‘The Affair’ 1.05 or Ladies First or It’s A Family Affair

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Last night’s episode of The Affair was brought to you by my new Twitter handle: @SkankHoJodyManko. But seriously though, I forgot how much NOT fun it is being a teenage girl.

For the first time last night, we heard Alison’s side of things first.  And yet again, we didn’t see the same thing unfold twice.  Instead we are seeing certain bits from each of their perspectives but mainly how their personal lives are unfolding when the two are not together. If you’ve been keeping up with my reviews on The Affair, you will have guessed that I was thrilled about both these changes. Not because having Noah’s story come first, or watching the same story twice, had created a problem, but because it would have skewed opinions in his direction and gotten redundant — respectively — had it gone on too long, or worse, permanently. The switch was perfectly timed! In fact, according to showrunner Sarah Treem, a gifted playwright, she saw the season as a three-act play, and Sunday’s episode (no. 5) was the first episode of the second act (via Twitter). If you know anything about story structure, you’ll recognize the truth in that statement as it relates to last night’s episode, and realize that things are going to get very complicated and very dark, very quickly.

And so this week I’ll touch upon what seemed important here, their separate stresses of their home lives, and finally recap the differences and links between Noah and Alison’s stories and “bunk-ups” as well as what has become my new favorite show within a show “Revelations: Hosted by Detective Jeffries“. Let’s not forget we finally learned who died this week (BOOM! I got it right!).

ALISON

In the last couple of weeks we learned that Alison was left by her mother and raised by her grandparents. This week we met her mother, Athena (formerly Shelly), who “showed up like a nasty cold sore” to take control of medical care of Alison’s grandmother. From the moment Alison gets word that she’s in town, there is a non-stop stress and fear on her face and her voice: clearly this woman has a significant effect on Alison. She resents her mother for leaving despite Athena’s claim that she asked Alison to come with her multiple times and that it was Alison’s choice to stay in Montauk with her friends and grandparents. She doesn’t believe in monogamy and congratulates Alison on her affair with Noah because it gives her life and, finally, a connection with another human being that she hadn’t felt since Gabriel’s death. After all, the audience can see what Athena means, particularly within Alison’s narrative in which she was always so meek, sad, and comely. Just watch her walk into that nursing room beaming, he hair flowing, her cheeks rosy, and it’s hard not to be happy for her despite how morally questionable her actions are.

At first, at the nursing home, it looked like Athena could be nothing more than an over-the-top hippie, much like Alison had described her moments earlier to Noah, but I was pleased to find that she was not. She is flawed and rude and self-entitled, that is for sure, but she makes a good point about a lot of things. I am happy to see that the “Hero of My Own Story” flavor of each narrative isn’t as strong as it was in the first few episodes, and that every person that Noah and Alison don’t particularly agree with hasn’t turned into a fictional or two-dimensional antagonist. That would have been boring for sure.

The argument between Athena and Cole at the dinner table told us a lot about both Athena and Cole. For all Athena’s positive energy, she’s got quite a bit of pent of rage and anger at those with differing views, even if they are not imposing or directing them at her. As for Cole, boy does he have that family under his thumb. Cole may not say much but what he says goes. $30 million dollars for the ranch means a ridiculous amount of money for each of them, especially if they are struggling financially, although up until now the possibility of a leaky roof isn’t exactly poverty.

And while on the subject of Cole’s communication skills, his stoic reaction to Alison jumping out of bed and into a pretty long dress when she just told him she wanted to get “a few more hours of sleep” rather than watch him surf, put a big lump in my throat. I can’t remember the last time I saw a man react so little to something so hurtful but the truth is there are many people like this who rather avoid the problem than address it directly, and its often underrepresented on film and television for the sake of sparking a “fight” or conflict. Kudos to the writers with that one. It left me far more worried than had the two had a blow out fight.

