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'The Affair' recap: Cole has to choose between Alison and Luisa

Part One: Alison

On this week's episode of "The Affair," Alison and Cole are in court, with Alison's parental rights in the balance.

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While the state's advocate, speaking on Joanie's behalf, attempts to paint Alison as a terrible mother, Luisa takes the stand and gives a surprisingly glowing review of Alison's recent successes. "I'm no fan of Alison, but this isn't about me," Luisa says, cementing her status as the most level-headed adult on this show.

Luisa advocates for Alison sharing custody of Joanie, which is a step further than Alison is even seeking at the moment. After a short recess, Cole agrees to Luisa's suggestion, and Alison is delighted to reclaim a big role in her daughter's life.

Later, Alison pays Cole a visit at his construction site, bringing him coffee and a snack. He reluctantly accepts the offering, and they discuss what happened earlier in court. Cole says that he's fine with Alison sharing custody, though his body language says otherwise. "Honestly, you haven't been the model of consistency lately. You're still you," he snaps.

He continues with the passive-aggressive behavior and congratulates Alison on her divorce. Confused, Alison says that she thought Cole wanted her to get divorced, and he says that he doesn't care what she does — which is patently false. The tense conversation ends with Alison cursing Cole and walking off.

Alison receives a phone call later from a doctor at the mental health facility where she spent time, asking her to come and visit with a patient who is experiencing something similar to what she went through after Gabriel died. Alison seems happy to serve as a mentor of sorts, and agrees to come help.

She arrives and meets with the young woman, and explains that she spent six months at the facility. "You must have been crazy," the woman says. Alison half-agrees, simply saying, "I had a lot to work through."

The young woman tells Alison that she has to go home soon and that her family expects her to start living somewhat normally again. Alison tells her that she won't ever be the same again, and that she won't be able to live normally for a while. "You have to understand that," she emphasizes. She tells the woman to go on living for herself and the memory of her child, and to do whatever she has to do to make that happen.

After her visit, Alison goes to see Cole again to share how she helped the woman, and how she may want to serve as a grief counselor going forward. Cole tells her that such a commitment — especially at the facility in New Jersey, hours away — is exactly why he was against her getting Joanie back so soon.

"You can't just be happy. You have to keep pushing and pushing," he says. "This is who you are. You're chaos." I mean, is Alison even in the top four most chaotic characters on this show?

Alison can't grasp why Cole is making such a big deal about this. She says she'll commute, that she isn't planning to abandon Joanie again, and that she shared this with him because she thought he would understand and be happy for her. "Everything's always about you," he says, dismissively.

Confused and hurt, Alison heads to the local watering hole to drown her sorrows. She asks the bartender for something stiff, prompting Helen — of course! — to walk in and suggest Long Island iced teas for the two of them.

The two make awkward small talk before the conversation turns to their mutual ex-husband. Alison learns that Helen has been housing Noah while he recovers from his stabbing, and they share a laugh, before clinking glasses.

Helen asks Alison to describe who Noah was to her, and she calls him smart, charming and mature. Those aren't the words I would use, but OK. "I found him to be so insecure," Helen says.

Alison apologizes to Helen for the affair, but Helen lets her off the hook. "It wasn't your fault," she says. "Men need to feel important to stay in a relationship. I stopped making Noah feel important years before he met you."

Alison breaks in and says that she has something to share from the night Scotty died, but Helen cuts her off. "Why don't you just let it go, Alison?" she says, and quickly excuses herself, ending the awkward interaction. "Weird night," says the bartender. Um, yep.

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But the night only gets weirder, as Alison is paid a visit by the local police. The officer warns her that the New Jersey police are back in town to question Cole because his alibi for the night of Noah's stabbing did not hold up. In fact, they have evidence that he was within a few miles of Noah within an hour of the attack.

Part Two: Cole

Cole recalls the custody hearing almost exactly as Alison did, and he also remembers her paying him a visit to thank him. Cole's attention isn't on Alison, though, as his building site has a notice pinned to it ordering him to stop working.

