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Familiar faces don’t bring any solace on The Affair

Photo: David Giesbrecht (Showtime)
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Friends, let’s just cut to the chase here. We’ll get to Whitney’s wedding dress and Helen’s dad’s dementia and Noah’s publicist and all that. There is one thing that is bugging me so much about this episode, I can’t go any further until we discuss it.

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Set aside the fact that Joanie, a grown professional person, heads out to meet up with the man who likely killed her mother without an escort, without any backup. The fact that despite not knowing that she was coming, nor having ever met her before, Ben Cruz has a trap all laid out for Joanie at the ready. Except, that trap falls apart when we ponder one important plot point.

When Joanie showed up at Ben’s house and signed the release form, she was still posing as Gabrielle. So, unless she was a total idiot, she signed her name (to something she didn’t even bother reading, who does that) as Gabrielle. So how would that paperwork be binding, it’s not her name! “That is your signature on this form,” the cop tells her. Is it really? If it is, then she’s incredibly stupid; if it’s Gabrielle’s name, then this plot twist is. Maybe this comes from a lifetime of watching too many Columbo episodes, but that seems like such a glaring error that, like with many elements of this final Affair season, I am finding it hard to get over.

It’s unfortunate, because this episode still contains glimpses of the show this once was—Noah’s talk with Whitney in the bedroom about marriage, for example. Sure, Whitney asks her dad for cheating advice since he’s kind of an expert, but he makes some good points. “Marriage is… it’s not magic… It’s just a decision that you make and keep on making over and over to stay.” That’s very true—but then according to Noah’s own path, one day he made the decision not to stay. To leave. Not only Helen, but all four kids. I’ve scarcely liked Noah more than when he admits to Whitney, “I was only thinking about myself.” Whitney’s own issues (and her ill-advisedly racing toward this green-card marriage) are proof that that damage still lingers, and like Whitney, I am inclined to give him a few props for trying to make amends now. They’ve come a long way since that hot-tub incident in season two that scarred all of us for life.

Unfortunately, the show then piles on a bunch of other bullshit. Noah hears the name “Joanie” and instantly remembers that there’s another kid that he took care of for a few years. Have we ever seen him have any interest in seeing Joanie before? Keeping in touch with Cole after Alison’s death? Are we to believe that he would have followed up with Joanie if he hadn’t happened to run into Luisa? As a local, wouldn’t Cole also have been just as likely to notice that article about Ben in the paper? It’s random enough to be straight-up annoying. Also not looking forward to Noah getting wrapped up in the #MeToo movement with this Eden revelation. And it’s hard to get too hopped-up about Whitney’s wedding planning (which I have no doubt will happen) when she really shouldn’t be getting married in the first place.

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But even all that pales next to the idiocy of surly Joanie waltzing right into Ben’s trap. It’s infuriating. All she would have needed is someone to come with her, someone to stick up for her—even EJ, god help him—for Ben’s plan to fall apart. Joanie is supposed to be a thoughtful scientist: Why wasn’t she recording him? When she’s asked, “Why would you sign something you didn’t read, ma’am?” she has to know that answering “Because I was too busy thinking about how I was going to kill him,” is about the worst possible response she could come up with. And then to stay with the homicidal maniac instead of leaving with the police? And then to plead with Ben to choke her harder? I just can’t. That encounter was supposed to be suspenseful, I guess, but the ignorance of the person we’re supposed to be rooting for made it really difficult. At least we now know what really happened to Allison, but the reveal was delivered in such an odd, almost off-handed manner—to set up the final Ben takedown in the remaining four episodes, I suspect.

I predict that Joanie will now have to look up old-age Noah to come help her take Ben down. An ending like that would have to be more satisfying than this Ben encounter (I honestly don’t know how anything could be less so), but I’m still not exactly looking forward to it.

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Stray observation

  • All that said, Tony Plana did an admirable job playing an elder version of Ben, alternately comforting and menacing. “How do you feel?” “Scared.” “Good. Go with that.”
  • Nice use of Chris Staples’ “Walking With A Stranger” in the Noah/Whitney scenes.
  • Ba-bye, Luisa. Joyless and charmless until the end.
  • The bridal boutique staff seemed excessively harsh (in the Hamptons, they probably are just that used to people dropping five figures on a dress), but I’m kind of with them in this. Why in the world did Whitney even put that dress on?
  • “Noah, take Whitney’s things to the blue room, you’re in the basement.” Margaret is a battle-axe. Reminding Noah of Scotty’s death was fairly brutal; that can’t possibly be the last time Noah drove in Montauk.
  • Bruce is so much nicer with dementia: Didn’t he throw out that one-book line at Noah in the very first episode, taunting him about only (then) having the one unsuccessful book? This line made Bruce’s current sad situation worth it, though: “Does this mean that you’ve broken up with that kid from Pennsylvania, the one that was practically a mute?”
  • Interesting that Whitney’s viewpoint of Helen saving Stacey from choking is different from both Noah’s and Allison’s. Harkens back to the show’s original concept of how every event changes based on the eye of the beholder, which I really miss.
  • Next week: Jennifer Jason Leigh returns, as does Helen. And I swear if Joshua Jackson shows up next week for a Cole/Noah scene, I will forgive this show for a lot of its missteps. Sadly, I kind of doubt it. Nevertheless, see you then.
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About the author

Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.