NOAH

Noah’s personal life problems were not quite as singular as Alison’s was in dealing with her mother.  Understandably so, the majority of Noah’s problems center around being a family man with four children, and the struggle of not making much money, yet having his wealthy in-laws around throwing it at him. I said this once before, around the second episode: I love how much personal finances play into both of the characters lives and stresses if not only for the sheer fact that it’s a factor, always, in life, and once again, so underrepresented on television. Especially on television where waitresses live in SoHo.

But, I digress. Noah first issue comes when he thinks Whitney is missing, later realizing he was not paying attention when his wife told him that she would be sleeping at Ruby’s house. This is followed by Helen asking him to pick up some bagels on his run (i.e. sexcapade with Alison), after all it’s good for his biceps (it sure is!). And just as he’s about to walk out the door  his son, Trevor, relentlessly insists on joining him for his jog until Noah snaps. Even when he’s trying to have sex with Alison he is summoned back by Helen due to a family emergency pertaining to Whitney.

The scene in which Noah tire pops on his way back home would have a tad pointless (if not only to add a little suspense) if it hadn’t been for the fact that Hodges catches him there and gets really nosy (more on that later). Worst of all Noah drops his AAA card and Hodge comes over to the Butler’s mansion to return it. I found this a little to convenient, and I get the feeling Hodges is a really smart guy, so I like to think that he purposefully swiped the card to have an excuse. Of course, Hodges takes the opportunity to mention that the flat tire occurred in Ditch Plains, rightly assuming that Helen would be surprised by this. And now there’s bad blood between Noah and Hodges after they almost go to blows over Hodges trying to walk through the house and find the Butler’s and invite them to The Lobster Roll. Strange guy and an even stranger scene. Who does that?

Finally, we have the situation with Whitney cyber bullying her classmate, Jody Manko, and Jody’s subsequent suicide attempt (an issue that I found curiously relevant considering all the recent media surrounding the issue). Per usual the in-laws try to throw money at the problem in the most disgusting way possible, consoling Whitney, hiring a lawyer, and assuming the worst of “unstable” Jody. Up until then I saw no flaws in Helen but after a few weeks of this nonsense between her parents and Noah, I think Noah is right in that Helen refuses to either stand with him or stand against her parents. In other words, once her parents get involved she doesn’t. I wouldn’t be so quick to judge if it weren’t that a moment prior she was livid about Whitney’s behavior and insisting that she apologize to Jody and see a therapist. She also insists that they should take as much money as they want to throw at them if they need it. On a personal level, I can’t stand by that. How did you all feel about it? And is it enough for Noah to want to leave his wife and family when just a few days prior he made it clear he did not plan nor want to do so?

In Noah’s speech to Whitney we sense that he isn’t quite understanding the weight of his words:

I’m frightened by how little you seem to understand this. Your words and your actions have consequences. When you do something mean because you’re angry or bored it happens to someone else. I hurts them.

Until of course she’s feeling like total garbage, understanding that he is right, and going off to do the right thing. Do as I say, not as I do, eh?

THE AFFAIR, THE INVESTIGATION, AND THEORIES!

So we can scratch one question off our list, the victim was Scotty Lockhart. What else? He was on his way to a club in the tourist area of Montauk called “The End”. What we’ve seen on him, which I previously theorized that he would be the victim:

  • According to Alison, he and Whitney flirted at the ranch at least one time the two were on their way upstairs at the Butler’s house on the night of the party before Alison and Noah walked in on them. Noah does not tell this to Det. Jeffries.
  • According to Noah, Scotty and Alison had a tense exchange at the docks full of sarcastic innuendo in which Scotty called Alison a “talker” and saw them together.

The detective asked Alison this week if Hodges and Scotty were friends and she confirmed that they were, but then again she thinks it’s normal for people who are trying to punch each other in the face to be invited to each other’s weddings, too.

