It starts with the surf. We see a boy running parallel to the waves, the lapping water. I think that Alison's son must have drowned. I hope he wasn't with his father when it happened. Or is this opening water sequence telling us there's going to be another surfing accident?
I was hoping that this episode would bring confirmation that Alison was not yet attracted to Noah and the infatuation was one-sided, but no such luck. In her story, when asked if she's thought about him, she answers "Of course, I have" and then says she wants him to kiss her, so my dreams of her indifference were based on my own biased narrative which, as always, must be added to Noah and Alison's own. Of course, this isn't new for me. I was at the 13th episode of Luther before I realized that not only did the title character have romantic feelings for the serial killer, but perhaps he always had. Until then, I assumed that he only thought of her as an unstable loon, who'd helped him out, but of whom he'd rather be rid.
Speaking of which, Noah tries to tell the investigator that he felt the same way about Alison.
During his ongoing questioning, Noah wonders what the investigation is for. He thought the guy's death was an accident. The detective says they are just trying to find out as much as they can. In the beginning, Noah says he didn't even know she was married. How could he? She never mentioned it, he claims. Noah says that he concluded that Alison was bad news and he decided to steer clear of her. That's what he says, but we see his acts and realize that he's lying. He lurks outside of Alison's house, waiting for a glimpse. He masturbates in the shower, imagining it was him pushing her into the hood of that car, not Cole. That's when his wife walks into the bathroom and asks if he'd like company. "Not really," is his curt reply. "Thanks a lot." He says that's his "me time." Well, for someone always frustrated that he can't have sex with his wife, maybe if he took this opportunity to be with her, he wouldn't be lusting after Alison.
Although, truth be told, it's being cloistered with Helen's family and all they represent that makes him long for escape. Helen seemed down-to-earth in the pilot, but her gentrified attitude begins rearing itself now. Leaving her husband to his privacy in the bath, she says that she will find a pool boy who lets her shower with him. Noah tells her they should have breakfast together before she does that.
In the kitchen, Noah learns that his mother-in-law hired an efficiency expert to organize everything and she was worth every penny. Whitney asks her dad to make her cappuccino and instead of telling her she's too young for it, he says he'd love to, but he can't find what he needs. The mother-in-law discovers that she forgot flowers for their party that evening and acts as if it's the end of the world. Helen pipes in that she and Noah can pick up flowers and Helen will arrange them for her mother. The mother says Noah doesn't want to spend his Saturday buying flowers, but Helen insists he doesn't mind. "Not at all" an irritated Noah concurs.
Whitney has a precocious friend, who comes down to breakfast and sighs a "Hello, Mr. Solloway" at Noah in a manner that is almost seductive. When Helen, Noah and the kids pile into the car, the son wonders why they let Whitney hang out with the girl who has been in trouble. Helen downplays the girl's past and says she only did a stint in rehab. I don't like the inference that this black teen is the one who is leading Whitney astray, because Whitney seems to be doing that fine on her own. But I suppose this is a plot point. Later they will wrongfully accuse this girl of something that Whitney is actually guilty of, I'm sure.
They pass a ranch, while driving and young Stacey begs to see the horsies -- this kid acts more like she's 4 than 6. Helen promises to let her on their way back and says that she used to ride at that ranch. It was run by a couple with four boys. Noah says that she's told him that many times. Well, he repeats things too, she replies.
On the pier, Helen goes to get flowers and Stacey and Noah walk. He sees Alison selling jam. He buys a jar for $12. He tells Alison he was worried about her. Do they know each other, Mary Kate (we later learn it's her sister-in-law) asks. "Not really" Alison quickly says. He gives Alison a $20 and tells her to keep the change. Alison says "no thanks." Later he tells Alison she wanted nothing to do with him and she says it's because he was with her daughter. It's interesting, because she doesn't remember it that way. He remembers her as being hostile and she doesn't. Do the writers have a reason for all of the many discrepancies or do they just make Noah and Alison remember things differently because the unique plot wouldn't work if they didn't? I would have loved for Alison to have remembered their post-hood sex encounter this way too. I wanted her to be standoffish.
Later, Noah and Helen head to the ranch. It is run by the brothers now. She tells a younger one that she used to ride there as a kid, but he probably doesn't remember. Uh, Helen? He probably wasn't even born yet. She wants Stacey to take riding lessons. The son sees a post for a stablehand and he wants to apply. Just then Cole comes along, galloping on a horse. Josh Jackson said he enters like the Marlboro man. Well, horses don't turn me on. It's not masculine or attractive in my book and the image of the Marlboro man -- smoking -- isn't either. But I guess it says something that the writers wanted to formally introduce Cole to Noah in this fashion.
Noah recognizes Cole from the hood sex and is hesitant, but he puts out his hand and introduces himself. Cole says "ma'am" and "sir" and the timber of Josh's voice is friendly and firm at the same time. He's charismatic without even trying. Well, I guess the fact that they put him on a horse means they were trying -- but his voice alone is alluring. I don't know if the producers are aware of that.
Noah's son, Martinasks about the job opening. Cole teases him a little, says he's younger than they expected, but they'd be glad to give him a trial, see if he can do the work. He's so kind to the boy that you can tell he must have been a good father to his lost son. Martin wants to work there and Helen is happy. Noah says, "wait a minute" but Helen says it's the first thing the boy has been excited about. It's a miracle really. They should let him do it. Please? Noah relents. I guess I can't expect Noah to tell his wife what he saw when he was stalking Alison. He can't give her a reason for not wanting the kid around Cole, but maybe if he had told her about the boy's "suicide" joke she might have wanted to keep a closer eye on him, herself. Aside from the affair, the things he keeps from Helen don't make him seem like an ideal mate.
Actually though, meeting Cole face to face, I don't think Noah is unwilling to have the kid work for him.
At home, Noah is suffering writer's block. His wife brings in a sandwich and he says he can't get started. He says he's bored. "Thanks a lot," she says. She holds up two dresses. Asks which one he likes and she decides to wear the one he doesn't pick. Even though it's a cliché, something that all wives supposedly do, Noah seems to mind. He bites into the sandwich and says it's delicious. I think he's just trying to make up for saying he was bored, but he asks what is in it. That jam he bought on the pier she answers. Noah chews appreciatively.
