‘Louie’ Recap: The Ballad of Tape Recorder

ALTThere may be no greater testament to why Louie is currently the best comedy on television than the fact that it’s a comedy that rarely makes you laugh out loud, yet it remains, indisputably, the best. That’s not to say the show doesn’t provide its share of belly laughs. From his sister’s Season 2 pregnancy scare that turned out to be what was likely television’s longest fart, to his daughter telling the instant classic “gorilla at the ballet” joke, Louis C.K. can make you rewind and pause your DVR like the best of him. 

But because the truly un-categorizable series is more often a bittersweet slice of life, those laugh-out-loud moments that are peppered in are all the more special and damn funny. Maybe that’s why, on my second viewing of “Daddy’s Girlfriend, Pt. 2” (it required two), the opening stand-up sequence felt especially hilarious because of the juxtaposition of the hauntingly sad conclusion.  

During his routine, Louie described being on a date with a woman that made him so nervous he “farted for the rest of my life.” For the record, I had to pause the DVR both times. Only Louis C.K. — and I can say this with the utmost certainty — could start a show with the line “you just feel buckets of c** on your face” and end it with a sorrowful look into the mind of someone grappling with mental illness.  
We picked up almost right where we left off in last week’s episode, to find Louie picking up the lovely book shop employee (played achingly well by Parker Posey) for their date. As she and a coworker lock up the store, something small but monumental happens. Small in that, like Louie, you may have missed it or brushed it off, but monumental in its meaning. As her coworker locked up she said, “Goodnight, Seymour”, to which he replied, annoyed, “My name’s Roger.” It may seem like an insignificant detail (and to a man who is happy to be on a date with a beautiful woman, probably an ignorable one entirely) but it was a warning sign of things to come. Why would this woman blatantly call her coworker by the wrong name? If it were accidental, wouldn’t she apologize for her mistake? Something was amiss, something beyond the seemingly quirky, kind woman we met last week.  
It became clear, after she took Louie to a bar and tried to order them drinks, only to be told by the bartender she’s not going to serve her “after last time,” that perhaps she has a substance abuse problem. A darkness, a sadness is underneath. When she swiftly exits the bar with Louie, claiming the crowded bar made her anxious, the night turns into the very definition of an emotional roller coaster. She immediately shifted gears from sullen and embarrassed to manic and talkative. “You’re gonna have to keep up with me, I reveal myself to people very quickly,” she told Louie, a statement more loaded underneath the surface. She regaled Louie with a devastating story about being a young girl battling carcinoma. On first viewing, it felt like a deeply personal revelation about a traumatic, life-changing experience. On second watch, when you know she’ll later lie to Louie about her real name (which was Liz, not, as she teased, Tape Recorder) and clearly has demons in her head, your heart breaks at the thought that maybe that story, too, is a fabrication or embellishment.   
If there was something deeply, darkly humorous to find in all this, it’s proving, at long last, the dangers of the manic pixie dream girl. If Parker Posey didn’t look like Parker Posey or men didn’t confuse mania with impulsive and quirky, Louie may have never been pulled into fitting room of a vintage store to put on a sparkly dress at her request to prove that he liked her. Sometimes, the lengths men will go to to impress a woman,  knows no bounds.  
Still, even with those hindsight warning signs, it was easy to see she was intrigued by her. She was fascinating, exciting, different. They had amazing chemistry. She took him for his first trip to New York City institution Russ and Daughters for some un-date-friendly food; she revealed her desire to desire visiting North Dakota, but not actually visit it; and she showed such compassion and worry for a homeless man enduring a psychotic episode, the mere bat of her eye had Louie buying his meds and giving him a hotel room for the night. Sometimes, it truly knows no bounds.  
Louie was so willing to go along for this ride that he follows her into a building, where she somehow convinces him to climb countless flights of steps to sneak onto a roof. When they reach the roof, with Louie a little bit worse for the wear, she sits on the ledge of the building, a move that finally makes him vocalize his discomfort and anxiety. “The only way I’d fall is if I’d jump,” she told Louie, after he expressed that the sight of her on a ledge was upsetting to him. “A tiny part of you wants to jump, but I don’t want to jump, so I’m not afraid. I would never do that,” she said bright-eyed, joyous. “I’m having too good of a time.” After letting out a sigh, we watched as all that hope and happiness drain from her eyes. It sharply and distinctly turns to sadness, something Louie noticed, too. Liz is someone who wants to believe, in her heart, she’s having too good a time to ever jump, but her mind is haunted. She knows that is simply not true.   
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better piece of acting this summer than this heartbreaking scene between C.K. and Posey. Both come to their own terrible conclusions in that moment and both did it in such understated, masterful ways. Your heart, quite simply, broke for the both of them. Liz, a free-spirit trapped in a prison of her mind, and Louie, someone who is ready to open his heart up again, only to have to guard it again. With the 2012 Emmys so close, one can only hope Posey’s stunning performance isn’t forgotten by 2013. It’s a delicate balance to pull off a character like this and Posey did it marvelously. While I hope, for Louie’s sake (and hers, truthfully) that he doesn’t see Liz again, I will be sad to see Posey go. 

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Louie Part 2