Call this episode of Showtime’s The Affair — in which we get Alison’s and Cole’s take events of last week’s episode, and a disturbingly better idea of what may have happened to Scotty — for Joshua Jackson. By turns chilling and heartrendingly sympathetic as the beaten-down Cole, he is as mesmerizing as Maura Tierney was as the resolute Helen last week. No worries about a sophomore slump for Sarah Treem’s stunning psychological study with these two at the forefront, and Dominic West and Ruth Wilson as good as ever.
We begin at Noah’s damn-near-cliché writers retreat by the Hudson, where he is late for that train into the city, but not too late to wake Alison — who perspective we are operating from — with kisses. She says she feels strange staying here when he’s gone, because what will the love shack’s owners, Robert and Phyllis, think of her? Noah doesn’t know. Well, what does Harry think? Ah … Harry doesn’t know about her either. Alison says they’ll talk about it when Noah gets home.
About what, wonders Noah.
About who I am to you, says Alison.
You’re the best thing that ever happened to me, he tells her. And by the way, the toilet’s broke. Ah, romance.
Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and Alison is certainly resourceful. She finds a place to pee by a tree, spotting Robert heading out on the dock while she finishes the job.
Back inside, she makes herself a pot of tea, then takes a look around the place, stopping to have a peek at the “Descent” manuscript that sits on the desk in a tidy stack. Spying the “For Alison” dedication, she smiles and leaves the rest be. But what to do with her day? She opts for another walk to town, a blister from her sandal bringing the journey up short.
Robert spots her by the side of the road and offers to give her a lift to town on his way to the dump. Small talk ensues. He tells her that Yvonne wants to sell the retreat and move back to the city, where she is a high-powered book publisher. Judging by her look of dismay at the thought, Alison must be from a small town, yes? She says she is.
In town, Alison finds a Band-aid for her blister, then gazes wistfully at a gaggle of small boys playing soccer in the park. She gets herself a sundae, asks about a job at the little cafe and then heads for home. Where she has company. Cole.
He tells her he got the address from Jane and is just here to deliver her stuff. But since he’s here and all, he’ll fix that toilet for her useless boyfriend. He goes to get his tools and Alison hides the manuscript in the drawer then heads outside to collect herself.
Yvonne shows up with an equally cliché basket of local treats — cheese from the sheep, syrup from the maples, cider from the apples — and spots Cole heading back to his truck. Alison introduces him as an old friend and Cole lets the ruse pass, spotting an opportunity. He heads to the truck as Yvonne asks Alison if he’s single, because her niece would love him. Noah returns and thrusts “the most important piece to the puzzle” — a painted wooden crate — into Alison’s hands.
Seeing Alison is uncomfortable, Yvonne invites her up to the house for a bit of tea and some proper hospitality. Alison keeps the date and watches Robert and Yvonne spar a bit over Robert’s recovery from knee surgery, during which they find out that Alison used to be a nurse, but she’s kind of … searching … now. Join the club, says Robert. But hey, they could use some help around the house if she needs something to occupy her time. The way Richard regards her makes me nervous. But Yvonne seems all about it (love me some Joanna Gleason).
Noah comes home crabby, ranting about the mediator, Margaret, Harry and the ending to the book. Also, what’s going on with her house? Where’s his manuscript? Did she read it?
Maybe this will cheer him up — she tells him about her job. It does the opposite. He rages that they are only here so Noah can finish his book, not so she can take their hosts’ money. Too bad, she says. He storms out. She takes a gulp of wine. He storms back in, full of apologies. They have awkward counter sex, then head out for a decorative little dinner on the deck. But not before Noah notices the toilet is fixed. Alison gets away with not telling him how that happened. For now, anyway.
Cut to the now and the sterile halls of the courthouse, where Alison, pushing that towhead toddler in a stroller, comes upon Jon Gottlief. She says she needs to talk him. Good enough, he says … and she is whom exactly? “I’m his wife,” Alison spits. Whoa. When’d that happen?! And this Mrs. Solloway is not too happy about that Mrs. Solloway being in charge of Noah’s legal matters.
