It was a West Coast, very male Affair on Sunday night, with our favorite character and top pin-up, Dr. Vik—getting a half-episode all from his perspective—facing death by cancer and sleeping with someone new and younger to help him, I dunno, work through his feelingzzz.
And then, a few minutes later, Cole—following some hokey game of instruction his father’s old squeeze sent him so he’d be free of her, which was nutso—doing exactly the same.
In order to make everything better, and make everything worse, people shag each other a lot in The Affair, after a lot of looking around and feeling things deeply. Mucky so-and-so’s.
In Vik’s case—and again, he must not die, because Omar Metwally is amazing and there are miracle cures available to all scriptwriters—his stage 4 pancreatic cancer is still being prettily heavily denied by both him and his parents .
Vik knows he will die but wants to live as much as possible, particularly when it comes to getting the 50-something Helen pregnant.
Helen doesn’t want to get pregnant, because she really wants Vik to be around if she has another child.
Helen doesn’t know that Vik really sees the child as an extension of himself to be left to his parents.
There was a great, moving, hellish scene on Sunday night when Vik, as a doctor, was confronted by a mom thrown into terrible shock by the news that her daughter might have a tumor. He was faced by both her screams and then his own internal shock of what he is facing: his own mortality. Her screams receded.
It was good to see Vik, on his own from his own perspective. He went to see his parents, to tell them he would make sure they were well provided for, but his mother just wants him to live. She doesn’t care about him impregnating Helen. She wants her son to be alive.
Helen told him she wasn’t doing the fertility shots anyway, which made him furious, and so off he went to buy a 200-grand Porsche.
This wasn’t a midlife crisis, it was an end-of-life crisis. And it was about to get worse, or better, because on driving home Vik bumped into Sierra, the actress from next door who never puts her bins in the right place.
We wanted to see Vik and Helen shout and scream toward some kind of understanding, but no—Sierra suggested they take the car for a test drive; the kind of test drive along snaking Malibu roads you’d see in a car advertisement. A cop pulled them over for speeding and said laconically that he’d heard the “about to die” excuse before.
Back at Sierra’s before the inevitable fuck, Vik and she got into it about families and expectations—what counts in The Affair as hot and heavy foreplay. Vik movingly said he wanted to do something for himself, after doing so much in service or mindfulness of his parents—something a child of immigrants finds themselves doing a lot, he noted (his father is from Lebanon, his mother Mumbai).
“I’m going to die, and I haven’t made a single choice for myself,” said Vik.
Sierra’s response to this beautifully written cri de battered coeur was to note how young and dewy her skin was (or so her mom said). This reminded Vik, presumably, of Helen’s old, infertile skin next door, and so he got down to fucking Sierra.
Then he drove home.
He said chemo was pointless, but I’m not sure this treatment course was the best idea.
Somewhere else in California, Cole too was on the road with his father’s old surfboard, heading to Morro Bay and its big hunk of rock.
Just what was his father up to there all those years ago?
Well, it turns out, like everyone in the show, dead and alive and probably still to be born, he was having an affair too—this time with some arty-farty, hippy-dippy gallery owner called Nan played by (hooray) Amy Irving.
She said she ran a salon, not a hair one (amazing as hers was just so bouncy and big), but the kind of place where people with straggly hair smoke dope some nights of the week and talk about, y’know, stuff.
Honestly, Cole going west to find out his dad’s secrets or atone for something or find himself annoyed me in gestation, and proved to be easily the worst half an hour of this series, and possibly the whole series.
It felt like it was written in the same cloud of dope smoke as wreathed this part of the episode, with all the consequent inarticulacy masquerading as deep insight that can flow from that.
Briefly: Nan designed the weird insignia on his dad’s old-school surfboard; it was hers and Gabriel’s initials intertwined. Yawn.
Next: Yes, Nan and Gabriel—Cole’s dad, that is—did have an affair. They were also soulmates, said Nan. It went on for months. He went back to his wife, Cole’s terrifying mother, who threatened to kill herself if he didn’t.
But their love remained strong, yadda yadda. So hippy-dippy Nan devised a plan, which only would make sense to a scriptwriter and not a regular human in love, where she would set Gabriel tasks, and then he would complete them to get her out of his head.
Say whaaaaat? And then, apparently, he would send all her letters back to her to show that he was over her. Surely it would have been better and more effective just to cut off communication.
This set of nonsense Gabriel apparently undertook.
So now, cut to Cole doing the same tasks in Morro Bay with bloody Delphine, the hot protégée of Nan, to get rid of his feelings for Alison. This includes saying things to burning twigs, which constitutes a pyre, apparently. (Honestly, I like good, big bonfires, and this final travesty set my teeth on maximum grind.)
The Affair, come on, pull yourself together!
Of course, it didn’t work. Cole proved to himself he still loved Alison (“I hate I can’t give up on you,” he told the burning twigs) and would now return to Montauk to tell her so, even if that meant giving the heave-ho to Luisa, his Ecuadorian-born wife, who is also in danger of deportation.
Oh, sorry: This is The Affair—don’t forget the illicit sex. Cole did follow the rules that Nan sent to Gabriel and slept with someone new: obviously, Delphine, who told him it was all cool with her the next day.
But all was not as it seemed. The postmarks of the returned letters from Gabriel to Nan were from two years after Cole’s dad had died. Cole figured out his terrifying mom had intercepted the letters and sent them back, which meant that Gabriel had stayed in love with Nan.
Poor Nan, right?!
Right, and this being The Affair, the man got out of there sharpish before the impact had been felt of the not-small fact that the man Nan had loved had loved her right up until his suicide (which she knew nothing about).
Cole’s dad had hanged himself on Cole’s 10th birthday, Cole helpfully informed her, just to get all the dates squared up.
“Take care of your mind, body, and soul,” said Delphine to Cole, as he prepared to drive off to cause more emotional destruction back east.
“Thanks, dad,” Cole said to the big rock of Morro Bay. Oh, please. The lesson learned here was not always to go west, young man.