Noah and Alison finally embark on the titular "affair."


Just when think you’ve got bit of a handle on what’s happening here in Affair-ville, the show flips the script around again. This time, instead of having Noah and Alison tell their versions of the same time period, their stories progress chronologically.

Let’s begin, as tradition dictates, with Noah: We find him outside the police station talking on the phone with Trevor about his essay. How old is Trevor now? Apparently old enough to be writing about Huck Finn (did Mark Twain intend it to be racist?) but still young enough to confuse similes and metaphors. The detective comes out to get Noah and here is something that I find interesting: Noah says he’ll call Trevor back later that night. Does that mean he might not live in the same house as Trevor? The detective tries to bro bond a bit, saying that he never sees his twin boys because his wife got full custody. Noah does not take the bait.

Back in the adulterating past, Noah and Alison are on a ferry to Block Island, ostensibly for research purposes. Noah gets an entire coffee spilled all over his shirt and has to hang back for a while when he sees that Alison has run into someone she knows. Once they reach dry land, she suggests buying him a new one. (Sidenote: It is freakin’ beautiful on Block Island.) Once inside they’re doing that new cutesy couple thing where they show each other items of clothing. Noah finds a shirt. Alison discovers a dress she likes and before you know it, these two are in a dressing room having a hot and heavy make-out session. As someone who worked in retail all through high school and college, I felt nothing but annoyance during this scene and sympathy for the poor shopgirl who has to pretend like she doesn’t know what is happening on the other side of the curtain. FYI: We can always hear you and, yes, we know what you are doing. Cut it out.

The two of them sit around and eat ice cream, meaningfully—and Alison is wearing the dress she was “trying on” which is distracting me because where did she put the clothes she was wearing before?—and they head to the lighthouse. Noah nerds out, hard. Alison smiles at him, not listening. The colors in this scene are out of this world, with the green of the grass set off by the blue of the sky and ocean. It is around here that I realized for the first time that Noah is actually really attractive. He’s very cute in this scene, getting excited about light beams and such. Alison agrees.

They take a walk down a path and discuss past sexual partners. Noah has only had sex with three people, which Alison cannot get over. He explains that he met Helenwhen they were freshmen in college. “That’s basically a virgin,” she teases. She asks about high school and he says that he never had sex with anyone in high school because his mother was dying from MS and he was taking care of her. She died when he was 17. (But then did he have sex with two other women freshman year before Helen? I guess it was a big year for him.) And how many men has Alison slept with? Thousands, she jokes. Maybe.

Down at the picturesque cliffs, she tells him about what family she has left. Her grandmother is in a home with Alzheimer’s. She shows him her favorite spot on the island, the Mohegan Bluffs and tells him a little bit of history about the place. (If you are interested, as I was, you can read all about them here.) She says there’s a legend that you can see a piece of a mast from a shipwreck and that as a young girl she’d pretend it was Neverland. (From Peter Pan—which, you might remember, was referenced in the first episode—not Michael Jackson’s ranch.) Her grandfather told her that if she listened closely to the wind, she’d hear Peter calling for her. Alison and Noah are all cute smiles and romantic kisses.

They go to a bar where Noah nervously downs some booze. Clearly, he’s rattled about what comes next. She tries to distract him by asking about his book and we learn that he finished the first chapter and he sent them to “Bruce’s editor,” who hasn’t responded. Noah asks Alison if she considers herself a good person and she says no, there’s too much gray area in between good and bad. He’s freaking out because he’s never cheated on Helen. “I could never convince myself it was worth it,” he tells her. Alison, reasonably, is all whatever dude. She says she never has cheated on Cole and works a little seductive magic on Noah that seems to be working till his phone rings.

It’s Helen with some sort of emergency involving her mom at home. The mood is broken and Noah starts lashing out a bit. Alison points out that coming to Block Island was his idea and huffs off. He chases her down the street and she has had it. They fight a bit in the street after he says he’s been having second thoughts. She is so desperate to get out of there that she buys a ferry ticket that goes to Connecticut instead of Long Island, which is so inconvenient it’s insane.

He drifts around on his own and goes to the island museum where the woman Alison talked on the ferry ride is working. He lamely explains he knows Alison through his wife because the women take yoga together. He’s a novelist and that’s the best he can do? The lady has some fairly pointed thoughts about how silly yoga is, people need to have sex more, and the great tradition of the older broads on this show being particularly awesome continues.

Noah gazes thoughtfully at the paintings that depict the stories that Alison told him earlier.

He gets a call from Harry, the editor, who apparently loves that first chapter. Noah’s whole mood turns quickly around. Writers! He goes back to the store (which, dude, go elsewhere) to look for something with horses for his daughter. The shopgirl tells him that he just missed his wife. And ding-a-ling, Alison walks back in. The two gaze at each other and seem to silently agree this is some sort of sign. So they start making out in the store. That poor, poor shopgirl.

