After watching Louis C.K’s “daughters” tell their daddy jokes, I thought this episode was shaping up to be awfully cute. But that’s not where “Louie” lives: safe, cuddly, warm. Louie’s observational humor is brave, dangerous and profound; which is odd when you consider it’s creative force is a man who does “tell jokes” for a living. But in that weird and brilliant zone of honesty is where he and the show thrives.
He skates on the thin ice of our comfort level and forces us to examine our privileges, our instincts, our habits and anything we’ve stopped considering “because that’s just the way it is” and says: this is who we are, who we’ve become, and the situations we get ourselves into, are you okay with that? While that seems whirlpool of self-reflection seems like a unpleasant place to be sucked into, Louie takes the brunt of our discomfort and shame and walks out into the line of awkward fire.
Then Melissa Leo appeared. And with one inspired casting choice, and an escalating scenario that drove us off any familiar road, we got sucked back that grotesquely real whirlpool—that may be the only thing we can count on in this universe, that we can’t escape its wrath.
Let’s jump back for a second to the adorable open. Jane and Lily are Louie’s fake daughters. They are roughly the same ages as his real-life children, but they have different names and are obviously, actresses. But the events are true, whatever that means to you. Jane begs and pleads her father to “answer the door” after Lily insists she’s “not home.” A back and forth of knock-knock jokes ensues. The understated competition to please their comedian father was authentically played, but each approached how to make daddy laugh in their own ways. The older sister, Lily, goes for a more traditionally structured joke or she feeds off of her dad’s sense of humor by making menacing facial expressions. Jane gets cranky when she “doesn’t get it.” Jane’s humor seems to reflect the show’s viewpoint. What makes a joke funny is when you don’t see it coming.
Jane begins to tell Louie’s new favorite joke, after she asks if see can tell a non-knock-knock joke. The scene then segues to Louie’s standup act where his retelling of the joke has become a part of his own bit. When you consider that most of the time when he’s at the Comedy Cellar or Caroline’s he’s waxing philosophic about his penis, this bit is quite endearing. It shows what’s really important to him, his daughters becoming unique women.
So the joke goes, “Who didn’t let the gorilla into the ballet performance?” Louie already loves this joke. It’s imagistic, it’s entirely original and it’s open-ended in such a way that it could take you anywhere. Again, the M.O of the show has always been to create the illusion it will do anything, say whatever, and go everywhere. So what’s the punchline? “Just…the people who are in charge of that decision.” I cracked up, the audience was rolling. That’s an incredible joke for a little kid to tell. Louie himself is overwhelmed with pride, and is maybe even slightly jealous. He then proceeds to do what he does best and play out the story of that joke as it would happen in the real world. He pretends to be the gorilla texting in line, not making eye contact. Then someone working security pulls him out and tells him he can’t come inside. The gorilla gets offended, but the security insists that he will just pound on tables, break things, and endanger the other patrons. He ends his performance of the now famous gorilla joke with the golden line: “Gorilla kills everybody at the ballet once, shame on the gorilla…”
Then after a follow-up bit where he dubs himself his kids’ “first asshole” the always welcome title sequence runs. For anyone that watched the episode, did you have any idea where it would go from there? I had heard rumblings that Melissa Leo would appear and that she would perform fellatio on Louie, but the context was hazy. Needless to say, once again, I didn’t expect anything remotely close to what we got.
We sharply cut to the Comedy Cellar and fellow comedian Allan Havey is doing a bit about why he doesn’t want kids. He meanders into a joke about how a 24 year-old penis is like a nervous soldier in a foxhole ready to shoot at anything it sees. His 50 year-old penis is like a guy smoking the pipe reading the paper…or Bing Crosby. Much like his peer, he knows painting a picture is vital to making an audience laugh. Sweep them up in a place they haven’t dared or thought of going to. Afterwards, he and Louie share a bite and he invites him to dinner at his house. Louie is weary because he believes Allan’s wife dislikes him. Apparently, it’s her idea though, so Louie obliges. Bring in Admiral Ackbar. IT’S A TRAP!
Still riding his motorcycle (of all the things C.K chooses to keep consistent…) Louie stops at the liquor store for the obligatory bottle of wine, a woman who we recognize as Oscar winner Melissa Leo, is behind him. They leave at the same time and both end up parking outside Allan’s house. IT’S A TRAP! Leo plays Laurie, a woman also suckered into coming to dinner by Allan’s wife who thought they’d be a good match. At first, the matchmaker seems to have missed the mark. The intimidating nature of the meal is played up by having the sound of Leo’s knife cutting scraping the plate amped up. It’s an excruciating sound. Well played C.K. The wife tries to goad Louie into a conversation by saying he should ask Laurie what she does. Evidently she owns her own landscaping business. Louie is impressed, “Wow, you own your own business!” Laurie sarcastically retorts, “Yeah, that’s what I just told you.”
As the married couple bickers, Laurie goes out for a smoke and he follows. She starts, “Married people. They just wanna spread their shit on everybody.” Both of them annoyed with the situation, try to make the best of it. Laurie raises her eyebrow and says, “Wanna get out of here and get a drink?” At the bar, they’re exchanging tipsy laughter and Laurie admits while driving him back to his bike that it’s the most fun she’s had in a while. At this point you can feel the escalation, like a roller coaster creeping up the track. Except, I had no clue what the drop would look or feel like.
