It’s back to real life all around in this episode of The Affair, which means shifting the focus on to Allison (Ruth Wilson) and Cole (Joshua Jackson). We open in a custody hearing between Allison and Cole, from her point of view, and the whole thing bears out that the representative of the state who is advocating for Joanie (Reagan & Savannah Grella), is deeply biased against her. He calls Luisa (Catalina Sandino Moreno), Cole’s new wife, to the stand and something truly surprising happens: she suggests Allison have shared custody. For Allison, this is completely out of the blue and couldn’t be more unexpected, given how brutal Luisa has been until now. Even more surprising, the court agreed to it. When we left them, Cole and Allison just had sex but he wasn’t yet willing to grant her custody, and she gave him hell for it. Allison seems him arguing with Luisa as her lawyer delivers the good news, but has no idea what is going on. Neither do we until the show picks up the thread from Cole’s point of view later. Allison brings coffee and a muffin as a peace offering to the site where Cole is building a new house, only to get the cold shoulder (by the way, her coat in this scene is perfect). Oh, another bomb got dropped in the courtroom: Noah and Allison are officially divorced. That this hasn’t registered in Noah’s story so far is emblematic of his problem, to borrow a phrase from Cole, and Allison’s exchange about it with Cole ends with Cole being extended an invitation to go fuck himself, which seems fair. A doctor who knows Allison, whom it appears she became close with while she was institutionalized at Woodlawn, asks her to speak to a patient on suicide watch following the death of her child. The woman is very young and, at first, impenetrable. She’s unprepared for how well she’ll relate to Allison, and Allison’s clear expression of what she went through after losing her son is heartbreaking. That she’s got her feelings so completely under control now is a testament to the work she obviously did while she was there, for six months she reveals. “You won’t ever be the same,” she tells the girl, but she’s talking about herself and it’s true. This Allison is not the same; she is stronger, smarter, and stable. She describes the affair with Noah as the thing she did when she was trying to come out of her grief, and it reduces the power their relationship holds over her — and the viewer. When it’s over, she goes to Cole to tell him about the experience not realizing that though she might have her emotions handled, he clearly does not. She explains that she may want to become a grief counselor, which he turns into an argument about their custody agreement. Well, ostensibly about their custody agreement — in reality, it’s a fight they’ve been having for a long time, about what they don’t like about each other. He’s participating, she’s not. He’s pushing her away, but she doesn’t understand that yet.
Then, the show does something I never thought it would do: they brought Helen (Maura Tierney) and Allison back together. Helen follows her into a bar, and the two have a real clearing of the air over Long Island Iced Teas. They’re surprisingly real with each other (can’t wait to hear what Helen’s “really weird day” is about) and share a laugh over both being Noah’s ex-wife. When Helen asks, “Who was he with you?” the conversation quickly gets to the crux of his character flaws. Also, this version of Helen is the one I want to be friends with, so does that just mean I want to see the world through Allison’s eyes? Allison ultimately apologizes to Helen for the affair, but Helen explains it wasn’t her fault. She places the blame on herself for not making Noah feel important in their relationship. Cool for Noah that no one wants to blame him or hold him accountable for his actions. Shit nearly hits the fan when Allison tries to bring up the night Scotty died, but Helen, who has a lot to lose in that convo, shuts it down promptly and rolls out as quickly as she rolled in. It’s only a matter of time until that comes back to bite Helen in the ass, right? A cop Allison and Noah both know comes to her house to give her the heads up that New Jersey cops have taken Cole in for questioning about the night Noah was stabbed due to a discrepancy in his alibi. That’s where we leave Allison’s POV and flip to Cole’s. The main things you need to know that you didn’t get from Allison are that Luisa gave Cole and his lawyer a heads up in advance that she was going to flip in court. For her, it’s a way to get on with things. Also when Allison shows up with her peace offering, she is not wearing that beautiful coat. We’ll chalk that up to men not paying attention to clothes. He has some feud with the new building inspector, who wants him to stop construction on the house because he’s got Kennedy-esque levels of ethics. Luisa drops the second bomb that day when she tells Cole it’s time for their family. It goes over like a deflated balloon. Cole ultimately realizes he kind of maybe actually still wants to be with Allison. Which is interesting, considering that they had a child who lived to age four together — it’s not like Cole is unaware of what family life is like, right? Maybe the writers forgot. So he drops all a huge info bomb on her with his feelings and desires and shortcomings, along with his angst (while she’s still not wearing the right coat, get it together dude) when she comes to jail to see him (also he made the most annoyed Pacey on Dawson’s Creek face EVER as the cops arrested him, it was total ‘90s nostalgia for a hot second). Always the visitor, never the prisoner. Why isn’t his real wife there? Good question. Cole reveals that the cops caught his car on a toll booth camera because he was visiting Woodlawn, to try and shake down Allison’s doctor for information and find out why she was so damn okay when she returned to Montauk. You know, not still emotionally scarred like Cole, who has done fuck all to resolve his issues. Cole has emotions but he’ll be damned if he’s going to handle them responsibly or rationally or if he’s going to tell Luisa about any of this. And just like that, he became the crazy, self-destructive one in their relationship. Funny how that flipped.