The show ends having made a mockery of everything they used to promote its debut 10 episodes ago. The characters have wildly divergent memories of an event no one would actually forget and Sarah Treem declares that it doesn't matter which version is true or not, all that matters is how it made them feel.
If the truth doesn't matter, why have you had audiences trying to divine it for the last 3 months. And if the characters' feelings are of paramount importance, why can't they just indulge them without false memories?
We still haven't gotten to the murder we've waited for for so long. We know Scotty has been hit by a car and we know that Noah is ultimately arrested, but we leave Montauk before the accident occurs. We don't know why it happened. We don't know whose wedding everyone was attending. We have as many questions about that mystery, which is really a sub-sub plot in the show, as we did when the series started. If the show hadn't been renewed for another season, I don't know how the finale would have unfolded, but anything would have been better than what we got.
And, ending the way we began (with the maybe rape scene closing the first two stories in the pilot), we continue to get endings that serve to heighten interest for the next episode, but have very little to do with the plot going forward. Cliffhangers should ask an important question, that is not only answered, but integral. Here, they just tease, only to be forgotten later.
Noah's at the swimming pool where it all began. I hope it is a flashback letting us know that the preceding 9 episodes have been a dream, but no such luck. He runs into his admirer from before. She reveals that she is engaged now and when Noah tells her he is separated, she is sorry she missed out (on what I don't know). They end up having sex. Then he has sex with everyone he encounters and does it at school, where he's caught and punished.
He is sent to a "rubber room" to wait until the charges against him can be heard. Some people have been coming there every day for a year or two. If he leaves, he will lose his chance at reinstatement. He ends up using the time to write his book. Apparently, he's the only one who found something productive to do, because the man next to him (who was reading Infinite Jest for the second time) tells Noah that he's his hero.
Noah's agent says the same. He loves the book and asks Noah what it's like to be single. No ties, sleeping with as many women he wants. Noah says that his older kids hate him and he is living in a room the size of a shoebox. The agent asks if he misses his wife. Noah flashes back to being in bed with Alison. I learn on twitter that the scene is from Alison's story, not his. Treem says that they don't recall every even in their own stories. I have been afraid of this. For instance, when an episode ends without them having sex, I have been aware that maybe they actually did, they just didn't divulge it in their narratives. When Noah remembers an encounter that Alison omitted, if it's not contradictory to hers, then I feel that it may have happened. What I don't think is that they actually repressed the memory and wouldn't admit it to themselves until now, which is how Treem explains the flashbacks they have from the other's story. So stupid. Considering everything else about the liaison that Noah and Alison have recalled in their own stories, why would they "forget" relatively innocuous moments? The way Treem uses the memory gimmick, these people aren't giving us their biased recollections, they're suffering from selective amnesia and are actually mentally unstable if they truly recall events the way Treem says they do. Actually, she's the one who's mentally unstable, if she thinks failing to write a complete plot and using the media to explain away all of the script's discrepancies is the way to produce a television show.
Anyway, to me, in Noah's flashback to Alison in bed, she looks unhappy. I don't know where the scene is from. It appears to be the first time they slept together at the inn. She initially hated it and was looking for a quick exit. When Noah recalls the scene, it is in slow motion. Even a joyous movement of the mouth can look like a grimace in slo mo. Still, I'm wondering if Noah is remembering a point during sex when Alison looked regretful or disappointed. If that's something he wouldn't let himself admit until now, then I'm happy to know it. In fact, any time he has her being less enthusiastic about their pairing than she is in her story, I like to think he's telling us a truer version of Alison and her inner emotions than she is. I grasp onto that. But maybe he's just revealing his own securities. Does he see her kiss Cole goodbye at town hall, because she did and was more affectionate towards Cole than she knew? Or does he see it because he feared she was using him. When she talks about the affair in retrospect is she trying to make it seem like she met Noah at least halfway so as not to take the blame for its failure, while he sees that she was never as whole-hearted as he is? Of course, I'd embrace that.
