‘Louie’ recap: Season 4, Episodes 9 and 10, ‘Elevator Part 6′ and ‘Pamela Part 1′
Last night’s episodes of Louie finally ended the six-part “Elevator” storyline and began a new one, entitled “Pamela Part 1,” which will be comprised of three parts by the Season Finale. Louie’s somber mood at Amia’s “No Good” sex comment and her imminent departure casts a shadow over these two episodes, starting from the moment two tongue-in-cheek news reporters begin the episode with: “Ten people died in the Bronx last night, due to a fire that killed ten people in the Bronx last night.” We know at this moment that we’re in for some melancholy in the episodes that follow. (It’s also been interesting to note that in this season, Louis C.K. has omitted the show’s jaunty theme song, in favor of a black screen with the word Louie across it—no comedian grabbing a quick slice before a show. It’s almost as if Louie is preparing us for what’s to come.)
Elevator Part 6
The first episode of the night opens with Louie describing to a friend his relationship with Amia. After Louie tells him that they’ve been dating and recently had sex for the first time, the friend, in between flashbacks of Louie and Amia’s time together, asks, “so why is she crying?” and Louie has to say the problematic thing that’s at the crux of their whole relationship: “I don’t know. She doesn’t speak English.”
Meanwhile, news reports (the only comedic injections in the episode) declare that Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe is due to make landfall in New York City that evening and it’s going to be catastrophic. As church bells peal and thunder begins to roll, Amia sprints away from Louie in a park and ends up in a pew in a Catholic Church, seemingly fraught with guilt for sleeping with him and sadness for her impending departure. Louie is so frustrated by the language barrier, by the fact that he cannot understand what she’s saying about her feelings, that he takes her back to her aunt’s apartment in order to get Ivanka to translate for the couple. When Louie tells the older aunt that they had sex, Ellen Burstyn’s character cheers while Amia yells in shame and throws plates. The last thing we hear is Louie screaming, “Tell her I’m in love with her!” before the audio of their voices cuts out and all we can hear is the deafening sound of thunder outside.
The cacophony of Louie and Amia’s argument is interrupted by a newscaster, who reports that a mandatory evacuation is in effect for everyone living in Manhattan below 23rd Street. He also states that everyone in Western Brooklyn is apparently already dead, which made me laugh in spite of my own address. Louie finally reaches his ex-wife Janet, who is in the dark, with one window already blown out and is panicking and screaming at the girls and Louie tells her he’s on his way.
Louie’s emergency preparedness drill is not the stuff of FEMA warnings; he stuffs his feet into plastic grocery bags to keep them dry, and grabs random things that make light, including a flashlight, two birthday candles and one light bulb. He sets off in the torrential rain and wind to find the subway closed, but Hertz’s rental office open, despite the insane conditions outside. Instead of the comedy we’re used to, Louie becomes an action movie, where we bite our nails as our hapless hero edges closer to his family. We are relieved when Janet opens the door, but instead of finding his two young girls hysterical, Louie ends up hugging his inconsolable ex-wife. Instead of being the bumbling Louie we know, the man we see in this episode is heroic as he lifts all three of the women in his life into the safety of his waiting rental SUV.
After this heart-stopping scene, we are treated to another one, only the second one blindsides us more than a hurricane destroying New York City. Amia takes Louie on a date to a Hungarian restaurant, where she asks the waiter to serve as translator, reading to Louie a long letter she’s written describing her feelings. The waiter pulls up a chair and sits, creating a threesome at their table and reads her intimate words. “I have so many feelings I want to say; I have bottled them,” she writes. The waiter reads her powerful letter, a goodbye to Louie. “It has been beautiful and unexpected adventure in my life to know you and to feel what is between us,” she writes. Unlike other women in Louie’s life, who disappear without a trace, Amia takes the time to finally communicate her heart to Louie through a Hungarian waiter, calling their time together a “peaceful happiness.” But the truth is that they are both over forty, with children and she won’t take her son from her ex-husband in Hungary and move him to the U.S. in order to be with Louie.
Louie pauses the waiter by holding his hand instead of Amia’s, and tells her through the waiter, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything…except maybe a situation where I know what you’re saying and I could talk to you and we live in the same place.” They have this honest conversation despite the fact that they can’t communicate with one another and the break-up proves to be more mature than others Louie has been through on the show. The waiter, having been a huge conduit in this goodbye, dabs his eyes as he gets up from the table, clearly moved by what’s gone on.
The episode ends here, without any stand-up snippets from Louie’s comedy routine. The comedy would have felt inappropriate and almost like a slap in the face. And yet, with the episode that follows, we almost get that anyway.
