The Affair, “Episode 4” (1.4) – TV Review


Affair 4

November 2, 2014, 10 PM (EST), Showtime

The titular affair is officially in progress! The writers have now demonstrated their willingness to be flexible with the dual perspective format of the show. It still starts out with Noah’s story first, but instead of rewinding back to the beginning of the day from Alison’s perspective, the action picks up from the same point, later retracing some of the events of the day from Alison’s perspective. Even though the main point of the episode is to depict their first few times having sex, they bare much more than their bodies. They bare their scars and their souls. How much of what we see is actually the truth, as usual, remains a mystery.

The most conspicuous diversion of the facts happened in the interrogation side of the narrative, not the flashbacks. Detective Jeffries tells Noah that he is divorced and he barely sees his kids. Later, he tells Alison that he has been married for 25 years and they still behave like newlyweds. There are two possibilities in my mind - either he is deliberately feeding them different stories because he thinks it will elicit an interesting enough reaction to confirm his suspicions, or the two interrogations happen at different times, maybe even for different crimes. Noah uses his break from the interrogation to help his son with a school assignment over the phone. Alison tries to get someone on the phone to inform them that she is being interrogated. She also smokes a cigarette, but doesn’t get very far before the detective hurries her back into questioning.

The day begins on a ferry to Block Island, a touristy place far enough from Montauk for Noah and Alison to express their affection for each other like horny teenagers in public, but close enough for Alison to know a woman in town. When Noah spills coffee all over his shirt, Alison suggests they visit a shop to get a new one. She picks out a dress and tries it on in the dressing room. She invites him into the dressing room with him and they make out. Then, they get some ice cream and she kisses him on the cheek. It’s all quite adorable and romantic. The first major wake-up call that this is from Noah’s perspective comes when they discuss their sexual histories. Alison teases Noah when he reveals that he’s only slept with three women. She jokes that she’s slept with thousands. This doesn’t seem plausible since she married her childhood sweetheart Cole, and in previous episodes, she’s hinted at her lack of sexual experience.

Alison reveals a lot of information about her family life, things I’ve been wondering about since we learned last week that she was raised by her grandparents. Her visits her grandmother who has Alzheimer’s once a week. Her mother wasn’t around, and Alison implies it was due to selfishness. When Alison takes Noah to her favorite spot on the island, the site of a shipwreck, she reveals that she used to pretend that it was Neverland and Peter Pan was calling out for her. In Noah’s section of the second episode, he remembers Alison telling him that Peter Pan was her favorite story. This is an important clue signaling that Noah may be the more reliable narrator. Or, it could be the very opposite. Either way, the way Noah remembers this scene differs from Alison’s in an emotionally relevant way.

After the shipwreck, they stop by a bar. Noah goes over every reservation he has about taking the affair to the next level, including that he’s never cheated on Helen. Alison counters with her reasons for wanting to move forward, saying that she’s drawn to him physically and intellectually. Right on cue, Helen calls about an emergency with her mother. Noah is very distraught, and Alison storms out of the bar. Noah tries to run after Alison, but he lets her go. He ends up at the Block Island Heritage Museum, perhaps looking for Alison, but ends up lying about how he knows her by saying “She’s a friend of my wife.” I have a feeling this lie will come back to bite him in the ass.

I was wrong about their tryst on the beach last week. It wasn’t full on intercourse, but the fact remains Noah remembers getting a lot further with Alison last week than she remembers. This week, in that charming little room in the Inn, they have sex for the first time. First, they have to pay in cash so that it won’t show up on the credit card statements. Noah has to be very clear once again that he won’t leave Helen, and that Alison really wants to take their relationship past a point of no return. They do. And then there’s a cut, and we’re in Alison’s half of the show but we’re looking at the same sex scene from a different angle. Ruth Wilson once again knocked my socks off with the look of discomfort and uncertainty she gave herself in the mirror during their first time. When Noah wants to cuddle afterwards, she appears stiff and distant. Dominic West is great and their chemistry is off the charts, but Wilson is on another level. An astonishingly high level.