She doesn't make it seem like she tries very much with Cole. So, I'm not sure why she would go out of her way to tell the audience that she gave her lover every chance, if she didn't, but I suppose no one wants to be the one who let the other down. With the cocaine, Noah recalled that she was more intent on helping Cole cover up the crime than she was guilty about it. He saw her as being a full Lockhart participant. Again in this episode, from his POV I thought Alison was back in the family, not just a visitor at the home. Is that the way it seemed to Noah, or do Treem & Company just slant it that way, to fool the viewers into thinking that Alison has reunited with Cole, only to surprise them in the second half of the story?
The character points of view have been so manipulated, that you don't trust them as having a purpose other than building suspense, anymore.
The agent tells Noah he can get him an advance in the six figures and Noah is overjoyed. We learn that he hasn't seen Alison in four months. They've been out of touch.
Helen calls him over to the house and shows video of him beating up Scotty at the abortion clinic. Why didn't he tell her who their son was sleeping with. He's surprised to see she's having him followed. She says she's not, her mother is. She's doing it to help in the divorce proceedings.
Helen also knows about all the women he's been sleeping with and that he's not on his job anymore. He can't believe she let her mother spy on him. She says no one let's Margaret do anything. She screams that she hates him and he says, sure, that's why she wants a divorce. But, she melts, she doesn't want a divorce. She misses him. She wants him back. This is too hard. She can't do it alone.
She says it's not fair that she thought everything was fine and he loved the person she was. She gave him all the things he'd always wanted, including the four children, the family he grew up without. He changed and he didn't let her know. He never gave her a warning that he had outgrown her. She's been in therapy and she can change. She's learned new coping tools.
She breaks down in his arms and he comforts her. She asks him to come back. He kisses her and jokes that she wiped her nose on his shirt. She says, "does that turn you on." They laugh and become amorous.
Maura did a great job in this scene, but it's such a humiliating one. As an actor, do you mind groveling if it gives you good material? Maybe not, but as a fan, it's very hard to watch and I honestly don't know why The Affair writes scenes that turn so many people off. I mean, even if the producers mistakenly think people just want Noah and Alison together, they can't think having Helen beg him to take her back makes him look good, since he does reunite with Helen only to dump her again. How ... to me, even if you were rooting for Alison and Noah, that would turn you off of them. And if you were never rooting for them to begin with, it's just infuriating.
Whitney presumably had the abortion, but it's not mentioned. At first she is glad to see her father back, but then when Helen and Noah say they will press charges against Scotty because she was only 16 when the affair happened and he is at least 30, she turns against Noah and says he can't sleep with Alison, return and act like he's her father. He says "I AM your father." She says that he's a sociopath. Helen told her so. Helen looks guilty and says she was mad at the time. Sociopath! Sociopath, Whitney screams. Thanks a lot, Noah says as he retreats to the bedroom.
It's funny, because after the pilot, I called Noah a psychopath. I think he feels guilt, but that doesn't stop him from continually hurting others. But he's so self-centered. I believe that ego is more the trait of a psychopath than a sociopath. I think the writers may have been getting "sociopath" complaints online from the audience, so they threw that in for laughs and it was amusing.
Helen gets into her pajamas. Noah asks did she really just go into the other room to change clothes. Yes. Why? She says she doesn't know. She gets into bed in sweats. When he thinks about the Lockharts, Whitney says she is the one who chased Scotty not the other way around, Noah suggests that maybe they shouldn't press charges. After all, Whitney was almost 17. Helen is astounded and, guessing that Noah is reticent because of Alison, she says she is pressing charges, with or without Noah. She turns her back to him. He asks if she wants him to leave. She says, "please don't," I think that's nice dialogue.
Noah's phone rings and he sees it is Alison. He doesn't answer. Then she texts, "your daughter is here." Since he hasn't seen her, how does he know where "here" is for Alison?
He heads over to the ranch. Alison opens the door. She looks bigger. First of all she is wearing a shapeless dress, but it's white so I guess Noah sees her as angelic. It has a belt and looks like a choir robe. Her arms look bigger, but I don't know if that would be the show's wardrobe or just Ruth's body. I don't know if they want her to look pregnant or not, but if she would have gotten pregnant four months ago ...
Helen eyes Alison and Noah looking at one another. She says that Whitney is inside "with my mother-in-law." Her language ties Alison to the Lockharts in Noah's mind.
