Season Three, Episode Seven: "Ikea/Piano Lesson"
We've talked about this before, but one of the things that makes "Louie" so unique is that it's a half-hour comedy (from a stand-up comedian, no less) that's quite happy to go an episode without making you laugh. Sometimes the stand-up inserts will add a few gags, but some of the most memorable episodes have been closer to drama than straight-up sitcom (a description which barely ever fits the show). And certainly, this season, from Louie's trip to Miami to his date with Parker Posey's character, Louis C.K. hasn't been shy of just letting his stories play out organically without forcing jokes in.
But the last couple of weeks (apologies for the absence of a recap last week, due to unforeseen circumstances; we'll cover it below) have seen "Louie" reconnecting with his funny bone in a big way. The episodes haven't necessarily been stuffed with laughter, but often built to one big, major one, with four sharp vignettes across two episodes.
Last week's episode, "Barney/Never," started with one of Louis C.K.'s more Woody Allen-ish moments; a black and white credit sequence (up front, replacing the usual opening) accompanied by a mournful score, as Louie walks through a graveyard to a burial with only one other mourner, Robin Williams (looking somewhat like a Civil War general). Later, the pair (who it would appear have never met before) meet up again in a coffee shop. The funeral, it turns out, was for a comedy club owner, the titular Barney who, after a hilarious scene as the two try to feel out each other's opinions of the guy, it turns out they both hated (he stole $100,000 from Williams).
It turns out they came to the funeral for the same reason; they've been haunted by the idea that Barney might go into the ground without anyone there. Deciding to visit the strip club he loved so much as one last nod to his memory, they break the news to the dancers, but it turns out that he was much loved at the club. The strippers burst into tears, and Barney is described by the DJ, as he dedicates "Sister Christian" to the deceased, as a "good and generous man." It's essentially an extended sketch, but a profound one, and a strip club full of mourning strippers is one of funniest images C.K. has ever come up with.
Well, until "Never," the second part of last week's episode, which took a serious left-turn into the surreal. Emotionally blackmailed by a fellow parent into looking after her son, who's named Never, while she has her "vagina removed," Louie finds his own daughter Lily horrified by the concept of spending time with her portly, bow-tied classmate. He finds out why quickly when Never pushes a pram into the street, causing a pile-up and a chemical leak, which Louie scurries away from.
Back at home, Lily locks herself in her room, while Never wreaks havoc, pushing Louie's rug out the window, demanding raw meat in a bowl as the only thing he'll eat, and asking Louie to bathe him. The reluctant babysitter lets the kid take a bath while he does a radio interview (a little rote, to be honest both in the upbeat DJs -- real-life radio figures Opie & Anthony -- and in Louie's bashing of Kansas City, although partly redeemed by the way in which the DJs literally descended into gibberish), only to be met with a horrible smell, and in a gloriously disgusting climax, is told by Never "I diarrhead in the tub."
It's one of the broadest and silliest vignettes that the show has done, but it's redeemed slightly by Louie clearly realizing the kid has issues, and trying to have a heart to heart. The kid's response -- that his mother has told him "Any choice I make is alright because I love myself," certainly rang true with regards to some of the little shits we've seen brought up by parents who want to be their kids' friends. Things close off in black and white again, with a cameo from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star J.B. Smoove, as one of a pair of gravediggers, in a slightly flat coda. But it may just be that what came before was so good that it didn't matter so much.