At the party, Noah sees Alison in a short dress and sends her up to her room to change. She's resentful. Helen says the most messed up thing of all has happened. She curses up a storm before she can finally tell Noah what has happened. The woman that her father had an affair with has shown up. Her mother didn't KNOW about the affair officially, but she knew and why is this woman there to upset her. Her father is a jerk or hasn't Noah noticed? Noah says he has. "It was a rhetorical question. You didn't have to answer," she fumes. Noah is hugs her, kisses her head -- but isn't as tender when he does it as I fancy that Cole is. When he turns his head, he sees Alison serving. He can't take his eyes off of her.
He is talking to his father-in-law's agent and the father-in-law tries to get him to discuss his 2nd book. Noah says he hasn't started it yet. The Father-in-law had his agent read the first one and might want to help him get a deal. Helen butts in and says that's great. Her dad says that Noah is not making it easy and won't talk about the book. Helen says he just started it and doesn't like to talk about his new nascent work, but she has a feeling that it will be more commercial than his first book, right. Commercial. Noah stiffens. "It's not a dirty word," she tells Noah. Noah says he was thinking of setting the book there in Montauk. The agent and father-in-law nod.
Alison comes over and says that she has that whiskey Noah ordered. He is startled and clearly hadn't ordered anything. When she leaves Helen says that's the girl from the restaurant where Stacey choked and wonders if she was hitting on Noah. The father says of course she is. He doesn't blame her, with a bottom like hers. That's what the locals should do when they get to come to a place like this, in their tightest dress and try to snag some schmuck. "Are you calling me a schmuck," Noah roars. The father-in-law says he didn't mean to if he did. Over-reacting much? "But then you WERE calling that woman a whore, weren't you?" Well, I'm glad to see he's protective of her from the start and doesn't just see her as a potential roll in the hay. This surprises me, since he paints her as such a siren, luring an innocent man to his downfall. He says he needs some air and storms off.
He comes upon Alison alone and smoking. She looks sad and I wonder if she heard what the father-in-law said about her. She doesn't seem surprised to see Noah and smiles. He tells her that she shouldn't smoke there. They will smell it in the kitchen. "Then, where should we go," she says. We. He takes her to the beach, but has to open a security gate. He fumbles with the combination, until he figures it out. I think that's going to figure into a future plot point. That lock.
She splashes in the water and asks Noah to join her. He looks down at his suit jacket and declines. They sit, drawn together. He pulls away, says he is married. She shrugs that off. She calls him Noah Solloway. He says, "Alison ..." and she supplies the surname "Lockhart." As in Lockhart ranch? It belongs to her husband's family. Husband? Then, she's married too? Yes, she says. She told him it meant different things to different people. She smiles mischievously as she walks away, turning to look at him as she goes.
What happened next, the detective asks. Nothing? The party ended and he went to bed, to sleep with his wife, Noah replies. But somehow we don't believe him.
Alison says that she thought she'd never see him again. The summer people come and go, they never notice the locals. She watches the tourists arriving and leaving on the train, a constant stream of anonymous faces. She's carrying a cooler and goes to the dock, picks up some fish. The guy calls her "Bailey," so even when she was married that's how she was known to the locals. It's unlikely she really introduced herself to Noah as "Alison Lockhart."
She appears to be in a cheerful mood, but kindness brings her down, takes her back. The fisher asks how she's doing and says his mother prays for her and Cole and wishes them the best. Thank you, Alison says, decidedly less cheerful than she was when she came. Last week she seemed to mind the fact that people were glossing over her loss. Her mother in-law was having a dinner, complete with lasagna. Her husband was telling her to try to have a good day. She wanted to cry, not celebrate. This week, she seems to want to live, but people keep seeing her as someone in mourning, a motherless woman. That's her identity to them, her label, and she wants to escape it.
For some reason she takes the fish to a guy in an office. I think maybe he will weigh it and she'll pay for it, but that doesn't seem to happen. The cooler is heavy and he doesn't help her lift it onto the counter, even though she moans. He takes the cooler, comes back and says, "nice fish" and Alison says, "I thought so." She says, "didn't Cole tell you to keep that door shut." She points to a door with a combo lock on the handle. Does Cole own this place, too? The guy shrugs and says there's no reason to lock it, no one comes around there, but they look outside and see a load of people disembarking from the train and he concedes. He closes the door. Are they smuggling something? I think there was something in that cooler other than fish.
I don't know where she goes next, but I guess it's her mother-in-law's home. Her sister-in-law, Mary Kate, is packaging jam and smoking a joint. She asks if Alison wants some and she declines. She says that someone has invited her to a threesome. Has Alison ever done that. What! Alison is shocked at the question. Didn't she experiment in school? No, Alison said mostly what she did in school was study. Mary Kate says that's her problem. She, Mary Kate, doesn't have any role models. So, Alison is painting herself as prudish, studious, more sophisticated than this in-law. Is she the only one in the family whose gone to school? Is she drawn to Noah's intellect?
As if to give as much input as she can, she tells Mary Kate that she and Cole had anal sex once. And? The woman wants to know. Alison frowns slightly and shakes her head in "shudder" fashion. Ruth is excellent in that little moment.
Alison goes to work to pick up her check, but it's not there. She goes upstairs to the house out back to speak to the owner. "You're sleeping here, now?" She asks him. "What did you do?" He says why is it he had to do something. Maybe his wife is just being a jerk. Alison doesn't believe that. Again we're seeing she doesn't have a high opinion of cheating spouses. He says her check is downstairs, but she says it's not. He goes to get it and doesn't invite her in, which is good, because I thought he was harboring her check as an excuse to hit on her. Then, the other waitress comes up and when he gets to the door he says, "Great! You've multiplied." He says he has a catering job. Do they want it. The girl says she does, but Alison says no. What, her boss asks? Does she think she's too good for catering? Does she have something better to do. She's going to go home and sleep with her husband, Alison says. "For a change?" he asks. "You wish," she replies.
