We’re still in the introductory phase of season 4, and this week The Affair takes us back to Montauk, NY to catch up with Alison (Ruth Wilson) and Cole (Joshua Jackson). They two are still doing their best to co-parent their daughter, are in talks to share the Lobster Roll to a restaurant group, and Cole continues to lie to Luisa (Catalina Sandino Moreno). But more on that later.
I’m not sure if these little vignettes that have started episodes one and two, with Cole and Noah (Dominic West) tensely starring in their own little version of Taken, should be called flash forwards or present day. If it is the latter, the story in every episode is until we catch up is a flashback — so, let’s go back in time to see how we got there.
We start with Cole, who is continuing his angry young man act despite being at least in his very late 30s. All that anger is bad for your blood pressure at his age. Anyway, he’s out surfing on his vintage redwood board when some whippersnapper calls him grandpa. Naturally he slams some doors and complain about all the people on his beach. Hey you kids, get off his lawn! On the way home, Luisa and Cole are pulled over and she freaks out. She’s not a legal citizen yet, even though they’re married now. Given the dynamic between the two of them, and that Cole is so obviously still in love with Alison, her dependence on him is adding a lot of pressure to their relationship.
Alison, seen through Cole’s eyes, is completely self-absorbed. She shows up 45 minutes late to their meeting with the franchisers about the Lobster Roll with wet hair in winter Montauk chic clothes, laughs at their (admittedly ridiculous) design concept, and shrugs it all off by saying she was studying and who cares what “city” people think anyway. He invites her to join him in adulthood and that pretty much sums up Cole’s condescending attitude to everyone else. His later admission to Luisa that he doesn’t know what he’s doing by franchising the restaurant is a pretty big one for him. In a lot of ways, he is someone who feels more comfortable in a relationship but he can’t seem to let himself just be — no matter what relationship he’s in.
At dinner with the franchisers, the company folks ask Luisa to come run a property in Miami. It’s actually an amazing opportunity for her to contribute to their partnership and have a life of her own, but Cole spends the whole night staring at the door and waiting for Alison to arrive (as well as generally being uncomfortable in a fancy restaurant). Naturally, they get into a huge fight at home. In the course of it, it’s revealed that Luisa can’t get a green card without leaving the country for 10 years. The depth of her dependence on Cole is that she can’t take a real job, she can’t get credit cards, she can’t do anything that leaves a paper trail. Yeah, this relationship is doomed.
So Cole heads down to the beach and stumbles on the youths, who actually look very old thanks to their sun-damaged skin...and drug habits, apparently. The either spiked his drink or his joint, but he passes out and wakes up with magic marker face and no wallet. So he goes home to get his gun, as you do. Lusia, um, let’s say puts a stop to that bullshit, and just as things are turning okay between them, Alison calls. I am truly fascinated by how snarky Alison as seen by Cole always is. And by how she always has his number. Cole clearly thinks that Alison knows him better than anyone else. It seems to me that he just hasn’t bothered to figure himself out, because he is, frankly, not all that unknowable.
Switching over to Alison’s POV: this franchise stuff barely rates a mention, outside of an angry phone call from Cole. She’s working in a social services doing peer-to-peer counselling, currently dealing with the mother of a family who have lost a child. The father shows up later and nearly kills her, at first lying about who he is until he can get her alone and then shoving her up against her office wall with his hand around her throat. She gets out because a man she just met, Ben (Ramon Rodriguez) bursts in and lays him out on the floor. It’s a striking, physical moment and happens quickly, as these things always do. But my takeaway was: it’s amazing how little Cole factors into her life, as less than an annoying phone call, compared to how much her presences looms over his.
Alison and Ben go for a coffee and talk — she was already applying for a position to work with veterans. He tells her about his experience with PTSD. There has been a little spark between them since they met. Is it on, or are they going to be work buddies? He’s in AA and impotent so...if history repeats, Alison will make the wrong decision.
Cole’s memory of what was drawn on his face, downplayed to save his ego perhaps, versus Alison’s memory of a flying dong and twirly moustache is pretty hilarious.