Any doubts about whether Louis C.K.’s justly lauded TV series would remain true to fine, filthy form in its third season were quelled immediately on Thursday night’s premiere. And we do mean immediately. The very first line: “One time I was jerking off…”, to which we say, welcome back, sir.
The episode, entitled “Something Is Wrong,” hit all the familiar marks without feeling like the auteur behind them was simply running through a checklist. Even if he were, though, it would still be a pretty sweet checklist, with plenty of room for variety and experimentation. Hilarious, never-before-aired stand-up right at the top? Check. Male/female relationship realness that’s way, way too real? Oh, yeah. Unexpected, surreal flights of fancy? You know it. And of course, there were also those moments so incredibly uncomfortable that you almost felt indecent for being privy to them. This season’s recaps are going to focus on those babies.
So here are the 10 most uncomfortable moments from last night’s episode, in chronological order. You might want to just wince for a minute straight now and get it out of your system.
1) During the opening stand-up comedy set, Louis has a long bit about masturbating that gets a lot of laughs. Until suddenly, it doesn’t. It’s just a brief moment, but the applause abruptly trails off after a line about the supposed blurriness of his genitals. Louis C.K. is a total pro, so he dives right into the next bit, but before he does, you can see him subtly react to part of his joke not working, and in that split-second he dies a thousand deaths. He reaches back and touches the brick wall of the Comedy Cellar for the next few beats, as if it will help absorb the blow.
2) When Louis tries to park his car in an open space in Manhattan, he logs in some time examining several contradictory parking signs that detail when his car might be towed. While he’s standing there, another man walks up and also examines the signs. The two men are both clearly frustrated, and they make frustrated noises, but they never interact with each other or acknowledge their mutual presence – even though they’re practically touching. It’s a thoroughly New York-y situation that illuminates the modern social disconnect, and it pays off later.
3) Early in the episode, we’re introduced to April, a love interest played by Gaby Hoffman (forever known as Uncle Buck’s niece, Maizy.) The two have been dating for six months, and it’s on the verge of getting serious, with an impending Thanksgiving family summit in the works. Basically every second onscreen with these two is uncomfortable, but several individual moments need to be called out. The first of these is when, after listening to April complain about her job for a few minutes, Louis offhandedly suggests that she quit. She doesn’t like that very much, and the tension begins.
4) April and Louis are meeting in a diner, and he arrives before she does. When his ice cream gets delivered to the table (it’s the middle of the afternoon), it becomes apparent that these two might be on different wavelengths, and not just of the dietary sort.
5) Yes, the scene continues. As the couple plans out their weekend together, April suggests that they just hang out during the day instead. Although he doesn’t say a word, we can practically feel Louis’ disappointment. (Perhaps he knows that sex is less likely if they hang out during the day?) Either way, she gets mad at him for not admitting he’s mad at her, something she can easily read off of him. “You’re doing your mouthy face!” she accuses.
6) It’s amazing how much tension Louis C.K. is able to wring out of a scene where he doesn’t say all that much. His reticence, however, is what causes the entire relationship to come to a head, when April infers from it that, as the episode’s title states, something is wrong. Despite his feeble protests, she breaks up with him – but not before he attempts to take a bite of ice cream in the middle of what is clearly a breakup conversation. Dude!
7) After Louis’ car is completely destroyed by pointless construction work (with total nonchalance from the workers doing the destroying), our antihero goes in search of a new vehicle and ends up with a motorcycle. This does not end well. After a montage of Louis riding around a busy cityscape set to jaunty French music, a group of bikers sees him – a.k.a., this middle-aged man who should totally not be on a motorcycle – and call his bluff, followed by a nasty spill that lands him in the hospital. It’s a little heartbreaking (but not unfunny) how quickly this happens.
8) As if the unfortunate-but-inevitable bike accident weren’t painful enough – and as if Louis’ dignity wasn’t already been bruised by his exposure as a wannabe weekend warrior type – the doctor at the hospital can’t help but add to the embarrassment. “Riding a motorcycle is the dumbest thing you can do,” he says to Louis.
9) Because of the accident, Louis is unable to pick up his kids from his ex-wife, Tammy – who I’ll just go ahead and mention is played by a black actress (The Good Wife’s Susan Kelechi Watson) without further commentary. She is upset at first, then sympathetic when she finds out that he’s in the hospital. When she discovers, however, that his accident was caused by his very recent and not incredibly well thought out motorcycle purchase, she goes apoplectic.
10) As Louis sits at home licking his wounds, he gets a visit from April, who has left her laptop over at his place. When she learns that he’s been in a tow truck accident (Louis has figured out to adapt his story by now) she takes care of him … up to a point. It’s a credit to the show’s unique style that it’s not entirely clear whether Louis is just imagining April giving voice to the thoughts he refuses to acknowledge, or if she’s actually saying them. April lays into him, though, for being too weak (as a man!) to stay broken up for the sake of their future, when it’s just so much easier in the moment to stay together.