We begin in the gray-toned future at Noah’s trial. Cole is on the stand. He’s giving pretty damning testimony about the time Noah threw Scott Lockhart to the ground and said he would kill him. The prosecutor helpfully points out that Scott had impregnated the teenage Whitney, so Noah must be a murderous dad, right?
Lawyer Jon brings up that maybe Cole has his own complicated feelings about Noah. After all, Noah had an affair with his wife and destroyed his family’s reputation and livelihood in his novel. It’s not a bad tactic, really. Alison looks on with her typical inscrutable gaze.
But now we’re in Cole’s memory, yay! He and Luisa are driving to Montauk so she can meet Cherry for the first time. Cole’s advice is to take her shoes off and not listen to the whole our-family-is-cursed thing. Luisa’s boss — who we’re told is very demanding — calls, so Cole pulls over fatefully to The Lobster Roll. The restaurant is really in bad shape post hurricane, and Cole sees the foreclosure signs and the wheels in his mind start turning.
They continue to turn after he and Luisa have sex in their hotel room and she says she just wishes she could have her own place. He asks her the kind of place she’d want to open. “Nothing fancy, something that means something to the people that go there,” she says. She wants to take a nice post coital bath, but there’s no soap, so she wraps herself into a blanket and asks a passing housekeeper for some. And, oh boy, it’s Cherry. Well, there’s a truly horrific way to meet your future mother-in-law! It’s terribly awkward for everyone — in fact it’s hard to know who this is actually worse for. Maybe, weirdly, Cole who has the most complex look of confusion, horror, pain, and sadness on his face.
They meet up later with much more clothes and Luisa looks at old family photos. Cherry mentions she sold a bunch of family antiques and bristles when Cole raises some questions. She also tells Luisa she’s sorry Luisa and Cole can’t get married on the Lockhart ranch. Luisa, bless her, is like: Hey, didn’t you marry your last wife there? Pass!
Then Scott — looking as strung out as all get out — emerges. Even Cole is all, holy hell you look like crap. Scott’s still chattering manically away about The Lobster Roll and how he sold his boat and truck and how Cherry gave him some money (from the aforementioned antiques she sold) and he’s going off to meet that mysterious investor. Scott has scraped about $37K and Cole is like, uh you know you’ll need at least a million, right? He suggests Scott take the money and use it for rehab. Yeah, you can imagine how well that goes over. Scott stomps off, and Cherry tells Cole he can’t show up up after being MIA for so long and start bossing the other Lockharts around like he’s the king of the world and etc.
Miranda, Luisa’s mom, turns out to be the long serving worker of the Butlers. Of course! Everyone in this story must be connected, right? And here’s Margaret Butler (Hi, Margaret!) cruising in and offering to pay for the wedding and host it at her place. I was distracted during this scene by wondering how Margaret couldn’t know who Cole was — Montauk being so small and didn’t Helen ride at the Lockhart ranch as a girl? — but it’s not till she hears his last name that she puts it together. Hilariously. Like, oh are you the one who impregnated my granddaughter or pulled a gun on Noah Solloway? Cole gets up to leave and Margaret stops him. “I’ve come to a time in my life where I understand that a little forgiveness goes a long way.” Interesting.
Luisa and Cole find a nice bench to be alone and discuss elopement and then he brings up buying The Lobster Roll idea. He has enough money from the sale of the house to put up half, and, no, he does not want to involve Scott. He doesn’t want a loan, either. And here’s his big idea: He thinks they could ask Alison to go in on the other half. Luisa is all, say what dude? That’s weird. She is not into it. Cole gives his word that he doesn’t ever want to get back together with Alison. He’s being super sweet and super Cole-y in this scene and tells her that he will do whatever she wants. She’s like this is either a dream come true or the worst idea ever. With this show, Luisa? Let’s go with the latter.
