The Affair, Season 1, Episode 9, “9”
Sunday, December 14, 2014, 10 PM (EST), Showtime
In the penultimate episode, the show threw subtlety and careful pacing out the window in favor of packing as much action as it possibly could into just under an hour. It mostly worked. There were a few moments that seemed completely out of character or sudden, and there were a few emotional beats that could’ve used time to breathe, but taken as a whole “9” was an exhilarating and intense ride.
For only the second time this season, we start out with Alison’s perspective as she’s on her way to New York City by train. Upon arrival, she’s greeted by an eager Noah. They immediately try to find a hotel room, but since it’s the holiday season, hotels have been able to jack up their prices to unreasonable levels. Too cold to stay outside, Noah invites Alison into his home since his family is out of town on a skiing trip. Even though Noah said he wouldn’t fuck Alison in his wife’s bed, the next thing we see is him fucking her in his wife’s bed. While they’re intertwined, he says that he loves her over and over. It’s a sweet moment that should be a lot dirtier given the circumstances. In Noah’s memory, he remembers Alison saying “I’m yours” over and over. It’s a pretty important change. He wants to claim her as his own.
After she hastily takes a shower and pours out all of Helen’s expensive shampoo down the drain, Alison comes across a positive pregnancy test in the kitchen trash can. Given the change in her demeanor toward Noah for the rest of their time together in the episode, she assumes that it’s Helen’s. She really lashes out when Noah shows off his idea of a starter place for their new life together – a tiny studio apartment she interprets as his way of keeping her close merely so he can have her whenever he wants. She realizes that Noah isn’t serious about leaving Helen, and he confirms it when he says that he wants to wait the nine months until Whitney is in college before breaking up his family. In Noah’s perspective, his best friend Max gives him advice to wait until after Whitney leaves before pursuing a relationship with Alison, but Noah is moved to blow up his life after witnessing a suicide that presumably reminded him life is too short to not make the choice that feels right.
Now alone with nowhere to go, Alison decides to drown her sorrows at a bar. Unfortunately, Oscar is there. She makes the horrible decision to drunkenly seduce and sleep with him. We’ve known since the beginning that Alison is a self-destructive person, but this twist was so abrupt that it almost felt out of character. I don’t care whether or not Oscar has real feelings for her or if he’s just an opportunistic prick, he is the worst character on this show by far. When Oscar reveals an important piece of information about Cherry’s ranch refinancing disaster, it becomes clearer why he’s even in the episode or the series at all. He’s merely there to tell people things they don’t want to hear or things the more important characters couldn’t find out on their own in a neat and tidy story way. It’s the weakest writing of the series by far, but given how strong everything else has been, I can let this Oscar stuff slide.
Cherry has long been the under-the-radar villain of the show, but in this episode she comes off as downright evil. Alison shows up at her house to confront her with the financial documents Oscar gave her. Cherry is eerily chill about her deception, confident that her boys will be fine with the situation when she comes clean. However, we know from the past few family dinners that the Lockhart brothers have big plans for the money they expect from the sale, in the millions for each of them. What the documents show is that Cherry’s reckless refinancing and endless loans have sunk the worth of the ranch down to a mere 1 or 2 million to split between all of them. In order to keep Alison silent, she threatens to tell Cole about the affair with Noah, but he already knows. That’s when Cherry pulls out the big guns. She insinuates that Alison was responsible for Gabriel’s death. I’ve sensed this since the first episode, but for Cherry to bring that up is one of the most hateful things a character has done on this show, possibly ever. “Your pride cost him his life. My grandbaby. It should’ve been you.”
This sends Alison reeling. She pulls out a knife and right there in Oscar’s truck, opens up a deep gash in the regular spot on her thigh. She cuts too deep this time, though. The first place that comes to mind for her is Gabriel’s pediatrician, who cleans and bandages her up. Before she leaves, she tries to recall the night of Gabriel’s death. At first, she doesn’t remember much - just a bonfire on the beach, with all of the kids playing in the water. While she’s talking, she recalls more and more. While she was away, he nearly drowned and she used her nurse training to pump his chest. It turns out Gabriel died from secondary drowning later that night after she put him to bed. She can see the signs now – that he wet himself and he was extremely fatigued. He was dying and instead of taking him to the hospital, she thought she was doing the right thing by letting him sleep.
Now that the full realization of the mistake she made has hit her, she completely breaks down in one of the most devastating scenes I’ve ever witnessed on television. The camera just parks itself right next to her as she cries over and over “Please, just let me take him to the hospital.” She’s inconsolable and Doctor Henry doesn’t’ do much to reassure her she wasn’t at fault. That leads to her near suicide in the cold and angry winter water by the lighthouse, where we’ve seen her watch the waves before. In a slightly mystical moment, she sees a mother and son, very similar to the ones she ran into earlier in the city, calling out to her to come back to the shore. At Gabriel’s grave, she thanks him, and seems to be at peace. At home she packs a bag, stopping to smile at his picture. When Cole walks in, she relay the news that the ranch is worthless. Then she says “I love you. But I’ll die if I stay any longer. I don’t want to die.” She kisses him and smiles, and he lets her go. It’s the most control we’ve seen Alison take over her life since we met her.
