Never mind the students of America, it’s Affair fans who need a “safe space.” How y’all feeling after that energy-sapping, intense hour? Approach Affair fans in your midst with care in the days ahead: They are in shock. Their show just changed forever.
We are spent. We need tea. We may need oxygen. All quiet rooms welcome.
After: novelist Noah’s (Dominic West) assholery spiraled out of control at a debauched, starry party, leading him to sexually perve, without realizing it until it was too late, on his own daughter in a clinch with her female friend Chrissy.
After: the Affair gods heard me! Helen’s (Maura Tierney) son Martin’s hot doctor, Dr. Ullah (Omar Metwally), returned to give Helen some post-marriage hot action—even though he may turn out to be another potential male asshole.
After: Alison (alone, without Noah, out on his major man-whoring, fame-embracing jaunts) went into labor.
After: Cole (Joshua Jackson), Alison’s ex, on his last night in their home, set fire to it, burning to the ground the house and with it, its memories of the loss of their son.
This was also an episode not broken into two halves, featuring the two experiences of two characters. Instead it was an hour broken up by time—from midday on the day of a storm sometime in the past to early the next morning—featuring all four leads.
The storm was a heavy-handed but apposite metaphor for the tumult consuming everyone, with some truly gawp-worthy moments, with children and churning water—The Affair’s totems—looming large.
There was no fast-forwarding to the future, and so no mention of Helen’s baby-pacifier stealing plan to discover if Scotty Lockhart (Colin Donnell) is really the father of Alison’s baby. The episode started, ill-starred enough, with a very pregnant Alison clearing out her and Noah’s fridge, and recoiling at the smell of sour milk.
Helen, meanwhile, out for a no-show Tinder date in Brooklyn—and being observed pitiably by her 20-something waitress who suggested that at her age she’d better off with Match.com—struck gold with the sudden sight of dear Dr. Ullah sitting at the bar.
Last seen operating on Martin for a perforated bowel, here he was drinking whiskey prior to a hospital shift “to loosen my joints.”
Dr. Ullah is, in a sudden leap, the hottest man in The Affair: the off-white, grayish shirt, the ruffled salt and pepper hair, the eyes that may contain stars…
The waitress—a millennial ringer for Joan Cusack, and therefore immediately fabulous—mouthed “he’s hot” as the couple departed into the eddying winds of the gathering storm.
Spontaneously, and cutely, they decided to have sex, which they did in the cold-looking basement of Helen’s house. We did not see Dr. Ullah’s body, and for this crime everyone involved in the episode should miss out on an Emmy and have their pay docked for a month.
Later, in her kitchen, we and Helen saw another side of the hunk: He described a worried patient’s mother calling him on his phone as a “needy bitch,” leading Helen to ask him the entirely reasonable question: “Are you a nice guy that acts like a dick, or a dick that acts like a nice guy?” Yes, write it down. Excellent, right?
Dr. Ullah wouldn’t answer but did indicate his heart was merely a physical organ of his body. Oh, dear. At least he showed Helen a new way to give Martin his shots so they wouldn’t hurt so much.
Helen opened her own emotional heart to Dr. Ullah, leading up to the confession, “Sometimes, I think, I hate being a mother.” To which the suddenly, possibly sociopathic Dr. Ullah replied, “I just got a Tinder message. I’m sorry, what were you saying?”
Helen quite rightly told the maddening but hot doc to get out, but he redeemed himself by kissing her—suddenly nervous the kids may see—on her hand.
We, easily bought fools like Helen, swooned.
Those kids, her youngest, then sweetly waved to him as he entered the storm.
We smiled, weakly, easily bought again.
Alison, experiencing pains, went to the hospital to discover—with five weeks to go until her scheduled delivery date—that she was about to give birth.
Obviously Noah was not with her but rocking the mega-successful novelist vibe, with his publicist, Eden, or Bitch-Eden as she must surely be known, powering him through the stormy night to a horrific-looking party of trendies to meet the Hollywood producer keen to make his book Descent into a film.
Obnoxious producer slapped Eden on her ass, and she kittenishly played along—Affair audience growled.
Like Noah’s editor, obnoxious producer wanted a different ending for the movie, a happier one that Jennifer Lawrence would come off better starring in than dying as the victim of her hit-and-run-lover.
Noah assented, and signaled what would be the last scene not only of the movie, but also of The Affair: “A couple sit down to dinner, an unimaginable secret between them.”
The producer also told Noah what he wanted to hear—that he was the voice of a generation, that he was as radical marrying high art and sex as Henry Miller; that he was Norman Mailer’s literary son. Noah all but purred under this barrage of absurdly overblown flattery. Every woman’s glance meant possible sex. Snow-capped peaks of cocaine—the ultimate TV symbol of metropolitan excess—were piled high.
Best buddy Max (Josh Stamberg), who has had sex with Helen without Noah knowing, showed up—as of course the show’s louchest man should. He insulted Mr. Hollywood, suggested ex adult movie star Sasha Grey as the ideal lead for the movie of Descent, and was begged to leave by Noah, who could see his film deal slipping away if his buddy kept talking.
But, as Max reminded him, before Noah hit it big Max had lent him 50 grand; and, Max queried, like we all have, when did Noah become such an asshole?
This assholery was confirmed when Noah prepared to join Eden in bed (he had once cheated on Helen with Alison and was now cheating on Alison), and—boozed and drugged up—he stripped off for a swim in the pool, the storm mysteriously abated.
Nude bodies shimmied woozily in front of him, a drainage fixture shimmered like a priceless jewel…then he alighted upon two women kissing in a jacuzzi. Sad, straight fuck-up he was, he watched them, hoping to be invited in.
One of them turned round—it was Whitney, his own daughter.
At which point we all were as freaked out as he was: Noah ran out to his car, the storm back at full force, only to see the messages that Alison was giving birth. A desperate drive to her was cut short by the storm.
The eye of that storm turned out to be where The Affair itself got its perverse force, where it all began—Montauk.
And it was there Cole and Luisa (Catalina Sandino Moreno) were having sex the night before he was due to vacate his and Alison’s house. He didn’t want any money from its sale. Luisa was amazed at his fatalism. Their future seems equivocal at best. She wanted him to come to New York. He didn’t want to.
Luisa revealed she couldn’t have children, which Cole took as an extension of the children-blanking family curse mentioned by his mother over Thanksgiving dinner. Luisa thought that was absurd and left him to it, as Cole desperately tried to take the plank of wood where he and Alison had recorded the various stages of his son’s ascending height, the one thing he wanted to take from the house.
But he couldn’t detach it, and then he saw his son’s ghost outside just as Alison—mired in her own apparent grief of the same as she gave birth—wasn’t pushing enough to give life to her new child.
The loss of Cole and Alison’s son has been the central knot of the whole show, and his ghostly presence at their now-empty house was contrasted with the screaming of Alison as she finally pushed enough to give birth to her new child. It was a powerful piece of dramatic symmetry, made complete by the moment of Alison’s baby’s birth contrasted with Cole burning to the ground the site of their grief.
The next morning, Alison held her new baby daughter in her arms, and her doctor informed her Noah was outside. Would she like to see him?
“Not yet,” Alison said—not only warding off the chaos and faithlessness Noah now represented, but with the kind of expression that implied whatever the future of their relationship, she felt she was on her own with this child, in the same circumstances as the baby was born into the world.
With this pivotal episode, has The Affair now changed its structure for good? Is the multi-perspective mode of storytelling done with? Will future episodes be split two ways? No more switching from past to future?
And please, can Dr. Ullah not turn out to be a sociopathic asshole? The show already has a masterful one. His name is Noah.