They go into the kitchen and when Whitney sees her parents, she lashes out at Alison, "I thought we were friends, how could you call them?" Um, why did Whitney think Alison was her friend? What interaction has she had with her? I could see if Martin thought that, since he'd hung out at the ranch, but when have Alison and Whitney been around each other?
Noah asks where Scotty was and Alison says he left. Where'd he go. Alison says she doesn't know. It turns out later that Scotty was there. Does Noah think that Alison was complicit in lying to him? In his version of events, it seems so.
Cherry tries to convince them not to press charges. She says they lost the ranch and will all be homeless soon, Noah looks sadly at Alison. Helen tells Alison to stop looking at her husband and yells, "what is wrong with you?!" Cherry says please don't speak to her daughter-in-law that way. Helen says that that daughter-in-law slept with Helen's husband. Cherry says she knows and that everyone in the room has done bad things. So that seems Cherry is admitting that she did something bad. What? Was telling Alison that she wished she had died instead of Gabriel one of them? If so, that would indicate that she and Alison have forgiven one another. At any rate, Noah would not have known that Cherry knew about the affair (or that Cherry would have reason to say they've all done bad things), so that part seems like it really happened.
Just as Noah is about to leave with Whitney, Scotty comes down the stairs and says, "Are they gone, Ma?" Noah lunges after Scotty. Scotty can probably fight better than that. He's younger than Noah and has probably been in brawls, while Noah hasn't, so I don't know why Noah always gets the better of him, but that makes me remember that there is video of their fight at the abortion clinic, so we know that that must've really happened.
Noah chases Scotty outside and has him down on the ground. He is punches Scotty's face back and forth, when Cole comes out with a gun and says, "get the ___ off of my brother." He says that Noah should give him a reason not to shoot and cocks his gun. Helen, Alison and Whitney all stare in horror.
We see detective Jeffrey investigating. When he saw him leave the police station, Noah bribed the mechanic who fixed his car $10,000 to say he never saw Noah and the mechanic got it all on tape, which he gives to the police.
She is at some yoga retreat with Athena and her boyfriend. They are all getting along, suddenly. Namaste.
She's in a sweatshirt and still looks like she could be pregnant. It is only because I see her drinking beer later that I think maybe she is not and at 4 months along, she would know if she was. So, I want to assume she wasn't pregnant at the time. If she is, I have to conclude that the baby is not Noah's and she lied to Cole about not being the father, which would make me hate her more than I do, if that's possible. I hope they don't go anywhere with the paternity tease.
Athena wants to fix her up with someone who will help her reach sexual peak. Alison says she doesn't need that. When they part, Alison hugs her warmly and Athena says she thought she just might call her "mom" when Alison doesn't.
Alison goes to Phoebe's. She tells her she is not going back to her husband and not running off with Noah. She says she needs time for herself. Phoebe can't believe she had an affair and left her husband all while she was gone. Alison says that there was a moment when it first started when Noah looked at her and really SAW her and she has never felt so aroused as at that time. Now it seems everything since then has been her and Noah trying to circle their way back to that time.
Phoebe says they can't, because it never really existed. I don't know if this is telling the audience that Alison is fantasizing about something that doesn't exist in real life, that she's tracing a dream and Noah just looks good to her because he doesn't come with the burdens of real life, he's an escape, not an alternative. Is this the message to viewers? Even if it is, Alison doesn't believe that. Alison saying that she and Noah were trying to circle their way back tells me that she is not over Noah the way she is Cole and I am disheartened.
Phoebe says that she thinks life is all about having someone to donate a kidney too when you need it. Phoebe looks around and she has no one. Alison says that she'll donate Phoebe a kidney if need be and that not having a donor is preferable to being lonely in your own marriage (which is a good way to describe what Alison is feeling. The writers have some talent when they aren't trying to play cutesy games). Phoebe says that Alison shouldn't mind her, after all she's never been married. Alison says she is going to try to sell her house. Phoebe asks if Cole is still living in it. Alison says she doesn't know. Probably.