Noah’s half of the episode begins in Detective Jeffries’ interrogation room to ask questions about Noah’s car, mileage, and turning radius. Noah notices the same thing many of us viewers did – that Detective Jeffries seems to be lying about his family life just to screw with their heads. Back in the present, most of Alison and Noah’s time together follows closely, but Noah is much more on edge in his recollection. One major difference is that Noah thinks that he’s the one who finds the pregnancy test in the trash instead of Alison. He also assumes that it’s Helen’s, but when she denies it, they both realize that it must be Whitney’s. This is a “revelation” that I figured out from the first time Whitney and Scotty were seen together at the party in the second episode. When Noah confirms that it’s Scotty after he shows up to the Planned Parenthood abortion appointment, he immediately jumps him and has to be restrained by security. So now we have a clear motive for Noah murdering Scotty. I doubt things will play out that way in the next episode, but I’m intrigued enough to go in to the finale with an open mind about who Scotty’s killer is.
Immediately after seeing Scotty, Noah seeks refuge at his best friend Max’s place. This was a scene that comes off as ssuperfluousin hindsight. Max tries to talk Noah out of giving up his life with Helen by comparing women to financial products, which unsurprisingly has no effect on Noah. At home, he tells Helen he wants to leave her. After screaming at him and breaking everything in their bedroom, she throws him out of the house with barely any of his possessions – just a duffle bag and his laptop. He immediately calls Alison to let her know that he’ll meet her in 3 hours. On the Montauk platform, we see the rest of the scene from when we left Alison’s perspective. Cole has run after her, wanting to go wherever she wants to run off to. She walks toward Noah, but at the last minute jumps on the train without either of them.
There are two types of <i>The Affair</i> episodes so far. Ones that move so quickly through plot points there’s no time to breathe, and others that let characters fully experience their emotions and make decisions based on them. I tend to favor the slower paced ones, but they wouldn’t work without ones like this moving the story forward at a breakneck place. There were a couple of scenes here and there that could’ve been cut, like the ones with Oscar and Max. The three best moments from Cherry, Alison, and Helen were so intense they didn’t need the same time to ruminate to have an impact. The show has tried to do a lot over nine episodes. Some might say too much. However, I like that all the pieces – the love story, the marriages, the murder mystery, and the small town politics –come together to create a powerful examination of the consequences of epic mistakes. Alison will never be able to bring her son back, but maybe a fresh start is the only way she can deal with the guilt. Next week on the season finale, I expect some definitive answers, but most of all I hope to see Alison take control of her life.
- If Alison’s baby ends up being Oscar’s, I might have to give up on this show.
- Whitney is reluctant to tell her parents about her pregnancy, but Helen senses that she’s relieved to have them know the truth. I loved Helen’s parenting as she walks through what to expect from the abortion because she had one herself before having Whitney. It’s a little feminist win I can’t help but celebrate.
- “That’s a place you put your mistress so you can fuck her whenever you want.”
- “You need some fucking faith, Alison.” Then later, Noah remembers it as “I have faith in you, Noah Solloway.” Very interesting change between the two halves of the episode.
- “Did he break your heart? It’s hard to love someone who doesn’t love you back, right?” Despite this almost tender moment, I still don’t like Oscar.
- “They all think they’re going to be rich.” Next week will be very intense when this volatile family finds out what their matriarch has done to them.
- “Do you believe in heaven, Doctor Henry?” “No I don’t.” “So I’ll never see him again.” “What do you believe Alison?” “I believe in hell.” Powerful.
- “Are you fucking with me, man?”
- “I’m yours.” “Say it again.”
- “If it’s true love, it’ll last. If she loves you, she’ll give you time to figure it all out.”
- “But you loved Helen. And I love Val. It doesn’t last, buddy. You’re living some school boy fantasy. Time to grow up.
- Women are like the stock market. You put your money in a high performing mutual fund. You don’t put it all in a start up. Trust me. I made this mistake. Leave it alone.” Max.
- “It’s not that hard. You just make a choice.” First words after witnessing a suicide. Max is an enigma. And probably not an actual person.
- After Helen finds Alison’s bra in a drawer she’s emptying out for Noah, she says “Was she here? Did you fuck her in this house?”
There were a few moments that seemed completely out of character or sudden, and there were a few emotional beats that could’ve used time to breathe, but taken as a whole “9” was an exhilarating and intense ride.