Louie, Season 3

Louis C.K. and Chloë Sevigny Have a Memorable Cup of Coffee
Talking television.
Aug. 23 2012 11:01 PM

Louie, Season 3

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I’ll have what she’s having!

Louis C.K. in Louie.
Louis C.K.

Courtesy FX.

I’ll have what she’s having! Last week I wrote about “long-walk” episodes of Louie—those where we drift hither and thither in the general direction of some unforeseeable climactic payoff. Rarely is the payoff as literally climactic, however, as it was tonight, when Chloë Sevigny’s Jeanie, overtaken with passion at a café, reached below the counter to pull herself a shot, so to speak. The expressionless barista who witnessed this actually works at Café Regular du Nord, where the scene was filmed, and I will never look at him the same way again as he punches my customer-loyalty card.

This episode, which calls back, in several ways, to the Parker Posey arc, was titled “Looking for Liz/ Lilly Changes,” but it could have been titled “Daddy’s Girlfriend Pt. 3.” Posey’s Liz appears early on in close-up, perforating Louie’s slumber with ghostly professions of love, sending him back to the bookstore to find her, and haunting the rest of the episode. At the bookstore, Louie meets Jeanie, who has taken Liz’s position not only as a clerk, it emerges, but also as Louie’s ad hoc, hyper-impulsive life-coach, tugging him around the city, exhorting him to be more adventurous. “Did you kiss?” Jeanie asks Louie before barreling through traffic into Liz’s apartment building, and the excited flutter in Sevigny’s voice is the first hint of Jeanie’s libidinal investment in Louie’s hunt.

The answer’s no: Unless you count Liz’s and Louie’s spiraling, sweaty ascent to the top of the skyscraper—where they peered, and contemplated diving, into the abyss—as a metaphorical sex act, that date went unconsummated. Jeanie touches herself at the café to consummate it vicariously. The key to understanding her interest in Louie’s romantic quest, I think, comes in the last thing she says: “Just so you know, I’m married, so please don’t come by the store or anything.” This is the post-coital caveat of a cheater, and you wonder, when Jeanie delivers it, if she didn’t use Louie to cheat a little on her married self—to indulge, secondhand, in the thrill of the chase. Having brought herself to orgasm, Jeanie raises her hands to fix her hair, and it’s at this moment that we spot her wedding ring. Then, as with Liz at the end of Episode 5, a look of sadness comes over her face and she’s gone.

Liz hangs over the second half of the episode, too. For a while it’s hard to make out how, but she turns out to be hiding, in spirit, in the closet with Lilly. Louie fell for Liz in part because she presented as a potential mom, making Lilly’s bumpy entree into adolescence more legible to Louie. Her conspiratorial advice to him was to supply Lilly, for whom all sorts of strange new feelings were “coming online,” with a private thrill in the form of a scary book she could read alone, in the dark, in defiance of his orders. Which is what she was doing, more or less, when Louie thought she’d disappeared. 

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Louie was deeply grateful for Liz’s insight into Lilly’s mind, and the “Lilly Changes” segment was full of moments in which Louie found himself at a disconcerting remove from his daughters. When we first see Jane’s braided ponytail, the way the shot is framed makes us half-expect that the girl who turns around will be someone else. After Louie spies Lilly getting bullied across the room—her antagonists seemed to be calling her a nerd, if I heard correctly—she rebuffs his impulse to defend and comfort her, and he can’t break through the wall, neither via conversation nor carousel.

When Jane breaks into “Slovenian” on the street, during the Lilly scare, Louie’s confusion literalizes the segment’s theme: The kids are starting to converse in a language he doesn’t know. “I don’t mind how she’s being,” Jane says, with fantastic timing, throwing Louie under the bus when he tells Lilly she’s being “crappy” to the two of them. Dad doesn’t know, but the little girls understand.

Jonah