In last night’s double dose of "Louie," we saw Louie struggling to communicate with the women in his life. Nothing new there, but in scenes with his ex-wife, Janet, the Hungarian niece of his neighbor, Amia, his daughter, Jane, and his ex-girlfriend, Pamela, Louie has complete and utter difficulty articulating his feelings, which only provides contrast to how self-assuredly the women in his life speak to him.
Episode 5, “Elevator Part 2” opens with Louie grocery shopping in Fairway, and we assume the things he’s choosing (olives, pears, rugelach, coffee) are for him. It’s only when he knocks on the door to his elderly neighbor’s apartment, played by Ellen Burstyn, and presents it to her, that we realize this is a ploy; Louie is hoping to catch her niece Amia, and is visibly disappointed when he learns she’s out. But as Louis C.K. is prone to do with his guest stars, he and Ellen Burstyn (whose name we learn is Ivanka), sit down for rugelach, tea and surprisingly rich conversation and he learns that she too was a comedienne in her homeland of Hungary, and her job was to sing funny songs to the Hungarian troops. She sits down to her piano and begins to perform one of her flirtatious ditties, when Louie’s phone rings and it is Jane’s school calling. Behind the woman on the phone, we can see Jane waving her arms and screaming. The frazzled administrator says flatly, “We are not willing to deal with this behavior. You need to come pick her up.” She then turns around and screams, “JANE, YOU BETTER RELAX!” and I laughed.
Louie leaves his neighbor Ivanka’s and picks Jane up, sitting with her on a park bench to discuss what’s happened. In the most poignant scene of the episode, Louie asks what’s going on with Jane and she slowly reveals what the problem was at school. “I don’t want to go to school anymore,” she says. “They don’t know anything … the teachers are stupid, the kids are stupid. Christopher Columbus was a murderer and they want me to draw a picture of him smiling,” she says pointedly, proving at once how mature beyond her years she is, and how much of Louie’s daughter she is. Here she communicates her frustration with her classmates and her school eloquently, and Louie looks on dumbfounded. We finally learn that after a teacher told her to calm down, she tore the teacher’s skirt off, showed everyone her underwear and made the teacher cry. All Louie can do is slowly exhale. He has no words.
When Louie returns Jane to his ex-wife’s apartment, he asks Janet to go out for coffee to talk about their daughter’s situation. As they sit at a café, Janet brings up private school as the solution and Louie is adamantly against it. “Public school is the real world and they have real problems and they learn how to deal with them. Putting them in private school is like sequestering them,” he says. When Janet shoves the fact that the real reason Louie doesn’t like private school is because he grew up working class and resents not being able to afford it, he becomes completely over-emotional and is unable to talk to her anymore. He compares private school-educated children to Hitler Youth and then shuts down further conversation. “I can’t say anything worthwhile anymore,” he chokes out. “I’m too upset…there’s nothing but shit coming out of my mouth anymore.” They agree to drop the topic and come back to it later, another example of failed communication.
Back at his apartment, he bumps into Amia, and mimes to her that he wants to take her out to eat. Despite their language barrier, she understands him and agrees, accompanying him to Russ & Daughters, where he tries to introduce her to gulping down a fish whole, something that she finds wholly unappetizing. Louie and Amia spend a beautiful day together, taking the Staten Island ferry past the Statue of Liberty and strolling through a park. Though they’re not using words, Louie also falters in his communication with Amia, once trying to grasp her hand, but failing to do so. The two end up in a Duane Reade pharmacy and even without language, Amia proves to be the better communicator when she relays what she’s shopping for by miming taking a shower, pretending to take off her clothes, washing her hair and then blow-drying. All Louie can do is watch wordlessly, clearly enjoying what is sort of an erotic experience for him. As he says goodbye to Amia at the end of their day, it’s obvious he wants to ask her out again, but his mouth doesn’t form the words and she closes the door.
