Significantly, Cole is as always wrapped up in his business - selling the ranch - and gives Alison almost no support - the support she needs and wants from him - in her struggle to come to terms with her grandmother's fate. Cole of all people should understand why this is so painful and important to Alison, putting her in touch, as it does, with how she felt and still feels about the loss of their son. But Cole is what he is, and even being good and loving in bed doesn't make him what Alison so keenly requires at this point in her life.
But Noah is. In contrast to Cole's unaware remoteness, Noah in one of his best scenes in the series seeks to comfort Alison by telling her the crucial truth that the loss of a parent or grandparent, wounding as it might be, is not in league with the anguish of losing a child. Noah never lost a child (as far as we know). But he's just a more sensitive person than Cole, and because of that he is what Alison most needs at this moment.
Since all of this occurs in Alison's story, what we're seeing here is her good opinion of Noah, and how he came through for her. They don't (yet) sleep together again, but this will be the foundation of why they soon will, even though Noah was the one who ended that affair of the summer and Alison thus has every reason not to want to ever see him again, let alone in bed. The crucial exchange here is where Noah softly tells Alison, "I love you," and she replies, "I love you, too." That says it all.
Meanwhile, we get a long view of Helen tonight - that is, how Noah sees Helen in the aftermath of his confession. She doesn't accept his gift, and in the psychologist's office - played by Blair Brown (of recent Fringe fame, along with Joshua Jackson) - we learn that she married Noah because she thought he was "safe" - something which he certainly can't be happy to hear.
The conversation between Noah and his father-in-law Bruce is also important, because, like in A Christmas Carol, it gives Noah a glimpse of his future, and what he might well feel if he lets Alison vanish from his life.
The police detective is in menacing presence at the ends of both half hours. As I've previously said, I find this part of the story usually the least compelling. The great strength of The Affair is its profound human drama, and I'm looking forward to more of that next week.
podcast review of every 1st season episode