The Affair Season 1 Episode 5 Recap

So for the first time, I listened to the full scope of the lyrics in the opening. Also for the first time, Alison has the first-up slot, instead of Noah. The showrunner said on Twitter last week that she wanted everyone to hang in until episode 4 and then make their decision. I have to say it was my least favourite of the previous four. Last night's episode, though, I loved.  

Because I like Noah and Alison so much better when they’re apart.

Of course, this is because the show is only partially about the Affair in question. Really it’s about families, and who you love, and how you came to be that way. Which is my number-one overall favourite topic, so it stands to reason that I’d love this.

And, as in real life, sometimes things aren’t equal. This week Alison gets more of the story, because we have more to see. Her mother, who pretends to be gentle and loving, but whose willingness to strike out and hurt is never far from the surface. Her surrogate family, Coles, who will envelop her and love her but who will almost never notice if she doesn’t say or do a thing, so involved are they in being themselves. Their passion will drown her because she just doesn’t feel any, goddammit.

So Alison has a terrible mother, and, it is implied re the ‘so-many-wedding-rings’ joke, no particular father figure, and she has a husband whose rage is bubbling under the surface all the time, because let’s face it, he is no more healed than his wife where the baby is concerned.

And it will get worse, because we learn that the victim of the murder – or the accident – is Cole’s brother Scotty. Alison thinks there’s no reason she was upset that day, Noah thinks he’s never been to a club.   Okay.

But Noah is a dick in every frame of his ‘half’ of the episode, and he keeps making it worse for himself. I’m from the school of thought, by the way, that Whitney’s parents were actually astoundingly easy on her – even up to letting her go to the door herself instead of being humiliatedly marched there to be surpervised while she chokes out an apology - that’s how I was raised, that's how I expect I will do the raising.

Yet it still flabbergasts me when I remember that parents are most upset at the traits in you that they abhor in themselves. Noah wants to believe that he and Whitney can stop being assholes, but god, he can’t, so what in hell makes him think she has a fighting chance in hell?

Of course the show also wants us to look at money, a lot and all the time, and yeah, there are maids, and Noah’s mother was a waitress, and his father drove a truck, and class issues are going to be at the heart of the reason Alison’s boss Oscar decides to take Noah down (I assume, because that’s what ‘I thought we were friends’ means, right?). But even though we skated past it a little last week, I need to understand what keeps Noah and Helen together. Yeah, yeah ‘we were young’, but four kids (two of whom haven’t been seen since the pilot)? Twenty years or more? You’d think there’d be something real…or that there was once?

I hate them both and yet I love watching them when they’re on their own. It’s the combination of Noah and Allison together that feels so …toxic.