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At the foreclosure auction Cole and Alison sit together grinning at each other triumphantly. It’s actually very sweet. Scott comes in wasted, wishfully thinking that Cole and Alison bought this place with him in mind. Oh, Scott. Poor, messed up kitty is out of his mind and he tries to hand over his crumpled damp money and Cole hands back some hard truths. “I’m not going into business with you like this.” Scott’s eyes go black and he starts ranting about how it was his idea that they’re stealing and how Cole takes everything that is his: first Luisa, now The Lobster Roll. He tells Cole that Alison is pathological and can’t be trusted. He says he knows something that could wreck Cole’s whole life but before he can get to that, he smashes a bottle and Cole pushes him to the ground. Scott stays in a heap on the ground and weeps. And Cole melts: He tells Scott he’s sorry and that he’ll cut him in, but first Scott needs to clean himself up. Scott promises. They have a nice brotherly hug.
Cole is driving Scott to rehab when he remembers to ask about the thing that Scott was hinting at — you know, the one that might wreck his whole life? He asks Scott what it was and Scott feigns sleep instead.
NEXT: Noah has a spectacularly bad day
Noah’s alarm goes off while it’s still dark. He makes some coffee and goes into a bathroom, which apparently is serving as his office. Surely there’s a better corner in that giant apartment than this? The working title on this thing is “Good,” and he’s only on chapter 5. He doesn’t get very far — he passes out and sleeps on his computer till Alison wakes him. She wants to talk and he is distracted. He’s seeing Harry later. He suggests a date night instead. He’s all, oh hey isn’t your final tonight? Alison stays in the shower. (And, in the world of The Affair if there is water involved something meaningful is about to happen so look out. Wouldn’t it be amazing if at the end of this series it’s revealed that Alison is a mythological Siren in the darkest interpretation of Splash ever?)
Noah meets with Harry, who is pushing him to get his book finished and into stores by Christmas. Fairly certain that’s not exactly how it works, but I surrender on this point. He says there’s a certain optimal window for follow-ups by successful authors. (Tell it to Harper Lee!) Noah starts sputtering about all of his distractions and responsibilities: his teaching, his children, Alison’s medical studies, how one of his children (Whitney) isn’t speaking to him. He gets up at 4:30 every morning to write on the toilet. Harry suggests he gets out of town to Yadoo (the prettiest writers retreat in all the land). Or back to Yvonne’s magic house on the Hudson. Noah is like, uh, are you listening? I can’t do that. Harry is surprised that Alison wants to be a doctor — maybe cause he only knows her via the book as sex on a stick? Noah brings up Charles Frazier and Cold Mountain (drink!). Harry’s new idea: Why doesn’t Noah put Omar Bradley aside and write the sequel and call it, Ascent? Ha ha ha. Now this idea seems like the publishing world. Also, drink twice because Danielle Steele and John Le Carre are both mentioned in quick succession. Harry gives a very motivating speech about how Noah is letting his ego make his writing decisions and how he should accept the kind of writer that he is. (Uh, the porn-y kind?)
He shows up at Alison’s school with flowers. That’s nice! He can’t find Alison however. The teacher busts her cover and tells him that she dropped the class seven weeks ago. Yeow! Bats start to fly out of Noah’s face. He goes home and she’s nowhere to be found. The nanny comes home with the kids and doesn’t know where Alison is either. He gets a text that sends him raging straight into the car and up to Montauk. The mystery text was from Oscar — Hi, Oscar! — and it was a picture of Alison and Cole looking cute together. He tells Noah the whole Lobster Roll debacle. Oh Oscar, you are such a trouble maker. He asks Noah: Whose money did she use to make that down payment? Turns out they don’t have a joint checking account, so it’s her money. (Then how on earth did they pay for that West Village apartment? There’s no way that book advance covered it but whatever.) Now Noah says that they’re not married, so I guess we have clarity on that after all.