To the hotel they go, where they can get a room for $250 dollars. (Hey, look, this hotel exists and this is actually the right rate! Way to go, show!) They pay in cash, which is weird, but if you’re trying to hide your behavior then it’s a good way to go. It’s a super charming room, with a nice bed and pretty floral wallpaper (I will get back to this in a moment).

Noah says he doesn’t want to hurt Alison and that he’ll never leave his wife. Alison is all, hell yeah let’s roll. And then adult things happen, which I don’t want to recap. But in Noah’s memory, this is all kind of intense and tender.

Next: What the hell is up with that wallpaper?

Alison’s memory takes us right into the thick of things, which I again am reluctant to recap. Instead, I’d like to note that the wallpaper is different in her memory. I don’t know why I find this so fascinating but I do: Alison’s version of the wallpaper is a busier, more vibrant pattern with bigger flowers. The sex is a lot less tender, involving her getting pushed against a wall where she looks at herself in the mirror. Her expression is rather unreadable.

Afterward, in the bathroom, she washes her face and looks at herself again. Do not freak out, she tells herself. But easier said than done, apparently. Because when she goes back to the bed where Noah is all, heeeeeey, she is jumpy and flinch-y. (PS: The bed frame is different in her memory, too.) Noah attempts to calm her down and tries to cuddle, which she admits she’s not into. She feels like she’s suffocating, and he opens some windows. She’s still a wreck.

Back to the present/future, she’s with the detective who tells her she can take a break. She’s far less bohemian chic in the future—more dark colors and closely tailored clothes. She immediately jumps on her phone and leaves a terse voicemail to someone, asking where he/she is and that she’s at the police station being interrogated. The detective follows her out to the parking lot and she hurriedly lights an American Spirit cigarette (her brand hasn’t changed in the future). She seems nervous. The detective tells her that he met his wife in a parking lot and HEY, he says they’ve been married for 25 years and still act like newlyweds. What the what? This guy is playing them. Also does anyone tell the truth on this show?

Back on Block Island, Alison and Noah are back at the Mohegan Bluffs and learn important things about one another. Noah is from Western Pennsylvania and his father is still there. He learned how to swim on a lake. Alison is deeply pensive and tells him a similar story to the one in his memory: but in this version it’s much gloomier. She says that if you listen closely to the wind, you can hear the sound of a little boy who died on the ship, calling for his mother. Noah shares that his dead mother still talks to him sometimes, telling him to let it go. Alison is close to tears. This is probably the most emotionally intimate we’ve seen these two. They celebrate by making out.

They return to the room even though they have only an hour till the ferry leaves. (This stresses me out.) There they return to adult activities, and it’s while such things are happening that he discovers the cut on the inside of her thigh. She immediately shuts down. And then gets mad. Noah is confused about the turn of events. She lashes out at him about cheating on his wife and he’s like, you can trust me. “Are you insane? Why would I do that, you’re a married man with four kids who is cheating on his wife.” Burn. Noah kicks the dresser, putting a big hole in it. Oops. This leads to a fairly amusing caper where they switch out dressers from another room and which seems to dissolve the tension between them and they run like lunatics from the scene of the crime, laughing. Hey, whatever works.

On the ferry she apologizes. She thinks they should end their relationship after having a nice day. She doesn’t want to be some character for him, some easy-going girl who shakes up his life. “I’m not that girl,” she says. “You’re going to be sorry you ever met me.” (Listen to her, Noah!) They argue, needlessly, and Noah is all: Guess what, you never seemed that easy-going, weirdo! “There’s darkness written all over your face. And you know what? I like it.” Sigh. He stomps off. She sits below deck and gets probably the most amazingly awesome picture of all time, that of Cole with a horse. How do you cheat on that? How? Alison looks like she doesn’t even know herself.

Back on shore, she tries to work the lock on her bicycle but she is near tears and totally shaking. Noah thanks her for the day and insists on driving her home. (“At least I’ll have done at least one decent thing today.”) They are in the car when she tells him, finally, about the death of her son. And we learn, as some of you suspected, that he died by drowning. She says it happened two years earlier (which conflicts slightly to what she said to the detectives in the first episode), but Noah gets her talking about Gabriel. It is, of course, very sad. We also learn that those wings we’ve seen on Cole’s back is a tattoo of the angel Gabriel. (I will admit I always thought it was an eagle.) She admits to cutting herself in order to feel better. She thinks this is what will end things for sure between her and Noah.

Not so fast: They arrive at her house and she tells him that Cole is getting a new horse and won’t be back till morning. Uh-oh. She apologies for… being herself, basically. She asks him what he sees when he looks at her, and if all he can see now is death. He moves in to kiss her. “You don’t want this,” she says. He responds that he’s a grown man and that he knows what he wants. Guess what that is? If you guessed sex in her marital bed, you’d be correct.

Cole, call me!

Episode Recaps

The Affair

Two marriages collide when a tragedy brings an affair to light; the Showtime original series stars Joshua Jackson and Maura Tierney.

  • TV Show
  • 4
  • TV-MA
  • Showtime