As many episodes of Louie that have centered around the comic as a father of young girls, almost none have touched on the relationship between he and his own pater familias. We’ve met his mother on the show, albeit in different forms (the late-blooming lesbian of episode 7, the wise religious advisor of episode 11), but his father has only been depicted in flashback, teaching young Louie about sex (badly.) Come to think of it, Louie’s old man is rarely mentioned in his stand-up act, either. We’ve never really had to contemplate the current relationship between these two men. Until now, that is.
While Louie’s father never ended up actually appearing in corporeal form, he loomed large over the entire proceedings of what may have been the most uncomfortable episode yet. I give this episode that designation not because it was so fraught with pathos, which it was, but because Louie was in physical and emotional discomfort throughout every scene. As much yellow vomit as there is on display, and as tense as things get, though, the episode still retained its core sense of humor, a delicate balance which should probably be called “doing a C.K.” at this point.
Here are the most uncomfortable moments from last night’s episode.
1) After another credits-free opening scene finds Louie yelling at his daughter for practicing violin at the wrong time (a callback to last week’s piano lesson), the real action of the episode begins in an anonymous electronics store. No employees seem to be out on the floor; instead, they’re all clustered together behind the counter, telling stories, completely oblivious to any shoppers who may need assistance.
Louie knows he’s being kind of a dick when he interrupts the group (“Can anyone help me, anyone at all?”), but he just goes with it. You can practically see the gears in his mind grind, justifying his own snide tone with the fact of the employees’ negligence – which is very much in keeping with Louie’s stand-up persona. The employee who does end up “helping” Louie proves completely incompetent, though, causing our hero to take a phone call instead of listening to him.
The funny thing about this employee pranking Louie by setting a giant box down behind his heels to trip him is that if Louie could see the same thing happen to another snippy customer, he might side with the employee. As is, though, after taking a spill and reporting it to a manager, Louie has to endure the indignity of two managers laughing at him while they watch the surveillance tape. (“Show me that shit again!” one of them says, as soon as Louie leaves the room.)
2) The phone call Louie got while he was in the electronics store was from his bizarre Uncle Excelsior, who is played here in a bravura performance by F. Murray Abraham, last glimpsed on this show in a wildly different role in the second season finale. Abraham’s Excelsior is the kind of swarthy, heavily accented man who orders two Cornish hens at the Russian Tea Room and tells insane, barely decipherable stories, like the one about receiving a credenza from a duke. All of Excelsior’s weirdness serves as a burying of the lead, though, which is that he has seen Louie’s father recently, and the man is not well. The uncle’s odd forcefulness in convincing Louie to visit his father, and his use of prostitution metaphors in service of same, lead up to the second time in the episode where Louie gets flicked off (the disgruntled employee having given him the finger behind his back).
3) At long last, we get a return to the famous poker table from episode 2, site of probably the most honest and frank discussion of homosexuality and homophobia ever televised. This time, Sarah Silverman has joined the party, which also includes Nick DiPaolo, Jim Norton and Rick Crom. They’re telling the kind of jokes comics might crack to make each other laugh, rather than an audience – which is how we end up with Louie’s gloriously vulgar yet somehow sweet offering to fuck Sarah Silverman in her “titty holes” if she ever has to sell her breasts for more poker chips. Aww?
What seems like it’s going to be the most uncomfortable moment of this scene is when Jim Norton accidentally shares a piece of pornographic artwork that he drew for masturbatory purposes. It is a bizarre thing to do, even for a comic, even for noted weirdo Jim Norton. But then Louie ends up barfing everywhere, with some of it getting on Norton’s face, bringing the game and the night to an instant close.
4. At this point in the episode, the poker scene and everything we’ve seen before it seem unrelated – the series’ typical vignette structure. Soon, however, we get some connective tissue when Louie sees a doctor about his upset stomach and accompanying rash, and the doctor figures out through backtracking that Louie is probably just stressed out about the prospect of seeing his father. Now it’s clear that we do have continuity, and there’s only one place to go from here.
On an eventual pilgrimage to finally see the man, Louie keeps throwing up and having fantastical reminders of their tense relationship (he hasn’t seen his father in two years). One of these surreal touches is that the talking GPS system in Louie’s rental car keeps referring to his destination as Your Father’s House, and eventually encourages him not to be “such a little pussy.” This distraction ultimately leads us to another uncomfortable moment brought on by bodily breakdown. Louie’s heated traffic altercation with a Boston musclehead ends when his own nose begins to bleed.
5. When he finally does make it to his father’s house, Louie hesitates every step of the way. Upon reaching the porch’s steps, though, the frame begins to wobble, and then it tilts and lists like a boat at sea. The discomfort soon proves unbearable, and Louie flees on a James Bond-ian getaway reminiscent of Chelsea Peretti’s helicopter exit in the pilot episode. After taking a four-wheel motorcycle to an Eighties Miami-style speedboat and heading off into Boston Harbor, Louie ends up alone at sea, laughing uneasily. Nobody is around for miles, he has no ties to anyone, he’s alone. The camera lingers a long time, after his mock-whoop of celebration, and then credits.
We never find out what went on between Louie and his father to cause the estrangement between them, but that’s beside the point. “It’s not like he touched your dick or something,” Louie’s subconscious mentions in one scene, through the interlocutor of a car’s GPS system. This information quells any of our worries about a big Oprah-style reveal. The real revelation, then, is that it doesn’t take a heavy childhood trauma to make a rift between parents and their children. “I just feel weird about him,” Louie yells at his GPS, defensively. It’s an outlook that sheds some light both on his own character, and what’s at stake in his relationship with Jane and Lily.
Last week: ‘F**k You, or Sorry: I Don’t Know Which One‘