Some might kvetch about how this whole season has been oriented around nutty women (and one chiseled man). I haven’t seen this as a tired formula, I’ve interpreted it as a purposeful indictment of Louie himself—whether it’s an exercise in self-reflection for the real dude or a character development for the loosely fictionalized version or him is hazy. Being overly-concerned with sex, loneliness and companionship seems like a legitimate fault for a forty-something divorcee to have. Hell, it’s a human flaw. Now you can make the argument that the range of topics covered in the first two seasons were more eclectic, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but this season has been a decidedly more cohesive one.
Hell, this is the only one that has bothered with continuity (while perhaps foregoing logic). In this episode alone, there are numerous callbacks. Whether it’s last season’s evening with the damaged Dolores coming back to haunt him, or his humiliating night with Maria Bamford popping up as an irritant or that he’s still “motorin'” on the hog he impulse-bought in the season premiere. He could be attempting a narrative arc, or even exploring the idea of consequences. My money’s on a thematic venture—how the past comes back to bite you. Often, Louie’s nostalgic about his days as a struggling comic. While I’m sure he prefers his life now, personally and professionally, it’s inevitable to look back and wonder “What if?” or “Whatever happened to that?” For C.K in particular, guilt is a driving emotion. Feeling shitty about the imprint he’s made on the world (or lack thereof), he always wants to make amends. Whether the people he’s wronged want his apologies never occurs to him. He’s compelled to do the right thing—for him.
His crusade to assuage his shame starts as he leaves his daughter’s school. “Shit. Hi!” I say to myself—”It’s Blueberries lady!” Indeed, that is Maria Dizzia reprising her role as Dolores, who first appeared last season in “Bummer/Blueberries.” For those with long-term memory issues, flashbacks are provided to her traumatic cries of “Daddy” as Louie spanked her. Because I needed to see that happen, again. She tells Louie she’s been bringing that night up in therapy and she would like him to accompany her to a session so she could say some things. Immediately, Louie wants to know if she is mad at him. He’s on the defensive, and doesn’t want to go. She decides to cash in another favor. She has rented a van and intends to fill it with furniture from Ikea. She asks Louie to be her shopping buddy. In return, she’ll suck his dick. Bless his heart, Louie tries to be chivalrous, and refuses any sort of compensation. If she needs help, just ask. But she yips back that she doesn’t want his charity. Louie does his signature rubbing of his temple, avoiding giving a direct answer. Instead, we cut to him walking beside her at an Ikea. I love how simple editing can deliver the punchline as effectively as he can.
She’s checking out a rug as Louie peruses his phone. She requires that he participate, but he’s clueless as to how you “participate” while shopping. I’m starting to see why his wife may have met her wit’s end. Sorry if that sounds mean, Lou. Love ya, but patience while shopping, though it seems to necessitate sainthood, is essential in pleasing the womenfolk. He reasons with her, saying that if she needs help to just ask, adding the quip, “Don’t make me read your mind.” She accuses him of making fun and he shouts “What’s your problem?” We watch them bicker from afar for a bit as a young couple looks on. The woman says to her man, “Let’s never let that happen to us.” It hits comedically, first because it’s nonsense for a real couple to say something that cliche about strangers, and second because Louie has somehow been suckered into what seems to be a husband role purely out of a sense of obligation to this woman, for what? Because he made her cry in bed? I’m almost positive those are deeply rooted issues he has nothing to do with.
When he finally does offer his opinion—”It’s fine—she isn’t satisfied. Thus, one many of two side-splitting moments is born. The rug rant. “That’s the level of passion a rug warrants. It’s a rug. It doesn’t solve all my problems, but it doesn’t make me angry…It’s blue, it goes on the floor, it’s not coated with AIDS, and it’s not a portal to a nether-place. It doesn’t make me cum, but it’s fine.” If that doesn’t become an ad campaign for rugs, I give up on humanity. “Rugs, they don’t make me cum, but they’re fine.” They’ll sell like hot cakes.
Of course, she bursts into tears. He puts his arm around her, she starts to buckle as she sobs. So, he plops her on a bed and tucks her in. Once again, he’s ruined her. Maybe he should have just gone to therapy. In the van, she reminds him that she owes him a blow job, but he says don’t worry about it. She still insists they keep to the arrangement, so he asks she owe him. That will be a treat for season four. “Okay, well notify me when you want me to suck it.” Unsexiest implication of oral sex, EVER.
The “Piano Lesson” portion begins with a neat camera angle, resting atop a ledge. When Doris comes in, I figured out it was sitting on the piano. Obvious title should have clued me in, but it works as a reveal. Louie wants to pick up piano since he bought it for his daughters. Just as she starts the lesson, his phone rings. Painful laughter #2 ensues. It’s Maria Bamford! “Hi. So listen, either you gave me the crabs, or I gave you the crabs. But anyway, I have the crabs and you were inside me last week, so you got crabs too.” Bravo, Ms. Bamford. Louie’s expectedly upset, and I love that when she asks if it was itchy, he rationalizes that he thought it was laundry detergent. Her response seals it though. “Nope, crabs. So, fuck you! Or, sorry. I don’t know which one.” If I were ever to be informed I have a mild STD, can she do it? Even if she didn’t transmit it.
He informs Doris their session will be cut short, then he snaps a photo of his dong. He views it and screams. He hops on his bike to rush to the pharmacy. He asks for the shampoo and the clerk says dryly, “Ok, it’s behind the counter. If we put it out there, no one would pay for it.” Then we get a slight distraction. A tiny, elderly woman walks in complaining she didn’t get her consultation. The clerk advises her to follow the instructions closely, but then the pharmacist hollers from the back with a series of personal questions. He asks if she is drinking water with the meds, he asks about her urination and bowel movements.