She pulls over somewhere desolate, and Louie sounds horrified. “I wanna go down.” she says. Louie gladly accepts her gracious proposal and seems to definitely enjoy the head. However, she asks for “payback.” “Strap on the feedbag!” And now it’s all becoming clear to me now. We’ve found ourselves exploring one of the great debates of our time: the double standards of sexual expectations between men and women.
Louie says he doesn’t wanna do it, he claims his principles won’t allow it because he feels it is too intimate. Laurie wonders if that means her sucking his dick isn’t. Louie responds, “Well no, apparently not. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to you.” Laurie’s incensed, and rightfully so. It’s unfair. Louie can rationalize it as conflicting values, but Laurie asserts that it’s tit for tat. Suck my penis, I’ll lick your vagina (That’s how that saying goes, right?). She’s starting to get offended as if he’s calling her a whore. Then he begins to dig his grave when he defends himself, “Not for you. But if I did what you did, I’d feel like a whore.”
Laurie then says what we were all thinking, “You shouldn’t have said that.”
He scrambles to find reason, “Would you really want me to to do it if I didn’t wanna do it?” Adamant, Laurie shouts, “I don’t give a shit, I just wanna get off.” I loved this notion. While us nice guys (yeah, I’m one of those dopes) choose to view sex romantically, increasingly it’s become a transaction. Where once, sex was the benefit of engaging in a monogamous relationship, now because of our regretful and damaging experiences we shy away from intimacy and simply engage in business-like exchanges. We’re bartering for orgasms now. And while Louie wants to be a forward-thinking individual who doesn’t see women as vessels for pleasure, he accepted her blow job. Now he’s obligated to reciprocate.
Leo solidifies an outstanding performance with lines like, “You know who many dicks I’ve sucked I didn’t wanna suck. Because I’m a good kid. I do what’s right. I don’t leave anybody hanging, how dare you!” Man, did she turn it around. Now he’s the bad guy. Morality sure is relative. And in these times, what Louie is doing could be considered more sexist than actually calling her a slut. I mean, she chose to do him that favor, he didn’t force her. But now he’s not going to hold up his end? Quite the imbalance of power. The scary part though, is we’re unsure which way it’s leaning.
He does not back down. He feels if blowing him hinged on his participation, she should have said something. The writing shines and gleams with Leo’s delivery when she erupts, “Your sperm are dying inside my mouth right now, goddamit!” She wants him to know she made a sacrifice, now she gets hers! Then we get another reference to people blaming Obama’s influence for how people have devolved. I hope that gag runs through the season, it never gets old.
Laurie grins after she calls the situation what it is—balls. She proposes a bet: $200 says in three minutes he’ll be licking her asshole and pussy simultaneously. Her depicting the act with her hand may have earned her the Emmy nomination for guest star in my book. He hastily replies,”Make it $1,000!” She details her theory about why he won’t do it. “FAGGOT!” She mocks him mercilessly. She says he gets girls to blow him then shuts his eyes and thinks of men. “Lo and behold, you’re disgusted by the female vagina!” She then bashes his head into the car window, shattering it, and sits on his face. It’s a violent scene that can be interpreted as date rape—almost certainly a commentary on how men pressure women into sexual acts with the genders reversed—but Louie does end up having to eat crow. Well, actually he eats her pussy, but you get what I mean.
Hounding him for her 1,000 bucks he admits he doesn’t have it on him. She says that’s fine, you can pay me next time. “You do wanna go out again, right?”
The absolutely best possible note to end on after the jazzy yet threatening repartee. I cackled like a freaking hyena. What makes it hilarious isn’t how ridiculous it is for Louie to accept a second date after all that abuse. What makes it THE punchline is it makes total sense. They’re both unmarried, middle-aged people who are tired of games and want to have fun. Well, they both gave and received. So I suppose, now they are on equal footing. It’s a messy arrangement, but it works, however unhealthily. He accepts this enforced, mutual understanding that he can’t be sensitive and feeling while getting what he wants. It may be devoid of intimacy, but to them the “happiness” of their married friends is a delusion. And being able to walk away satisfied like they did, is all the happiness they could want. Louie’s submission may strike some as disturbing, and it should. He’s a victim, too.
It’s hard on a surface level for the squeamish citizen in us to say we learned something from an episode where two individuals orally pleasured each other in a vehicle, but look inside yourself and you’ll know. You laughed because it could happen to you. You writhed in your seat because it was hard to watch Louie navigate the minefields of sexual negotiation while trying to be “principled.” Ultimately, you saw something unspoken brought to the fore. It may not be a sexy issue like women’s sexual freedom, but it kind of is. Doesn’t it say something about our society that we can depict an assertive woman like Melissa Leo seeking out gratification? In some countries, notions of female sexuality are forbidden. Here it’s an open topic.
I’m not saying Louie is leading a feminist charge, or accusing Melissa Leo of sexual assault. I think he’s telling stories that speak somewhat to his experiences. But for a show to speak about human sexuality with an objective lens, without the chauvinist, masculine-dominated filter, is commendable. And as crude as the discussion was, it’s one being had in many parked cars, back rows of movie theaters, parents’ basements, and even the sacred master bedrooms of married couples. As I mentioned, it’s just Louie gesturing to the crowd, this is who we are. We’re parents watching our children become creative people, and desire-driven animals who crave shared satisfaction. Like the episode, we’re split down the middle, and “Louie” has masterfully dissected us.