She and Mary Kate go to the pier to sale jam and she sees Stacey first and recognizes her immediately. Then, she sees Cole. She is nervous. She can barely tell him what kind of jam they have for sale. He buys all of them, $40 at $8 a jar. I thought $12 sounded a little expensive, in Noah's version. He asks if Alison and the woman are sisters and the woman says, "Sisters-in-law. We are married to brothers." As Noah departs, Mary Kate says that he clearly wanted to sleep with one of them. Well, he only made eye contact with Alison, so I don't know how she figures she was in the running at all.
Alison goes to the ranch. Seeks out Cole and hugs him, takes in his smell. I'm happy, because it seems like she really was rushing home to be with him, like she said in the restaurant, but maybe she's trying to be more interested than she is. Maybe she's got her head against Cole's chest, while thinking of Noah. Cole shakes his head when he learns that the women are selling the jam for $8 a jar. The tourists will pay a fortune for anything, I guess. He asks if she made the pick up. She nods. Any incidents? No. But she is trying to be too breezy about. I think they are involved in something illegal. It's probably not a good idea that she didn't tell him that the guy didn't keep the door closed.
When they embrace, Cole seems surprised, not trusting her warmth. He says, "I love to see that smile." This ruins the moment and just reminds her, maybe, that she's not supposed to be smiling. Then, she seems alarmed when she sees Whitney approach in her expensive car. Whitney, in shades, comes to the desk and flirts with the young brother, Scott. Cole walks away brusquely and comes back with Whitney's little brother. The family told her to pick Martin up, so he could dress for the party tonight. He has an arm around the boy, but wants to be rid of Whitney, putting an end to her conversation with Scott. As she walks away, Cole wonders if Scott is crazy. She's 16 at the most. Scott says that he is just being friendly. He's trying to increase their clientele, because they need the money, or hasn't Cole noticed?
Alison is troubled by the encounter too. I don't know if it's because she doesn't trust Scott or if it's because she doesn't want anything to happen to Noah's daughter.
In the kitchen (of the ranch?), she meets her mother-in-law who says she was waiting to see her alone. Is Cole being good to you? "Always, Cherry" Alison says and I believe her. She also says she's fine several times in this episode and we know we can't believe that. Clearly, she has pressure placed on her to be fine, though.
Cherry says that she always knew those two were meant to each other, even when they were little and hated one another. She says sometimes she cries herself to sleep and thinks of how strong Cole and Alison are and she knows she can be brave because they are. It would be annoying to me to hear anyone else telling me how they cry themselves to sleep over the death of my son. I mean, you want to know he mattered to other people too, but I don't really want to hear about their grief. She says she is going to clean out the boys' old rooms and have a yard sale. What does Alison think? She thinks Cherry will make a fortune. Then, Cherry says, she will have lots of extra room in case Alison and Noah want to move back in. Move in there? Well, Cherry figures that the next time Alison might benefit from having a little help.
Does this mean that the boy came to his death on Alison's watch, I wonder? Was she too overworked to watch him properly or does she feel that she was? Last week I wondered if she needed to waitress, but this week we learn that they are strapped for money. Of course, it was presumptuous of Cherry to start talking about "next" time already. As if you can replace the lost baby with another. As if Alison is ready to love that deeply -- and risk hurting that much -- again. She rides past her house and stares at it. In a voice over we hear her tell the detective that by then she didn't have many friends left. All she had was Cole and her family. So, I'm not sure why she changed her mind, but she calls and asks about that catering job. She wants to do it after all. Is it because she saw her house and didn't want to lose it, didn't want to have to move back in with her mother-in-law? Did she go to raise more money? Did she go to keep from going home and sleeping (or conceiving) with her husband? Did she go because she was lonely and wanted to be around someone other than Cole's family? Although catering an event doesn't give you a lot of time to socialize. Well, not usually. That makes me wonder if she knew the party was at Noah's in-laws. Not sure.
She asks her fellow waitress to lend her a dress, because all of hers are dirty. I wonder why that is. No money for the cleaners or is dirty just the way she feels. In the short black dress (which doesn't look all that tight to me), she tells her pal, "Wow, you're thin," self-conscious about the way the dress hugs her body.
She says she doesn't like the author, Noah's father-in-law. Not clear whether it's the man or his writing that she is against. Then, she sees Noah, with his wife. The wife is wearing a long, dark gown, decidedly more conservative than what she had on in Noah's story. She seems to be sparring with Noah, pulls away from his grasp. Noah's mother-in-law comes over and asks what Alison thinks of that woman (the husband's mistress). She's not my type, Alison replies. The mother-in-law laughs, says she likes Alison. Does she recognize her? Well, she worked at the Lobster Roll. Oh, she's the poor woman who lost her baby. Alison is dismayed to have to be remembered that way again. The woman is kind. Tells Alison she'll give her a valium if she needs one. She tells Alison she'll give her $1000 if she'll poor a drink on that balding man over there (her husband, but she doesn't tell Allison this). Alison smiles and goes over with the drink. As soon as Noah sees her, he takes the drink assuming it's for him. I think Alison's version is truthful, because she would have no way of knowing that the father-in-law had an affair with that woman and that his wife was peeved.
Helen feels her territory has been invaded and reaches out to fix a strap on Alison's dress that doesn't need fixing. "This couldn't be any tighter, could it?" She condescends, treating Alison like a school girl. Alison walks away. She sees Scott heading up the stairs with Whitney and wonders why he is there. Whitney is wearing the same short dress that Noah ordered her to take off. Either he never told her to change or she never obeyed. Noah comes to the staircase and wonders why the 2 of them are headed up. Scott says that he was just looking for the restroom. Noah directs him to one downstairs. Alison is disturbed by Scott's behavior.
Alison wanders to the beach, probably thinking of herself as the poor woman who lost a baby.
Noah finds her. He tells her to go into the water and she says she can't swim. That's odd for a woman who lives in a beach town. Alison says it's not really. She doesn't seem to be pained at not being able to swim, so if her son drowned, I gather she wasn't there when it happened. I wonder if the son's death will be the story for next season, a prequel, with Cole more heavily featured, perhaps.
He says it's good to see her again, fully clothed. She doesn't seem embarrassed, just knowing. So, you're married? She nods. That was your husband? He nods. "I don't believe you," he says. "Married people don't have sex like that." Marriage means different things to different people, she answers. The same words he remembered, just a different context.
