“What do you think I see?”
When Alison and Noah head on a trip to Block Island, we know that they’re trying to escape the worlds they inhabit, the families they’re parts of, the obligations that permeate their environments. However, by escaping together, they can’t escape each other, and it becomes almost inevitable that they learn more about pasts and fears and desires and mindsets. There’s clear tension as each person delves deeper into the other, but after all is said and done, they grow even closer, even more emotionally and physically connected. The affair is really on.
At first, we see Noah and Alison skirting the topic of the past, and according to Noah, they do so because Alison wants to keep things light and easy. Of course, they both have a certain desire to engage in a very surface level affair, as getting to know each other on an emotional level is not a particularly easy thing for them to do. Later on, though, bits and pieces begin to float around, moving from the two talking about things they love talking about–Noah and lighthouses, Alison and shipwrecks–to the two talking about people they’ve lost. As more layers are peeled away, more similarities are found, and their connection grows stronger by the minute. A story about deception becomes a story about truth.
This episode is also the first one to experiment with the established Part 1/Part 2 structure, electing to begin part 2 this time exactly where part 1 leaves off. It’s a chronological shift, one that highlights the differences in reactions to the sex, but it’s also a structural move that highlights the strengthened interconnectedness of the two characters. At this point in time, Noah and Alison are most certainly not on the same page, but it’s exactly that idea that draws them together. When the two are arguing on the ferry, Noah says the following: “Let me be clear, there’s nothing about you that’s easy, and whatever darkness you think you’re hiding, it’s written all over your face. And you know what? I kinda like it.” They’re attracted to the complications ever so pervasive in each other’s lives.
Thus, when the two have sex at the end of the episode, it’s after an entire trip of listening to and clashing over and reveling in complications. When Noah tells Alison the story of his dead mother’s voice, we can see emotional barriers collapsing between the two, and we know that Gabriel Lockhart is very much in his mother’s mind at that moment. When Alison tells Noah about Gabriel, it’s a huge confession, a heartbreaking one that places the largest aspect of her past out in the open, that connects her and Noah on a level that they’ve never reached before. And so, when they have sex at the end of the episode, they do so on a level that they’ve never reached before.
-On the detective’s differing stories: I assume that he’s doing this on purpose, trying to create connections to the people he’s interrogating by telling them exactly what they want to hear. With Noah, he states that he lost custody of his kids to his ex wife–I wonder if this is actually what happens with Helen when she finds out about the affair–while with Alison, he talks about how he’s been married for 25 years.
-Noah likes the sneaky, seductive woman in the changing room. Alison likes the man who isn’t shy about kissing her right there in the open.
-Alison tells Noah that she believes that people can’t really be categorized as “good” or “bad”. It’s easy to want everything to be easy to understand–easy to handle, like the affair–but that’s just rarely the case. Interestingly enough, in the present, the investigation is attempting to determine “innocent” vs. “guilty”, perhaps the closest to “good” and “bad” there is.
-This episode features the best performances from Dominic West and Ruth Wilson in this show. Man, they are good, and they deserve recognition for their performances (although knowing the Emmys, who knows? They snubbed West, and the Wire in general, for five straight years).
-I wonder if Alison is covering something up for Noah. Who’s the person she leaves a voicemail to in the parking lot?
-We won’t get any episodes this season from other characters’ perspectives, but I’d love to see their stories while Noah and Alison are away.
Photo credit: The Affair, Showtime