When Alison spoke about that moment with Noah, she flashed back to the beach, after the party that she catered for the Butlers. Online people pointed out that her flashback was from Noah's story and didn't happen in Alison's. In Noah's story, he fingered her. In her story, they just kissed and she told him that she was attracted to him. Alison's not especially modest and I don't know why she would "repress" a romantic encounter with Noah on the beach, in light of everything she has admitted in her story. I remember her telling the Detective that at that time she hadn't been unfaithful to her husband, she'd just kissed a man on the beach, but since she never had any real qualms about being unfaithful in the first place and never tried to resist Noah until after they'd already slept together. I don't know why her memory wouldn't divulge the scene in the flashback, if it had happened in her memory. It's just Treem & Company trying to be cute with a construct they've already rendered meaningless.
When Alison goes out to the kitchen at Phoebe's Mary Kate is sitting there. Mary Kate is cold. Alison asks about Hal. He's fine. The house. They lost the house. Alison says she is sorry, but it's the condolences offered by a stranger, not by a friend. Alison pointedly doesn't ask about Cole, which makes me mad. Mary Kate says if she'd known that Alison was there, she would have waited in the car. "Really?" Alison is more argumentative and sarcastic than contrite. Is that how it is? Yes, Mary Kate says, when you leave your family without so much as a goodbye note, that's how it is.
Phoebe comes out and asks if Alison wants to go surfing with them. Mary Kate says that Alison doesn't swim. Phoebe says that Alison can watch. Alison just wants a ride to her house. Is that all right with Mary Kate. Mary Kate is not happy about it and Alison snippily says, "just drop me at my house and then you never have to see me again." I wouldn't have taken her to the house at all. On the one hand, I wouldn't give her the satisfaction of knowing that I'd considered her a friend and my feelings were hurt. On the other, I wouldn't let her in my car, even for a 10 minute drive.
Since Phoebe is a surfer, maybe she can give an objective description of what happened the day that Gabriel drowned and Alison will discover that she was wrong to blame Cole. Of course, it's stupid that no one has ever discussed these things before, that she never asked Cole why he wasn't watching Gabriel before, or even that Noah and Alison don't discuss the different memories they have of the first time he saw her house and the shower episode. With the drowning, just for the medical report, you'd have think people would have discussed their recollection of the incident two years ago and not give Alison and her doctor excuse for lengthy exposition on the subject.
They drive up to the house and Cole comes out and I am glad he is being charming, like Josh and not all mopey. He says that they will have a great time surfing and then Alison gets out of the car and he immediately puts his hands in his pocket. Body language that says she has emasculated him I guess. He is no longer jocular.
In the house, she says it looks great. He says that he's been fixing it up and it will make it easier for her to sale. I'm glad that he's acknowledging it as her property and not trying to hold onto it or make a claim to her money. He thanks her for answering his calls and texts. Not. She tells him to understand that she couldn't do that.
He says after 20 years, he can't believe she wouldn't even talk to him. And if she had nothing to say to him for four long months, what does she have to say now? Wait a minute. It dawns on him that she's not there to talk to him. It's summer time, the tourists will return and she came back to sell the house, didn't she? She didn't want to see him. She says this was a bad idea and turns to leave.
Is it Noah? She says she hasn't seen or talked to Noah since she last saw Cole. It's not about him. It's about her (reminds me of Cher's line, "I didn't leave Sonny for another man. I left him for another woman: me."
So, Cole says they've been together 20 years. IN the pilot, Alison estimated they'd had sex 10,000 times, which seemed outrageous to me. For 20 years, that's 500 times a year. Rather ambitious. Maybe Alison isn't that good with math, as her next offer to Cole proves.
Alison says that he should keep the house. She will sell it to him. He says he's broke. They have no money. She says then she will give it to him. I like the fact that she will give up some money, since that all that seemed to be keeping her with him. On the other hand, I don't want her pity and that's the most she seems to feel for Cole. Cole says giving him the house would make her an idiot. She says that she just wants him to have something he loves. He says, "I love YOU." So embarrassing. The scene seems real though, excruciating, but real, so it's hard to watch in a good way -- a better way than most of the show is.