He looks at her with a combination of calculated indifference and scorn. “Miss Bailey,” he says, taking his leave. “I am sure this will work out exactly how it … should.”
Let’s see how Cole feels about things.
Working a crossword — and looking like complete hell — in his cab, he finally gets a fare, who just so happens to be Helen’s father Bruce. What are the odds. Bruce waxes poetic about how Montauk used to be and concludes with “That’s the terrible thing about living. You never get to go back no matter how much you miss it. Just gotta keep moving forward.”
Don’t these guys know it.
Then Bruce decides to get personal. He tells Cole that he’s leaving his wife — the insufferable Margaret. See, his son-in-law left his daughter — good riddance if you ask him — and it got him thinking. Looked up a former flame on the internet, called her up and voila! Love begins anew. So whaddaya think of that! Cole wants to know what happened to the son-in-law. Bruce says some people are just destined to lose.
After dropping Bruce off, Cole almost backs over the babysitter’s charge in the driveway.
Back at the office, Cole stashes his earnings in the safe then says he’s going back out. No dice, says Caleb. He’s been driving for 24 hours and that isn’t legal (heh!). As he walks out, the very much alive Scotty comes around the corner to give him grief about not tending to their family … or, you know, life. Time to sell that damned house and collect his half because the family needs the money.
“Scotty. I’m going to give you three seconds to get out of the way of the car and then I’m going to run you the f–k down,” Cole says. Oh. Brother.
Spotting a female form in the house as he pulls into his drive, Cole is ever hopeful. But it’s Jane, gathering some of her things. Cole says he’ll do it. Just give him the address and he’ll ship it. No? Well then she’s trespassing and he’s not in a good enough mood to overlook that fact.
Back on the road, Cole gets another chatty driver. This time a blonde on her way to the polo club. She’s drunk and she likes him. She’s an escort, too. And nauseous. He pulls over to let her puke. Not sure what this vignette means, but I suspect it will matter in some fashion.
After he drops her off, Cole begins to doze off at the wheel. He pulls a packet of the Lockhart family’s finest from his car visor, goes home to pack a bag and heads out of town.
Sitting in a cafe, Cole spots Noah heading for the train. He makes a finger gun and “shoots” him, then heads for his and Alison’s love nest and lets himself in.
Well, this is different. In Noah’s version, Alison appears in a sensible sweater and jeans, smiles gratefully to see him standing uninvited in her living room and sits him down with coffee for a chat. She asks after the family, says yes, Noah is treating her well and heads to the kitchen to fix him some breakfast. His face makes plain how much he misses her. She says she thinks about him, too. They had some good days.
As Cole heads out, she thanks him for bringing her stuff. He didn’t have to.
“Are you ever coming home?” he says plaintively.
“I don’t think so,” she says softly. “I’m sorry.”
“That’s OK,” he says. “I just needed to hear that.” He takes his leave.
She chases him up the stairs and grabs him into a hug, asking him to promise that he’ll keep in touch. He says he will. And finally he sleeps, in the back of his cab. Because he knows she is safe and well cared for? Because he now knows where she — and the man who stole his wife — is? Or because a plan to amend that can now be put into action?
And we’re in the present day, where Cole — at the courthouse and looking much better off — spots Alison quieting her baby, whose name is Joanie. Joanie? Well, anyway.
They return to the courtroom together to hear the charges: obstructing justice, leaving the scene of a crime and vehicular homicide. $500,000 bail. Noah looks stunned. Cole looks satisfied as his rival is led out in cuffs. Then he turns his gaze toward Alison and the baby with a look of intent the gives me chills.
So what was your take on this episode of The Affair? Whose version do you think treads closest to the truth this time around? Who was the puker in Cole’s cab — does it matter? Predictions on how Bruce’s news will factor into our story? Sound off in the comments section below.
New episodes of The Affair premiere Sundays at 10/9CT on Showtime.