Now that we are four episodes into The Affair, what do you guys think? For this recapper, it’s felt like some diminishing returns after the excellent pilot — it’s as if I want the whole show to live up to Fiona Apple’s evocative, spooky theme song and the credits and it only gets a little bit of the way there. Some of that is the framing device, which is both coy and exhausting, and some of that is the fact that Noah and Alison’s dueling-perspectives on their affair lose their novelty after awhile. I’m waiting for Alison’s dead child’s perspective. It’s settled into a solid B/C of a show with all the right elements and occasional hints of greatness. But recapping we are, and recapping we’ll be, so here we go with this week’s story.
Detective Framing Device’s Story: Noah is outside talking to his young son on the phone, telling him how to write about Huck Finn for school. I felt sympathy for him, at one moment. Divorce is hard, and he looked like a wreck. So I told him about my divorce — after all, if he liked me more, then he’d be ready to tell me the exact clue that will show me who killed the Mysterious Lockhart of Montauk, correct?
So we go back into the cave. He starts playing with shadow puppets. We’re on a boat to Block Island where Noah and Alison are going to have a big day out, going to the lighthouse and the historical society. Noah continues to paint Alison as both sexy, sexy trouble but also the most insecure girl in the world.
When Noah spills coffee all over his shirt, they go to a store to pick out a new shirt. Alison finds a dress. They fool around in the dressing room until the shopgirl asks how they’re doing. At the lighthouse, Noah goes on and on about the fresnel lens and Alison just stares. Noah’s only done it with three women. What an innocent! I banged more chicks last week, man. They end up at what seem to be the cliffs of insanity — the mohican bluffs where shipwrecks happened, and Alison tells a story about how the women in her life either have Alzheimer’s or are flakes, and how her grandfather is the greatest and she used to play Neverland on this beach. Alison was Tigerlily.
After the bluffs, they head to the bar. Noah asks Alison whether she “is a good person,” and whether she considers herself to be a good person. She equivocates, and then tells Noah everything she likes about him, and how “I want to know what it feels like to be underneath you,” which is quite the pickup line, for creeps. She’s weirdly vulnerable here. But when Noah’s wife calls on the phone, Alison storms out and buys a ticket for the next boat off the island. Noah denies, again, that he’s not that type of guy who has an affair. He’s a family man. A winner. Alison points out that “his hand was in her underwear” (fingerbang!) and that she’s made it clear that she wants him. She’s so mad right now though that’s she’s about to take a boat to Connecticut. Noah has a particular talent for portraying humble and true women as crazy bitches.
Alisonless, Noah goes to the historical society, where the sassy old broad there makes the immortal statement that people are “all doing yoga [now] when they could be having sex.” Noah looks at lighthouse/boat/cliffs of insanity murals. Harry, the agent he’s flirting with, calls: he loves the pages! Noah goes back to the store, the shopgirl says, “your wife was just here,” and there is Alison, feral, mad, looking like she needs a kiss. So they kiss.
It’s time for the hotel room, a shabby chic nightmare of gaudy floral wallpaper. Noah and Alison are going to totally do it. He says “I’m never going to leave my wife” and “I don’t want her to find out” and he just keeps talking and talking and she is a statue —
Ooooh, they tricked us, or me, that is, this week. Instead of Noah and Alison going over the same boring story twice, Alison continues the saga of their big day out. They are doing it in the bedroom. It is something like rutting, physical, animalistic. Alison doesn’t come. In the aftermath, she cleans up and chants to herself, “Don’t freak out.”
I let Alison out of the interrogation room for a moment. She’s click-clacking across the parking lot, having an intense conversation on the phone. She takes out a cigarette, all nerves. I try to talk to her. I met my wife in a parking lot, I say. We’ve been together for 25 years, just like newlyweds, just like Alison. I am full of cool detective tricks, huh? Am I divorced or am I married? Do I like to mess with all the people telling me in minute detail about their sex life? Where’s my truth? (Picture Brittany Murphy in that movie saying “I’ll never tell” because that’s what you’re learning about me.)
At the cliffs of insanity, Noah and Alison get weird. Noah’s from Pennsylvania. Alison says that you can hear a dead child who died in a shipwreck in the wind, but there’s no wind today. Noah’s craggy as hell, haunted, confused by the fact that Alison is suddenly totally Goth. He decides to take her back to the hotel room so he can go down on her — but once he finds her cutter’s scars, the mood is ruined. They fight. Alison says that he’s a married man with four kids, so she really can’t trust him. Noah assaults a piece of furniture in response. Showing their venal true colors, they break into another hotel room to switch the furniture, so a completely innocent, not affairing couple can be charged for the damages. These two are ethically bankrupt.
Alison’s still going full doom-goth and fighting with Noah on the boat. She’s not going to save him. She pushes him away. He’s all “Whatever darkness you’re hiding is all over your face and I kind of like it!” Alone, Alison goes to a seat on the ferry where the iPhone ding of guilt shows that Cole sent a photo along of him and a horse. Freaking out back in the Hamptons, Alison can barely get on her bike to go home and Noah says “this meant something to me.” He notices her distress and drives her home.
During the drive, Alison can tell the truth. “I had a son. He drowned. His name was Gabriel.” He was a love, always laughing and smiling. He’s gone now, and the laughter’s out of her house. All she sees in the morning is Cole’s gigantic angel Gabriel tattoo on his chest. “It’s the first thing I see in the morning and I want to die.” So that’s why she can’t sleep with Cole, then?
She is the saddest, loneliest girl in the world. When Noah drops her off in the driveway, she asks, “What do you see when you look at me?” She assumes it’s death, and says “You don’t want this.” Noah can handle it, though, and he kisses her. They have sex again. Perhaps, this time, it’s more like making love, like there’s really meaningful music — Christopher Cross, perhaps? — playing in the background and everyone looks very, very beautiful and dewy as their bodies entwine in ecstasy. Finally, Noah can say “look at me” while he’s inside a woman and the line actually leads to an orgasm on her side. What kind of witch magic is Noah pulling off here? See you next week!