The Affair, “Episode 3” (1.3) – TV Review


Affair 3

October 26, 2014, 10 PM (EST), Showtime

After two episodes of epic characterization and world-building, the incremental amount of new information received this week paled in comparison. Parsing out the details and delving deeper into the complex relationships was as fun as ever, but this wasn’t a particularly powerful or resonant episode. On Noah’s side, he’s taking care of writing business and succumbing to his desires. Alison seems more comfortable with the early stages of the affair. What seems to be more troublesome for her is how little progress she’s made in processing her son’s death. In a lot of ways, her mood and outlook seem to be improving, but on the inside, she’s just as torn up as ever.

Noah once again gets to tell his side of the story first. As usual, he takes an early morning swim. Bruce is also the type of writer to get up very early in the morning and use exercise as a way to procrastinate on new writing projects. He offers Noah some advice, prompting Noah to seek out the agent Bruce introduced to him at the party. He seems to have a much more fleshed out story now. It involves a Montauk set affair between a married fisherman and a married waitress. The agent asks him what’s different about this story from what’s been told before, and he says that the man will kill the woman in order to preserve his life. Needless to say I’m dying for more details about his story.

This book will serve to become a useful cover for spending so much time with Alison as she can show him around town and give vital background for his story. He goes looking for her at the diner and later they meet at the library. In the face of some heavy flirtation from Alison, Noah repeatedly tries to stop them from kissing to no avail. She says she’ll leave him alone and that she understands he doesn’t want to leave his wife. She invites him to the town meeting which he narrowly misses, but he’s able to spend some time talking to Oscar Hodges, Alison’s boss. This becomes important because Noah offers his name up to the detective as someone he should be paying attention to. He ends his half hour with “Do yourself a favor and read my book.” Oh, I would if I could, Noah.

Alison seems to be in a good mood as she starts her day. She’s wearing an old-fashioned dress that nonetheless looks fantastic on her. Cole comments that she looks beautiful, but wants to buy her some new clothes. She tries to resist saying they can’t afford it, but he’s counting on more money coming in because of peak tourist season. I have a suspicion he has another income stream we don’t know much about yet. Cole also seems to be disappointed that Alison is going back to her old job as a pediatric nurse because he liked having her around more often. After she witnesses a mother caring for her very sick child in the hallway and is barely able to keep it together, Cole may get his wish after all. One of the most important pieces of new information about Alison is that she’s literally self-destructive. Before she leaves the hospital, she grabs some medical supplies. At the beach by the lighthouse, she chooses a sharp sea shell, cuts deeply into her inner thigh, and immediately bandages the wound.

Much of the episode is dedicated to diving deeper into the way the town works and how that affects Alison and Cole’s relationship. Alison describes to Noah how the economics and politics of the town have changed. Oscar Hodges, the owner of the Lobster Roll, wants to build a bowling alley on his property. Alison seems okay with the idea until Oscar reminds her that Cole will likely be against it. We learn later from her interview with the detective that the town is like a family – they fight, but they show up and support each other. Cole gives an impassioned speech at the town hall meeting about his desire to see the island stay local. However, he makes a huge mistake by invoking the memory of his dead son to gain sympathy for his cause. He gets applause from his fellow townspeople and praise from his family, but Alison is livid. When Oscar shows up, they have a mini brawl. This tension between the old, nostalgic view of a tranquil town friendly to tourists under siege by more modern business opportunities will be vital to understanding who committed the murder and why. Alison seems to be unable to pick a side because she’s still completely consumed by her grief.

Alison’s account of her interactions with Noah differs greatly in tone from his perspective. Noah thinks he’s getting wrapped up in something dark and sexy while Alison thinks that she’s slowly falling into something that’s more sweet than passionate. She remembers the day as an opportunity to let Noah in a little bit more. She reveals that she was raised by her grandparents and that Noah reminds her of him. “You couldn’t quite believe anything he said. He was like you, I guess. A storyteller.” It makes sense that Alison would justify the affair this way – he pressured her to let him in and now she’s opening up. She’s enjoying the affair but hasn’t gone all the way in her mind – which would be sex.

Their recollections differ wildly because Noah remembers them having sex for the first time that night. The look he gave himself in the mirror after he arrived back home was complex enough to justify Dominic West taking home all the awards they can throw at him. Earlier that day, Noah remembered initiating sex with Helen and asking her not to wake up. He was obviously thinking about Alison. What’s weird is that Alison remembers saying the same thing to Cole after she wakes him up later that night after exchanging texts with Noah. It makes me think they either talked about sex with their partners often or that line ended up in Noah’s book and it rewired Alison’s memory of that night. It’s also telling that Alison insists their affair didn’t begin after making out on the beach.

The fun of watching this show is getting mired in the details. I love experiencing the different ways they tell their stories and comparing to come up with some sort of truth in the middle. What’s even more exciting is trying to understand who these characters are as filtered through their memories. I suspect we’ll get a taste of how the experience has changed them in the next episode, where we’ll get to see them interact after their interrogations by the detective.

The Roundup

  • “ You’ve got an honest face. Anybody ever told you that before?”
  • Scottie inserted himself into a few scenes this week that felt suspicious. I’m almost positive he’s involved in the crime or becomes a victim himself.
  • “Whitney has a tendency to exaggerate when she wants to be persuasive.” The relationship between Helen and Whitney feels strained.
  • Noah’s mother-in-law continues to be hilarious and awful. She brilliantly uses “idealist” as a euphemism for poor and tries to bully Noah into “evolving to pragmatism.”
  • When Noah returns home after seeing Alison, he walks in on his family hearing Ferris Beuler. The line from the film he hears is “What did I do.”
  • ”Unlike your husband, you understand people need to change in order to survive.”
  • “The ocean is mean.”
  • “Something totally fucked up is happening.” Turns out Helen knows about her father’s affair from way back in the day. Her mother is aware, too.
  • “My wife was born here and my son was buried her.”
  • “Don’t wake up.”

Parsing out the details and delving deeper into the complex relationships was as fun as ever, but this wasn’t a particularly powerful or resonant episode.

  • GREAT 8.5

About Author

TV Editor - Simone is obsessed with stories and fits a scary amount of them into her routine with the help of recklessness, willpower, and caffeine. Her favorite character of all time is Malcom Tucker from In the Loop and The Thick of It for his virtuosic command of foul language. She's a feminist and a fierce advocate for meaningful diversity in film and TV. You can find her on twitter @symonymm.