I left this episode feeling like I don’t know where these storylines are taking us. Not only like I don’t know what the endgame is, but that I can’t even figure out which road we’re traveling down because there is too much fog distracting me. Noah (Dominic West) continues to run hastily down a path with no regard to how his actions hurt anyone — this time, including himself. We get our first look at Whitney’s (Julia Goldani Telles) point of view, but it’s unclear to what ends. And I still have no idea how, when, or if the lives of the Solloways will intersect with Joanie (Anna Paquin). It’s starting to get a bit maddening, to be so unsure how far from the destination you are. But here’s where The Affair took us this week.
The setup, as Noah remembers it, starts when his youngest daughter, Stacey (Abigail Dylan Harrison), insists she won’t go to Sasha’s (Claes Bang) Halloween party unless he comes. She’s the one of his kids with Helen (Maura Tierney) who expresses anything other than disdain for him, so he’s eager to please. To reinforce this idea, there’s a whole B-story moment about Stacey getting her period for the first time and Noah screaming that he’s staying because he’s her father, goddammit. This, after sticking Trevor (Jadon Sand) and his Dr. Frank-N-Furter costume in the most expensive Uber to Malibu imaginable after quoting Almost Famous (“don’t do drugs”) to him. It sounds funny when I write it, but it was decidedly earnest because...Noah.
Noah’s beef with Sasha crystalizes in that meeting with his “representatives.” Everything he’s told and everything Sasha does makes it feel like Sasha is trying to steal his life and live it better. The lines between the movie and reality are becoming more and more blurred for Noah.
Because absolutely nothing bad that happens is just Noah’s idea and someone else is always to blame, both the manchild principal, Joel (Adam Shapiro), and his mother-in-law, Margaret (Kathleen Chalfant), plant the seeds of the idea in his mind about what he does next. They’re watered by Stacey who, in Noah’s deeply twisted memory, tells him about how Sasha called him a loser and said Helen could have done better.
So at this spectacular Halloween party that looks like any other party, really, Noah orchestrates a remarkably cruel plan. He hooks up with Erica (Megan Duffy), the script supervisor who has a crush on him, and takes her bra with the promise to bring it back. But he wasn’t ever going to do that. He hides it in Sasha’s bed, to recreate the moment Helen found Alison’s (Ruth Wilson) bra in their bedroom and ended their relationship. He gets caught red-handed, of course, but I can’t stop thinking about Erica. Is she just supposed to find her way out of the party without her bra?
And then there’s Whitney, who is toiling away like Cinderella of the far East side of Los Angeles when Furkat (Jonathan Cake), the incredible asshole she dated/worked as an assistant to in season 3, shows up to “rescue” her. As you may recall, their relationship ended when he slapped her in Paris. He wants her to attend his latest opening and, though she’s shaken by seeing him, she is also tempted by the easy, glamorous life he offers immediate access to as compared to her life with Andrea (Melissa Gold), the cheap gallery owner, and her fiancé, Colin (Max Fowler), who can’t work on his visa or remember to buy coffee. Before she makes the call to let Furkat back in, she tests the waters by asking Helen how she’s doing financially — when the answer is not good and Andrea insists that they go to the opening, Whitney does it.
If you’re wondering whether Furkat has changed or not, the answer is a firm no. He apologizes with some sincerity, perhaps, for Paris. She realizes the show is all her, all photos he had taken of her and a multimedia piece taken in real-time of her reaction to his apology. Then he has sex with her in front of a wealthy collector who is opening a new gallery he hopes to be featured in, because the collector “likes to watch.” It’s a particularly cutting moment because she has just told the collector that she doesn’t want to be looked at anymore, she wants to be the one doing the looking. “He could give you a gallery,” Furkat says, and she compromises her morals to get what she wants. Was life really that hard or did Whitney just need a justification to get what she wanted? The moment leaves us longing for more of her point of view.
Finally, we see Joanie in some bleak Montauk future. It’s the morning after last week’s unsettling sex scene. She seems more herself. She goes to the roof to fix the solar panels, cleans up the house — including removing the dozens of photos of Alison that Cole (Joshua Jackson) left out and baby Gabriel’s toy box, and goes to visit Cole’s grave.
It’s not clear if we got anywhere in the bigger narrative with this episode, because I’m not sure what that narrative is. We’re no closer to Joanie getting the truth about Alison’s death. If anything, she just threw away some letters that might have been informative. Noah marched further down the lane of destroying his relationship with Helen and his family. And Whitney presented an entirely new story that may or may not go anywhere. Where is this train headed?