Although she never ends up appearing as anything more than a flashback, Parker Posey’s character Liz cast a long shadow over last night’s episode of Louie, a two-part meditation on not being able to find someone you’ve lost.
Disturbed by visions of Liz in a dream, Louie returns to the bookstore where he had something bordering on a meet-cute with her earlier this season, to find that the woman he can’t shake from his mind may now be gone for good. It turns out she’s been replaced, at least occupationally, by Posey’s partner in Nineties indie-movie musical chairs, Chloë Sevigny, nicely nerding out here in an ugly argyle sweater, horn-rimmed glasses and a mouth-length mop of unwashed hair.
Although the Parker Posey episode had an ambiguous ending that sort of left up to viewer interpretation whether her date with our hero went well or not (I, for one, was pretty firmly in the “not” camp), last night’s episode removed any lingering doubt. “It wasn’t like any date I ever had,” Louie says. “She changed the way I feel about everything in one night.” While being proved incorrect in a public forum is a bitter pill to swallow, I have to give Louie props for creating something in a grey enough area to allow for multiple theories (and later shoot the wrong ones down.)
Here are the most uncomfortable moments from last night’s episode:
1) Louis C.K. is a master of the abrupt left turn. You can see it in his standup, where knockout punchlines fly out of nowhere, and it’s also prevalent in his TV show, where the game can change completely in the span of a coffee-sip. Last night’s episode had a big surprise for the ages – and, yeah, it was pretty uncomfortable.
Sevigny’s Jeanie is obsessed with helping Louie find Liz. “It’s romantic. I want to help a romantic thing happen,” she says, a little too forthright. She has a similar zany enthusiasm to her predecessor at the bookshop, but Sevigny brings her own spacey energy to the character. Her various contrivances to do recon on Liz seem like they can only backfire, and they do. Romantic-comedy protocol would have these two fall in love along the way, though, and on any other TV show they might. But this is not TV; it’s Louie.
The two scavengers are sharing a dispirited reprieve from the hunt for Liz in a coffee shop, when Jeanie starts really working herself up into a passionate froth. “You can’t just drift along and wait for love to come into your life like plankton into a whale’s fucking mouth,” she says, much more outraged than Louie seems to be. And then it happens.
At the height of her overly effusive anger at a situation she isn’t even involved in, Jeanie is suddenly very turned on. So turned on, in fact, that she reaches up her own skirt and starts going to town until she reaches an undulating, breathless climax, with Louie and the barista staring at each other in shock. “Just so you know, I’m married. So don’t come by the store or anything.” This is the kicker, grounding up our expectations into so much detritus.
2) Unlike most episodes this season, there was only one uncomfortable moment in the first vignette – a monster one, at that. The rest of them are reserved for the second half of the show. When Louie comes to pick up his daughters from school, he can’t seem to find his older daughter, Lilly, foreshadowing for what is yet to come. While he searches the gymnasium while standing in one spot, a teacher gets right in Louie’s face to ask for help moving chairs to another floor, presumably because he’s the only man around. I haven’t written much about the use of music on Louie, but it is uniformly excellent. When Louie finally sees his daughter cornered and potentially being picked on, while a strange teacher needles him about helping her, the jazz score gets tense, a piano plinks, and suddenly it sounds like a horror movie.
3) After a cheering-up trip to the Central Park carousel fails (Louie’s expectant face at his morose, lacquered horse-bound daughter is priceless), Louie finally loses his patience with Lilly and reminds her that he isn’t the one who wronged her and neither was Jane. At this point, Jane feels the need to speak up to defend her sister: “I don’t mind the way she’s being.”
4) At the end of his rope, Louie grabs his laptop and heads into the bathroom. Once inside, we see that he’s smoking a cigarette, something he ordinarily never does, and then the camera pans out to reveal that he’s doing so while also taking a dump and reading the Internet. “How long are you going to be in there?” “As long as I have to be.” Unfortunately, he’s in there long enough for Lilly to wander out of the house apparently.
Louie stops by his neighbors (who memorably helped out in the Season Two premiere), but they can’t be bothered to watch Jane. Not this time. People aren’t always there when you need them, just like in real life. Again, the music switches to accommodate the mood, using an Iron Butterfly psych-rock kind of vibe. Jane asks if he’s going to call her mom his ex-wife. He doesn’t want to. “What are you going to do?” she asks, driving home the ultimate adult horror, the realization that he is the one in charge.
5) The show is winding to a close, but not before serving up a final indignity for our hero. When the policemen who he’s called to the house realize he hasn’t called his ex-wife yet to check if she’s seen Lilly, the unwise nature of that decision reveals itself to Louie. “You called us but you didn’t call the mother?” Unlike Liz in the first half of the epiosde, however, it turns out that Lilly was never gone – she was there all along.
Last Week’s Recap: Daddy Issues