Phil Caruso / Showtime

Noah And Alison Hop In A Hot Tub Time Machine On The Affair

Alison spends the day with Noah to finally put her foot down on the future of their relations. Nope, she's really going to do it. Watch her put her foot down. Any minute now. With special bonus hallucinogenic appearance by Brendan Fraser.

Our Players

Hello, I'm Previously.TV Contributor Philip Michaels.
Hello, I'm Previously.TV Contributor Lisa Schmeiser.

The Talk

You know what? Not a bad episode. It's amazing what can happen when you remove superfluous Franch characters and throw in a little Brendan Fraser menacing Dominic West.

With the caveat that I trust this writers' room about as far as I can throw any of them, I feel like someone in that clutch of dramaturges -- what is the collective noun for a group of playwrights anyway? "A Mamet of playwrights"? -- anyway, I feel like someone said, "We really need to point out that there are legitimate reasons the Noah-Alison romance is doomed beyond 'Our Puritan heritage demands adulterers suffer.'"

To me, the meat of the episode is the scene that comes toward the end. Noah reveals how, as a teenager, he helped his terminally ill mother die, and then tells Alison this is why they had such a primal connection.

And was that not the moment I said aloud, "Do you think Noah is aware of how manipulative he is?"

Well, it does seem like this information could have been revealed a season and a half earlier, yes. Still, it was a nicely written and well-acted scene. It also illustrates my problem with the show: I am so over the Noah character. He's telling this wrenching story about a teenager being asked to kill his mother and I'm all, "More Brendan Fraser poking you with a billy club, please!"

The reason I distrust that Noah story is because it feels like a weapon he held in reserve during the doomed "Give me a day and I'll change your mind on that divorce" gambit. I can see where people have difficulty opening up about defining traumas, but now we know that the marriage was imbalanced in yet another way, where Alison was very open about her grief and Noah declined to treat her like an equal or try to connect with her in that way until it was convenient for him. Maybe prison did remake him as a person, but trotting out this horror story now only underscores how screwed up he's been for decades. That's not an argument for staying with someone.

There's another reason to distrust Noah as a narrator...

Would that be his blithe disregard of his estranged wife repeatedly saying, "Stay away so I can regain custody of my kid"?

That is another reason, which we'll get to in a moment. I was thinking more along the lines of "Noah is a hallucinating pill-popper," which makes him the living definition of an unreliable narrator.

Oh! That! Yes. There is that, too. This season is basically is the creative professional version of Job's Trials. Having to deal with entitled millennials on the job! Having a first wife who won't go away! Having a teeny opiates problem! Confronting evidence that your most fulfilling career opportunities are in the rearview mirror! Being menaced by Brendan Fraser!

Who among us in Generation X has not run off the road in a fugue state while imagining Brendan Fraser is rear-ending you?

Not a euphemism.

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"I heard what you said about my performance in Encino Man. Now it's time to pay the price." But to get back to your point, Lisa, there's a one-minute segment toward the beginning of this episode which tells a casual viewer everything they need to know about Alison.

Is that the segment where she beholds her estranged husband passing out on the couch and -- instead of dumping water on him and sending him on his way so she can make an airtight custody case, she a. lets him spend the night in Joanie's room and b. does not bat an eyelash when she catches him rolling around with his pills like he's Patty Duke in 1967's greatest movie.

That'd be the one.

So as frustrated as I get with Alison's segments being shot in VictimVision 360, what I did appreciate about her segment this time is how hard she worked, repeatedly, to immediately own her lapses in judgment and try to assert some boundaries. Granted, about 90 percent of this work could have been prevented if Alison had actually stuck to boundaries to begin with -- as in, she could have kicked out Cole before banging him, she could have kicked out Noah before he essentially blackmails her into a day at Block Island. But she does push back against both of these men when she perceives that they're not reading a situation in the way she wants them to. And that's new for her.

There is a degree of character growth there, which is heartening to see in this show.

That said, we're about to head into Noah's long, dark night of soul. Any episode that ends with him getting into real trouble over imagined auto chases only suggests that his troubles are about to compound themselves. For one thing, is he even allowed to leave the state of New Jersey? For another, Madame Professor Eau So Franch is going to have to explain to their mutual employer why the car they lent her ended up crunched on Long Island by someone else. And for a third -- he's suffering from severe PTSD and a raging opiates problem, and neither of those things can be cured by sleeping around at a liberal arts college.

I certainly appreciate Noah's day on Block Island, which had all the emotional poignancy of "Drunk Dad Gets Weekend Custody Of Resentful Teenaged Son." "COME MAKE MEMORIES WITH DADDY!"

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Oh, I can't even touch how much I was rooting for Brendan Fraser to pop up during that sequence. Which reminds me -- in terms of episode MVP, he's edged out only by Cole, who comes by to radiate decency and lay down some future dramatic conflict by telling Alison that they're grown-ups who should not try to keep serially wrecking each other's marriages. The episode LVP? The collective people of Block Island, who make that place seem awful.

My MVP is Brendan Fraser, because I could watch him do terrible things to Noah all day. The LVP would normally be Alison -- you've run out of exes to sleep with, lady -- but I think I'm going to go with the Block Island innkeeper who makes room for these two after Noah's selfish whimsy gets them stuck on an island a day before Alison's crucial visit with her child. At least make them stay in a manger. There's literary precedent for that.

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