The Affair, Season 1, Episode 5: “5″
Written by Kate Robin
Directed by Carl Franklin
Airs Sundays at 10 pm ET on Showtime
To date, The Affair has focused on what led Alison and Noah to engage in infidelity, as well as what caused them to fall for each other. While early episodes made it clear that Noah’s attraction to Alison outweighed Alison’s attraction to Noah, the past few weeks have begun to show why Alison found herself attracted to Noah specifically. This week’s episode turns the focus back to the individual lives of Alison and Noah, giving the audience a deeper understanding of why the two continue to engage in extramarital relations with each other, in another strong outing for the show that reveals the answers to one of the season’s major mysteries.
While it was clear in previous episodes why Alison began engaging in an affair with Noah, this week’s episode does a good job of portraying why she continues to stay in it. Alison’s interactions with both her grandmother and Athena this week serve to illustrate the difficulties she endures in her non-Montauk relationships, difficulties that are noticeably absent in her interactions with Noah. With the addition of the tense relationship between Athena and the Lockharts, as well as Cole’s noticeable temper, it’s clear why Alison would seek solace in her time with Noah. However, there’s a second factor clearly at play. With Athena also bringing up Gabriel’s death, Alison’s grandmother and Oscar are the only people in Montauk she has interacted with who have not brought up her son. With the strained relationship both Alison and Cole have with Oscar, it’s clear why the former would not choose to seek solace with him, which really leaves Noah as the only person Alison can spend any length of time with without a reminder of her son’s death. Add to that the noticeable lifting of Alison’s spirits when she’s around Noah, and it’s clear why Alison continues to engage in the affair, and was eager enough to spend time with Noah that she preferred it to both work and Cole. With both Cole and Athena cluing in to the change in Alison this week, it will be interesting to see how things progress for her. Despite her affair with Noah, it’s clear that she has a lot of goodwill for the Lockharts, particularly her mother-in-law. However, her time with Noah is clearly the only source of joy for Alison in her life, which is likely to put her at a crossroads before long. Whether she chooses her own happiness or that of the Lockhart family, and what her reasoning is, will say a lot about Alison’s sense of self-worth.
Noah’s interactions with his family this week also serve to underline the importance of the affair to his mental well-being. The clashes he has with his family members over Whitney’s behaviour, and the best way to deal with it serve to effectively display the fundamental gap he has with them in viewing the world. The reason for Noah’s unease with coming to Montauk becomes particularly clear this week; it’s not just that he bristles at the idea of spending time with Helen’s parents, it’s that he fears his children will take after them. In previous episodes, Noah has spoken about how his desire for security drove him to marry Helen, but the fact that he grew up in poverty and uncertainty clearly shapes his worldview, and is the source of the conflict between him and Helen’s family. To see his children follow in the footsteps of their grandparents, rather than imbue some of his morals, is clearly disheartening to Noah, compounded by the fact that Helen doesn’t see things in the same light. With Noah feeling increasingly isolated in Montauk, the affair offers a level of escape for him, a way to not only leave behind the troubles of his family, but also to interact with someone who has a similar worldview. With Noah’s marriage already seemingly in trouble, he does stand to lose less with the revelation of the affair, and how this affects his actions will be worth keeping an eye on. Noah appears to be less inclined to stop the relationship for fear of hurting Helen or his family, which may mean he’ll be more reckless with trying to hide it going forward. However, as his fight with Oscar indicates this week, the possibility of the affair being exposed on his end is much stronger, and despite Noah seemingly having less to lose, he clearly doesn’t want the affair to be exposed either.
With the affair now heating up, the cracks in both individual relationships are beginning to show. Cole’s temper issues are beginning to flare up more often, and how that affects the relationship between him and Alison is a promising idea, especially with the way Alison continues to be treated by her mother-in-law. Hopefully Helen and Cole will also get an opportunity to tell the story from their perspective, as it will be interesting to see whether the two also felt their respective marriages deteriorating the way Noah and Alison have indicated. The reveal this week of Scotty being the victim whose murder is being investigated adds an intriguing layer to the interactions he has had with the people in Montauk so far. It also explains why Noah didn’t mention the flirtatious relationship between Scotty and Whitney. With the detective dismissing both Alison and Noah from questioning this week, next week promises a look at the modern-day situation of both characters, and where they’ve ended up, as well as what part the affair played in the events, will be worth tuning in for during the season’s second half.
– Deepayan Sengupta