Now if we play detective and link the bits and pieces from each narrative together, we can deduce that Hodges was figuring out Noah and Alison’s affair by prodding each of them for information. For example, we know Hodges was at The Lobster Roll when Noah came looking for her, and then gave Noah a hard time two episodes back at the Town Hall meeting by calling Alison “your girl”. In this episode, we don’t know at first why Hodges asks Alison if she’s taking care of Pheobe’s place out in Ditch Plains at first, but once we see how he found Noah out there, we understand the question. It doesn’t help that, I’m sure, that Athena goes to The Lobster Roll to ask for Pheobe’s address in order to find her, confirming that Alison is actually spending time there.

So what does that mean? If I had to guess, Hodges is planning on blackmailing Alison into convincing the Lockharts not to block his plans for the “Entertainment Center”, if not for something even bigger such as selling him the ranch for cheap. What does this have to do with the investigation of Scotty’s death? I haven’t gotten that far yet, but certainly a feud between the Hodges and Lockharts could make Hodge quite the suspicious fella.

Here’s another juicy bit that sent my theory antennas up: Why is Alison dressed like a city slicker and driving home into “The City”? Anyone from the Tri-State area knows that “the city” can only mean New York City, so does she really live there? And with who? After all we know she has another kid. I don’t imagine Cole would have sold out and moved out there so this is a huge hint towards them not being together anymore. And of course, the ultimate question, is she there with Noah? It would make sense if that were the case since their affair has been such a centerpiece in the investigation. Afterall, why would Jeffries be so interested or even know about it otherwise?

This of course is hinted at by the final scene of the episode in which the two “decided” to runaway together. Many untrue things and terrible decisions have been said in such a moment, so I highly doubt they will be out like Bonnie and Clyde next week but it’s been said… and it will linger.

They are each the sexual initiators all of a sudden, in their own story.

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3 Comments

  1. Jen
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Love your blog and approach to analysing the unfolding of events. Was with you until this week’s analysis & conclusions. But hey who knows.

    Like you, have noticed all of the attention paid to finances. But doubt it’s just about relating to common man’s problems. Because, the way it’s done, with both Noah & Alison in their respective telling by seeming to overly focus on money and their relationship to money continually pointing out how unimportant it is to them despite how important it is to everyone around them.

    They both seem to make point after point of showing how they are morally superior when it comes to money. Im thinking the murder has to have been motivated by money. Or at least they both believe that’s the detective’s theory and seem to go to great oaks. To show unlike everyone around them (Noah’s in laws, children and now even Helen) and as Alison sees it, everyone but her (even Noah) has money and she is perfectly happy with it.

    One tiny fact I did note was that when they were on Block (lave that name) Island, in order to avoid using a credit card Noah pays cash but doesn’t have enough… Alison has cash and Noah points out that she asks, “how much do you need?” Interesting that she had that much cash handy… Doubt it was insignificant.

    Like you, I think there has got to be something with the cash box, “fish delivery” and “Cole’s asked you to keep that door locked” comment. Something is up and it’s not fish. Believe these and other unknown facts are what lead to the murder as opposed to anything we know right now. Could be wrong. Time will tell.

    The “talker” comment from Scotty (thanks for that forgot who had said it) believe that he actually said “she talks too much”. Although I could be misremembering. Alison does not strike me as being all that talkative even in Noah’s re telling…. Point being it strikes me as pointed comment about something specific Alison had said that she shouldn’t have said and a warning.

    Few more random observations:

    Water & Gabriel’s death… Yes we know he drowned. But, i believe it plays a more significant theme. As has become very clear by now, water is an important theme throughout.
    The song in opening credits, The Container lyrics, “be the wave that I am and fall back into the ocean” waves disrupt. She created an echo hat outlasted her last breath. The opening scene of the first episode is with Noah swimming (and turning down advances from younger woman)….so we know he is an adept swimmer and chooses to swim for fun and exercise. Alison in her version on Block Island asks how he learned how to swim and to describe the lake where learned to swim. Whether it was cold. Other examples are of course the outdoor shower, the stories of shipwrecks, “the angry ocean”, Alison’s favorite book, is Peter Pan the story of perennial youth but also of ships and ticking clocks, dangerous aligators and water.