He says that people can get over this. They can go back to therapy. She says she doesn't want to do that. It's too hard. It's not fixable. Nothing can fix it for her but Gabriel. She doesn't know why he was taken away from them, but he was and there's no other way to repair what they had. Every time she looks at Cole, his face, his body, she sees Gabriel all over him. She just wants to get away from that. Does she want to forget Gabriel, he asks? "I want to forget you." Whoa! Of course, I flinch for Cole, but I think that's a brilliant exchange there.
She is quiet for a moment and you can see the thoughts churning in her head as she pauses and I know what's coming next. "Why didn't you watch him?" "What?" He says, not understanding. "On the beach, I went to the house to get a towel and you were supposed to watch him. Why didn't you?"
Cole leaps up and is next to her standing, his face close to hers, "Why didn't you just take him to the f___ hospital," he snarls. And THAT it Josh's best moment in this episode, not that junk at the end of the show. Cole tells Alison to get out, says he never wants to see her face again. I just wish he meant it.
Then, Mary Kate runs in and says that Whitney is at the house. Her parents want to press rape charges against Scotty and Cole needs to get there. She tells Alison to come too. Why, why in the world would that be necessary? This is so contrived that it wasn't worth watching, much less writing about later.
At the house, Cole asks how old Whitney is and wipes a hand over his face when she says 17. Cherry says maybe if she could speak to Helen, mother to mother, they could keep the Solloways from pressing charges. I wish Cole would say something about how wrong Scotty was. We did see him tell Scotty to stay away from Whitney in the series' beginning, but I'd like to know that Alison still sees him as having some inkling of morality.
Cole tells Alison to call Noah. She says she doesn't want to. Cole says Noah will come to the house if he gets the call from Alison. Well, if he got a call saying Whitney was there, I think he'd come. Alison wouldn't need to call him, but this is the way to lead to the big moment that Treem has in store for us, so it has to happen, whether or not it makes sense. She says in Alison's mind, Cole used her to set up a trap from Noah, that forced Alison to choose between her husband and lover. She stepped between them and chose Cole. Well, it looked like she would have chosen him without this "trap." I see the scene as needlessly making a villain out of Cole. Worse than a villain, a weak crazy man for whom we can no longer root. With the rape scene, most of the audience believed the wife's version over Noah's. With this scene, I believe Noah's version. I think it's insane to suggest that the two have different memories which involve different people, a different place and a different reason for the gun showdown.
Treem says that all Alison saw was Cole's gun and everything else (Scotty) was secondary to her. So secondary that she (or Noah) begin making up things that never happened? That's not a sign of different points of view, it's a sign of schizophrenia. It would be more believable that events are fuzzy than that they be very specific and 100% different from the events Noah said he witnessed. Treems says that the points of view diverge the most during traumatic events, like Stacey's choking. In real life, your mind is more focused during a traumatic event than during others. So, I don't think that's when you start wildly imagining, even if you don't notice everything other witnesses to the event noticed.
At any rate, the memories were so different that I had to believe one didn't happen, that maybe we were seeing drafts from Noah's book, rather than "reality." But in interviews, Treem insists that this is not the case. It's all just Alison and Noah's honest recollections. Ugh!
Anyway, while they are waiting for the Solloways to come over to the house. Whitney asks Alison if she really slept with her dad. Alison says yes. Whitney is grossed out. "Why? He's so old and your husband is so hot." Alison just swigs her beer, noncommittally. It is a hilarious moment, but it breaks the fourth wall. It is more a joke based on online comments (why would anyone cheat on Pacey?) than on anything the characters would really say, but it's a nice touch.
Helen and Noah arrive. Cherry leaves and Cole says that she agreed to give them a moment. Noah tells Whitney he wants her to leave right now. She refuses. He curses at her. Cole says, "Is that the way you talk to your children?" He said he figured Noah to be a good father at least. He wonders what Noah has that would make Alison go with him, since she won't go with Cole anymore (or something stupid like that. I can't bear to rewatch to clarify). What does Noah have, because kindness certainly doesn't work with Alison. Noah says that that's something between Cole and his wife and he'd be glad to talk to him another time, but not now. He rises to leave and Cole says he's not going anywhere. He pulls out a gun and points it from one Solloway to the other. Clearly, if Cole had pointed a gun at Noah's wife and kid he would have remembered that. For Alison to remember such a heinous thing if it never happened makes her horrible. She has to make Cole a monster so she can feel better about choices she never felt guilty for in the first place??
