Listen, Crackerjack, you need a suit, a tie, and some Brylcreem. What an episode. On Twitter, James Wolcott—of whom I’m a fan—called it “all kinds of gimmicky & meta & pomo & stuff.” But though it may have been meta, and possibly pomo, “gimmicky” is way too dismissive. (“Stuff” is just right.) When Lynch first appeared on screen, I jotted down “stunt-casting?” But by the end, his presence felt essential. For one thing, his deadpan delivery was perfect. Beyond that, the episode was so much about everything he signifies.
“I’m not gonna become a different person.” That’s the key line, I think. It’s something Louie says to Jack Doll after the latter tells the former he needs a suit (and a tie and some Brylcreem). Louie plans to keep wearing a T-shirt, as always. We know that’s not gonna happen. If “Late Show” Parts 1 and 2 have taught us anything, it’s that to succeed in show business in the traditional way you need to become something you’re not. The entertainment industry, up close, is a topsy-turvy, menacing world—something out of a David Lynch movie. Consider that secretary who became different people as she explained to Louie how “Doll” was pronounced. It’s the low-key, office-bound version of the Lost Highway switcheroo. (Or did that only happen over the closing credits? I confess I didn’t notice it during the episode proper.)
A few weeks ago, C.K. did a similar switcheroo with his own character, as Louie watched himself in security footage at an electronics store. This was during the “Dad” episode, and felt distracting. But here, the identity confusion is right on point. Even better: Doll doing the Late Show intro, with Louie watching on a monitor. Doll just stands there, nodding and grinning like an idiot, but Louie hears an invisible crowd roar and feels the magic of television. It was basically the late-night talk-show version of Lynch’s magisterial Club Silencio scene from Mulholland Dr. Sure, C.K. could have paid homage without Lynch himself doing the honors, but this was better.
Now I understand, too, why it had to be Leno rather than Conan. Allison, I don’t know whether Leno is a good sport or a canny operator—presumably he’s both. But it’s not like he gets to be the good guy here, so I give him credit for playing along. I also loved the way he began his phone call to Louie by saying, “It’s me, Jay Leno,” rather than just, “It’s me, Jay.” Something else I loved: Chris Rock’s scarf. I agree, Allison, that Louie seemed a bit naïve in that scene with Rock for someone about to possibly hit the big-time. I would love to see C.K. write his character as a little more sophisticated, though I can see the appeal of making him a sad-sack everyman.
But sheeeeiiiit. We can’t fail to mention Isiah Whitlock as Alfonse. Even if he didn’t utter his trademark phrase, it was nice to see him back on television. It was also nice to see Susan Kelechi Watson back as Louie’s ex-wife. For one thing, she’s a reminder that not every female character this season has been crazy. She’s got a solid head on her shoulders—as did Gaby Hoffman, back in the season’s first diner scene.
The thing I didn’t get this week? The grocery store scene, in which Jane sees an older woman stealing and turns her in before Louie can convince her not to. I liked the scene, I just wasn’t sure what it was doing in this episode. Maybe someone in the comments has an idea.
Can I have some today jokes?