Noah is confused, understandably, by these turn of events. Oscar is all, really? Do you still not know who you are dealing with? Oscar tells him he’s just a tourist. Oscar goes on a fairly devastating rant about how Noah saw this beautiful sad girl and thought he could save her. “That whole wounded bird thing? It’s an act. It wasn’t Gabriel’s death that broke her heart. She never had one.” Yeow. Sounds like someone still is sucking on some sour grapes about only getting to sleep with Alison once.
Noah drives up to a good-looking house in Montauk where Max is. Hey, Max! Max is drinking in the middle of the day and seems pretty chill. And, golly, his new house is beautiful. He tells Max about the whole Alison shadiness and Lobster Roll and Max is impressed by how weird it all is. Noah wonders if Alison is a sociopath. Max is like listen, I know what it’s like to be dumped. It’s not because they’re bad. Sometimes people are going through something. (Someone has spent plenty of therapy sessions talking about Helen, I guess.) Max is like, hey, I never see you anymore, so it’s not so cool to come to me only when you are in trouble. Why don’t you ask me how I am? Fair! Noah apologies for the last time they saw each other at that terrible party. Max tells him he’s been spending a lot of time chilling on his own at the beach.
Noah tells Max how Alison quit her course weeks ago and he has no idea what she’s been up to instead. How can you have a relationship with someone you can’t trust? Max is like, well you did start this up under shady circumstances. He suggests that Noah could always go back to Helen — and Noah drops in that she has a new boyfriend who she is bananas about. Uh-oh. Max starts asking all these extra-interested questions and it gets weird. Max asks if she is in love and Noah is like, why do you care? Oh boy. Noah slowly starts to get it. He asks if Max slept with Helen (he doesn’t say “sleep with” and note he continually says “my wife,” which is how I think he still thinks of Helen). Max doesn’t deny it, and Noah throws a Waterford crystal tumbler at his head. Max tells Noah he loves Helen. He always has. Max points out that Noah left Helen and he should get off his high horse.
“You had no appreciation for what you had. All you wanted was more. I wanted her. That’s all I ever wanted.” I know people don’t like this dude, but I kind of love Max, I’m sorry. He also tells Noah that she didn’t want him; she still wanted Noah. Max can’t figure out why everyone lets Noah get away with everything. Man, Noah is having a rough day. Max asks for his understanding, but Noah is like, uh pass. These two have a fundamental misunderstanding about the rules of friendship. Noah’s parting shot: “The reason no one loves you is that without your money you are nothing.” Ouch.
Noah gets in the car and is driving angry. It appears to be the road from his dreams and his book. He’s having a moment. He’s interrupted from his murderous reverie by a call from Alison, who is waiting for him at The Lobster Roll.
She’s like, oops, please don’t be mad. This is what she wants to do with the money from the house. Noah, reasonably, is like, Isn’t this something that you wanted to run by me? He also gets a nice dig in about this being why her first marriage failed. He also rightly points out that her trying to bring this up in the shower earlier doesn’t count. Noah says he’s been trying so hard to understand her and wants to accept their differences, but that this won’t work if they aren’t talking to each other. She says she was afraid he’d say no. (This is 5-year-old logic, right?) She’s unmoved by all the reasons why this is a bad idea and she’s like, well, sorry but this is what I want. He asks if she loves him. He says he really doesn’t want her to do it. He begs her not to do it. She’s like, too late. He asks if she’s sleeping with Cole (he doesn’t say sleeping). She asks him to trust her. She wants to do this; she doesn’t want to just be a wife or a mother. She has spent the past six weeks walking and thinking and that she misses her old life. She doesn’t belong at fancy book parties, she’s just a girl from Montauk. “This is where I belong.” (She sure seemed desperate to leave that life last season!)
He asks how it will work. She’s not sure but wants to figure it out together.
Back in the future: The prosecutor has a new witness. And, oh boy, it’s a doozy! It is — wait for it — Max. The two ex-friends stare at each other. Max says that the night in question he heard something and went to the window and he recognized Noah’s car. He also claims he saw Noah himself hosing blood off the front of the car. Daaaaaaaang, Max.