Louie is such a good dad. This week’s episode began with our beleaguered hero performing a bit in the Comedy Cellar in which he tries to explain what “prejudice” means to his inquisitive daughter. He fails, as we all do, and ends up on the topic of Scarlett Johansson, who he has pre-judged (get it?) to be good in the sack. Jonah, you thought this bit was a little hacky, but to me it was the setup to the big reveal: As much as Louie would love a shot in bed with Scarlett, he’s really fine jerking off to some wedding album he found in the garbage. Like any good father, or maybe like most self-aware middle-aged people, there’s an understanding that, whatever short-term rush Scar Jo might provide, the long con is convincing someone to make a family with you.
Last night was all about that long con. After his daughters ask him for a girlfriend as if they are asking for a puppy, Louie goes on the hunt, imagining every piece of female ass he comes into contact with not only as a potential future screw, but as a potential future mother-figure for his girls.
Like a bizarro episode of The Bachelor, Louie fields a variety of options. First is comic Maria Bamford. I don’t think we’re meant to believe for one second that Louie actually wants the cold and sour Maria to be his girlfriend, or that he thinks she’d be good with his daughters. But she has does have two boobs, a vagina, and some willingness to be around him, so she could potentially satisfy the requirements of the slot that Louie is looking to fill. Her reaction—“No, I really don’t want to do that. I do not want to meet your kids. Blegh.”—and subsequent diss of his sexual skills is yet another reminder that C.K. is interested in writing women who don’t fit into traditional maternal/pleaser stereotypes. (It turns out, though, that these women are always hard to like.)
Louie then goes on the prowl at his daughters’ elementary school, a hot-for-teacher wonderland of sensible shoes and clingy cardigans. I turned to my husband during this sequence and asked, “Is this really how it is for a single guy? Every woman you come into contact is seen through your hungry man-eyes as a possibility, or an opportunity, or a calculation?” His answer: “Yes.” Huh.
Still holding all of the roses, Louie finally hits the jackpot when he walks into that independent bookstore—take that, Amazon!—and spots Parker Posey’s mousy-sexy bookstore clerk. (I agree, Jonah, Posey is awesome here.) Louie visits the bookstore three times before getting the guts up to ask Posey out, and, wow, their extended interaction was the best of the season so far for me. Finally, two human beings communicating naturally, not weighed down by the show’s attempt to say something larger about Louie or life, or to add a surreal dimension to an otherwise normal connection. On the first visit, thinking up an excuse to approach Posey’s clerk, Louie asks her to recommend a book about flowers for his eldest daughter, Lily, and she says, “OK, great. I love the kids’ books!” Ding ding ding. On the second visit, Louie returns looking for something a little darker for his more-mature-than-he-realized daughter: “Do you have any depressing novels about people’s heads falling off?” And instead of belittling the oversomber kid or, say, recoiling at the very real possibility that this man is back in the store because he thinks she is cute, Posey’s clerk takes the request seriously, delivering an extremely passionate and very moving speech about what it’s like to be a little girl. (“Some of these books will let her take these feelings, these emotions, out for a safe kind of spin.”)
Then comes the last visit, when Louie finally asks her out with the most amazing bumbling-eloquent pitch, like a real-world version of Billy Crystal’s speech at the end of When Harry Met Sally: “Nothing horrible would happen if you just came out with me. … And you’re cute as hell.” The way Louie smiles when she says yes—the blushing, the teeth, what Jonah calls the “rodent-faced lip-bite” (or, to make another When Harry Met Sally reference, the “white-man’s overbite”)! Finally, Louie crosses over from being a show full of ideas about emotions to an emotionally fulfilling one.
Jonah, you called the episode “one of the most conventionally plot- and joke-driven we’ve seen.” I’m not sure about the joke-driven part, but, yes, there was a through line in this one, start to finish: Gotta get a girl. But where last week’s Miami episode felt like a collection of rom-com clichés, tonight’s conventional plotting was just the foundation for some ridiculously good writing and an embrace of, well, the physical and emotional connection we all are looking for. Don’t you guys just feel happy that Louie gets to experience it? And don’t you just know that it’s somehow going to get fucked up in Part 2? It was sweet while it lasted.
Voicemails from Jesus,
TODAY IN SLATE
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John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.
My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s
Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band
Can it be again?
The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee
Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?
Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?
Driving in Circles
The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.