I’ll go further than David: Whereas the season premiere was one of the most tightly constructed episodes of the series, “Miami” is one of the slackest, starting and ending great but sagging, tediously, in the middle. Far too much of the episode was given over to montage—a storytelling crutch that, unlike Ramon’s gorgeous cruiser bike, couldn’t support the weight C.K. laid on it. “Imma show you Miami, like, for real,” Ramon tells Louie over breakfast. What follows is a slideshow of colorfully painted food stands and salt-of-the-earth Cuban folks hanging out at bike shops and bodegas and boxing amicably on the sidewalk. Fine images in themselves—I liked the Metro PCS placard-holder, and I thought the sight of Louie gripping Ramon’s sculpted sides on the bike did nice narrative and comedic work—but altogether these images didn’t coalesce into a “real” anywhere. When we come out of that montage we’re immediately treated to a second, this time at Ramon’s family’s backyard party, where Louie has a bunch of small-talk we only half make out. Did you guys happen to have the closed captions turned on for these sequences? I could be misremembering, but I think they read [downbeat guy having the best time he’s had in a while, marked by numerous meaningful connections to real people] [♫ upbeat Latin music ♫].
Then there’s another proud invocation of “the real Miami” from Ramon, followed by his lonely-people-on-their-fancy-balconies speech, which was rendered wholly unnecessary 10 minutes earlier when Louie stood, lonely, on a balcony. And then there’s yet another montage as we follow an old Diesel Mercedes as it emits jubilant Spanish howls from its rolled-down windows and passes by the American Airlines Arena and other landmarks en route to South Beach. Some episodes of Louie feel shorter than their 20-odd minutes. This one felt longer.
There were nice moments, though—Louie sidestepping the unreal hotties in the lobby, Louie fumingly out of place among the hotties on the beach, Louie totally at home among the gloaming fatties who inherit the beach after the hotties have decamped. I thought Miguel Gomez gave a fine performance as Ramon: sweet-natured, breezily fraternal, convincingly interested in spending a long day with this balloon-hating, drowning-denying New York schlub—but just tender and attentive enough toward said schlub to seem possibly into dudes, perpetuating the episode’s homoerotic tension at least until the closing stammer session.
The whole episode was leading up to that conversation, and it delivered. I think. I’m not sure, David, that the episode was “about the silly limits that straight men, afraid of seeming gay, impose upon themselves.” Louie and Ramon seem wholly untroubled by seeming gay despite doing tons of gay-seeming things together. We don’t see any limits self-imposed until after Louie decides to extend his trip—and even then the two men splash each other with surf, as you point out, and engage in some gleefully uninhibited football and wrestling in the warm Atlantic waves.
My read of the scene at the bar is that Louie is struggling not with seeming gay, but with actually feeling gay. When he says, “I don’t know if I’ve ever … I don’t know that I ever …,” I think we might be hearing the part of him that wants to fuck Ramon (can you blame him? Dude is dreamy!), and that this is the source of all the hemming and hawing: a feeling uncomfortably close to the love that dare not speak its name, not merely the man-crush that dare not. When C.K. appeared on The Tonight Show, he got into the joke about heterosexual insecurity with a proclamation, however qualified, of homosexual curiosity, not seen in last night’s onstage footage: “I don’t wanna have gay sex,” he said, but “I don’t wanna be left out of things, either,” adding, “When I see two guys kissing, I’m like, how come I can’t kiss one of those guys?”
Fictional Louie, like real-life C.K., has made a career out of turning his acute observational skills into material that his audiences can understand. If this was merely a scene about a grown man trying to discuss the awkwardness of becoming friends with another grown man, it would not have been hard for Louie to simply tell Ramon, “Honestly, it’s hard to make friends when you’re 44, and I had a blast hanging out and said, ‘Fuck it, New York can wait.’ ” But I think what we were hearing in all those frustrated exhalations and stammers was an encounter with romantic desire, however convoluted or murky.
I hope that’s what we were hearing, because the scene is far more interesting and original that way. Otherwise, what is it accomplishing other than an overblown retread of a gay-shy joke Seinfeld already made 19 years ago?
I also hope Allison can solve for us the mystery of the balloon joke. It seemed significant both for being unfunny and for being fragmentary: C.K. doesn’t do one-liners, making this a preamble to a bit that never came. And that it was inserted, abruptly, into Louie’s first, unhappy visit to the beach. What was it doing there?