The Affair Season 2 Episode 11 recap

One of the things that frustrates and beguiles me about this show is how unfortunately easy it is to identify with Noah. But dude, even though I sympathize with not having an office and with getting up early to work, there’s this typing place the rest of us frequent called ‘The Couch’.

Still, he has the best of intentions, even if sometimes he falls asleep at the keyboard. In fact, this episode shows us everyone’s good intentions, even if they don’t add up. 

We notice this first and foremost in Cole’s chapter. For example, Luisa is anxious to make a good impression on Cherry, and despite the way things start off, it looks like she might have had a fighting chance. Everything about Luisa – her poise and carriage and the fact that she was so obviously fresh from bed when first meeting Cherry – should work against her, but she obviously wins Cole’s mother over enough that she’s showing her pictures from inside the once-precious breakfront.  Don’t you love that Cole is the kind of guy who knows what a breakfront is?

Then there’s Margaret, Helen’s mother. So anxious to be forgiven for something…anything… that she overcompensates, hoping to have even a Lockhart wedding on her own property. It’s the wrong gesture by far, but she has the best intentions. Even Cole, who throws Scotty into the kinds of chairs that will bruise you just by walking by them, has the best intentions when he tells him he’ll cut him in if Scotty will just go to rehab. 

Everyone’s trying, mostly. Cole is trying, over and over again, to get back to a place where he’s just one factor in his family, instead of the fulcrum on which everything goes either good or bad – and if getting Scotty into rehab will get him back to a place of stability, of being another Lockhart brother of influence, then so much the better for Cole. Scotty, to his dubious credit, is trying not to be vindictive in dropping the piece of knowledge onto Cole that would, quite rightly, blow up his life.

Is Alison trying?

Noah is trying. Explaining to his editor why he can’t get a book out the door, he outlines exactly what he thinks Alison wants and needs, and why he has to put her needs over his. We don’t need to like the editor, so he stays just this side of not-quite-monstrous by observing that he didn’t think it sounds like Alison. 

It doesn’t totally sound like Alison to Noah, either, but he’s willing to get behind it, because that’s what you do. You support the person you love. But notice the differences. He’s frank and detached when he talks about this. Even when he shows up to her class with flowers (best of intentions!) and she isn’t there, he remains calmer than I’d ever thought he would have. When he asks if she’s sleeping with Cole again, it’s secondary to almost everything else.

Here, Noah tells her that he’s trying, really trying to understand her ‘this year’. But that if she can’t communicate, he can’t get there. His level of calm is admirable, but speaks to a lack of passion. In fact, as Alison says she belongs ‘here’, she’s in a big sweater, nothing like the tempting things Noah has remembered her in before. Now that she’s not ‘pure sex’, she’s a cipher that he’s trying to understand, and their interaction is so passionless it’s almost mathematical. “I was afraid you’d say no.” “Well, I probably would have.” But he admits that he’s not mad. By contrast, Noah got more of a head of steam going with Max. “You slept with my wife!?!” Poor lonely Max who just wants a friend and has lost two slept with Helen.

Max, who easily has my favourite throwaway line this episode, after Noah tosses his glass. “It’s Waterford Crystal. Not a big deal.” If you’ve ever tiptoed past the Waterford as your parents threatened your life, you know why this is funny, and if he means it in earnest because the Baccarat or something is more expensive, it’s funnier still.

Poor little rich boy. Not an accident that he resembles Scotty in this episode, unshowered and unshaven, another lost boy who would be able to go good or bad just based on getting some love. Max has never understood, really, why Helen chose Noah, but given that she did, he would have been happy to be in an odd little threesome of love. I used to think, somewhere early in the season, that his brotherly love for Noah was insincere – and Noah’s not wrong that the money was a buyoff to feel less guilty sleeping with Helen – but in truth, Max has always wanted Noah and Helen both. “I fought so hard for everyone who’s ever loved me.”

Given that he can’t have either of them, though, he might as well tell the world what he knows about Noah, and the car he washed. Noah’s fantasies about hitting Alison aren’t abating, but they’re less nightmarish now. He sees her in the daylight. He’s seeing Alison as she really is. “You’ve had different experiences.”

Is Alison trying? Is she making any effort to make things really work? I try to be sympathetic, but you don’t find the time to not get into the shower and tell your fiancé (not husband, the show reminds us) what you’d like to do with a million dollars today? Still keeping so many things from Noah, and from Cole. Still trying to figure out who she is.

The only person we know less about is Whitney.