Cole visits the town's new building inspector to attempt to iron things out, and asks the man to cut him a break on the regulations he's facing. If everything goes by the book, Cole won't be able to get the roof on his new house before winter, wrecking his plans. The new inspector can't be bought and insists that Cole play by the book, leaving him to exit the office facing new complications.

Cole returns home to Luisa, who asks for his thoughts on starting a family of their own, either via a surrogate or through adoption. Cole shuts down the conversation with an excuse about being too tired to discuss it, but assures Luisa that he wants to have a family with her. Luisa leaves the conversation unconvinced, though.

Cole proceeds with his house building, which leads Oscar to pay him a visit on behalf of the new inspector. He tells Cole that the new guy doesn't have a price, and tells him to shut down the build for a few weeks.

Their conversation turns personal, and Oscar expresses frustration with his wife, but ultimately, he tells Cole, he knows that he'll never do any better for himself. Cole asks him if he ever thinks about a new life, from which Oscar infers that Cole has been sleeping with Alison. "What are you doing, man? You have the perfect life," Oscar says. "I don't know what I'm doing," Cole answers. Yeah, I don't either, dude. I don't know what any of you are doing on this show.

Alison visits Cole at the Lobster Roll to tell him about her new grief counseling position, to which Cole has the same negative reaction that he did from her point of view. From his angle, we see this as evidence that Alison won't be there for Cole should he choose to blow up his life in an attempt to reconcile with her. So Cole heads home and tells Luisa that he's ready to start that family that she wanted to discuss.

That conversation gets cut short by a visit form the New Jersey police, who confront Cole with evidence that he was in New Jersey the night that Noah was stabbed. Rather than provide a new alibi, Cole mouths off, and finds himself arrested.

Alison visits Cole in jail, and asks him if he had anything to do with Noah's attack. He says that he didn't, and that he was in New Jersey that night to visit Woodlawn, the mental health facility where Alison had been a patient. He says that having her back in his life stirred up old feelings, and that he needed to speak with someone who had treated her to try to figure out why she was who she was. What? What about HIPAA laws?

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Alison raises the same question, and Cole admits that her doctor refused to divulge anything to him. Still, Cole says that he can't admit to his whereabouts, because then he would have to admit their recent involvement to the authorities — and to Luisa.

"I've built this whole life, I'm building a house, just to prove to everybody that I don't love you anymore," he says. "That I don't need you, that I don't want you, that I don't miss you. ... The truth is, that I do. I need you, I want you, and I miss you, and I love you. I'm tired of pretending that I don't."

"Just stop pretending," Alison says. Cole says that isn't possible, because he isn't Noah. He says that he's a good man, and that he can't trust Alison again after what she did five years ago.

Alison says that no one is holding a gun to Cole's head, but that he needs to make up his mind. She says she'll always be the same flawed person, but that she loves him. "And I always will," she says.

Cole decides to tell the police the truth, and he returns home that evening. Luisa is awake, and he tells her that he went to see Alison's doctor to strengthen their custody case. "I think you're still lying," Luisa says, but Cole shuts the conversation down without telling her the full truth.

In the middle of the night, Cole wakes up and goes to Alison's house to try to talk through their situation. Cole convinces Alison that despite the fact that they keep coming back to each other, they should be finished.

Alison thinks that Cole is just scared of looking like a bad guy for leaving Luisa, and that if things weren't so messy, that they could be happy together. "If you ever need me, you know where to find me," Alison says, leaving, and ending their dalliance. For now.

Luisa is surprised to find Cole in the kitchen the next morning, making breakfast. "This is my home, our home, if you'll still have me," he says. "I'll still have you," Luisa says, fighting back tears, and the two embrace.

Final Thoughts

So, the Alison and Cole reunion, which none of us were rooting for, won't happen. What else are we supposed to take away from this episode? That Cole is going to be deeply unhappy, as Oscar put it, so that he can play the good guy. Ultimately, he's doing the morally right thing, and we should be happy about that, even if he is not.

I'm really hoping for a killer final two episodes to the season, as this hour, and this season so far, have felt like a wasted opportunity to build on the show's strong second season.

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