'Elevator Part 3'
After a fight with his brother Robbie over two broken Blackberry keys, we see Louie grocery shopping again. As he bends down to get something, a woman literally kicks him in the ass. As he stands up, we see it’s Pamela, a former fling who left him to try to make it work with her deadbeat baby daddy over in Europe. Louie doesn’t look especially happy to see her, and says nothing while she hugs him, and she physically has to put his arms around her.
The two get coffee and in a one-sided torrent of conversation, she tells Louie everything that has happened with her and tells him she’s down to hang again. He still hasn’t said one word to her and she finally says, “Hello? HELLO? Is anyone in there? Did a plant make a new one of you?” Pamela’s over-the-top nature is in complete contrast to Amia’s quiet one and it seems Louie can’t get a word in edgewise and isn’t even trying. Pamela continues telling him while she was in Europe she thought about Louie, and maybe now that she’s back they could try one of those “guy/girl kissing type of things,” as she screws her face up in disgust. The first words Louie says to her are straightforward and unemotional: “I’m with somebody now.” Pamela is in disbelief and utters a low blow: “No one wants to be with you, Louie. Stop lying!” then takes a picture of his dumb face. She makes fun of him for being in a big, serious relationship as he leaves her in the diner alone.
He heads to Ivanka and Amia’s apartment, only to learn that Amia is headed back to Hungary. In an uncharacteristic sweep of romantic emotion, Louie gets down on one knee and begs her not to leave, proposing marriage in desperation. When she denies him, he cannot listen to the translation of what she’s trying to say to him, instead storming out and taking out his anger and frustration with a baseball bat on his piano’s keys. He stops his outburst when he hears the doorbell and it’s Amia and Ivanka, there to tell him he didn’t really understand; that she’s in New York for a month and would like to spend time with him while she’s here. Despite beating on his Steinway in sadness only moments before, he smiles at the prospect of seeing her again.
We see Jane and her two parents in the principal’s office, where Jane is apologizing to her teacher for the skirt-ripping incident. Once the principal excuses Jane from the room in order to speak to her parents, she urges Louie and Janet to communicate to one another about a plan for Jane’s education. After the principal leaves the room, the two exes don’t speak, but get out their smartphones and begin to tap away on them silently.
After school, Jane and Louie are returning to his apartment when they bump into Amia in the hall. In my favorite scene of this episode, Jane and Amia communicate seamlessly. Jane greets Amia in Hungarian, saying hello, and then when Amia sees Jane’s violin case, she runs into the apartment and grabs her own violin and Louie’s two girls (ostensibly) begin to play a beautiful duet of the same song, harmonizing with one another and speaking through music, easily understanding each another. The scene is so touching and these two women, so far apart in age and background, connect through this haunting piece of classical music on a level far above where Louie is. It’s all he can do to watch quietly, then clap loudly and say “YAY!” when they’ve finished playing.
In the next scene, in Louie’s best attempt at communication all night, he gives Jane a pep talk as she heads into school. “I worry about you,” he says. “It’s my job to help you be a person who can live in the world and be easy to be around.” He makes her laugh and he sends her into her school day. Returning to his apartment, he sees Dr. Bigelow, the doctor who he visited regarding his aching back in the first episode of Season 4. Since the doctor gave Louie such good advice in his office, Louie asks him what he should do about Amia, and asks if he should continue to date her knowing she’s leaving in a month. The doctor gruffly provides two pieces of careful advice to Louie. He reminds Louie of all the pain and suffering in the world, that there are diseases he learned about in medical school, ones that dissolve your bones and turn people into sacks of organs, essentially reminding him that no one really cares about his indecision about this woman.
Then, he looks down at his three-legged dog and asks, “How many legs does he have?” When Louie responds with the number, the doc shakes his head and says, “No, the answer is he has plenty of legs.” The doctor, in his odd way of communication, leaves Louie with the idea that he should be happy with what he has right now.
I’ve really been enjoying these linked episodes. It’s nice to feel like we’re forming, alongside with Louie, lasting relationships with Ivanka and Amia. How are you liking the arc of this current story line? Any guesses as to what’s eating Jane? Let me know in the comments!