On Monday night’s episodes of 'Louie,' we were treated to the final arc of this ongoing “Elevator” series. It’s been nice for continuity’s sake to have a storyline and characters continue through episodes; usually Louie skips around and centers on new people every episode and it has been nice to feel we’ve been getting to know Amia at the same time Louie does. None of the episodes in the “Elevator” arc have ben especially rip-roaringly funny, but that is the particular genius of the show and its creator. C.K. knows he doesn’t need to keep us laughing at every turn, the way he does with his stand-up. The show is his way of making us think and making us slightly uncomfortable as we watch.
Elevator Part 4
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The first episode of the night opens with Louie and Amia at a Rangers game on a date, and then hunkering down during a hurricane with Louie and his girls. She has totally fit herself in their family, instructing Jane on the violin while simultaneously playing chess with Lilly. When Louie joins them and tenderly places a hand on Amia’s shoulder, it’s almost as if we can imagine along with Louie that she’s here permanently, that she is a part of the family somewhere in the future, in a time where Cuba has sunk into the sea as a result of too many tropical storms.
That warm fuzzy feeling only lasts for so long though. The next scene opens in a therapist’s office, where a therapist (played by Denny Dillon) is explaining to Louie and Janet about Jane’s “high-activity brain.” Louie and Janet are disagreeing on everything; what they should do about Jane, which girl reacted worse to the divorce, and ultimately whose fault their breakdown in communication has been. At one point, when Louie can’t get a word in edgewise between his ex-wife and the therapist, he goes to the window, sticks his head out and screams in frustration. It’s a feeling anyone who has ever been in an argument can relate to. The therapist finally lays it down for them, saying it doesn’t really matter what school Jane goes to. “Look,” she says, “Divorced or married, if there’s harmony between the parents, the kids are going to be happy. If there isn’t, they are not.” The therapist points to Louie and Janet’s deteriorating co-parenting as the thing at fault and tells them to take responsibility for the breakdown, and therefore Jane’s behavior. In the elevator as they leave, Janet and Louie bond over the therapist’s high fees and in spite of herself, Janet cracks a small laugh at one of Louie’s jokes.
On the street, Louie says, “We can do this. We’re a good team. Let’s get back on track,” while Janet admits that she didn’t know that life after divorce has its ups and downs just like marriage. The two share a cigarette and a few laughs and we get an insight into what their relationship must have been like when they were happy. Janet asks about Amia, saying the girls never stop talking about her and when Louie sort of admits he’s in love with her, Janet hugs him and seems genuinely happy for him. That only lasts for about 10 seconds, because as soon as Janet learns that Amia is leaving soon to return to Hungary, she’s furious that Louie would introduce her girls to someone so temporary and fleeting. Louie’s response was one of the best of the night: “When she leaves, they’re going to be sad, so am I. We’re enjoying her company while she’s here and then we’re all going to miss her. Sometimes, you’re supposed to be sad. It’s the flip side, it’s actually good,” he says. By the end of the conversation, they’re back to cutting each other down, with Janet criticizing Louie for making bad decisions.
The last third of the episode is a flashback to Janet and Louie’s early days of marriage. I love that Janet in the flashback is portrayed by a white actress: C.K. doesn’t really care about continuity that much and it’s one of the things that makes ‘Louie’ different than any other show out there. We see young Louie and Janet in their hotel room, frustrated by the upstairs guests blaring music, and by one another and the crumbling state of their young marriage.
In one scene, they share another cigarette, and Janet says, “What if, right now, when it’s calm and we’re not fighting, what if we say that now? I want a divorce. What if we just say it, and see how it sounds without fighting?” We learn they’ve only been married for two years and it’s been hard for a year, they have no kids and that they could divorce out of kindness instead of anger. So relieved and overjoyed they’ve come to this decision, they decide to have sex one last time—and it’s fast and good. As she showers afterwards, he says he can now work on his comedy and she reveals she never thought he was funny anyway. At the end of the scene, Louie goes “what if, just now, you got pregnant?” and they laugh, but as viewers, we now have key insight into how Janet and Louie got to the place they’re in now. That’s one of the things this ‘Elevator’ arc is giving us: The opportunity to see a little bit deeper into Louie’s life.
Elevator Part 5
After Louie’s meditation on divorce, we are treated to a meditation on sex. Fictional hurricane Jasmine Forsyth still rages on outside (one of the best lines of the night was a newscaster reporting, “Once again, we are reporting the death of Lebron James…and the rest of the Miami Heat…and 12 million other people. ‘Louie’ is making tongue-in-cheek commentary on how obsessed with celebrity our culture is), and then switches to Louie on the stand-up stage meditating on which came first: the chicken or the egg. Backstage, Amia watches, and deflects smarmy comedian Jim Norton’s lewd comments, despite the fact that she doesn’t speak English.
In the next scene, Louie and Amia are seated around a diner table with fellow comedians Todd Barry, Nick DiPaolo and Greg Fitzsimmons. They’re all talking about Amia right in front of her and how lonely Louie will be after she leaves, though married father Fitzsimmons says he dreams of being lonely. “It sounds like paradise,” he says. Meanwhile, Todd Barry is childishly chanting the word AIDS to the tune of “Smoke on the Water,” then walks us through a day in his life: the life of a 49 year old single comedian with no kids. Waking up at 10:30, playing on his iPad in bed, having breakfast at a diner where he has toast, bacon and the occasional free donut, followed by a trip to the urgent care clinic, ramen for lunch, a short trip to the gym, a nap and a cheap Chinatown bus to Poughkeepsie for a gig, where he goes mental over the misspelling of his name on the dressing room sign because he can, and because we see he has nothing better to do.
When Louie returns home, he again finds his elderly neighbor Ivanka in the elevator, slumped on the floor. He freaks out, drags her body into the hall and knocks on Dr. Bigelow’s door, played by the ever-hysterical Charles Grodin. After begging the doctor to help, his suggestion is to “hit her on the back,” which works and she coughs up a Mentos. In the best line of this episode, Dr. Bigelow says, “Sweetie, you’ve got to chew these Mentos, they’re the perfect plug for the esophagus,” like he’s seen this a million times before.
Louie helps Ivanka (Ellen Burstyn’s character) back to her apartment, where she asks if he and Amia are serious and when he says yes, she says they can’t possibly be serious unless they’re having sex. She says, “In Hungary we have a saying: ‘if you didn’t screw the cow, she’s not your cow.’”
After their date that night, where we do see their easy rapport, Louie invites Amia inside. She’s reticent at first, wanting to just say “Bye,” but acquiesces and the two begin to make out passionately in the hall, in the dark, bumping into things as they move through his apartment towards the bedroom. It seems so promising, that Louie may finally get what he wants, some sort of happiness, but in the light of morning, the two wake up together in Louie’s bed, but all Amia says is “No good.” We’re not sure if she means the sex was no good, or the fact that they had sex and now she has to leave was no good. Louie apologizes, for what, he’s not sure, and when she gets up out of bed to put her clothes on and leave, we’re as confused and bewildered as Louie is. It’s a vulnerable moment for him and it leaves us feeling the same way, the slightly painful, used feeling when a lover leaves and you’re still unclothed.
I’m eager to see what the rest of the season holds for us. I’m also wondering how ‘Louie’ will shake us up after this arc. Do you think this storytelling felt satisfying, or are you ready for the show to go back to its one-off episodes? Let me know in the comments!
Follow Abbe Wright on Twitter at @AbbeWright. Check out last week's 'Louie' recap here.