What does it mean to you, he probes. She used to think that it meant putting someone else above yourself, doing anything for them. Now, she just thinks she's lucky if she doesn't end up killing him. I mind this remark, because I think Alison loves Cole more than this statement indicates. Noah already thinks the guy raped her, now she makes him sound like even more of a brute. While, there is no need to praise your husband to the man you want as a lover, since, from her perspective, Alison has a kinder view of Cole, I mind that she would deliberately give the opposite impression. If she wants to kill him, it's only because she can't move on from her loss and he can, right? It's not because he has otherwise alienated her or was she unhappy with him, even before their tragedy?
She and Noah sit side by side. He seems apologetic about his wife. Says that when he was in school, he had a great girlfriend. She was beautiful, rich and artsy and he wanted to be all of those things, so he married her. "And also, I loved her. Did I mention that, I loved her." What about now, Alison wonders. "I still love her now," he says.
He says he sometimes thinks about going back and living it all over again. There's this theory that if you could really time travel, you still have the life as you've known, it doesn't change, but when you make different choices, then you create a parallel future, where you also have a different life. Two versions at once. Ha! So, Noah watched Fringe.
He asks if she thought about him. Of course, I did she says. What is she thinking? She is thinking that she wants him to kiss her, but she doesn't think that would be -- he grabs her and presses his lips upon hers, before he can finish. She responds. Then, what happened, the detective wants to know. Nothing.
What is he doing? Questioning everyone who was at the party that night? The detective says, he is. I am surprised because I don't think the incident happened as early as the party. She says that the guy was hit heading to one of the tourist places, which was odd, because locals don't go there. She says she'll do anything to help find who killed him and can't believe he's gone.
But the detective doesn't talk to her like she's a widow and her concern is polite, not guilty and not pained if it had been her husband, a man she's known since childhood, who was dead.
While we don't know what else happened with her an Noah, we next see her walking home that night. She is alone on the shoulder of the highway. Her heels are off. Her feet probably hurt. Is she going to hitchhike? I can't believe she doesn't have a ride home. How did she get there? She is almost hit by a passing car, boys yelling "whoo hoo" inside. I wonder if she's in danger, but I'm more concerned about her being assaulted than run over. Before I can ponder her fate on that road further, the screen fades to black.
I'm thinking that Scott is the one who ends up dead and this episode sets up suspects on both the Solloway and Lockhart sides. What I want to see is Alison falsely implicate Noah in the crime, in order to save Cole. I want proof of where he heart really lies, when push comes to shove.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Being a Fringe fanatic still going through serious withdrawal, when I heard that Joshua Jackson was starring in a new Showtime series, at first I was excited only to suffer disappointment upon learning that he was playing the forth lead (what?). I’m a huge Luther fan. Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson created a relationship as enthralling, complex and powerful in 14 episodes that many tv duos don’t achieve in 9 seasons. Since then, Wilson has taken roles far removed from Alice and proven herself a performer of remarkable range. I’m glad to see her in this star turn. She’s the best actor on The Affair, more than qualified to shoulder the lead in what is, basically, two different stories. Still, if you’re talking charisma, Joshua Jackson possesses more than the other 3 actors combined. So, I hate to see his appeal wasted here.
When I first read about the show’s plot, the title seemed to tell the entire tale and it was hard to look forward to another soap opera about adultery. However, as the publicity intensified, I learned that this story would be told Rashomon-style. Better yet, it involves a mystery. We don’t know if there was a murder involved yet, but the hint of intrigue definitely enticed me more than the promise of marital drama.
I didn’t want to read too much about the plot twists ahead of time. Yet, I’m honor bound to support Jackson’s career, so I don’t skip his interviews, so I’m spoiled against my will. Going in, I knew, of course, that “the affair” would be told from the story of both Noah and Alison, but I forgot that they would actually narrate everything. Every detail of their lives is told from the subjective perspective, not just their love affair.
So, when the series started and scenes struck me as terribly false, I first faulted the writers as being Bush league and it took me 20 minutes to realize that it wasn’t the writing that was shallow and unrealistic, but the character who was presenting events as he perceived them: Noah.
We first meet Noah as he is swimming in a community pool, engrossed in his strokes, while being eyed by an adjacent female swimmer. She catches his attention inside and he responds politely, but then after he dresses she follows him outside and tries to engage him when he starts putting on his wedding ring. She backs off quickly, apologizing for her flirtatiousness. This made me roll my eyes. Even if you consider Dominic West attractive, the idea that this woman would be throwing herself at him was hard to swallow. I thought the writers heavy-handed in trying to convey his appeal, at best. It was only later that It dawned that the woman was only hitting on Noah so aggressively in his own mind, which may or may not reflect the truth.
We follow Noah home. His wife, Helen, is still in bed and he wakes her up, kissing her back. I wonder if he would have been this aroused if he hadn’t had that encounter with the woman in the pool. His wife drowsily turns over, is surprised that he’s already been up and swimming and, informs him that she doesn’t think they have enough time for what he, obviously, wants. He gives her a skeptical look, indicating they can always make the time. They begin making out only to be interrupted by their daughter. With light exasperation Noah wonders how long before she goes off to college, again? Twelve years, Helen replies wryly, so the child, their youngest is 6.
They begin packing their mini-van. They are going to see their grandparents. Their older son, about 12, didn’t want to go. Noah informs him that if he’d brought his grades up, he could have gone to camp. So, if he does better in school next year, he can go to camp then. The son doesn’t like his maternal grandparents and Noah does not hide the fact that he agrees with the boy.
His other son is nine and Noah encourages him to read while he still has the time. He’s too young to read his dad’s book however and Noah assures him that it’s no loss, because the book is “derivative.” Helen reminds him that she’s told him not to read the reviews. So, in that manner, learn that his first work is considered a critical flop.
At the car, they are joined by his teen-aged daughter. She’s about 16, wearing sunglasses and a strong sense of ennui. “Hello, daughter,” Noah intones. “Hello, father,” is her reply. He doesn’t approve of her attire, but knows which battles to fight and resigns himself to her affectations.
