The Affair season finale recap: 'The Affair' season 1 finale recap
Well? That was really something. And by “something” I mean this show gave us some of the things we wanted to know (who Alison has a kid with) but not, you know, what actually the hell is going on with this Scott Lockhart murder. Is this a case of we-got-renewed-for-season-2-so-suck-it-viewers? Perhaps. Or maybe there’s a bigger master plan at work.
I’m totally confounded about why Noah and Alison’s narratives are diverging so dramatically again, but let’s take a closer look.
We begin in Noah town… or should I call it slutty town? Noah swims his laps as he did the first time we ever met him. The very same comely girl from episode 1 says hello and they chitchat about how she’s engaged and he’s separated, and none of this matters as they go back to have some athletic sex without knowing each other’s names till midway through.
Now it’s a montage while The Animals “It’s My Life” plays: Noah the family man, picking up the kids. Helen giving a look that doesn’t just kill but burns to the ground. More laps. School, where Martin gives him an even dirtier, more dismissive look than Helen did (which didn’t seem possible). Noah having sex with a different lady, this one blonde. More laps. Water, always water with this show. Noah’s sad studio—is it the one we saw in Brooklyn Heights?—where he grades papers. He casts a lascivious eye to a pretty fellow teacher at school and proceeds to have sex with her right there in the classroom. But he’s busted and sent to some sort of grown-up detention for disorderly teachers.
He arrives at the Department of Education and learns that he just has to sit around and kill time indefinitely. His seat mate, Victor, who has read Infinite Jest twice is incredibly well read and has been hanging out in this “rubber room” for two years. Noah decides to make use of his time and start back on his book.
But as the montage picks up with Yo La Tengo crooning in the background, we see time passing—mostly through Victor tearing through Tolkin—and before you know it, Noah is finished. Wow, it sure is easy to write a book!
So, here’s a shameful confession: I pressed pause to read the last graph of Noah’s book. Here goes:
With all of that behind him now, he turned again to face the ocean. Looking out on a horizon shrouded by a cloud layer, he thought it was impossible to tell where the sea ended and the sky began. They were both the exact same mournful grey, a probably confirmation of the rumored nor’easter he heard circulating down at the docks. He thought of weather. How unpredictable it still was. He looked down at his feet to watch the wave recede, leaving jagged little rivulets in the sand and took comfort that he could find no order to their paths either.
Leaving literary criticism behind for a second, I wonder two things. 1) Would Noah double-space after periods like that? Possibly. And 2) Dominic West might be great at his American accent, but he slipped up and used the British spelling of “gray.” Boom. I got you show!
Victor leaves Noah a note—”You are my hero”—which is pretty sweet. Victor might be the best one on this show. I wonder what he did to get sent into this Breakfast Club for adults?
The book, Harry says, is extraordinary. What’s also extraordinary is that Harry is willing to fake a bidding war to get Noah a half a million dollars. Noah tells him he and Helen have separated. Harry asks what it’s like and if he misses Helen. Noah thinks on this: It’s Alison’s face he thinks of. “Not yet,” he tells Harry.
Noah is back with Detective Jeffries and is all sorts of huffy about being asked about his car. The detective lets him know he knows where Noah lives—99 Greenwich Avenue in the West Village—and Noah insults him, which doesn’t seem wise. Noah tells him he’s innocent and knows nothing else. Shaken, Noah leaves the station and passes a familiar face. Hey, it’s that driver from the episode where Noah got a flat tire near Alison’s house!
We flash back to the past where Noah gets a call from Helen. He rushes to the brownstone where she calmly shows him a video from that day at Planned Parenthood when Noah threatened Scottie Lockhart. Her mother hired a private investigator for the divorce. Of course. She knows about his suspension and all the other woman. They start to fight. Helen admits she doesn’t want to divorce him—she wants him back. She says she’ll change in any way to have him come home. She’s so sad, and this scene, by far, makes me the saddest. Poor Helen. Just to complicate things further, they have sex. Sigh.
Noah has the mechanic in his car in the future/present and is all like: You don’t know me, you never fixed my car. The mechanic is all, how about 20k? Noah is like, fine, I’ll wire it to you right now. The mechanic, reasonably, reasons that Noah is in deep trouble.
Back in the past, Noah and Helen go to Whitney’s room to confront her about Scott Lockhart. Whiteny is looking particularly pretty in a orange-peach-ish shirt and clipped hair. When her parents inform her that they’re going to bring statutory rape charges against her boyfriend, she loses her mind. She turns her rage to her father and throws the Alison grenade in as soon as possible. She also lets him know that her mother told her that her father was a sociopath (ha, maybe!) and that he had no idea what that did to her. Oh Whitney, never stop being you. Noah is like, zip it little girl. She’s all, I love Scottie foreeeeever and calls her dad a sociopath.
Back in their bedroom, Noah notices that Helen changes her clothes in the bathroom. That’s sad, too. But when he asks her if he should leave, she asks that he stay. So he does. That is weird but also probably feels very familiar to them both.
