South O’ the Highway

Processing the Madness of ‘The Affair’ Season 4, Episode 9

Alison and Ben share an unforgettable, painful night in Montauk.

Before we dig in to our recap and commentary about Episode 10 of Showtime’s The Affair Season 4, READERS BEWARE: This contains major spoilers and we really urge you not to read until you’ve watched the show.

RELATED: Showtime Renews ‘The Affair’ for Season 5, But It Ends There

Sunday’s episode delivered the knockout blow from a one-two punch that started last week (in Season 4, Episode 8) when we learned of Alison’s apparent suicide by drowning. As if we weren’t reeling enough by the death of this key character, we’ve now discovered it was murder after all.

But some may still have questions about this pivotal moment in Montauk.

Fans of The Affair have become used to seeing stories told from the perspective of two different characters, but we usually take it on faith that these recollections, while often flawed, are true or, at worst, idealized accounts according to the characters at their center. When Cole (Joshua Jackson) wakes up with Sharpie marker all over his face after passing out on the beach in Season 4, Episode 2, for example, he retells it as crudely drawn clown makeup, while Alison’s memory shows something much more humiliating, including a flying phallus and Rollie Fingers moustache.

The viewer is left to wonder if Cole is protecting his pride by remembering it one way, or if Alison’s take is more harsh because she has a dim view of her ex at that time. Usually we assume it’s probably somewhere in between. And that’s always worked—in life we may misinterpret people’s tone and take things the wrong way, all depending on our mood or the circumstances of that day. We may remember some details more than others.

Ben and Alison dance is a happier version of events
Ben and Alison dance is a happier version of events, Photo: Patrick Wymore/SHOWTIME

On Sunday’s episode, however, we see two very different interactions, one leading to Alison’s murder at the hands of Ben (Ramon Rodriguez), while the alternate view presents something else entirely. And both are told from Alison’s perspective, a first for The Affair.

The show begins with Alison’s initial “recollection,” which turns out not to be true. It shows her and Ben have a minor dustup over him hiding his marriage, which he confesses, but they end up sharing their deepest secrets and sources of pain. They kiss and then head out the front door to make love on the deck, twinkling lights all around them. The scene ends with the couple basking in the possibility of a wonderful future together.

We’re left to think, “Oh, so Ben is good after all! So why did she kill herself?” That is until we see Alison’s second version of events, which takes a decidedly darker turn, starting with the weather.

A powerful, beating rain immediately sets the tone as Part 2 begins. After Ben knocks and knocks, Alison eventually opens her door to find him standing in the rain, darkly hooded like the grim reaper in his slicker. Things are uneasy from the start, but tension mounts as Alison probes Ben about his life, asking if he’s ever been married while never actually saying what she knows. As the questions continue, Ben persists in his denials.

Ramon Rodriguez as Ben in The Affair Season 4 Episode 9
Ramon Rodriguez as Ben, Photo: Patrick Wymore/SHOWTIME

Soon the recovering alcoholic is drinking and telling her about killing a child in Iraq even though he knew the kid posed no actual threat. Uninhibited by booze, Ben’s dark side comes into full view and he refuses to leave after Alison repeatedly tells him to get out. She finally admits to meeting Ben’s wife and threatens to tell her about their relationship if he doesn’t leave.

Ben pushes Alison and she hits her head, suffering a serious injury and losing consciousness. But instead of calling for help, Ben takes the opportunity to be rid of her, carrying Alison’s limp body out into the rain and dumping her off a jetty into the roiling, Montauk surf.

So what happened? Why does Alison have two memories? Like Cole seeing the drawings on his face as something far less embarrassing, we can only assume Alison is imagining another narrative, another possible life, in her final moments. Somehow though, it makes it all the more painful as she plummets into the depths, a perfect visual to the show’s Fiona Apple theme song “Container”: “I have only one thing to do and that’s be the wave that I am and then sink back into the ocean.”

Ruth Wilson as Alison in The Affair Season 4 Episode 9
Ruth Wilson as Alison, Photo: Patrick Wymore/SHOWTIME

One episode remains in The Affair Season 4, and it will be interesting to see how it sets up the fifth and final season. Last week, after Episode 8, we asked if Whitney (Julia Goldani Telles) would appear in Season 4, and promos for Episode 10 confirm she’s returning to the show.

In addition to the Ben storyline, and whether Cole and Noah (Dominic West) will learn the truth about Alison’s murder, the show has to resolve Cole and Luisa’s (Catalina Sandino Moreno) marriage, Vic’s (Omar Metwally) terminal cancer and Helen’s (Maura Tierney) future without him.

We have a sneaking suspicion their neighbor Sierra (Emily Browningis pregnant with Vic’s child and she and Helen will end up raising it together. Maybe?

Wilson will not be returning in Season 5, even in flashbacks. It turns out Alison’s death came as a result of Wilson asking to leave the show. Watch the Season 4 finale trailer below.

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