November 9, 2014, 10 PM (EST), Showtime
At the halfway point of The Affair’s first season is a thrilling episode fraught with thunderous shouting matches and key pieces of information in the murder mystery. After last week’s narrow focus on Alison and Noah’s deepening physical and emotional connection, the show returns to the exploration of this expansive world full of explosive family and small town dynamics. The most important piece of information gained from Detective Jeffries’ investigation is that Scotty, Alison’s brother-in-law, is confirmed to be the victim of the hit and run murder/accident. The interrogation is over for both Alison and Noah, but it is still unclear whether one or both of them can be fully exonerated or charged with a crime. What makes the episode so exciting are the epic fights erupting in almost every relationship depicted on the show outside of Noah and Alison’s affair – Alison and Athena, Noah and Helen, Noah and Whitney, the entire Lockhart clan, and Noah with his in laws.
For the first time since the show premiered, we start with Alison’s perspective of the day. Cole wakes her up but she blames her unwillingness to join him on the beach on poor sleep. After he leaves, she jumps out of bed and immediately changes into a pretty dress. Cole comes back in because he forgot his surf wax. He doesn’t ask any questions. She doesn’t try to explain her lie away. He simply gives her a knowing look, compliments her dress, and leaves. Her guilt mixed with his sadness that she doesn’t want to spend time with him is a heartbreaking way to begin the episode. We find out a little while later that Alison puts aside her guilt once she lets the happy anticipation of seeing Noah sink in. She has arranged for them to meet at her friend Phoebe’s house, which is available because Alison house sits for her while her music career frequently takes her on tour.
Alison’s mother Athena crashes into the show like an unstoppable and endlessly entertaining force of nature. While Alison and Noah are lying in bed, Alison gets a call from the nursing home where her grandmother lives and gets her Alzheimer’s treated informing her that Athena has agitated her grandmother and that she needs to see her right away. At the nursing home, Alison calms her grandmother down and tries to get Athena to back off of her mission to alter her grandmother’s treatment plan. It’s clear that Alison knows her mother’s habits very well when her prediction came true – Athena came back in town because she broke up with another boyfriend… or as Athena put it they “came to the end of their story.” Athena is an “energy reader” and “holistic healer” who thinks she has everyone’s best interests at heart but inflicts a lot of emotional damage when she refuses to censor herself. When she ventures over to Phoebe’s house after Oscar directs her there, she instantly guesses that Alison is having an affair with Noah. She nails this point because of her ability to read energy, but if you don’t believe in that mysticism stuff, it could be because Athena knows her daughter extremely well despite being estranged. She remembers that Alison was suffering after Gabriel’s death and completely closed herself off, but now she is open to life’s possibilities. Noah brought her to life. Athena sees everything about this situation with astonishing clarity.
Alison has abandonment issues, but she chose to stay in town with her grandparents when Athena gave her the choice to travel the world with her. Their relationship is strained, but they also share a seemingly unbreakable bond that prompts Alison to invite her over the Lockhart dinner she is supposed to attend. Before the dinner begins, Cherry takes Alison upstairs to thank Alison for her dedication to Cole by gifting her own engagement ring. I’m unsure what her motivation is, but I wonder if she sensed that there was trouble in her marriage to Cole and was fighting to keep them together for Cole’s sake. It wasn’t long before the dinner table conversation veered from polite topics straight into a dispute about money. It turns out that Cheery, Alison’s mother-in-law, got an offer to sell the Lockhart Ranch for $30 million. Cole is the main impediment to selling because he is adamant that the legacy of 7 generations of Lockhart ownership should outweigh monetary concerns. His brothers completely disagree. Cherry seems torn. Athena, feeling left out, inserts her own ideas about family and marriage into the conversation. Cole gets worked up and yells at Athena for being absent when Alison needed her after Gabriel’s death. Cherry was the one who took care of Alison when was completely nonfunctional.
