'So did the fat lady'
The second week of the fourth season of FX’s Louie centers around women and Louie’s love for them—or as the case may be with Louie and the women he dates, somewhere in the gray, nebulous area on the way to love. When he gets off stage after his set at the Comedy Cellar, Vanessa, a cute and round-faced waitress, strikes up a conversation with Louie about how brave he is to go up there and do what he does. “I hate comedy,” she says. “Really? This is a weird job for you then,” he replies and she drily answers: “In this economy, no job is weird.” She asks him out confidently, saying, “You’re cute and funny. I am both of those plus like seven other things.” She’s witty and sassy, but in all his awkwardness, Louie can’t say yes, blaming his answer on the fact that he’s tired. “Oh my god. Are you going to be ok?” she asks with mock concern and we love her for dishing Louie his shit right back.
In an examination of the dating double standards that men and women are held to, we next see Louie and his brother Robbie on the street, scoping the beautiful women that walk by. They commit to losing weight, starting by going to the gym tomorrow, but first, they indulge in a “Bang, Bang,” wherein, as Robbie says to one waitress, “we go have a whole meal at one place and then go right to another place and have another one. Bang. Bang.”
After debating what to eat: Mexican followed by Italian or sushi, then pizza or the oddly-delicious sounding combo of barbeque and IHOP, they settle on Indian food and a diner. Louie only looks embarrassed once the cute waitress knows the gluttony they’ve been up to. And of course, they totally forgo the gym plans for tomorrow at the end of their feast.
Louie goes back to the club and sees Vanessa being funny to a table (where inexplicably Ed Burns is a patron), then he tries to talk to a skinny waitress, who totally blows him off. Persistent Vanessa comes up to him, asks him out again and he rebuffs her advances, and as she walks away, a customer looks at her and says, “yuck.” Outside the club, Louie and Dave Attell see Vanessa right after she quits her job and she ends up giving Louie a pair of tickets to the Rangers/Bruins playoff hockey game. Even though he won’t go out with her, he does take her tickets. But then he reconsiders and asks her for coffee.
The two have a great date, full of good conversation and laughter. But when, as they stroll along the river, Vanessa admits that dating is difficult “when you’re in your early thirties and a fat girl,” Louie tries to brush her off and tells her she’s not fat. And then she lets him have it. She tells him that he is the stand-in for all men who have ever been rude to a fat girl, and unleashes a carefully prepared speech about the double standard, calling Louie on his BS for originally not wanting to go out with her because she was heavy. “You can talk into the mic and say you’re overweight and you can’t get a date and it’s adorable,” she says. “But if I say it? They call the suicide hotline on me.” She actually asks out loud, “how is this fair and why should I accept it?”
The episode is a refreshing look at dating today and at the unfair standards that are placed on men and women and their bodies. Louie and Robbie literally stuff their faces, yet because they’re men, they will still be desirable. Vanessa has to practically beg Louie to hold her hand in the light of day and walk down the street with her. Though I was relieved, it made me sad when he finally took her hand; sad because I didn’t know if he was doing it just to shut her up and also, because he acted like a schmucky Larry David when he did it. And then he told a joke about a fat lady who explodes. I hope we see Vanessa again; her character was spunky and I loved the commentary she provided on dating today, even though it did feel at times like we were being hit over the head with it.
Elevator Part 1
In “Elevator Part 1,” the first of five stringed-together episodes in the series, Louie’s youngest daughter Jane wakes from a nightmare. Even though Louie tells her the dream is over, she creepily smiles and says, “No, I’m still dreaming. But it’s better now.” I personally will have nightmares about that for weeks. In the morning, Jane is still convinced she’s dreaming, but as he takes them on the subway to their mother’s house, Louie stops to go over the subway rules. “If you somehow get stuck on the platform, and I’m on the train, what do you do?” he asks. Convinced he knows they’d wait for him and not move, they high-five and hustle on the train. But right before the train doors close, Jane steps off the train and is alone on the platform. Louie panics, as any parent would after becoming separated from their child, and is beating on the train doors and screaming. Older daughter Lilly tries to comfort him by saying that she knows the subway rules and she’ll stay put.
Lilly and Louie get off at the next stop and race to the opposite side to board another train back to Jane. (Ok New Yorkers, did it bother anyone else to see the subway inconsistencies? The three of them boarded at 103rd street, and the announcement said “6 train to Brooklyn Bridge. Next stop 86th Street” even though it wouldn’t have been running express. And then when he and Lilly get off at the next stop, they’re at 96th street, which WOULD be correct, but they run to the downtown side and wouldn’t they need to go back uptown to get Jane? Sorry, I was so distracted by this that I could barely concentrate.)
Our greatest fears are realized when we see Jane, alone on the platform, get approached by a man who puts his hand on her shoulder and asks if she’s lost. She tells him her father is coming back to get her, but it’s ok because it’s all a part of her dream. When Louie and Lilly get back to the platform, we are worried that Jane won’t be there, but indeed she is, grinning and saying that everything was a part of her dream. Louie reads her the riot act, telling her that life is not a dream, that it’s a dangerous world and that kids get stolen and disappear forever. You can see the panic and relief wash over his face as he yells.
They arrive to Louie’s ex-wife’s house (whom I’m so glad to see again) and he tells her what’s just occurred and she seethes at Jane and sends her to her room. Outside her apartment, she silently seethes at Louie for letting it occur.
Back in Louie’s apartment, an old woman, brilliantly played by Ellen Burstyn, gets stuck in an elevator. The Super tells her he needs to call the fire department, because if he tries to get her out, “that’s how people get sliced in half.”
The old woman, as she waits, dispatches Louie to her apartment with her keys to retrieve her medication, as she needs to take it on time. He takes a look around, grabs the pills, takes a piss and then finally notices her niece asleep on the couch in a negligee. He tries to wake her up and she thinks he’s a creep and so she screams in Russian and chases him out of the apartment as the fire department’s sirens are wailing in the street.
We see her later knock on Louie’s door and offer a peach tart as a thank you to him for being kind to her aunt. Even though she doesn’t speak English, she sits with him and they share a laugh and it is a sweetly touching moment.
The episode ends with his standup, where Louie ponders how you really know when you love someone. For him, “It’s when you share your innermost secret racism with them.” How do you think the season is shaping up? I’m excited for a recurring Ellen Burstyn role! Let me know what you thought of Vanessa’s gusto, Jane’s creepy, unpredictable behavior and if Louie and the Russian niece will be able to communicate in the comments. Watch Vanessa’s big speech about fat girls below.
Follow Abbe Wright on Twitter at @abbewright.