Alison tells Cole not to shoot the Solloways. She's the one he's angry with. So, he turns the gun on her and she yelps. Or would she prefer that he kill himself. He puts the gun to his head. She says, "God no!" He says he should blow his head off and that would be the last memory she had of him and she'd have to live with it, just as they both have to live with the memory of her son.
She says that Gabriel wouldn't want that. He says that Gabriel isn't there. She says he is. He is with them every day. And he loved Cole so much. He wanted to be like Cole. Cole starts crying (sigh) and puts down the gun. He leaves a crumpled man. Helen hurries Whitney out and turns to ask if Noah is coming too. He looks at the shaken Alison and refuses to leave her. When they are alone, he hugs and comforts her. Gag.
If Alison's view of events is correct, it's once again curious how Noah has no memory of Gabriel, just like he never remembers Athena. The fact that the people in Alison's life don't ever show up on his radar is telling, especially when her son's drowning defines her and (from her POV) he's so supportive of her regarding the subject. It's not even worth mentioning from his POV. The closest he's come to acknowledging it was to tell Helen "she was in a dark place." Noah is not Mr. Sensitivity.
At one point, Cole said, "And what do you think I should do about that?" Even though he is being a violent psycho at the time, it still reminds me of Peter Bishop talking to Olivia in the sweetest Fringe episode, 6B.
Fast forward. They are in a modern NY apartment. She has just come out of the baby's room. Is she down for the night, Noah asks? "I think so." They are cuddly on the sofa. Alison, with a chic, short bob, asks him what his day looks like tomorrow. They are turning his book into a movie and he has a meeting about actors. The doorbell rings. It's the police. They arrest Noah. Put him in cuffs. Alison can't leave until Juliane comes to be with the baby. But she promises to get Noah out. "Do you believe me?" She asks. For me, that's a curious question. What reason would he have not to believe her?
Someone said they were both wearing wedding rings in the scene.
Josh didn't tweet anything about the finale or the show. I can only hope that he's not returning for S2. I don't want to hear that he's renegotiating his contract for more money. I just want to hear that he's not coming back. That way, I won't be compelled to ever see any of these characters again.
If he does return, while Helen will probably have a fling with Max, she'll still love Noah and their family (I still think Martin is headed for a break down) will keep bringing them together.
Cole and Alison have no family, but maybe we'll learn more about Gabriel's death, which will break down the wall between them. Maybe beyond their child, they had a love that was not apparent in the first season. We don't know why they got together in the first place. We assume it was for financial security on Alison's part, partly because of what Athena said. But maybe she was really in love and we'll discover that in the first season. I recall her telling Jeffries that Oscar was invited to the wedding because deep down they are family, no matter what fights they have. I am waiting for her to rediscover that blood tie to Cole. Being away from him for four months wasn't enough to make it return, but maybe eventually ...
In her place, I would want to be away from Cole for the townhall speech, for the tattoo, for the outburst at the dinner with Athena, for all the ways that he pricks her feelings about her son's death without realizing it. So, I don't fault her for wanting out, especially if he expects her to be around Cherry often, even if Cherry is not the monster that Alison makes her out to be. It's an oppressive environment. Add to that the fact that she blames Cole for Gabriel's drowning in the first place and I completely understand her not wanting to be married to him, but I don't understand the attraction to Noah, who is much less giving than Cole. I don't understand lying to Cole and agreeing to start a family with him, only to cheat on him all over again -- after being the first to push him away when he wanted to go to the hospital with her. You can leave someone, without being cruel and uncaring. I blame her, not for her anger towards him, but for her indifference.
If she acknowledges that she was blind towards him, I would be interested in seeing them together, but I don't want her to reconnect with him out of pity or guilt. It would have to be true affection that outweighs what she says she feels for Noah. The best of all worlds would simply be for this show to be cancelled because other's find it as silly as I do.
The creators started with a good concept, but were unequal to its execution and have to explain their ideas in the media, because they're incapable of transmitting them in the show itself.