Noah is awoken by his phone. And holy crap, it’s Alison. He hits ignore and she texts him: Your daughter is here.
Helen and Noah are packing up to get Whitney. Margaret (yay!) is there to watch the children and to passive aggressively attack Noah. Noah aggressive aggressively attacks back about how the Butlers are the worst, generally. The little kids start yelling. Martin stands up and tells everyone to cool it. Noah takes in how his oldest son has been forced to man up over the past four months. When he makes a move to hug him goodbye, Martin is all—not a chance, slick.
In the car, Helen: “You know what I just figured out? I was so afraid of marrying my father I never realized… I was marrying my mother.” Burn!
At the Lockhart ranch, Alison comes to the door, dressed in a white sundress. “Perfect,” snorts Helen. Helen has no time for this Alison nonsense now, though. She wants to know where Whitney is—with Cherry inside, apparently—and where Scottie is. Alison says he’s not there and that she doesn’t know where he is.
In the kitchen Cherry is nervous. Whitney screams at Alison that she’s a traitor and that she thought they were friends. (Hmmm! Interesting, since we’ll learn soon in Alison’s memory that she would have only just seen Whitney since the summer. Something is rotten in Montauk.)
Cherry pleads for patience and begs Helen not to call the police. Cherry gives it all she has, playing the mother card hard. She tells them that they’ve lost the ranch and will all be homeless soon. Helen is like, this is FUBAR and let’s get out of here. General commotion ensues as Whitney refuses to leave. Helen screams at Alison to stop staring at her husband and, what the f— is wrong with her anyway? Interestingly Cherry steps in to defend Alison. Cherry thinks they should all forgive each other and say goodbye.
The Solloways start to go, Noah lagging behind to make goo goo eyes at Alison, when Scott Lockhart bounds down the stairs. “Did you get rid of her, Mom?” He sees Noah face and is all, whoops. I’m with Noah on this one: hearing him say that would infuriate me, too. Noah chases him out the door, screaming I’ll f–king kill you! He punches him in the face a few times and starts to choke Scottie. But then, a gun fires, and it’s Cole—he is not messing around. He wants a reason not to shoot off Noah’s face.
Noah breathes hard and looks to his right: Helen, looking anxious. He looks to his left, Alison. Cole cocks the trigger (his beard has never looked better), and we fade out to…
NEXT: Alison’s fate is revealed
We’re back with Alison. She’s been spending the last few months with Athena and weird Dennis, somewhere upstate with a bunch of yogis and people who greet you with a lot of “namaste.” Interesting choice, and not one that I totally disagree with.
But it’s time for her to go home and face the music—even though Athena found a 6’2″ hemp bar maker that could provide a sexual healing experience. She needs to deal with selling her house. Athena and Alison seem like they’ve grown a lot closer since their last chilly goodbye. (Though Alison still does not call her mom.)
Alison is at the mysterious Phoebe’s house, and she fills her friend in: She met someone, they had an affair, they got caught. But she’s not seeing him and she’s not going back to Cole. She wants to be alone. Phoebe (bless) tells her that being alone isn’t as awesome as it can seem. Alison tells Phoebe about this time from the beginning of the affair when Noah grabbed her hand and looked at her and she felt seen. Did we ever see this scene from her point of view? “It was the most perfect erotic moment of my life.” She thinks they’ve been circling each other trying to get back to that moment. “You never can,” says Phoebe. “It wasn’t real.”
In the morning, Alison’s estranged sister-in-law MK is in the kitchen, and she is not psyched to see Alison. At. All. Alison should understand this, right? She doesn’t seem to. MK lets Alison know that the family has lost the ranch and that she’s out of the loop. Also, she kind of hates Alison for abandoning them.
Still, Alison asks for a ride to her house, which she gets. But, oh this is awkward, Cole is in the driveway.
Alison compliments the changes that Cole has made to the house. They make strained chitchat, the kind you do when you’ve known someone intimately forever but also know your future plans don’t include them. Cole is all, thanks for returning all my calls and emails and texts. After 20 years he thought he knew her better than this, but he doesn’t. When he realizes she’s back in town to deal with the house—not to talk to him about where things stands—you can see the pain wave crash over Joshua Jackson’s face.
Alison is like, hey, would you feel better if I give you the house? I want you to have something that you love. Cole is like, um dummy, I love you. And then she gives it to him: She doesn’t think what’s broken between them can be fixed. She sees her son when she looks at Cole. Cole, rightly, argues that it can be done, but it takes work and then she delivers the deathblow: She doesn’t want to try. There’s no arguing about that is there? Cole thinks it’s about Noah, but she sets him straight: She hasn’t even talked to Noah. Amazingly, things get sadder: She apologizes for their son’s death, but it isn’t about forgetting Gabriel. “I want to forget about you.” Woof.
And yet! Things manage to get uglier. “Why weren’t you watching him?” It makes you wonder if this is the conversation these two have been waiting to have as Cole immediately jumps to asking why Alison didn’t take him to the hospital. Ooof. Maybe things can’t be fixed here. Cole is like peace out forever and that’s probably what should have happened except MK shows up with the news that the Salloway girl is at the house and that she needs them to come with her to the ranch.
