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
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Total Affair of the Heart 210

And here we are again, at the end of another season of The Affair. Once again we’re left with a lot more questions than we have answers to. What did the DNA analysis return? What is Alison so worried about? Will Noah ever gain some self-awareness? And how did Helen and Vic’s safari go?

We’re thrown back into the usual switching between someone’s perspective, and honestly if they’re only going to use pulling us out of any viewpoint once (or in special occasions) then I appreciate that episode a lot more. In many ways it seems like though the night was loud and fraught for most of our characters, it was almost a quiet crescendo of everything that’s happened to them over the past nine weeks. And more importantly, it crystallized things going forward for basically everyone.

Helen is off with Vic, and though we don’t see her we have no reason to believe she’s unhappy. Cole has some how mended things with Luisa and they’re now not just engaged but blissfully caught up each other (she got Cole to move to the city!). And Alison and Noah actually made a real attempt to mend the gap that widened between them over the first chunk of the season.

Alison has revisited her dream of becoming a doctor, enrolling in school and somehow balancing work, a baby, and couple’s therapy with Noah. Alison sitting with ColeShe’s strained, and a bit conflicted about whether she can handle this. It’s similar to what we saw from her last week, and it’s clear that she got a major dose of clarity (or boost of anti-bullshit) that pushed her to pursue her own goals. So it’s kind of a bummer we don’t really get a resolution to why she’s suddenly feeling so weak at school.

What we do see is her feeling anxious. Very anxious. It starts as soon as we see her, but it doesn’t really bubble over until Scotty sees baby Joanie. “I think she looks a lot like her dad,” says the nanny. “Yeah….I think so too…” Scotty trails off as he rolls out. It all circles back to the last minute, when we jump ahead and the DNA results are read but not aloud. We don’t know what was in the envelope, but given that Scotty’s visit made Alison call Cole to meet, seem conflicted when he brings up his impending nuptials, and stare longingly from outside the bar when Luisa shows up, all signs seem to be pointing to Joanie being Cole’s, not Noah’s.

When she walked into the bar Alison seemed a bit overly awkward, but I thought that maybe, just maybe, she would confess to Cole in an attempt to rekindle something. But once she understands Luisa’s place in his life she seems disjointed, and depressed that she blew her whole life up with this man to end up right there.

It probably wouldn’t help to hear what Noah says in couple’s therapy, where he engages in an intense solo session for the first half of the episode. One thing I’ll say is that in a pop culture landscape that struggles to make use of therapy’s natural expository nature in a believable way, this scene was spot on. Cynthia Nixon was perfectly disarming as the therapist; it often felt like you were sitting in on a real therapist needling her patient to some self-awareness.

Noah in courtWhich Noah, ever the fuckboy that he is, stubbornly refuses. As Nixon-therapist initially notices his pattern of describing the three women in his life (Helen, Alison, and Whitney—who he apparently has not seen in the year since the party) as looking at him in judgement he ducks the connection. While he rambles on about how he wonders if he could be a “great man” and a “good man,” she asks him why he thinks it has to be a dichotomy, only to have him continue to steamroll his point right along. The only time he seems ready to face himself is when he finally says out loud that he almost cheated at the party last year, and she isn’t surprised.

Initially it seems like a nice way to bookend with the opener, when Noah and Alison make their way to court, plagued by a media circus: In this session he is facing the worst of himself, cleaning the scuzz from his soul, so what we saw in the beginning isn’t him facing his darkest days. That was the night his daughter was born. But as the therapy session continues it becomes clear just how little self-awareness Noah has. To him manhood is about more than providing, but he’s not quite willing to admit to himself that maybe that’s just his own view; possibly he wants to justify philandering (or an open relationship? Not sure if polyamory is something Noah has ever thought about, but it could be perfect for him assuming he can pull his head out of his ass and communicate), but doesn’t want to admit that not everyone has the same desire to transgress as he does.

If it was some sort of plain-faced attempt to humanize and explain Noah then I suppose it worked, but it also felt like watching someone dig their own grave. The way he talks about women as if he’s helpless around them, having them bandy into his life, read more as desperate than sympathetic. It’s no surprise that baby Joanie has never said “Dada.”

Still, it was a great scene, and the whole episode managed to draw parallels. The whole schtick of The Affair works best when it’s used to highlight things that the audience gets to know but our players don’t, like Noah’s desire to have the baby say his name, his opting to drop therapy after a day of confessions, Alison’s “accidental” hooky from the therapy session, etc. To see the show using it so smartly in this episode (in multitude, no less) compared to the first season finale is great.

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Other thoughts

  • Good call hedging their bet on a Captain America movie being out. Or maybe they’re putting us squarely around “Civil War.” Either way, A+ for picking a reference that will likely stand the test of time.
  • Noah on Vic: “A bit strange, but that’s ok.”
  • I cannot stress enough how great Cynthia Nixon was here. Every quiet head tilt, deliberate choice of words, spoke volumes. She’s so not into his bullshit.
  • Joanie the baby has so much hair. Like wowza.
  • Joshua Jackson somehow manages to always physically capture the exact right amount of improvement (or dishevlement) that Cole requires as they jump around time. Better than anyone on the show, honestly.