They’re ready to drive off when Noah notices the older son is missing. Helen says she doesn’t think he’s inside, but Noah goes back in, climbs the stairs and walks in to see his son hanging from the ceiling from a rope. Hysterical, Noah tells the unconscious boy that he’s fine, he’s all right, willing it to be so. He cuts the kid down and puts him on the floor. I’d heard that Alison and Cole were recovering from the loss of a son and I am surprised that Noah’s son also dies. Is this what will bind them together? Why did the son do it? Just because he was reluctant to visit his grandparents.
My questions soon fall by the wayside, when the boy starts laughing. He faked the whole thing. He bought a harness that made it look like he was hanging by his neck, when he was actually connected to the ceiling by a vest around his chest. Angry, Noah tosses him on the floor and asks what is wrong with the kid. I am thinking the same thing and feel this boy must have deep psychological problems.
But after his initial panic, Noah recovers quite quickly and forgives the boy. He seems to understand how bored the kid will be at the grandparents and to identify with him, in some respect. He doesn’t mention the phony suicide to his wife. This leaves me blinking. He doesn’t even give the kid an obligatory “don’t ever do anything like this again” lecture. The kid didn’t know that his father would find him. He could have been discovered by his mother or his siblings. I don’t think it’s at all “normal” to play a stunt like that and I would have postponed the family vacation to have the boy evaluated by a psychiatrist. At the very least, I would have shared the disturbing incident with my wife, because it could be the start of serious problems with the kid who is just entering puberty and looks like his future might be a troubled one.
What does it say about Noah that he doesn’t take it as seriously as I would? Am I over-reacting? Would having a stronger response actually have encouraged the boy’s behavior. Perhaps, Noah was right to shrug it off or perhaps it’s a clue that not only is the son troubled, but so is the father. Is his “off” response to this crisis situation a sign that he has a deviant personality? Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. No crime has been committed yet and when it is, it might not even be murder, but I’m ready to charge Noah with homicide and lock him up from the start.
When the family arrives at Helen’s parents, in swanky Montauk, the grandmother admires the eldest daughter’s thin frame and promises that if she loses more, she’ll take her to Paris. I wonder what Helen’s story is. Raised with these parents, how did she turn out to be such a practical person herself? Alone with the father, Noah talks the first book he’s written. The father is a best-selling author, with, I’m guessing a commercial audience, while Noah’s book plays to the literary. With passive condescension, the father says he’s sure that Noah’s book is as great as Helen claims it is and notes that he was pleased to give Noah a loan for their house. The father’s brand of obnoxiously rich is so stereotypical that I dismiss him as a weak, stock character. Then, once more I recall that that’s only the way the father seems to Noah. In reality, he could be better or worse, but he most certainly more dimensional than Noah paints him.
The family heads to a diner. The kids are bickering and being difficult. Alison a waitress in a short dress and bare legs serves them. That’s how Noah eyes her, with hair flowing. In Alison’s story, her hair is tied back and, on that point, she must be telling the truth, because a waitress couldn’t serve customers with her hair falling all about, it would be against hygiene standards.
The oldest daughter is unimpressed with the café’s high calorie menu. Alison takes the girlishness snobbishness in stride. The girl says she won’t eat anything then. Helen objects and Alison suggests that she can have the cook make an egg white omelet. Mother and daughter agree on that. This tells me that Alison may be a waitress at a bacon, eggs, steak and potatoes diner, but she’s aware of concerns beyond her world and she knows how to resolve problems outside of her own. She’s helpful to the family, rather than disturbed by children’s behavior that might try someone else’s patience.
Hysteria erupts when the youngest girl, Stacey, swallows her brother’s marble and chokes on it. This kid is 6 and I’m not sure why she would put a marble in her mouth, in the first place. Noah picks the girl up and turns her upside down, pressing, until finally the marble falls out. It rolls on the floor. Alison, who had been watching in alarm and concern, picks up the marble and puts it in her pocket. My friend thought this an odd gesture, but I’m not sure. She wouldn’t want to leave it on the floor would she? Why not put it in her pocket?
Later Noah heads to the bathroom and it is occupied. Alison finally emerges and she is flustered. She has been crying and says she is upset about what just happened to Noah’s daughter. He assures her that the girl will forget it ever happened in a matter of hours and Alison should not be upset. The family finishes eating and heads to their car. Noah pauses. He tells Helen he forgot to leave the waitress a tip. Helen says not to worry about it. My friend said this made him immediately unsympathetic to Helen, from that point on. Well, her child had almost choked to death and so I can forgive her for wanting to get back home, even if it meant not leaving a tip, I suppose. On the other hand, if Alison’s version of the story is true and she actually saved Stacey’s life, then Helen’s not wanting to Noah to leave a tip would definitely be unforgivable!
When he enters the restaurant again, he sees Alison leaning against the counter, notices her legs. An awkward intimacy passes between them as she tries to wave off the tip and he insists that she take it.
That evening, back at the family home, Noah and Helen are in bed and amorous, trying to make up for what they didn’t get to finish that morning. As Noah reaches orgasm, he tells Helen to look at him. Her eyes had been closed and he wants her to open them, to see him. She does and starts laughing. She apologizes, but says he should have seen the look on his face. He stops. Pulls away. She can’t believe he’s stopping because of that. Is he mad? Sort of he says, but he laughs a little too. She climbs on top of him, promises not to laugh this time. He begins to respond, is into it again, but then their youngest son wants to come in. He had a bad dream. Can he sleep with them? Noah looks at Helen, wants her to say no, but she doesn’t. Of course, the boy can sleep with them. She pulls him into bed, cuddles with him, back turned to Noah.
Later, the boy is sleeping in between them, literally and figuratively, I suppose. He’s kicking Noah, making it impossible to sleep. Noah gets dress and goes for a walk. He is on the beach and sees Alison sitting there. “You found me” she says, making him think for a second that she was waiting for him, hoping he’d come. She says she was just kidding because it's a small town. She asks after his daughter and he says the girl has forgotten about it already.
