In The Affair‘s fourth episode, it stopped beating around the bush. The certainty of Noah and Alison’s romance needed a place to bloom, and they found it one afternoon on Block Island. There are no more distractions here (minus one person Alison does know, of course), and their families are far away. The two are more or less trapped together for a day, and the discoveries they make there are more complicated than they seemed to think they would be. Hit the jump for why “I slept for more of high school. That’s what I did for fun.”
The Affair switched up its format a little bit in “Episode Four,” to good effect. Because the episode took place over one long day together, we didn’t really need to see it from two distinct perspectives. Alison’s POV picked up exactly where Noah’s ended, although a slight timeline shift in their visiting the coastal cliffs showed a few small, but important differences in their experiences.
In Noah’s segment, he is plagued by thoughts of cheating on Helen, which he is open about with Alison. She makes it clear that this affair is only that — no one is going to leave their partners, it’s just about a little fun. Except, of course, it’s nothing like that at all. Alison later caustically (though perhaps rightfully) dismisses Noah as a summer thrill seeker, bored with his life and looking for that old trope of a free-spirited girl to rescue him. But Alison, too, need rescuing, as is clear when she asks Noah repeatedly what he sees in her now that he knows about her personal tragedy.
“Episode Four” was about Alison and Noah getting to know each other better, something she at first (in his recollection) wants to avoid. She has a good reason. To keep things easy, delving into messy and woeful pasts could break the spell. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t. Alison admits she likes everything about Noah, and feels particularly tenderly towards him after he admits his own tragic past. He also is clearly one of those guys who is attracted to complication. In many ways, it seems like Helen rescued Noah a long time ago, and her family and financial connections have always supplemented him. Now, he sees an opportunity where he seems stable and strong, where he can play a white knight.
Yet, things are hardly so cut and dry. He and Alison fight several times during their day together, and in one case, Noah reacted so violently that he damaged a dresser, making Alison help him switch it out with another one. The lark brings them back together, until the ferry, where they clash again, and Alison again feels conflicted about her actions after looking at a photo of Cole (her near-breakdown in the bathroom after she and Noah have sex for the first time was also very telling — and very different — versus how Noah remembered her cavalier attitude).
Where The Affair excels is in its smallest moments, like when Noah realizes going to a museum to learn the history of the island is no substitute for exploring it in real life with Alison, or her having to pony up some cash to help Noah pay for their room. The two times they were in the clothing boutique, too, signified what they seem to need from one another. Noah likes Alison’s crafty seduction of him in the changing room, while she appreciated him playing along with the idea that they’re together, and kissed her passionately, saying he had been looking for her.
What didn’t work as well were the vignettes from the present day, where they both had a private moment outside with the detective. In Noah’s version, the detective had lost custody of his children to his ex-wife (exposing Noah’s deepest fear?), whereas Alison recalls him saying he and his wife have been married 25 years, and are still like newlyweds (suggesting her own desires?) What is interesting about these varying accounts (with a timeline that puts Trevor at an age where he’s writing essays about racism in Mark Twain’s works), is that they vary at all. Apparently, not even the present day is an objective truth, unless the detective is playing them. What it necessary, and did it illuminate anything important?
“Episode Four” wasn’t The Affair‘s greatest hour; however, it served its purpose in getting Noah and Alison to a place where the spell of a summer crush has settled into something much more real, more honest, and far more difficult. Where things go from here are sure to be increasingly complicated.
Episode Rating: B
— The exposition into their backgrounds happened so naturally in this episode. Also, Noah asking Alison about what Gabriel was like broke my heart.
— “If you ask me, the reason why everyone is so miserable is because they’re doing yoga, and not having sex” – The foul-mouthed heritage museum docent.
— The sound mixing when Noah was talking at the lighthouse, though … not great.
— Those sex scenes, though … steamy. Super steamy (especially the final one).
— “They’re all fracking, and lighting their faucets on fire. I think” – Noah, talking about Western PA.
— “Trust you? Are you insane? You’re a married man with four kids who’s cheating on his wife” – Alison.
— “Let me be clear, there’s nothing about you that’s easy, and whatever darkness you think you’re hiding, it’s written all over your fucking face. And you know what? I kinda like it.” – Noah. You in danger!
— “Alison I’m a grown man, I know what I want” – Noah.
— “I’ve been looking for you” – Noah.