Previously on The Affair, ‘201′
Perhaps I should have come to this conclusion sooner, but I’m now content in saying that figuring out whose memory is “the truth,” or trying to solve the mystery behind Scott Lockhart’s death just isn’t what matters in The Affair. The real objective here is character study and perspective; why do people remember events in these specific, sometimes drastically different ways? While it’s entertaining to speculate about the murder-mystery driving the future/present-day plot of this narrative, it seems that the more rewarding course of action may be to simply enjoy the ride and forget about the destination.
Alison is concerned about the way other people see her. Not just the owners of the guesthouse, Robert and Yvonne, but Noah as well. Who is she, to him?
“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
It’s a nice response but it dodges the actual question. Alison yearns to know how others see her because she’s not quite sure of how she sees herself, at least not anymore. In Montauk she was a nurse, a waitress, a mother, and a wife and whether she was happy or not, she had some identity. Who is she now, though?
She’s restless, that’s for sure. Bored within the confines of the cabin she sets out to find the nearest town. Aside from the pleasant ride in with Robert – he shows up at an opportune moment and offers her a lift – where they bond over a shared love of the countryside, the trip doesn’t have much to offer. The first thing she sees is a young boy who unmistakably reminds her of Gabriel and her old life. When she stops in at a diner she casually asks the server how much the job pays, but it’s obvious her heart isn’t in waitressing.
Cole is in rough shape. He looks like he hasn’t slept in weeks and he’s definitely sporting a beer belly. With the Lockhart Ranch gone, Cole has taken up taxi driving and cocaine. One of the most interesting aspects of adding these new perspectives to the show (Helen’s and Cole’s) is how it allows for a greater variety in the storytelling of characters we already know.
Bruce Butler doesn’t seem to recognize Cole as a Montauk native, let alone his connection to what happened to his daughter, and he therefore feels free to talk about the fact that he’s leaving his wife for another woman. Something that was, ironically, inspired by Noah; a man who Bruce believes to be a “pathetic son of a bitch.” Without this added perspective we would never have been given these details in this fashion. Beyond that, this is a quietly gratifying moment for Cole, to hear someone talk about Noah with the disdain that Bruce does.
It doesn’t provide any lasting solace, though. Cole would rather drink or keep working rather than rest and be on his own, where the thoughts of his current situation undoubtedly creep in. His self-destruction has begun to affect his, once vital, relationship with his family. Cole gives Scott the cold shoulder when they run into each other, and it appears he couldn’t care less that his mother “isn’t doing well,” or that his brother and pregnant sister-in-law are sleeping on a pullout couch.
Cole himself has been sleeping in a trailer, parked in Alison’s driveway. Avoiding the house altogether, until one night when he notices movement inside. Hopes of a returned Alison are quickly dashed when he finds Jane, there to collect some of Alison’s belongings. Visibly wounded and on the defensive, Cole uses intimidation to bully Alison’s whereabouts out of Jane.
Literally asleep at the wheel, Cole narrowly avoids a head-on collision with another car. Instead of pulling over to take stock of his life, he dives deeper into his downward spiral and snorts some coke. Possibly fueled by the drugs, he decides to pay Alison a visit. It’s at this point that the two stories unite but the only thing the individual memories have in common is the setting.
Alison’s memory paints her as sweaty and disheveled, having just returned from a several-miles walk home. She’s vulnerable when she finds Cole waiting for her, and remembers his attitude as threatening and aggressive. She’s even scared of him and most certainly did not welcome his presence. He’s condescending towards Noah when he finds out that the toilet is broken and asks, “what, he doesn’t have tools?” In giving Alison Gabriel’s toy chest, Cole is especially callous.
Cole doesn’t see himself as antagonistic. Instead he’s the one who feels vulnerable, while Alison is far more put together and happy in his memory than in hers. She’s warm and caring towards him, even genuinely concerned. She’s almost happy to see him, grateful that he made the trip. They share a memory of one of the good days during their marriage. Their time together is far from hostile, in fact, in the way it ends with that tender hug goodbye, it borders on affectionate.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#4A7097″ class=”” size=””]“It’s a horrible thing to love a writer. All their secret worlds, their fantasies.”– Yvonne[/pullquote]
Both versions of this day are tainted and neither of them are a definitive take on what really happened. Again, the truth of it all doesn’t really matter and it’s more interesting to examine why each of them recall it in their own way.
Cole has been unwilling to see the reality of his situation. He’s distracted himself with intoxication and avoided the people who may offer him support. He needs the memory of their interaction to be amicable and somewhat conclusive – evidenced by his asking if she’s ever coming home – in order to finally move on. Alison is unsure of her direction and purpose at this moment in her life. To remember their interaction as upsetting, to say the least, helps her to justify her choice in leaving Cole and gives her some sense of control moving forward.
Perhaps this validation is why Alison so eagerly accepts a job with Robert and Yvonne, as a personal assistant, later that day. When Noah reacts to this news with irritation, she’s understandably confused. Something I’m convinced of at this point, after seeing memories from both Alison and now Helen, is that Noah is a petty, selfish asshole. It’s clear he is only upset that Alison took the job with Yvonne because of how it may affect him and his book deal, given that Yvonne is the head of the publishing house. Noah’s bad attitude in Alison’s part of the story reveals that he too needed to remember this day in his own way, to rationalize his choices. He needed to recall coming home as being idyllic, whether or not that was actually the case.
Something about the demeanor of the lawyer, who was hired by Helen to represent Noah, makes me think that the Butlers are playing Mr. Solloway. He’s suspiciously rude towards Alison, calling her by her maiden name, and telling her that, “I am sure that this will work out exactly how it should” in reference to Noah’s case. At any rate, Alison seems to know him but it’s unclear from where.
It’s through Cole’s arrival at the courthouse that we officially meet Joanie, Alison and Noah’s baby girl. Despite Alison’s comment that she usually shies away from strangers, Joanie is immediately friendly with Cole. There’s definitely some underlying meaning to that. It’s unclear how long it’s been since that day at the cabin but Cole has moved on; he’s clean-cut, looking fit, and wearing a wedding ring.
Ultimately Noah is charged with vehicular manslaughter, among other things, a result that Cole is noticeably pleased with. The emotion behind his intense, and lengthy, stare towards Alison is less obvious however. Is it pity? Sympathy? Guilt? And where is the Lockhart family during this hearing?
A Few Questions
- Who is the child that Cole nearly runs over? Was this merely a trigger for him to think about Gabriel, echoing Alison’s own thoughts about their deceased son earlier in the episode?
- Both Scott and Noah bring up Alison’s house and the potential money a sale could offer. Will this be an ongoing plot point?
- Is this the first time we learned the ages of Alison (32) and Noah (45)? Not that the age difference really matters, it’s just more of a gap than I had assumed.
- Cole’s dangerous driving (almost hitting the child and falling asleep at the wheel), coupled with his cold shoulder towards Scotty: does this hint that he could be responsible for his brother’s murder?
- Is it possible that Joanie is actually Cole’s baby? I know this seems a bit out there but I really like Cole and Alison together. #TeamCole
The Affair S2E2
The Affair becomes a far more enjoyable experience when you stop asking who and start examining why. The new character perspectives continue to be dramatically satisfying.
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