Locals have a bonfire roaring in the distance. She asks him if he wants to go down there and he says no. He's not really a surfer, he says. Neither is she. Does that mean she doesn't feel part of her husband's social group? She asks that Noah at least walk her home. She lives right over the dune. He agrees. She knocks the sand off her bottom as she gets up. He helps her and she stumbles into his arms for a second. Her dress is short and it’s windy. Her manner is seductive. She offers him a cigarette from her pack. He declines, but she shrugs off his refusal. C'mon, she waves the cigarette at him, knowing he wants it. Okay, he accepts.
He says he is staying at a house in Montauk, mentions his in-laws and she notes that the father-in-law is famous. He says he's an offer. She says she could never write, but she loves to read. Can he guess her favorite book? Anna Karenina he guesses (book about a married woman having an affair with a Count). She says her favorite is Peter Pan. He says about a boy who never wanted to grow up. 'Oh you know it?" She asks. Duh. Everyone knows the general premise of Peter Pan, even 10 year old Micahel Jackson fans, much less 50 year old men. Why would she be surprised? He says of course he knows it. He read it to his children. She said that's so funny. It’s known as a children’s book, but both of them agree that it’s not for children. It’s focused on death and children disappearing. So, then why was she reading it at her son's grave? Because he's gone and can't be traumatized by the story or did she not really say that at all. Is that just Noah's view of the book?
For Allison, her son is the boy who will never grow up. For Noah, it's himself. For Noah, it's all about himself. Alison is automatically going to be the most sympathetic one in this relationship, because she's acting out of pain, while Noah is acting out of selfishness. Maybe she'd be more like him, if her son hadn't died, but would he be more like her, if his had? We saw how quickly his panic evaporated when first his son, then his daughter were imperiled. He recovers quickly from such scares. That might be just because he hasn't lost one yet. Yet, Helen was shaken by the fact that Stacey almost choked, when they went to their car afterwards. Noah had to console her. My ((biased) impression is that things that happen to others, even loved ones, don't effect him as much as they should.
They walk together. Alison has a large house on the beach. She says it belonged to her grandparent. They bought when land was cheap. She hasn't changed it much. She put in indoor plumbing but she kept, she kept the ... outdoor shower. She hesitates over the words, making them more provocative than they need to be. She asks him if he wants to see her outdoor shower. He says he has to be getting back, but she says she thinks he'll want to see this. When they examine it up close, he says it's something else. Does he want to try it. He declines, so she strips in front of him and gets in herself. She watches him, watching her, an invitation.
For me, this whole "outdoor shower" thing is more puzzling than sexy. I don't get the allure. If anything, it reminds me of the giant tub Billy Joe, Bobbie Joe and Betty Joe used to bathe in at the beginning of Petticoat Junction. Makes me think "hee haw," rather than "ooooh, baby."
He says he has to leave. As he walks away he hears voices and turns around. A man has come up to Alison. They are arguing. The man grabs Alison, she pushes him away. He throws her against the hood of a car and begins to rape her. Noah is horrified and starts to approach, but Alison puts up a restraining hand, telling him to stop and come no further. He looks on, paralyzed as the couple groans and grinds against the car. Alison is gasping. She is looking at Noah as the man pounds her and he seems to see her grimaces turn to grins. It’s hard to tell, but I think he thinks that the assault has become pleasurable to her, because of Noah’s presence. Noah’s story ends.
From the publicity stills and plot previews I’d seen, Cole looked like little more than a drunken lout, so I was grateful for any signs that his character was more nuanced, especially when I reminded myself that that my view of the character was being presented by his wife. So, every touch of compassion or tenderness he expressed was what she was perceiving. That was especially gratifying. For a scriptwriter, It’s a unique way to show love. It’s not what someone says, but how they appear in the other character’s subjective view, how they are RECEIVED, that reveals the true measure of someone’s feelings for them. When you love someone, their flaws are minimized. Even if Alison brushed Cole away by action, her approach to him as a narrator showed her sympathy and regard for the man. He may have been angry, impatient or insensitive in fact, but in her mind, he tried to be kind and understanding. If anything, she painted herself as the removed one. And the fact that, at least in the pilot, Cole came off as a better person than Noah, showed me the future of The Affair, even before it begins.
When we first see Alison, she’s in bed. Her husband is turned away from her, sleeping. There’s a tattoo on his back. I can’t make out the image, don’t know if it has to do with her or their child. She reaches out to touch the design. But just traces it with her fingers, without touching his skin. She has reached out, but stopped short.
Then, she is in the kitchen, cutting oranges for orange juice. She slices her finger and goes for a bandaid The bandage is decorated with cartoon characters. It’s meant for a child. An absent one. Alison’s expression is blank.
Cole calls from the bedroom. “Where did you go?” He asks. Nowhere, she responds. And those words tell their story. They represent their relationship in two sentences. She is not with him. She has pulled away and he wonders why. The answer she gives him is evasive, withholding leaving him more alone and them more apart than ever. “Come back to bed,” he says. “Okay,” she answers. Her tone may be numb, but it’s not exactly reluctant.
We cut to them having sex and it strikes me that their positions are very intimate for a couple who is emotionally estranged. She’s in his lap. They’re face to face, thrusting. Their lips don’t meet for long. At first it seems to me that she’s avoiding his kiss, but maybe she’s not. The way they are moving, it’s hard for their mouths to maintain contact. He holds her, pulls her close, hands in her hair. And she reaches out to him too. At one point when he kisses her, she puts her fingers to his lips and fingers his chin. I can’t decide whether she did it to stop him from kissing her or if her fingers on his face caressed. He climaxes and it’s not like she’s impassive. When she puts her arms around his neck and buries her face in his shoulder, does she do it to avoid his face or to pull him closer. It’s ambiguous for me and maybe for him too, for her too.
He climaxes and she’s not impassive, but does not cry out like he does. She asks how many times they’ve had sex and he answers, “I have no ____ idea,” an answer that could have been more romantic, an answer that might have been more cerebral coming from Noah. She estimates that maybe they’ve had sex 10,000 times. Yeah, maybe he says. Well, if it’s 10,000 times that would mean they’ve had sex almost every day for almost 10 years and they’re not that young, so I think her numbers are off, but Cole doesn’t question them. He moves to kiss her, but she pulls away. Falls back and turns on her side. He kisses her hip, her shoulder and moves his hand towards her leg, “What about you,” he asks. He’s not unconscious of the fact that he orgasmed alone and wants to pleas her. She says, just “hold my hand.” Without turning over, she reaches her hand up and out and he entwines his fingers. Looking a little puzzled, but not unloving.
