David Giesbrecht / Showtime

The Affair Goes Cole Mining

After a string of Noah-focused episodes -- don't worry, he still gets mentioned at every opportunity -- The Affair turns its attention back to Alison and Cole, and stumbles with how it's handling one of those characters. But probably not the one you're thinking.

Our Players

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

The Talk

We have an historic first -- an episode in which I really liked Alison and rooted for her throughout.

Do tell.

We had some hints of it through this season, but this episode really brought it home: Alison is doing a lot of hard work to address her weaknesses head-on and work to her strengths. And I think it's significant that in her scene with the grieving mother, she was able to unhesitatingly give unconditional affection to another person. This is totally at odds with the uneasy woman who used to regard any sort of kindness as the set-up to a cruel trick.

I don't disagree with you that in this particular episode, Alison came off as remarkably non-dysfunctional. It just seems like a total tonal shift from The Days And Nights Of Noah Solloway.

Not that Noah wasn't talked about constantly in this episode, because let there be no episode of The Affair in which all characters are not focused on Noah all the time.

This is the first time we've returned to the Alison-Cole storyline in a few episodes, and I can't help but feel that the delay is due to the lack of interest in this part of the show.

People having productive lives? People doing their best not to be hot messes who casually up-end other people's lives? People whose names don't rhyme with Schmoah Schmolloway?

Something like that.

Jeff Neumann / Showtime

Jeff Neumann / Showtime

I do wonder if the writers' room is aware of the theme they seem to be developing this season, namely that Helen and Alison have decided to embrace radical honesty -- some in more healthy fashion than others, HELEN -- and both Noah and Cole are collapsing under the weight of their own personal mythologies. Because we see this week that Cole has perhaps too much invested in his idea of who he is.

Cole thinks he is The Good Man...

Escapee from the Friend Zone! The Nice Guy! The Dude Who Will Never Treat You Like That!

...and he cannot handle the possibility that in order to get what he wants, he would have to hurt other people.

Whereas Alison's six months at The Northern New Jersey Center For Getting Your Head On Straight have given her the emotional toolkit to be okay with taking responsibility for the damage she did to other people. So she's now a lot more honest about what she wants and willing to weigh how her actions affect others.

There's one part of this episode that rang false to me.


And unfortunately, it's the pretzel rod upon which the back half of this episode is propped -- Cole's apparent "I can't quit you, Alison" confession, which assumes facts not entered into the record.

Now that you mention it, this completely undoes all of the characterization in the prior season, and it makes a huge mockery of his success now, because it implies that he's actually not capable of doing anything on his own. I am not keen on the idea that Noah and Cole both need Alison to drive them toward success. It's not fair to her as a character.

I used to think that Alison was the weakest link in the show -- the writers seemed to have no idea what to do with her.

They also seemed to really hate her.

This episode, with her personal breakthroughs, suggest there's some plan in place for her. Now, with Cole, they seem to kicking him into whatever plot hole needs to be filled.

I think the writers are deeply uncomfortable trying to write about people who are not wealthy white New Yorkers, and this is why both Alison and Cole tend to come off like refugees from a really bad play about working-class people. It's too bad, because I think the story of two people moving on from one another is far more interesting than this "I can't quit you" cliché.

What is also not interesting? Who stabbed Noah Solloway.

Not Cole! We learned that this episode, purely as a throwaway detail to the "I can't quit you, Alison Bailey" story.



So now the suspect list has been narrowed to…the rest of North America.

I'm calling it now: It's the undergraduate who wanted to have sex with him, and the reveal will be a scathing indictment of this feminist "ask permission society." Because that's what a roomful of playwrights thinks is edgy.

Personally, I think it's one of his no-account kids. Possibly all of his no-account kids, working the knife as a team.

Phil, these are teenagers who can't even pack their own sandwiches. That level of ambition simply isn't there.

Eric Liebowitz / Showtime

Eric Liebowitz / Showtime

Speaking of Noah's kids -- my MVP goes to their mother, Helen, who pops into Alison's storyline for no other reason than to drink a Long Island Iced Tea. Would that she showed up in everyone's recollection, waving a pitcher and coaxing, "Come on." My LVP is Cole, because, come on, man.

And my MVP may actually be Luisa, who does the right thing in court by saying joint custody would be best. It's so weird to sit through an episode of this show where the women are depicted as moral human beings and not evil succubi out to ruin Noah Solloway, but I enjoyed it. And my LVP is Oscar, because once you call your wife a C-U-next-Tuesday, you have a long climb back up to respectability.

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