There’s a ton to unpack in this week’s episode of The Affair, but let’s start with this: It looks like we won’t be seeing Joshua Jackson in old-age makeup this season, after all. In the final moments of Episode 504, we take a trip with Joanie to the Montauk graveyard, where Cole Lockhart currently resides.
This is a big piece of information to begin with, but what proves truly seismic is the full shot, which features three gravestones: one for Cole, one for Cole’s father (whose name turns out to be Gabriel Lockhart) … and one for Scott Lockhart. And they have dates on them. After literally years of frustration over wondering when The Affair takes place, we have answers! Carved in stone and everything!
Cole dies in the year 2053 (at the age of 74); meanwhile, Scotty’s death date proves the most illuminating. The mystery surrounding his demise, of course, haunted the first two seasons of The Affair, and thanks to his gravestone we now know that the fateful night of Cole and Luisa’s wedding, when he was killed by a car driven by Helen (after Alison pushed him into the road as he attempted to assault her), took place in 2017.
And now, it’s time to do some math: On the day of Scotty’s death (as seen in the season-two finale), Noah says that Joanie is 18 months old. This means that Joanie was born in the year 2016, and presuming that Cole passed away relatively recently, this means that Future Joanie’s storyline takes place in approximately the year 2053 or 2054. This would mean Joanie is about 37 or 38, which matches perfectly with Anna Paquin’s casting (she’s currently 37).
But more importantly, now that we know what year Joanie was born, we can pinpoint what year the “present day” storylines this season are taking place in, because of a comment made by Dr. Vik at the beginning of season five, during a video message to the Solloway family: He came into their lives “eight years ago.” If the events of episode nine in season two are to be trusted, the first time that Helen and Dr. Vik had sex was literally the same night that Joanie was born, meaning that Dr. Vik’s funeral was eight years after 2016 — meaning that the show’s “present day” is set in the year 2024.
So, in short, if those dates are to be trusted, this show has always been set slightly in the future, and has leaped further and further forward over the seasons. However, this has never really seemed to affect the writing or production in a significant way, which speaks to the way in which the show has always emphasized human relationships above all (or I’m reading way too much into this and/or my math is wrong and/or hey, this is The Affair, there is no such thing as objective truth, right?).
Anyway, other stuff also happened in this episode, like, for example, Whitney getting her own POV section for the first time! The eldest Solloway offspring has been polarizing since the beginning of the series, given how the character (as seen from her parents’ perspective) was the platonic ideal of the bratty teenager, one whose misbehavior led to an abortion, some wild partying, and ill-advised affairs with at least two older men.
As she got older, her interest in the art world became something of a constant, and her passion for it gets at least some of the focus in her section, as we see her struggle through a tough two days: broke as hell, living with a fiancé who spends most of his time hassling her about their upcoming immigration interview, and working for Andrea, a female gallery owner who might be the worst boss in the world.
While she’s clearly dissatisfied, when former lover and boss Furkat shows up in her life now, a few years after he hit her in Paris, Whitney is uninterested in reengaging with him. It’s her boss who drags her to his opening at the Broad Museum, where Furkat pleads for her forgiveness, making a scene and kissing her in front of the entire party.
At the afterparty, Whitney gets high with her new friend, powerful gallery owner Dashiell (Tate Ellington). Confessing that “I don’t want to be looked at anymore — I want to be the one who does the looking,” she tells him that if she had the money to start her own gallery, she’d have a chance to support artists who have the ability to express something “I don’t have the language for.”
Dashiell might be the key to her achieving that dream … for a price. When Furkat steals her away for some illicit sex in another room, Dashiell joins them because “he likes to watch.” Whitney isn’t into the idea of having a voyeur in the room, especially when Dashiell’s hands slip into his pants, but Furkat’s promise that “he could give you a gallery” eventually leads her to keep going. When she returns home to Colin, she seems truly wrecked, clinging to her fiance, haunted by the choices she’s made. Whitney may be a flawed character, but this season, Julia Goldani Telles has managed to capture the way in which her lingering adolescent narcissism is fading away to reveal the smart and confident young woman she may potentially become. Whitney is now downright bearable, which is a feat to behold.
Meanwhile, another party that goes badly is Sasha Mann’s Halloween soirée, which Noah crashes in his section of the story. (Yeah, we’re basically going in reverse order through the episode this week, what can I say? Time is a flat circle.) Only Helen and the kids are invited (as Helen and Sasha’s relationship is now tabloid official), and Sasha has not only banned Noah from the set of Descent, but is actively seeking a co-writing credit for the film.
However, that doesn’t stop Noah (after some encouragement from Margaret) from going to the party in an effort to sabotage Sasha and Helen’s relationship. Rejecting Margaret’s suggestion to plant a wild variety of sex toys in Sasha’s bedroom, he instead decides to plant a pink lace bra under his pillows, directly echoing the moment when he and Helen ended things in season one. “You’re such an asshole,” Helen tells him when he’s caught, and she says that not even knowing how Noah got the bra: by literally taking it off Erica the script girl after a quick bout of making out, leaving her topless in Sasha’s yard. Poor, poor Erica, learning one of the world’s most important lessons — never trust Noah Solloway with anything you value. Especially your dignity.
There Is No Objective Truth (Just Bullet Points)
• Margaret’s plan to plant sex toys in Sasha’s room to encourage Helen to break up with him is ridiculous, but Noah throwing them away just feels wasteful. Sex toys aren’t cheap, Noah! At least see if the Pleasure Chest has a return policy!
• Speaking of throwing things away, the only other major development from Joanie’s storyline is her fixing the solar cells on the roof of the old Lockhart house, and then pretty much throwing away any evidence of the human beings who once lived in that house, including framed photos and baby Gabriel’s toy chest. The show is slowly unpacking Joanie’s trauma for us, and her lack of sentimentality feels like a key puzzle piece.
• Today in “why does that person look familiar?”: Megan Duffy, who plays Erica, had a brief but memorable role during the first season of Mad Men, playing the “Poetry Girl” who takes off her sweater after a cabaret performance in the East Village, in which she cooed, “Last night, I dreamed of making love to Fidel Castro, in a king-sized bed at the Waldorf Astoria.”
• For those who might be craving a touch of Noah Comeuppance, the mockup for the poster of “Sasha Mann’s Descent” goes a long way.
• Again, cannot say enough how happy it makes me to have actual dates now, especially since knowing the approximate years plays heavily into all of the futuristic details we see in Joanie’s sections.
• Whether or not these dates were the result of after-the-fact retconning, so far they hold up halfway decently — but it’s not flawless. For example, Helen notes that Whitney is 24 years old in the “present day,” which means she was born around 2000, and was thus a teenager in 2016-2017. But in season one, it’s said she’s 17 the fall when she gets the abortion — which would theoretically be a while before the birth of Joanie and other subsequent events … Maybe I take it back. Maybe things were better before.