And I think that as far as an old married couples go, they have a type of romance that is moving, even if they aren’t connecting mentally.
She dresses and is sitting out on the patio. He says that his mother asked them to come over and he said they would. She is noncommittal. He said that his mother wanted to do something and she’s making lasagna, as if that changes everything. He tells her they should try to have a good day.
Piecing everything together, we see that it is the birthday of their dead son. I don’t know how long ago the child died, but it happened in 2012. This story is told in flashback, so it may be 2014 or a little later in present day. At any rate, the son could not have been dead that long. I think it is a little much for him to ask her to try to have a good day. If he pulls stunts like that often, I would be estranged from him as well. Although, on his end, maybe if she voiced her thoughts, rather than just nodding absently, maybe he would get a clue. Still, I can understand why she wouldn’t want to attend a family dinner at his mom’s. This is especially clear when we actually see the mother’s house and the other children assembled at the dinner. They would have been her boy’s cousins. They are there and growing, her son isn’t. Cole would have done much better just staying at home and mourning the day with his wife, rather than encouraging – or admonishing – her to have a “good day.”
As he leaves, she runs to the front door after him. “Cole,” she calls. “Yeah?” He asked, not exactly thrilled that he is being called back, not hopeful that it will lead to something more, not moved. “Be careful,” she says. “I always am,” he answers. So, I think she has reached out. Shown that she cares for him – would hate to lose him. This doesn’t faze him, but it says a lot to me, if I have read her correctly. Maybe she wanted to say something else, but improvised “be careful” when other words failed her. At any rate, her words strike me as prescient. Cole seems to have a surfboard roped to the hood of his car and I am instantly concerned that some type of accident will befall him.
In the present day we see her talking to a police investigator. She says she can’t remember what happened, it was so long ago. “It was a dark and stormy night …” she begins. The investigator doesn’t get the joke. She says everything that happened back then, afterwards, was all a blur. Noah said he remembered first seeing her like it was yesterday, but for her the recollection is not as vivid, but she remembers he was holding his daughter.
We flashback to the past. To when she met Noah. She goes to work and another waitress talks about a romantic interest. Alison reminds her that it can't go any farther, because the man is married. It's hard for the waitress to keep that in mind. But we get Alison's view on infidelity, at least. The waitress turns to Alison, asks her isn’t today …. Yes it is, Alison confirms, but Alison says she’s ok. The owner of the restaurant harasses her. He recalls when she started there at the age of 16 and, a youth himself, he thought his greatest achievement would be to sleep with her. And he did. He crows, Alison fumes and fiercely ties her apron. She is dressed much more conservatively than Noah remembered. Her hair pulled back. Her skirt not too short.
Noah’s family enters the café and they are loud and rambunctious. Her eyes veer to Noah who is holding his youngest daughter in his arms. She is drawn to the girl and the father’s protectiveness, most of all. In her memory, the mom and the other kids weren’t particularly interesting. The eldest daughter was a bit of a prima donna, but Alison wasn’t upset by them.
Then the child starts choking and everyone at the table panics. They don’t know what to do. Alison is paralyzed herself, but then she gathers her thoughts and acts. She directs Noah on what to do. Goes in and grabs the child. Compresses her, until the marble is dislodged. The parents are grateful. Could Noah really have forgotten that she saved the daughter’s life? We don’t know how her own son died. We don’t know if she was (or felt she was) neglectful or whether Cole contributed to the event. I can see her, in her regret, thinking that she saved the life of another child, that she somehow evened the scales and made things right, even if she didn’t.
She goes into the restroom and vomits. Noah knocks at the door. She cleans herself up, opens the door and he again thanks her for helping his daughter. She says it was nothing.
Later she is riding her bike. She is wearing denim shorts, not a short dress that blows up in the breeze and exposes her bottom, as Noah had recalled.
She rides to a cemetery. We see her son’s grave, 2008-2012. Someone has already been there. They’ve left a surf board, affixed to the headstone with a rock. Again, she recognizes that Cole was a father who loved their son, even if she feels alone in her pain.
She takes out Peter Pan and begins to read, “what chapter did I leave off on,” she asks. That evening she shows up at her mother-in-law’s and the family is already eating. When she comes in, Cole looks up angrily. It reminds me of a scene where Josh scowled like that in Fringe and a reviewer described it as “trying his hardest not to look like Pacey.”
He pulls out a chair for her. His mother smoothes things over and says that Alison is “right on time.” She has a grandchild in her lap and moves the girl to a chair. Does she do this to make things easier for the childless Alison? Again, I’m struck by the fact that this is Alison’s point of view and she recognizes that the woman is trying to be kind, even if her overtures are not welcome to Alison. If a wife sees her mother-in-law in this light, it’s meaningful, especially when one remembers how Noah despises his.
After dinner, Alison is in the backyard with a relative who is reading tarot cards. She tells Alison that something exciting is about to enter her life. It's the Lucifer card of temptation. Cole comes in and says they’re going to a bonfire on the beach, does she want to come. No, she answers, without turning around. Can she join him later. Of course he snarls, “You can do whatever you want, Alison.” Once more, I don’t feel much sympathy for Cole. I don’t want to spend the first birthday after my son’s death on the beach with a crowd of people either. It would be nice if Alison would tell Cole this, but it would also be nice if Cole could figure it out on his own. When you feel that someone doesn’t “get it,” you aren’t motivated to spell it out for them. It’s like the famous Dick Van Dyke scene where a sputtering Laura says to Rob, “well, if you don’t know, then I’m certainly not going to tell you.” You’re upset for one reason, but the fact that your mate doesn’t KNOW why you’re upset is the deeper problem. True, a clueless man will respond, “I can’t read your mind,” but it doesn’t take a psychic sometimes. Common empathy would suffice.
