Not until it their relationship was finally over did I realize how invested I was in Cole and Alison finding their way back to each other.
Cole had secrets that came to light on The Affair Season 3 Episode 8, but they weren't anything to do with the attempted murder of Noah Solloway. Instead, Cole has been living a lie about the love of his life.
As Alison put it, Cole had to decide whether to be the happy asshole or the miserable hero, and making his choice kind of ripped my heart out. From the look on his face, a little bit of his was torn out for good, as well.
It's hard to imagine what this will mean for the characters going forward. I continue to believe the focal point of the narrative is Noah, and even though he had his pivotal affair with Alison, once she clears up her issues with him, her place in the story will be as unnecessary as Cole's has now become.
Because Cole just became little more than Joanie's father, and he will support Alison going forward.
He's chosen a quiet life, one with a woman who loves him more than he loves her, who will raise Joanie and another child (also not hers) with all the love she has to offer.
She's the path of least resistance, chosen even though his heart belongs elsewhere.
Alison, I built this whole life, I'm building a whole house just to prove to everybody that I don't love you anymore, that I don't need you, that I don't want you, that I don't miss you. But the truth is that I do. I need you, and I want you, and I miss you, and I love you, and I'm tired of pretending that I don't.Cole
It's taken him a while to admit it, but it's nothing we haven't known all along.
Love was never the problem between Alison and Cole. Love, they had. Love, they could do. It was everything else since the death of Gabriel that seemed to hang between them unsolved.
Grief gave way to frustration and that led miscommunication and the need find other outlets for their pain. At least Alison has nailed down the reason she strayed with Noah and found a new way to channel her thoughts about Gabriel, which will never leave her.
Grieving Girl: What'd you do?
Alison: I had an affair. I wouldn't recommend it. It didn't turn out well.
It's beautiful that she can talk to other grieving parents who have lost their children, but it's not so wonderful that her new passion is four hours away.
It's understandable Dr. Perry would want to offer Alison a counseling position, but Alison shouldn't have accepted on the spot. She could have asked if Perry had contacts closer to her home, to Joanie's home, that she might be able to connect with Alison.
Cole's irritation with Alison over the job wasn't only that she didn't take Joanie's future into consideration, but that he was just coming to terms with having her in his life again and trying to make a choice between her and Luisa.
Of course, Alison didn't know that. But Alison was right in telling him she's always going to be impulsive, and probably reckless, but she means well and will always love him.
Who would have guessed Oscar would become the Montauk voice of reason? He always pops up to give either Cole or Alison very sage advice about love now that he's settled down. Granted, he could talk about his wife with better language, but he did grade her a B+.
I think people see what they want to see in other people.Helen
Helen, too, made a surprise appearance to remind Alison she never really knew Noah as well as she thought, either. Or perhaps neither of them knew (or knows) the guy.
I guess it's the Noah connection and Scotty's death reveal that will keep Alison and Cole in the picture with The Affair a while longer. Alison almost told Helen about her role in Scotty's death, but Helen hushed her.
Helen will wish someday she had received the information she will undoubtedly receive once she has it. And will Helen be the one to tell Cole about Alison's role in his brother's death? After all of this...I can't stand to think about it.
I want this to be their last stand. Their last realization of love and understanding, because it is the real thing. Everything else is just noise, whether created by Noah, Whitney or even Scotty himself. They banged too hard and pushed too far,
It was almost a period of insanity, one that Noah and Helen are still living, but that Alison and Cole are fighting their way out of in a desperate attempt to get their quiet lives back in Montauk.
Wow. Listen to me. When did I become a champion for Alison? That's how messed up things have become in the city.
Noah and Helen have proven themselves to be the catalyst for the lunacy and horror that sprung up in the lives of the citizens of Montauk.
While I don't want the stories of Cole or Alison to end, I'm almost desperate for them to close so they can find peace. Why would anybody want to watch them dragged back into whatever it is that's going on with Noah and Helen?
Alison: We keep coming back to each other.
Cole: I know.
Alison: Don't you think that means something?
Cole: I think that means we were unfinished.
Alison: And now...we are? You're scared. I think you're giving up because we've made a mess of everything, and it's too complicated. If you leave Luisa now, you can't play the good guy anymore. Then you're an asshole just like me. Yeah, but maybe you're a happy asshole instead of a miserable hero.
The photos available didn't do this justice. The scene on the bench between Alison and Cole, as well as the look on Cole's face as he leaned into Luisa after he fully accepted he wasn't going to be a happy asshole.
His fate was as a miserable hero. He got the girl, but he let her go. She's still out there, but his decision has been made.
Unless it's his turn to have an affair. Maybe there's still time to be a happy asshole, after all.
What do you think of Cole's decision? Do you want it to be permanent? Where do you see Cole and Alison's story going as we move into The Affair Season 4?
Don't forget, you can watch The Affair online anytime if you want to recall how this all began.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.