This week on The Affair, Joanie confronts Ben (now played by Ugly Betty‘s Tony Plana) about the night Alison died. Is he sorry for what he did to her mother, or is he just a special kind of psychopath?
In the future timeline, Joanie shows up at the doorstep of Ben’s PTSD clinic. She’s wearing sunglasses and says her name is Gabrielle. She suffers from post-traumatic stress and needs his help. He invites her in and quickly deduces that it’s Alison’s daughter, but he doesn’t say anything. They head to his office to get to know each other a bit better, and he asks Joani— err, Gabrielle, how her PTSD manifests itself. She tells him that she struggles to connect with people and is incapable of love. Both of those things, he says, are sometimes connected to a significant loss or trauma suffered at an early age. “Does that resonate with you?” He asks. “No,” she declares.
Next up, he introduces her to EDMR, a psychotherapy treatment. He asks if she’d like to try it, just to see if they can get a little closer to understanding why she is here. After she agrees to it, he tells her that he records all of his sessions, and enables a recording device on his desk. He then has her sign what he says is a standard release form. He encourages her to take a moment to read it through, but she signs off without even skimming it. She then asks for the date, but he tells her not to worry about that. Moments later, they begin.
The way EDMR works, he says, is that you pick one specific trauma, then rewrite the script so it doesn’t trigger the same debilitating response. He asks if there is a moment or a night, in particular, where this inability to love started to impede on her life. “I had a fight with my boyfriend,” she claims — and they go from there. She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, then thinks back to the night in question. What she goes on to describe is what she thinks happened in Alison’s apartment on the night she died. She tells Ben she’s in Montauk, and it’s raining outside. Her boyfriend arrives, and she tells him that she wants him to leave his wife; if he doesn’t leave her, Gabrielle says, she’ll kill herself. In response, the boyfriend tells her that she’s “ugly and stupid and that nobody will ever love me, and the best I can hope for is to be someone’s slut.” Then Ben erupts from his seat and tells Joanie that that he has had enough. He knows she’s lying. The charade is over.
“I never said those things,” he exclaims. “I respected your mother greatly. I would have never spoken to her that way.” He tells Joanie that he’s glad that she’s finally here, and asks how he can be of help. “Did you kill my mother?” she asks. “Yes, I did,” he says. “I can only imagine what you think of me right now.” He says that he wants to be held accountable, and he hates himself for what he did.
So why did he do it?
Ben alleges that he had a psychotic break at the time. When he met Alison, the doctor at the VA had him on a lot of drugs and he was losing his mind. He couldn’t sleep and he was paranoid; he started hearing voices. That fateful night, he says, he became a monster. He and Alison had an argument about the fact that he was married. He explains that Alison was the person he thought would bring him back and restore him to the man he was before he went to war, but they tried to make love that night and he discovered that he was impotent.
For years after Afghanistan, Ben thought that the problem was his wife, then all of a sudden, he realized that he was the problem — and his fate was sealed. He was never going to be enough for Alison or any woman, for that matter, and he was filled with rage. Because Alison was in front of him, he directed it at her. Alison told him that she was leaving and ran to the door, but he didn’t want her to go. He grabbed her by the arm to try to bring her back, but lost his grip. She fell headfirst into a bookshelf, and before he could reach her, a heavy statue fell on her head and killed her. It was an accident, and he never wanted to hurt her — or so he says.
After he gets done telling Joanie what allegedly happened, he puts his fate in her hands. She can call the police right now, or she can kill him using a gun he removes from his desk drawer. “If I were going to kill you, I wouldn’t use a gun,” Joanie says. “I’d like to cut off your d—k and let you bleed out like a pig until you die.” But she needs time to think it over. She heads back to EJ’s, who advises her to call the police. “This man murdered your mother, then sat there and gave you a detailed description of how he did it,” he says. “That’s a special kind of psychopath.” But Joanie disagrees. She believes Ben’s story and thinks that he’s truly sorry for what he’s done. EJ says that’s irrelevant. He used Alison’s history of mental illness against her and let everyone believe that she drowned herself.
And just like that, it all clicks for Joanie.
Ben is obviously lying. Alison didn’t die when the statue hit her head; there was water in her lungs. And so, the following day, Joanie goes to the authorities. She returns to Ben’s clinic with two detectives who want to ask him a few questions about the night of Alison’s death. Ben, who always suspected that Joanie would return with the cops, tells them that Joanie is actually one of his patients. He says she went AWOL last night and he’s been worried sick. He lets the detectives into his office and shows them the paperwork that she signed submitting herself to psychiatric care. He then takes out a case study that says she was admitted three weeks ago, and tells the police that Joanie suffers from severe depression and PTSD stemming from her mother’s suicide — a death for which he was cleared 30+ years ago. He then alleges that Joanie suffers from homicidal delusions, and yesterday she had a turn for the worse. He plays an excerpt from his recording, where she says she wants to cut his d—k off and watch him bleed out. Joanie tells the cops that’s not what she said. It’s her voice on the recording, but it’s been taken out of context. She then goes searching for the gun in Ben’s desk, but it’s gone. He says he’d never have a gun on the premises. Joanie is then asked by the authorities why she’d sign anything without reading it, and she says she was too busy thinking about how she was going to kill Ben. That’s all they need to hear before concluding that she must be Ben’s patient, and leave her in his care.
After the cops leave, Ben tells Joanie that he’s untouchable now. The police are watching her, and if she kills him, she’ll spend the rest of her life in prison. “When you showed up at my door, you seemed so strong, so tough. I should have known it was a mask, just like hers,” he says, referring to Alison. “You’re just as sad and as frightened as she was.” This causes Joanie to snap. She lunges at Ben, who knocks her to the floor and presses his arm against her neck, making it difficult for her to breath. “Harder,” she says. “Harder.” And suddenly Ben realizes why Joanie has sought him out. “It wasn’t for Allison at all,” he deduces. “You just want someone to put you out of your pain, and I won’t do you that favor… I’ve paid for my sins. I can live with myself. You’re the one, apparently, who cannot.”
Meanwhile, back in the present day timeline, Noah and Whitney head back to Montauk to begin wedding preparations. They have lunch at the Lobster Roll and run into Luisa, who has come to clear out her office. She tells Noah that she’s moving to New York, and Cole is taking young Joanie to Vermont. Noah tells Luisa that he’d like to see Joanie before they leave; after all, he raised her as his own daughter for the first two years of her life, and he’d hate for her to feel like he’s abandoning her now that Alison has died. Luisa says he has until 5 pm to make an appearance at the Lockhart house, but he doesn’t make it in time. On the drive over, he pulls off to the side of the road when he receives a call from Vanity Fair reporter Petra Reins. She needs him to fact-check a recent interview she conducted with Eden for his big profile. Noah’s former publicist told Petra that he forced her into an unwanted sexual encounter when she worked for him — an allegation that Noah vehemently denies.
Last but not least in this very busy episode, Whitney admits to Noah that she cheated on Colin. She seems less sure than ever about marrying the struggling artist.
What did you think of The Affair Season 5, Episode 7? Hit the comments with your reactions.