Noah is dealing with a lot of family drama of his own. Whitney and her friends have been cyber bulling a girl named Jodi, nearly driving her to suicide. All of the adults in the family react differently. Helen takes an “I told you so” approach with Noah, saying that she sensed Whitney has needed to be in therapy for some time. Helen’s parents think about the legal ramifications, sensing their fortune could be in danger. Noah is completely livid that his daughter could do something so horrible. He wonders if she is morally deficient because of her private school education, or if she lacks empathy because she is a popular girl who was raised by Helen, also a popular girl in her day. This observation sparks the first of two epic fights between Noah and Helen. Wow, do they get into it! The first one ends with Noah shooting down Helens’ suggestion to move back to Brooklyn. The second one gets ugly when Helen brings up the fact that they can take more money from her parents. She also makes an extremely hurtful comment that Noah will never be successful if he only writes one book a decade. This one ends with a flurry of exasperated fuck yous. Noah gets some bonding time in with Whitney after he decides to take Whitney to Jodi’s house so that she can apologize. Whitney seems genuinely distraught that she may be a bad person after Noah yells at her for ignoring the consequences of her actions. It is abundantly clear that father and daughter have a lot in common in terms of guilt over the bad things they have done. Noah isn’t just reassuring his daughter that she can do better. He is trying to convince himself that he can atone for his affair with Alison.
The writers continue to demonstrate that the steamy sex scenes serve as pivotal points of characterization and relationship development. During Alison’s part, the pillow talk they share after their first time in Phoebe’s bed straightens out some things about their backstories. It turns out Alison had dreams of becoming a doctor but couldn’t afford the education that came with it. Alison also assumed that Noah grew up rich, but in fact his mother was a waitress and his father was a truck driver. He went to college on a swimming scholarship. They hang out on Phoebe’s porch sharing a jar of peanut butter and fantasizing about taking a romantic trip to Sonoma together. When Noah talks about why he likes to teach, it touches Alison and they share a very sweet kiss. Later, Noah finally gets around to asking Alison about whether or not she is on birth control. They joke about it, but it signals the possibility that the child Alison has later in the timeline of the show could very well be Noah’s. From Noah’s perspective, their first run in of the day didn’t end successfully because of his poor alibi for seeing Alison and the crisis with Whitney’s bullying. After the emotionally draining day yelling at Whitney and fighting with Helen, he connects with Alison in a steamy scene in which he asks her to run away with him and she says yes. Each of these brilliantly written and acted scenes serves to deepen the intimacy of their relationship and our understanding of what each character gets out of the extramarital sex.
Besides learning that Scotty is the victim, we also learn that Oscar is likely a prime suspect. Detective Jeffries asks about the last time Noah and Alison saw Scotty with Oscar. Alison seems to be the one who put Scottie directly in Oscar’s path since she was the one who called him to the lobster roll at Oscar’s request. Additionally, Oscar barrels his way into Noah’s life, at first seeming to want a friendship, but then he seems to want to use his suspicion that Noah and Alison are having an affair as leverage. When he shows up uninvited to Noah’s home and reveals too much about where Noah had been that day, Noah pushes him and they nearly come to blows. However, there is clearly more to Detective Jeffries’ investigation. At the end of Alison’s interview, he asks about whether she saw Scotty leave the wedding and confirmed her story that she left before Scottie before driving back to the city. When Noah is on his way out of the interview, he asks Noah if he’s ever been to a bar called “The End.” They both look extremely uncomfortable. One or both of them is hiding something. Now that both investigations are over, we are now in unchartered territory. Next week, we may get our first look at life in the “future” part of the timeline outside of the interrogation room. I’m waiting with bated breath for more.
- “I’m an energy reader, and I’m very familiar with lust energy.”
- “It’s such a difficult island to get off of, to follow a dream.”
- “What do you know about being a good wife, daughter, or mother?”
- “There’s a little blockage around your sexual energy center.” Then Athena appears to give Mary Kate an orgasm without touching her. Crazy!
- “I didn’t get the monogamy gene. I should give you all of my old wedding rings, one can’t possibly be enough.”
- “One day you will regret choosing him over me.”
- “You’ve always craved security. And now that you realize there is no such thing, you’re starting to become someone else.”
- “Helen’s got a mind like a steel trap.”
- “All you can think about is your money?”
- “Whitney sounds like a sociopath.”
- Helen shouting “Fuck you and you better be here for fucking family dinner!” made me laugh almost as hard as Athena’s outbursts.
- “I thought we were friends, man. But you’re a douche.”
- “Do you wanna run away with me?” “Yes.”
- I have theories about how this season plays out. Hit me up in the comments or on twitter if you want to discuss!
What makes the episode so exciting are the epic fights erupting in almost every relationship depicted on the show outside of Noah and Alison’s affair.