The woman is increasingly agitated, and when discussing the consistency of her poop, she’s mortified. Sheepishly, she says it’s all been normal and he walks away diagnosing she’ll be fine. She leaves pleased, I guess, and Louie receives his kit and hits the showers. This little departure felt like total filler to me. While Louie being timid about having crabs is a silly setup, it was perplexing to see him be pushed aside by this woman. He didn’t interact with her, and while being uncomfortable, it felt more like a pesky interference than comedy. This scene exemplified the scattered feel of the episode. While I could tie together its composite parts thematically, it didn’t gel like last week. “Barney/Never” were two short films surrounding a topic of tolerating unbearable people. This week, while an authentic portrayal of how disconnected and random our interactions can be, there wasn’t much “story.”
After applying the necessary penis creams, Louie lounges in front of the tube. He stumbles upon “Retro Comedy Showcase: The 80s,” and he’s the first act. He was unmistakable, but it was jarring to see a beardless, thin C.K. His joke wasn’t terrible. At least cleverly phrased. “So I have red hair, which means I don’t tan—I just burst into flames.” Louie cringes at his old material, and he even pulls up his webcam to look at himself as he watches his younger self. Is he more embarrassed by his jokes back then, or how his looks have deteriorated now? Either way, he’s squirmy while he sees himself on stage. Does he feel self-indulgent, and thus guilty? Is he worried about how others would perceive him watching himself? He brightens up though when Sarah Silverman follows him onstage. He calls her up and she erupts when she sees herself. She feels she looks better now, and Louie and I both concur. She also mocks her old material saying it’s too cutesy—”Did I say something? I don’t know.”
Marc Maron, now of WTF with Marc Maron podcast fame, follows her. He does a bit about how Americans don’t revolt (that changed!). Louie has a puss again. He says it’s weird to watch him since they haven’t spoken in ten years. Sarah’s shocked they never made up because they used to be besties. As he’s recalling what happened he has an epiphany—he wrote off Marc because of this shitty thing he did that was entirely his fault. He’s stunned he ever blamed him, but Sarah comforts him saying he grew up and a lot has happened in the past decade. He should call him.
Next frame, he stops by Marc’s place and delivers an excruciatingly difficult mea culpa. When he’s done, a still miffed Marc accepts his apology, but reminds him that he came over and said the exact same thing five years ago. Except he cried then. Still a bit bitter, Marc sarcastically says, “You know what would be great? If you called me up for coffee…Or we can do this again, in five years. Louie says let’s do that, but you can tell it’s empty. He even slips in a “How you been as Marc shuts the door. Too little, too late.
Apparently, the falling out was a real thing between the two comedians. Louie came on Marc’s podcast and they worked through their long-standing grudge. From what I hear—I haven’t listened to that episode—their real life beef wasn’t as severe. This was a disappointing bit, though the twist redeemed it a tad. Mostly, it gave the whole episode a rehashed vibe. While the return of Dolores felt like a sequel to “Blueberries,” Piano Lesson turned into a spin on last season’s “Tickets” where C.K. confronts Dane Cook about the public perception that Cook ripped jokes from his act.
That was fresh, and raw, and surprisingly enlightening. Because I don’t have the context for Marc and Louis’ grievances, it feels like a half-assed commentary on how friendships dissolve. People do just stop talking and it’s sad, but sometimes people are better off. You grow, they grow, and you have separate ambitions. Relationships aren’t always built to last. Like planned obsolescence, sometimes you need to replace your old toys with a shiny new model, if just for the change in scenery. That’s an honest subject matter to delve into, but any examination was sacrificed for the opportunity to air dirty laundry with a fellow comedian again. He should know better than most how recycling can be a faux pas.
This misstep into structural messiness was salvaged by, ironically, the humor. I laughed out loud a ton. I paused my DVR for several minutes to recover, twice. Bamford sneaked in to steal a scene, and rugs gave rise to a rant that shall live in infamy. Considering his trade, “Louie” isn’t always funny. For a comedy, that should be the kiss of death, instead it speaks to Louie’s sophistication. It’s perspective is witty and hilarious, but it isn’t supposed to deliver zingers and knockout punchlines. Life ends up the punchline: our misery, our incompetence and our insecurities the butt of the joke. Louie himself often becomes the sacrificial lamb for our amusement. Because we can relate to him though, we end up laughing at our own failures and simultaneously, if reluctantly, reflecting on where we went wrong.
We still had a smidgeon of that. We all have regrettable histories that we wish could be absolved, but often times it’s better not to look back. It only slows us down. By beating himself up about his feud with Marc, he actually dampened the non-relationship further. If he had truly moved forward, that would have been the more selfless, productive move. As far as Dolores, she’s just the latest instance of Louie knowing he should find an escape route, but because he’s so self-loathing he forces himself to endure the hell of furniture stores for karmic reasons. And really, all he does is make a woman cry again. Move on, Lou!
Back to my thesis. Let me refresh memories, or reintroduce: this is who we are, how we act, how we treat people—are you okay with that? While the show is primarily one man’s semi-fictionalized portrait, it’s a documenting that incriminates us all. It’s evidence that we’re all imperfect, yet capable of brilliance. There’s beauty in failure, but not if we don’t learn from it. Maybe we’re all just set to self-destruct, but I prefer to think we’re in a perpetual state of searching for the failsafe. Once we can silence those blaring alarms, we’ll find peace. Louie could be a lot happier, and we could all stand to whine less. At 10:30 on Thursdays, we’re challenged, “But where’s the fun in that?”