Pamela Part 1
Louie walks home from the grocery and pauses in his building to push open the door to Ivanka’s empty apartment and look around. Ivanka and Amia are both really gone; in his life one minute and back to Hungary the next. Louie sees the pink couch, the only piece of furniture left behind, which was the first place he saw Amia, who was napping on the couch as he went to find Ivanka’s meds when she was trapped in the elevator.
Louie’s contemplative moment takes him outside where Dr. Bigelow is walking his three-legged dog. Though gruff, the good doctor (played by Charles Grodin) doesn’t have a problem dispensing love advice to heartsick Louie. “You know, I’m not entirely sure what your name is, but you are a classic idiot. You think spending time with her, kissing her, having fun with her—you think that’s what it was all about? That was love? No, this is love. Missing her because she’s gone. Wanting to die … you’re so lucky. You’re like a walking poem.” He goes on to say that this is the good part, what Louie’s been digging for. “The bad part,” he says, “is when you forget her. When you don’t care about her, when you don’t care about anything. Enjoy the heartbreak while you can.” It is good advice, especially for anyone who has endured pain and suffering in the name of love, but a text message from Pamela breaks the reverie. Louie smiles at it, in spite of how they left things, and sees opportunity for his rebound.
Louie asks Pamela to a diner where she cuts through all his bullshit by saying, “the thing with that lady didn’t work out, and now you’ve come sniffing back to me?” She tells him the ship has sailed on the two of them, but when Louie’s babysitter cancels, she agrees to watch his girls during his two gigs that night, proving that Louie might still be a little bit under her skin.
The next scene we have a double dose of Louie’s stand-up, where he waxes poetic about the existence of heaven and God, science vs. faith, and then segues into how God is a man because we wanted men to be in charge, otherwise it would make more sense that women would run the world. Women were in charge once, he thinks, but they were too mean, so men became afraid of women and decided to take over. Then Louie says America wasn’t really a democracy until 1920, because “you can’t call it a democracy if the whole sex of women can’t vote.” We think Louie is maybe being a feminist, but the whole routine takes a weird turn when Louie says “A lot of men still beat their wives. It used to be totally ok. At least now it’s frowned upon.” Frowned upon? Really, Louie? He does make a good point about the screwed-up-ness of our whole culture when he says, “We have a whole shirt affectionately nicknamed after beating the shit out of your helpless, captive wife.” So in his own, weird way, this is Louie’s feminist rant. His critique of our culture where women were only allowed to vote 95 years ago and where domestic violence still occurs with such regularity that a tank top has been named after the practice.
In a brief scene on the subway, Louie is sitting across from this man who is addressing his seatmate, a woman. We think they’re having a conversation, but when the train stops, and the woman gets off and the man keeps talking to no one, Louie demonstrates this amazing moment of human kindness, when he moves to occupy the empty seat and listen to what the man is saying, so it doesn’t look like he’s talking to himself.
When Louie gets home, he sees another woman asleep on the couch, this time Pamela, tired from babysitting his kids. As he says goodbye, Louie tries to kiss her, being oddly aggressive, holding her arms, lifting up her shirt and trying to be intimate. Pamela fights him off, screaming, “This would be rape if you weren’t so stupid!” After everything Louie just said about violence against women, this feels entirely too pushy and too soon after Amia’s departure to be wrestling with Pamela in this way. I was so mad at Louie until we realize that Pamela holds part of the blame too. She is intentionally fighting him off because she can’t bear to be close to anyone. Louie doesn’t think the ship has sailed on the two of them, so in juxtaposition to his comedy routine, he says, “You want to try something, but for some reason you can’t, so I’m gonna take control and I’m gonna make something happen.” It’s the language of male domination, but they both look so uncomfortable that what felt threatening earlier, just feels incredibly awkward in this moment. But after he kisses her scrunched up face and she leaves, he grins and considers it a victory.
At the end of the episode, his two daughters ask if Pamela is his new girlfriend. This episode, in comparison to the journey we’ve been on in the “Elevator” arc, felt jarring and unnatural. But such is the way with Louie’s comedy and with this show in general; we feel one way and then Louie yanks our attention to a new place. How did you feel about the loss of Amia and the reintroduction of Pamela? What commentary, if any, do you feel Louie was making about Hurricane Sandy’s historic landfall in New York City? Did the continuity of the episodes feel incongruous? Let me know in the comments!
Follow Abbe Wright on Twitter at @AbbeWright. Catch up on last week’s recaps here.