The Affair (Showtime) Review Episode 3

The Affair‘s greatest achievement is in the way it spins the he said, she said drama into something that feels fresh. More than the show is a mystery, it is the story of Alison and Noah’s infidelity: their states of mind, why they chose to enter into the affair and the repercussions of the decisions they made. Waiting for the act break that comes at the middle of each of hour is as thrilling as any breadcrumbs about who was killed and why because the ways in which Alison and Noah see the summer and each other are so vastly different. As viewers, we are left to parse out what they remember versus what they are deliberately lying about and why.

As a writer, Noah is prone to embellishment. His side of the story is always tidier than Alison’s, as if it has been polished up and the edges smoothed away. He is candid about the emasculation he feels at the hands of his wife’s parents, but he continues to present himself as hero foiled by the seduction of a townie. In his head, he came to Montauk, met Alison and she slowly pulled him away from his family and into a fantasy where he could have control. It is all part of his narrative.

The discrepancies between his story and Alison’s were plentiful this week. Noah makes special mention of his father-in-law’s publisher telling him he has an honest face. When he recounts the story of Alison showing him Montauk in order to research for his new book, he remembers her wearing a short skirt and taking him to buy fish before pulling him in for stolen kisses even as he protested. When he depicts the moment that he finally gives in and has sex with Alison, he makes it clear that he was acting out against the belittlement he felt from his in-laws. He tells Alison he is going to control the moment, and it is the domination he gets off on. Back with the publisher, he explained his next book would be about a summer person and a waitress in Montauk having an affair. The book would expose the truth behind small town America and at the end of the story, the man would kill the woman to save himself. Did Noah show his hand? In the interrogation scene it was revealed that Noah is still married (or he is married to someone, at least), and he alluded to problems between the Lockharts and Oscar, and pointed toward Oscar as a more viable suspect in the murder.

Alison remembers the day very differently. She remembers driving to the hospital where she once worked as a pediatric nurse only to be unable to escape reminders of her son. She went there with the intention of returning to work and left with bandages and alcohol to care for her wound after she purposely cut her leg with a shell on the beach. Meeting with Noah at the library gave her a respite from the numbing pain of her day-to-day life. She led him around town and told him about the history of Montauk, and when they kissed passionately, she was the one who said no. She does not mention the beach where their affair was supposedly consummated, but she does recount waking Cole up in the middle of the night in order for sex after receiving a text from Noah. She echoes the same words Noah says to his wife at the top of the hour when he crawls into bed with her and rouses her for an early morning tryst: “don’t wake up.”

The most notable, and perhaps most important difference in their stories this week in regards to the murder mystery is in the way they remember the town hall meeting. Alison invites Noah in both cases, but Noah remembers coming just in time to see everyone coming out. In his memory, Alison and Cole were smiling and walking hand in hand. Noah ran into Oscar who suggested to Noah that he was on to what was going on between Noah and Alison. However, according to Alison, Noah did not make it to any part of the meeting. If he had, he would have seen the Lockharts and Oscar screaming at each other outside over Cole turning the town against Oscar’s bowling alley expansion idea. He also would have seen Alison keeping her distance from Cole because he used the memory of their son to sway the attendees over to his side.

It is hard to tell how calculating Alison is being when she tells her side of the story. The moments she illustrates are darker, her emotions ragged and honest. Only her simmering anger at Cole raises suspicion, but she has grief on her side, instead of the far less sympathetic wounded ego of a middle aged man who has lost his sense of pride.

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