    Reasons for this are of course the obvious interest because of how Gabriel died and Alison’s mindset and her rationale or openness to an affair yet more than that it seems water in all forms to be a part of the story so frequently to be more than a mere coincidence. Water like the scenery in Mantauk is ethereal… As are our recollections, water washes away our sins… Don’t know how it all fits in just believe it’s too much of a focus not play a more central role in the unfolding mystery.

    Noah’s in-laws last name is Butler – They’re the wealthiest characters we’ve met so far. But their last name is Butler. A butler is the highest amongst the servant class but still a servant. Perhaps that’s just about them being from new money in an old town full of old families but also potentially more.

    Also curious about:
    The father in law’s mistress.
    Noah mentioned his father in law’s mistress and how disruptive that was that she was at the party. Was that just to show that Noah is cognisant of the impact an affair has on the wife and family even after the affair ends? Doubtful because it was also part of Alison’s retelling albeit during her version it was the mother in law who mentions the mistress. She jokingly asks Alison to help her get back at her. Unclear the point except that it an important enough fact to appear both versions….
    Saw someone speculate in a comment online that possibly present day, now obviously quite wealthy Alison, was with the father in law and that they were actually together now as a couple. Mulling that one over….

    Of course, I have left out the best of what The Affair gives us and that’s the incredibly subtle insight about similar events from two very different perspectives and what that says about each of them. And all of us. It’s more than women are emotional and men are about sex. Much more. Both have needs sexual and emotional that their affair is filling and it’s honest. The perspectives vary on basic facts but also down to the differences in clothing and makeup, the scenery and even the classic wallpaper are all fascinating. Read a couple reviews that described this show as slow… Couldn’t disagree more. If anything it requires a second or even third viewing to catch the subtleties and nuances… I love people watching and trying to understand what makes people tick and this show gives us a reason to really explore and understand those things as necessary clues to the underlying mystery.

    Beautiful, haunting, layered and an honest glimpse into seemingly innocuous events of seemingly normal people has me fascinating beyond measure.

    Love that you’re enjoying it as much as I am and sooo appreciate your insights and the helpful framework you’ve adopted for trying to wrap our heads this captivating series.

    Look forward to reading your blog next week.
    -J

    • Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for following and for your insight, Jen.

      I haven’t heard the money angle mentioned all that much elsewhere so I’m glad I’m not alone there. It may go nowhere but even in this last episode I forgot to mention where it popped up again: in bed. Noah tells Alison “You think I grew up rich don’t you?” and proceeds to tell her about his humble upbringing. Even he knows its on her mind.

      The “fish cooler” and the comment about keeping the door closed, are definitely going to be a big factor on this murder. After all money is the number one motive in homicide so perhaps we should ask, who was left to profit if Scotty died? Someone that would inherit the money coming in to the Lockharts from the “fish”?

      I went back and Scotty’s line to Alison in Noah’s memory was “She’s a talker”. But you’re right, that line implies some event in which Alison said too much, except curiously enough it’s in Noah’s memory! Why would Noah be telling this to the detective? Is it even true or is he fluffing things up to look a certain way?

      Regarding the Bruce’s mistress, what’s great about such a well written series is that her mention could be there to reveal how disgusted Helen is by the thought of an affair, but the fact that it was also brought into a conversation between Alison and Margaret in Alison’s memory is significant. Let’s see if she turns up again.

      Oh and water is definitely a bigger and bigger theme every week. Will discuss this theme and some others more in depth next week…

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    ‘The Affair’ 1.05 or Ladies First or It’s A Family Affair « The Serial Box – A Television Review Blog

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