When Alison does show up on the beach, Cole is lounging side by side with a pretty blond. I think that the girl could be one of his sisters. I’m not sure, but Alison backs away and goes to sit by herself on the beach away from the bonfire. In a voiceover, she is talking to the police investigator. She tells him she was 31 when it happened and she told herself she'd make it until 35 and if it didn't change by then ... suicide is the unspoken conclusion. She says she was so angry with Cole. He was recovering, getting better and in her mind being happy seemed almost evil.
As she meditates on the beach, Noah comes up and says, “I found you,” this startles Alison, Was he looking for her? He says it was a joke.
He says that he wants to go to the bonfire and maybe she can give him an introduction, if she's going. She says he's not. He says he won't go after all, then, because he feels intimidated by the surfers; they're so cool. She says they really aren't. So, I’m wondering how class plays into the bond she forms with Noah. Yes, she was working as a waitress when she was 16 and maybe her family fell upon hard times, but I feel she was a good student. If she didn’t go to college, she had aspirations and, in another life, would move in intellectual circles. But instead, she’s married to Cole, who is not the most eloquent or introspective of men (unlike his portrayer, Jackson, who is sharp and funny, always wittier than any dialogue he is given). Is she drawn to Noah because her own husband and his family are fun-loving, beer-drinking, blue collar, big-hearted, but somewhat beneath her?
Noah offers her a cigarette. She declines, says she doesn't smoke. Neither does he, he says. Except on vacation and even then he only allows himself French cigarettes. Take one he urges. She does. He says that he owes her for saving his daughter’s life. He wants to buy her a pony or something. Don't get a pony, she insists, but he wants to do something. “At least let me walk you home.” She says her home is right there and he admires the big beach house. He says, “is that an outdoor shower. I’ve always wanted one of those.” I wasn’t aware that that was a desirable feature in a home, actually, especially when the shower stall is visible to everyone on the beach. He asks to see it.
She shows it to him and hesitantly asks, “do you want to try it?” So, even in her version, she remembers asking him this rather suggestive question. She looks down when she does, but I don’t know if her look says, “I didn’t mean it that way” or “I meant it that way, but I want to take it back.” He says he better be getting back and he reaches out, kisses her cheek. She pulls back, softly demurs, like she has no idea where that came from. He says he’s sorry. He says he’ll see her around and she says, “it’s unavoidable really,” not like an invitation, but as if she wishes she COULD avoid it.
He leaves. She showers alone, letting the water wash over her, crouching in the stream, trying to get lost in the downpour. She pulls on a towel afterwards.
She hears a car in the drive, recognizes it and approaches angrily. Cole is thanking the chic blond, Jocelyn, for the ride. Apparently, she’s not his sister. She actually looks like a college beauty. Her car is smart, her clothes, preppy. Maybe too young for Cole, but she’s polished. I don’t know if Alison thinks that Cole is not her academic equal, but this woman makes it clear that he can attract a somewhat more sophisticated type, if he chooses. Jocelyn says they should do it again and Cole says they will. Jocelyn greets Alison warmly and says they missed her at the beach. “I bet you did,” Alison sneers. Jocelyn notes the coldness and says, “well ok,” as she pulls away. Alison turns on her husband, “F___ her if you want, but don’t make me watch.”
Cole bangs his fist into their rusty car angrily. “Don’t do that,” Alison yells.”
“Why not!” He demands. “Because you’re scaring me.”
“I’m scaring YOU? I’m scaring YOU Alison?” He says that he has done everything she asked. He's read all the books, gone to therapy. He has even gone to see a priest. He wakes up seeing the boy's face. She is not the only one who has lost a child. “I know,” she says. She tries to quiet him down as if even hearing him express his grief is painful to her. Maybe he’s not the one who doesn’t want to talk. When he starts to open up, she shushes him. Is it because he was exploding in anger. If his pain had been quieter, would that have been ok or would observing his hurt at all, only have increased her own.
She tells him that it hurts and he says he knows, baby. He pulls her close and nuzzles her hair. He wants to know what he can do. She says he should just make the pain go away. He brokenly says, “I don’t know how.” They kiss. It becomes passion and, his throat thick, he says “let’s go inside.” She says no, pulls away, slaps at his hand. He is confused and reaches out to her. She hits at him again and he catches on, bristles. “Is that what you want!” He demands. He grabs her angrily, throws her against the car. “Is this what you want!” he yells. “Yes,” she whispers. He is rough and she is responding and then she sees Noah in the distance. She doesn’t give him the “stand back” sign with her hand, but she does try to cover up her and Cole’s genitals, at least she reaches back. She doesn't push Cole away or try to make him pause. She just puts her hand there, but she says nothing. She doesn’t push Cole away. She keeps moaning. Closes her eyes.
To me, I think she was into the sex anyway and seeing Noah initially quelled her, but she’s overcome with the feeling and enjoys it despite the fact that Noah iw watching, but not because of his voyeurism. But this could be wishful thinking on my part. Maybe Noah being there enhanced the sex for her. Maybe seeing him was the only thing that could make her enjoy sex with her husband again, fantasizing she was with Noah, maybe. After she climaxes, her wet hair covers her face and she pushes it back, so she's not hiding her face in shame or embarrassment. Does the sexual display become something that's for him or just a needed release that she's just beyond caring who sees?
I couldn’t figure it out. Based on the cast interviews, I understand that Alison is so consumed with guilt about her son’s death that she doesn’t want to allow herself pleasure. She doesn’t want to take joy or relief or escape in sex and that’s why she pulled away from love-making, only to initiate intercourse that was primal, not personal. I don’t know if I would have read it this way, if I hadn’t heard their analysis of her state of mind first.
Next, we see Alison in the present day. She’s got a short, sharp haircut and is restless in the police officer’s presence. She smokes nervously. So, she hasn’t dumped the bad habit that Noah sparked. How much longer will this take, she asks looking at the clock. The officer wonders if he’s keeping Alison, “Ms Bailey,” from something. “I have to pick up my kid,” she says.
So, her surname is different from Cole’s. Does that mean she has remarried? Maybe she never took his last name. After all, her family has been on the island for generations. Maybe she wanted to preserve their history. But clearly, The Affair wants to keep us guessing.