In the Lockhart kitchen Cherry and Whitney sit at the table. Note: Whitney seems remarkably composed and is wearing a much different outfit in Alison’s memory. Alison is also wearing something quite different, less pristine. (Also Cherry and Cole.) Whitney lays it out: She was with Scott, her parents found out and they want to press charges. She says her parents are going through something—and she is all like, you know to Alison. Very different from the ‘I thought we were friends’ from the other memory, right?
Cole is horrified by how young she is and tries to decide what they should all do. Cherry suggests talking to Helen and Whitney is like yeah, no. Cole, looking a little pale around the gills, suggests Alison call Noah. Cole thinks that Noah probably wants to kill his brother and that he should talk to him—but the only way to get him up there is for Alison to ask him. Whitney gets a good dig in about the last time Noah came to Montauk. Alison doesn’t want to call and Cole is all, listen I don’t care what you want, call him. She does.
We cut to Detective Jeffries with Jake, our auto mechanic friend who taped his conversation with Noah. Uh-oh. Jeffries says he can take the cash off his hands, which is downright weird. And then we watch Jeffries watch the Planned Parenthood footage where it looks like Noah wants to murder Scott. He smiles, no doubt imagining how great this case is going to go over in court. And then Steve is calling, saying it’s urgent, and Jeffries is all, hey babe. Wait, is Jeffries gay and been gaming both Alison and Noah about his various tales of separation/happiness from his wife? Intriguing. (Also, it was around now I looked at how much time was left in this episode and started to panic.)
Whitney and Alison sit in the kitchen drinking what looks like beer. That’s weird? For starters because I thought this was in the morning and secondly because regardless of who Whitney is having sex with, she is still underage. Whitney asks if it’s true that Alison was sleeping with her dad. “Why? He’s so old, and your husband is so hot.” (Yesssssssssss.) Before she can answer, the Solloways arrive.
Helen (also wearing a different outfit) is all business at the door. Noah is all, hi. In the kitchen Helen says the party is over, and Whitney argues that Cherry wants to speak to her. Helen doesn’t care and tries to get her to get up and get to the car. Noah, enraged, tells Whitney to get the f— up. Wow, says Cole. That’s how you talk to your kids? Cole is… acting a little scary. He remarks that Alison doesn’t respond to kindness and everyone in the room sort of gulps as they can feel the air change around them. Noah is all, hey man… not now. Cole asks what he should do about the fact that Alison doesn’t want to be with him anymore. Noah, using classic no-sudden-movements-crazy-person body language, is all: hey that’s your business; let’s go. Noah turns to get Whitney and she starts squealing not out of defiance, but because Cole has a gun. Holy moly, Cole!!
Noah reasons with him that he doesn’t need his family involved. His body language now is all about protecting Helen and Whitney who look understandably freaked out. Cole is all how would you feel if I had sex with your wife? (Note: he doesn’t say “sex.”) Poor broken Cole: “There’s only one thing left that I care about and that’s her. Does that mean anything to you?” Okay, now Cole seems like a grade A lunatic. A real scary one, too.
Alison tries to reason with him: It’s not Noah he’s mad at, it’s her. She made her own decision, it wasn’t Noah. Shoot her if he wants to shoot someone, she pleads. Cole is like, okay, and turns the gun on her for a few scary seconds and then starts to crumble before putting the gun up to his own temple. His reasoning is that Alison will be stuck with the horror of what she’ll see. She comes apart: This isn’t what Gabriel would have wanted. “He loved you so much. He wanted to be you. He’d want you to be happy, he’d want me to be happy. Please. We can’t let him down.” And Cole, melting down, puts the gun down. You can see in his eyes that he comes back to himself a little bit and looks around the room, probably horrified by what almost just happened, and takes off and slams the door behind him.
Helen is like, uh yeah we are so out of here. But Noah lingers in the kitchen. Helen looks back and asks if he is coming and his hesitation is enough to disgust both mother and daughter completely. He goes to Alison, and they embrace. I’d be scared to do this with crazy Cole in the house, but whatever.
Cut to glittering New York City. Alison and her cute short hair closes a door quietly and goes and sits next to—arughghghghg—Noah on the couch. “Is she asleep?” Holy cow, these two are together! With a kid! They talk about what their days look like the next day. Noah is having dinner with a famous actor. She’s proud of him. There’s a knock at the door and guess who? Jeffries and a bunch of cops. Noah is arrested. Alison tells him she’ll get him out of it, and he’s taken out the door and then… that’s a wrap!
So, yeah. Still a lot of unanswered questions—like the central one of who killed Scott Lockhart. I’m also so confused about how differently the Lockhart confrontation went down in Alison and Noah’s respective memories. But I guess that’s what season 2 is for?
Thanks so much to you all for reading and commenting. See you next season?
Two marriages collide when a tragedy brings an affair to light; the Showtime original series stars Joshua Jackson and Maura Tierney.