get the competition out of the way or if she just feels like she’s the only one not being given a lifeline, she at least finally acted on the insecurity she’s been feeling about their relationship as long as we’ve known them (four episodes, I guess).

It makes sense that Noah and Helen would both focus on the parts of court that felt most damning to their own side, which makes it feel really unclear where things are going to go. Like Helen’s own mother, who we learn faces problems in her own marriage (confirming what Helen’s dad told Cole), Helen is not in love, or maybe even in like with anyone. And what’s worse is no one seems there to catch her when she falls.

The best scene of the week comes when Helen’s mother (now a ginger) comes to collect Whitney to go to her Bryn Mawr reunion, and reveals she doesn’t even know where her husband is. It’s a subtle shift in the kitchen, one I’m not surprised Whitney missed, but it’s some powerful acting.

Stray Observations: 

  • We get the first linear appearance of Richard Schiff, who Helen knows through her father (and presumably booked through her father, but was unaware he wasn’t in the state/country. Curious) and a whole lot of “his paraMOUR”
  • “It happens to be the legal term for it.”
  • Whitney’s texts are all one-sided.
  • Also obnoxious—in fact, so are basically all Solloway kids, save for the youngest.
  • Ginger Grandma though…Not sure I love the hair, but the “one thing your father is good at is protecting his money” line was gold.
  • Helen wanting to drink straight from the bottle but also sing along to the song; a classic dilemma.
  • God Trevor was such a little shit. Takes after his Dad I guess.




Black’n’Orange: Season 3 Episode 4

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In keeping with what I noted as a big theme of the first couple episodes, episode four “Finger in the Dyke” was all about relationships’ expectation vs. reality. For some, the parallels were a bit more clear cut: Alex and Piper are, for the first time in present plotlines, offisch, while Daya struggles to understand where the hell the father of her baby went.
But it’s in the subject of the flashbacks that we find our focal point on the issue. Her identity being at odds with her parents (and later, the world) is a pretty clear cut demonstration of how the expectations or projections one has for a relationship can pan out in ways that leave both sides feeling disappointed. And though it’s hard to not let the dialogue here feel too after-school special, Boo’s episodic arc is perhaps one of the most mature I’ve seen from these flashbacks. There really is no easy answer. And while I’m really in no way on the side of her parents, the show didn’t shy away from the fact that some problems don’t get easier just because you’re out from under their roof.


Giving Boo some back story was painfully necessary, because despite being a major player in a lot of plot lines through the first two seasons we really don’t know too much about what she’s about. She’s cheeky, she’s out for herself, she loves women, but what makes her tick? It made me feel doubly glad that the flashback was as nuanced as it was, given how glib I often find her character.

And as we’re four episodes in plot arcs continue to roll, although not in any direction in particular. This season the writers seem to be moving away from any sort of “Big Bad” as the Buffy gang would say, and instead really digging into the roundtable of characters they’ve got (and more than ever we see meal times becoming a sort of rounds on everybody’s goings-on). But it’s definitely a slow boil.

But here that boil is more under the microscope: Where “Mother’s Day” looked at relationships strained by prison, this one pulls apart its storylines into relationships, and prison.

Soso’s sort of been in the slow cooker for a while; demystifying and then disparaging serving time. The visit from her friend gave her the opportunity to vent a lot of frustration that I feel like has been building (and slung at her) for a long time coming, and her monologue managed to feel true to herself and her arc. But poor Soso; disconnecting with friends, and realizing the reality of your relationship with them—strained by a court-mandated prison sentence or no—can be tough. But Kimiko Glenn is acting the hell out of it.

Meanwhile Piper is finding new peace in her jail stay. Whether or not that has something to do with her new girlfriend, I can’t say yet. But given Piper’s general fucked-up attitude towards people and how she adopts the lifestyle of the one she’s with, I’d say we’re in for a helluva ride.

  • Alex’s shift to suddenly very much into Piper and prison felt very abrupt to me. I often appreciate the gutter time between episodes and what writers are able to do (or not have to do) with it, but this felt too jarring.
  • Did we know Boo’s name before this? Memory for names is not my forte, but I don’t think we did. Carrie.
  • $5.37 ($1.79/meal) to feed a prisoner for a day. Jesus christ. (And the national average is $1.58) I’m really hoping that OITNB can finally really dig into the prison industrial complex, like they always promised it sort of would be. Even if it’s just popularizing more statistics like this.
  • Admittedly they are doing that somewhat by bringing in the privatized prison sale. Interested to see where that goes.
  • That was a nice brick joke with the synced up periods.
  • “White people. And other.”