S2E11: We got an especially long double episode of Louie last night while Louie takes on a big task: a USO tour. While this could border on the brink of self-righteousness, the show approaches the topic in such an unassuming, unadorned way, that Louis CK gets his point across poignantly, simply and with a twinge of brutal elegance.
“Daddy, just one duckling?” – Louie’s daughter
“Dude, no.” -Louie
It’s Louie’s turn at his daughters’ school to take the class ducklings, but he tries to get out of it because he’s going on a USO tour the next day. Of course, suddenly the ducklings are running all around the apartment and in spite of itself, the scene is fiercely cute. His daughters are starting to get scared that he’s going to Iraq, but they’re also concerned that they won’t get to keep any ducklings. You know, typical little girl priorities. Louie sneaks a cigarette in the bathroom where the ducklings are swimming in his bathtub and it’s inherently hilarious to see Louis CK talking to adorable little ducklings while smoking a cigarette in his Manhattan apartment bathroom. You really get us, Louie.
The next time we see him, he’s on a helicopter in Iraq, being dropped off at a base camp. He and the others go inside and everyone’s chatting and making conversation, Louie tries to chat up one of the cheerleaders who’s come to cheer up the soldiers. She’s a complete idiot; as Louie is trying to make conversation, it turns out she’s never heard of any of the classic bands Louie asks her about (Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith) and she only knows Stephen Tyler as a judge on American Idol. Then the general comes in to brief everyone on the dangers of their position and the importance and value of their presence. Naturally, we the viewers feel inspired by this, but Louie responds the way most of would want to, by asking if he, personally, is going to be okay.
“Dear Daddy, this duckling will keep you safe.” –Louie’s Daughter
Naturally, Louie’s adorable daughters packed a duckling in his luggage. Now Louie’s got an actual manifestation of his own fragility and fear juxtaposed against the terrible conditions and terrifying landscape of the Iraqi landscape.
The musician on the tour, Kenny Thomas, plays some sappy USA-centric song that seems more akin to depressing the troops than cheering them up – which is an interesting bit of nonvocalized commentary on the typical USO show. The cheerleaders obviously do the trick and then it’s Louie’s turn. He’ll fall on one of two sides: the lackluster country singer side or the effective cheerleader side. He jumps into this discussion about being old, having fat on his belly and his decrepit genitals. He touches on all the dude-centric jokes he’s got and by the end, they’re hollering for him.
Even after that experience, where he meets all the soldiers and learns about their experiences, he’s still trying to chat up the cheerleader. (Even though the country singer is spending his time chatting up soldiers.) He shows the cheerleader his duckling after she says his jokes are disgusting and asks him to tell Christian jokes, whatever that means. The duckling temporarily charms her until Louie asks ifs she would ever date a guy his age and she’s disgusted that he says he would date a 19 year old. And that actually goes along with a point Louie made during his standup – dudes have to be gross to do what they do with women. So I guess that’s just how it is, even in the middle of a warzone.
“Thank you Kenny for depressing the shit out of everybody.” –Louie
The next day, they fly in helicopters to their next location and the fear of the isolation of their location weighs on Louie. He actually meets the soldiers this time and the move into their tent to perform. Kenny prefaces his song with stories about missing POWs and soldiers from the Vietnam War – he’s just reminding these potentially doomed men about what their futures might be.
Once again, Louie gets up there and makes fun of one guy who’s from Buffalo, New York and gets everyone hollering. Of course, the cheerleaders still upstage him. Later on, Louie is taking care of the duckling and the cheerleader comes over to check it out; she’s moved on from calling him disgusting and she’s decided he’s a good dad. Suddenly, the pieces are starting to fall into place for his experience in Iraq. (Of course, a pretty girl not being digusted by him anymore is always helpful.)
Just as Louie is starting to get it, with the help of the annoyingly righteous and good country singer (who’s thankfully subtley portrayed as such instead of being made into a cartoon), the helicopter has mechanical problems and they’re forced to land. Louie’s not doing so well; and just then some locals with guns show up and they begin yelling at each other. Just as things escalate, Louie’s duck escapes and he chases him, falling over in the process. Everyone laughs and suddenly, they’re at peace. The duck really did keep Louie safe. It’s a little far-fetched, but the message is there and it’s expressed in beautiful simplicity. Laughter in universal and it’s what allows us to get through some of life’s most miserable experiences. Of course, we already knew that, but leave it to Louie to express it so fully and poignantly.