TV review

When Wife and Mistress Meet in ‘The Affair’: Season 2, Episode 5 Recap

The Daily Beast

November 1, 2015

What about an episode of The Affair where Alison (Ruth Wilson) is happy? Just for a few minutes? In last night’s episode, Alison seemed—not for the first time—like a ghost or intruder in her own life, reaping the perverse whirlwind of the custody judge ruling last week that she could not have contact with Noah (Dominic West) and Helen’s (Maura Tierney) children.

This led her to Helen’s door, and the most extensive, if not full-and-frank exchange between mistress and wife.

Before that storm front of awkward, Alison had to endure an even odder micro-climate of dislike from writer colony owner and now-officially terrifying publisher Yvonne (Joanna Gleason), whose attitude toward Alison suddenly shifted to cold and aggressive dislike, and all this while she was immersed in Noah’s manuscript—something which Alison has been banned from reading.

Gone was the warm, sisterly earth mother who enthusiastically employed her as an assistant. Suddenly, immersed in Noah’s book, Yvonne was simply ordering Alison to do this and that, and pleases and thank yous were notably absent.

That hostility was matched by Robert (Peter Friedman), Yvonne’s husband, who—after Alison realized they both shared the genesis of their relationships had taken place through affairs—coldly rejected her too, after she had tried to tell him about the “bolts of lightning” and other romantic cliches that had sealed her relationship with Noah; how she felt alive again suddenly, so long after being encased in a fog of grief.

But, as she looked down she realized her therapeutic exercises were having an unintended consequence: Robert had a raging boner. “I guess you just have this effect on men,” he told her.

Off she went to town for errand-ordering Yvonne on her bike, practicing riding without holding the handlebars. It seemed like a piece of hokey tentative liberation symbolism to this viewer, or maybe she was just having a playful moment—although she seemed her usual sad self doing it.

Still, in town, a shop owner told Alison that Yvonne had told her that Alison and Noah were “lovebirds” in her eyes. Had Yvonne’s froideur just come from jealousy that Alison attracted her husband; or were the concordances between her affair and Alison’s too close for comfort?

Whatever, Yvonne treated her again like a servant when some family came to visit, and Robert told her that her services were no longer required (she would be replaced by a young man who had caught Yvonne’s eye from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop).

When Alison went to confront Yvonne, she instead found Noah’s manuscript, and read reference and reference to a character that sounded like her, and utterly sexualized: “She was sex, the very definition of it, the reason the word was invented.”

Suddenly her position in Noah’s life not only seemed precarious, but cheapened. Her whole place in her new universe seemed precarious too.

She went to Brooklyn to visit Noah’s home, where he was supposed to be looking after his son, but instead ran into Helen, the first significant confrontation between them. She told Helen it had never been her intention to steal Noah away from her.

Helen, noting she had “a lot of balls” to confront her, also launched a bitter denunciation of “the greatest man on earth” she was now with.

Of her soon-to-be-former husband, Helen told her that while everything seemed rosy in the early days of being with Noah, just wait till he “takes all of his fears” and “petty bullshit” and makes it Alison’s fault. Just wait till you become his enemy for knowing him so well, Helen told her, and then wait for the day someone shows up at her house thinking they fell in love with “the greatest guy” on earth.

It was Helen’s mini-victory, and Alison was left speechless and worse out on the stoop. If Helen had last week been an out-of-control booze- and pot-fueled mess, this week she was—at least in Alison’s interpretation—returned to wronged, but in-control chatelaine.

And so Alison was left bereft again, rootless, alone, with that familiar misery etched over her face, and having toyed with Noahs engagement ring on the train, alighted at Montauk, a station platform we memorably saw in the first season. She had gone home, but for what?

In Cole’s (Joshua Jackson) memory of events, the second half of last night’s episode, he was after some quick sex with one of his blonder, hotter cab passengers of a few episodes ago.

She was soon totally nude (how Joshua Jackson escaped this is down to familiar TV sexism—or his very good agent, or both), and fetishizing him as her “ranch-hand” so volubly he told her to “shut the fuck up,” which just made her shout “yeah, shut me up,” as he pounded her as hard as she requested, before she suddenly demanded he cum on her face.

Delightfully, she demanded this as a sudden, amazing idea, like she had just concluded that a simple floral pattern for the second bedroom would be best.

When her husband arrived unexpectedly home, he punched Cole in the face, as she noted, “You’re supposed to be golfing.”

Affair fans hope to see more of her as a character—maybe she can cheer morosely miserable Alison up.

Naturally, this moment of levity was short-lived.

Scotty, Cole’s brother (soon-to-be-dead brother) wanted money from the sale of his house, as Cole was holed up in the caravan outside, miserably, since Alison had left him.

It was also emphasized again that Scotty was a drug dealer, and bad egg.

Scotty was also having sex with cute, undocumented but hard-working Louisa, who Cole liked too—and, over drinks, they shared a sweet, but not consummated, connection.

A real estate agent wanted Scotty’s beachside house too (we all do, it is pretty amazing, and all that beach out front to himself!), but when he returned from his various gallivanting and confronting and consoling he found Miserable Alison had let herself in. Of course she had come back to Montauk for him, for comfort, and for the loveliest bed-quilt ever seen in primetime. Seriously, where was it from? Want that quilt. That mystery is as tantalizing as whoever freaking killed Scotty Lockhart.

Alison was curled, foetally, in bed—if she could walk, foetally-victimishly, down the street she would—and complaining that she felt she wasn’t real, a figment of people’s imaginations.

She felt she was nothing, and in reassuring her she was not, Cole thoughtfully had sex with her. They were then both discovered by Scotty.

Flashing forward in time, the long-suffering detective of Season One and Noah’s sharky lawyer are having lunch, the latter noting half the town wanted Scotty Lockhart dead, not least his brother Cole, who ended up acing him while setting up the location they sat in—Lockhart’s Lobster Shack.

So, the mystery deepened again; the viewer was left scratching their head, thinking they might too confess to killing Scotty Lockhart—fictional as he might be—if this all isn’t cleared up soon.

It was the quietest episode of the season so far, and served only to remind us of—or remind us to be interested in—the central plot driver of Scotty’s death, and why he was such an obnoxious person.

The absence of Noah meant we will have to wait to see how he sweet-talks Alison back—we know he does, of course. And then how and if he finds out she slept with Cole, or Pacey from Dawson’s Creek, as I keep, dammit, thinking himself as.

We know lots of things about the future; the stitching of how we get there remains still a vague pattern. But my current money’s with the sharky lawyer on the matter of Scotty’s murderer: Pacey dunnit.