The Affair, Ep. 1.03: “3” explores the characters’ secondary relationships

Ruth Wilson, Dominic West
Ruth Wilson, Dominic West

The Affair, Season 1, Episode 3: “3”
Written by Eric Overmyer
Directed by Jeffrey Reiner
Airs Sundays at 10 pm ET on Showtime

Despite Alison and Noah both painting themselves as emotionally vulnerable in the events leading up to their affair with each other, both individuals couldn’t help but point out their own willing involvement in beginning everything, despite skewing the story in their own favour. The reveal to Noah that the death he thought occurred as an accident is actually the subject of a murder investigation further opened up the possibility of his narrative skewing closer to the truth going forward. This week’s episode sees Noah and Alison’s motivations behind the affair come to light, in another compelling episode that expands on the secondary residents of Montauk and the central characters’ relationships to them.

While Noah continues to paint Alison as the driving force in the affair, it’s interesting to see him take some of the blame this week. Noah’s admission that he told Alison he couldn’t stop thinking about her, and his insistence that he be the one in power in the relationship, paints a different picture than the one Noah had previously presented. His actions this week work well to rub away the sheen of the pursued man that Noah had tried to put up as a weak defence for his actions. His strained relationship with his in-laws, however, continues to be fascinating, regardless of its authenticity. While the frictional relationship Noah has with Helen’s father has been illustrated in past weeks, the indication this week that Noah doesn’t hold his mother-in-law in high regard either further fleshes out why he may have been so eager to engage in an adulterous affair. While Noah’s intent may be to paint himself as a hapless victim of passive-aggressive behaviour, he is showing why he was so eager to do anything outside the house, despite the presence of a loving wife. Coupled with Noah’s obvious attraction to Alison, his motivations are becoming clearer. It will be intriguing to see, as the story continues, whether Noah’s views on his in-laws begins to change, much like his views on who was ultimately responsible for the affair. An admission that Helen’s parents may not have been as antagonistic as he’s portrayed them would force Noah to take more responsibility for his actions, which may bring out more of the truth.

Maura Tierney, Julia Goldani Telles
Maura Tierney, Julia Goldani Telles

Alison’s story this week provides a richer picture of Montauk itself, and further indicates why she engaged in the affair. The small town nature of the place, while understandably appealing to some of the town’s residents, is clearly stifling to Alison, especially in its inability to allow her to move on from the grief of losing her son. The reveal of Alison as a cutter further entrenches what a difficult time she is having with her grief, and provides further insight into the motivations behind her engagement in the affair. The fact that Alison manages to smile and have a good time with Noah is very telling, as is the fact that she no longer paints herself as a reluctant participant in the affair, unlike Noah. It’s clear that, much like the summer people of Montauk, Alison’s craving a getaway of sorts from her life, something Noah provides, and it’s the idea of an affair and something new in her life that’s more appealing to Alison than the prospect of Noah himself. While Noah is fixated on Alison, Alison gives the impression that Noah just happened to be the most convenient partner for an affair, and it will be interesting to see if this perspective changes as more details about the affair are revealed. Alison’s placement in the middle of the fight between Cole and Oscar also appears to be a contributing factor to her desire to escape, particularly as she has clearly expressed an affinity for the summer people that Cole seems to dislike. Whether or not she gets dragged further into the feud, and how that affects her relationship with Noah, will say a lot about her motivations in continuing the affair.

Overall, the show continues to be a compelling character study. The differences in how Noah and Alison view one another continues to be fascinating in what it reveals about both individuals, as Noah’s remembrances of Alison involve her physical appearance a fair amount. Alison, however, doesn’t objectify Noah to the same degree, further adding to the idea that Noah happened to be a convenient partner for Alison, whereas Alison’s presence was key to Noah’s infidelity. However, it is clear from Alison’s narrative that she feels she shares a connection with Noah, and it will be worth watching the two to see how Alison’s feelings towards the writer develops as their affair progresses. It’s intriguing to see Noah paint Alison as antagonistic towards Scotty, given his omission of the fact that Scotty and Whitney appear to be having a tryst of their own started up. Whether or not he’s projecting his own feelings about Scotty to Alison’s actions, or whether he genuinely thinks that Alison and her brother-in-law don’t get along will say a lot about whether he’s lying intentionally or just subconsciously. The story Noah describes to his prospective agent seems to mirror his own life, and may be a foretelling of how he’ll come to feel about Alison, particularly given the scene where he watches his family viewing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off right after spending time with Alison. Noah pointing out the bandaid on Alison’s thigh, despite her remembering wearing jeans when meeting him, indicates that Noah knows more about Alison than he might be letting on, and why that is the case will be worth keeping an eye on. With a clearer picture of the relationship Alison has to the residents of Montauk, and the relationship that Noah has with his in-laws, it will be worth watching subsequent episodes to see how the relationships are affected as the affair between the two deepens.

– Deepayan Sengupta

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