In my recap of last week’s season 3 premiere of Louie, I said that the relatively quiet and understated episode, titled “Something is Wrong,” was a great starter for newcomers to the series. It showcased all of the elements that make Louie so damn great and different from everything else on television, without shoving them into the deep end that seasoned fans are familiar with. Well, if last week let them wade into the depths of Louie‘s wonderful weirdness, last night’s episode “Telling Jokes/Set Up” not only shoved them into the deep end, but dunked their heads down for a while. (Pun entirely intended.)
Never mind that last night’s episode will have one of the most talked-about moments on television this summer (because it most certainly will). Let’s just marvel, for another moment, at the sheer brilliance of the split title here. Unlike the dark and delirious season 2 classic “Bummer/Blueberries,” “Telling Jokes/Set Up” could have been used for both sides of this perfectly clashing spectrum.
On one end, there’s Louie’s daughter Jane (an Emmy-worthy Ursula Parker) telling jokes, complete with her own kid-patented brand of a set up (“Who told the gorilla that he couldn’t go to the ballet?”) while Louie himself uses her joke set up as the set up for one of his own jokes, only to be set up on a date by a fellow joke teller. The magic is in the details, people. When the title of an episode can work on so many levels, the episode itself is pretty much a guaranteed home run.
I always look forward to the scenes involving Louie’s daughters Jane and Lily (actress Hadley Delaney.) Not just because both actresses are so talented or because all three have such an effortless rapport or because they tend to bring out the softest side of TV’s reigning sad sack king, but because they generate some of the series’ best moments. The dinner table scene, which bookended “Telling Jokes/ Set Up,” like the daring and off-pitch-perfect serenade of The Who in season 2’s subtler “Country Drive,” was a lovely slice of life.
I watched that scene multiple times, just to catch every little detail, from the knowing glance between Louie (an especially marvelous turn by Louis C.K.) and Lily after Jane’s fantastic non-joke joke to Louie’s exasperated conversation with himself after his kids leave the dinner table. And therein lies the real brilliance of Louie: this show could function solely as a family dramedy revolving only around these three at all times, but those moments are so much more satisfying after we’ve stepped into the stranger world of a solo Louie. The show needs its balance to make the sweet moments sweeter and the strange moments that much stranger. Then again, as Lily would put it, “[If] ya don’t get it, you just don’t get it.”
And, damn, was the strange strange last night. Instead of silly, lighthearted knock-knock jokes at the dinner table, Louie, under the fluorescent bulb of a hot dog joint with Allan Havey, nonchalantly memorialized the passing of a fellow comic. (“That’s too bad.”) Of course, that was nothing compared to the most awkward dinner on television since The Office, in its heyday, threw its “Dinner Party.”
After being invited by Allan to have dinner at his home with him and his wife, Louie (who, as we learned, is still riding that motorcycle even after the accident) is actually being set up with their friend Lori, played by Oscar winner Melissa Leo. While the two mostly sit in uncomfortable silence as their eager married friends let the events unfold before them (or, as Lori would beautifully put it for single people everywhere, “married people just wanna spread their s*** on everyone”) they eventually paired off and went to have drinks at the bar.
Things are going great, in the way that only an inadvertent, mutually unwanted date could. They drink, they laugh, they take off, in the way that you do when an unplanned date goes unexpectedly well. After pulling off to the side of the road, Lori (Leo, perhaps at her most fearless) performs fellatio on Louie. Then, in language I couldn’t possibly clean up enough to post on this family-friendly website, demands, for equality of women everywhere, that Louie returns the favor. (Let’s just say her plea to “consider this” took on a whole different life last night.)
After a disagreement about the terms of this sort of arrangement (“I never left anyone hanging,” she argues) Lori gets her way. Yet, even after losing a $1000 bet and his “morals” in a most violent, jarring fashion, Louie, he the avoider of any and all uncomfortable goodbyes, agrees to see her again. Welcome to the deep end of Louie. It’s crazier in here than a gorilla at the ballet, but don’t even think about getting out.
What did you think of last night’s episode of Louie? Was his dinner table scene with his daughters one of your favorite moments from the series, too? Or is that scene with Melissa Leo in the truck too engrained in your mind to think about anything else? Speaking of Leo, should she just make space on her mantle next to her Oscar for a guest star Emmy now? Did anyone else catch this week’s genius Obama joke Easter egg? Those have been planted so expertly each week. Share all your thoughts on “Telling Jokes/Set Up” below. (Special shout-out to the commenters from last week’s post who informed me about Sweetpro, the talented musical ensemble often used as the show’s soundtrack.)
[Photo credit: FX]