After the cut back to the interrogation scene in which she takes a break and Detective Jeffries tells a different story of his marriage than what he told Noah earlier, the flashback continues to the same site of the shipwreck we saw in Noah’s perspective earlier. This time, she tells a much more chilling story, revealing a piece of her soul that Noah doesn’t have the full context for yet. “If you listen to the wind carefully, you can hear the voice of a boy calling out for his mother.” She downplays the mysticism, but as we’ve seen throughout this show, the atmosphere of this show is steeped in violent imagery, sometimes invoking the supernatural. The moment I could feel their connection deepen was when Noah talked about his mother dying when he was 17 and he could hear her talking to him. “It’s like she’s speaking the language of the dead. And I can’t understand it. I think she’s saying something like ‘Let it go.'” She rewards him for his vulnerability with a kiss.

They head back to the Inn for more sex, but when he sees her cutting scars on her inner thigh, she shuts down and is nearly brought to tears. He invites her to trust him, and she hits him back with a deeply hurtful reply: “Why would I trust you? You’re a man with four kids who is cheating on his wife.” He responds by kicking in the side of the antique dresser. He gets Alison to help him switch the dresser with another room, which lifts the tension for a brief moment as they run back to the ferry. On the way back to Montauk, Alison proposes ending the affair while things are still good. She tries to deter him, saying that she is not the “easy going, free spirit” he thinks she is. “You’re going to be sorry you ever met me” is as clear a warning as she could give. Noah sees her clearly, though. “There’s nothing about you that seems easy. Your darkness is written all over your fucking face. And you know what? I kinda like it.” It’s clear he’s angry at Alison for assuming he doesn’t see her for who she is.

She is surprised enough to open up and reveal the details of her son’s drowning two years prior. He asks questions to learn more, and she reminisces about Gabriel’s laughter and sense of humor. She goes even deeper, possibly revealing something she’s never admitted aloud: “Cole has this tattoo on his back of the angel Gabriel. It’s the first thing I see every fucking morning. It all comes rushing back and I wanna die.” She also tells him that she cuts to make herself feel better. When they finally arrive back at her house, she wonders if all he sees when he looks at her now is death. She’s trying to push him away with her darkest secrets, but it only pulls Noah in closer. “Alison, I’m a grown man. I know what I want.” They have sex in her house, contradicting that escapist fantasy they both tried to live on Block Island. The moment of connection in her bed, when he begs her to look at him, proves their affair has fully invaded their real lives.

What really stuck out for me in this episode besides the beautiful performances was the wonderful writing. The dialogue perfectly illustrates how Noah emphasizes their differences while Alison focuses on what brought them so close together. Noah has always played back these memories through the lens of masculinity - physical attributes and factual information. Alison has been much more interested in her own emotional state and why they were so inexplicably drawn to each other in the first place. She’s setting up sympathy, while he’s deflecting blame. Something connecting their two narratives is that they are doing a terrible job of keeping the affair under wraps. They flaunt their affection for each other in public because they’re so wrapped up in their attraction to be discreet. Although there weren’t a ton of clues to help solve the murder/accident mystery this week, something more important was revealed. Noah and Alison are two dark, sad people who wouldn’t embark on this affair for trivial reasons. They have been deluding themselves that they can hold back, but if the truth is somewhere in the middle of their differing stories, there was no way they could have resisted this affair.

The Roundup

  • The potentially superfluous scene between Noah and the manager of the Block Island Museum was totally worth it for my favorite line of the show so far “People are so miserable now because they’re doing yoga when they should be having sex.” Between Noah’s mother-in-law and this woman, hilariously inappropriate older women have been responsible for much of the comic relief in the show thus far.
  • “Do you consider yourself a good person?” “No. I don’t believe there are good people and bad people. I think we’re all just doing our best to get by.”
  • “I like you. I like everything about you. I like the way you talk, the way you think. I don’t even care what you’re saying, I just like listening to you. I like it when you touch me. I wanna know what it feels like to be underneath you.” I think this is another case of Noah rewriting dialogue in his head, but it works.
  • “We don’t know anything about each other.” “Let’s keep it that way.”
  • “He thought it was so funny that grown-ups sleep, too.”
  • “What do you see now? When you look at me?” “What do you think I see?” “Death.”
  • “Look at me.”

Even though the main point of the episode is to depict Alison and Noah’s first few times having sex, they bare much more than their bodies. They bare their scars and their souls.


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.