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The Americans - Courtesy F/XAfter last week’s excellent (but unfortunately un-reviewed by me) episode, “Gregory”, The Americans picks right back up this week with the evolving dynamic of Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage as they attempt to move past Elizabeth’s emotional (and physical) affair with Gregory by taking the morning off and having a tryst in a hotel room. Unfortunately for the spies we love, the morning that they decided to take off was the morning of Ronald Reagan’s assassination attempt. The rest of the episode surrounds the chaos of the day, as the FBI understandably worry that the KGB were behind it and the KGB worry that it might be a starting point for a coup and that they’d better get Operation Christopher underway just in case.

I really liked the way that they took a major world event and brought it into Phillip and Elizabeth’s world without it feeling forced. The whole episode was really about everyone scrambling for information with whatever tools they could find, and sometimes those tools are wigs, giant radio transmitters, and a friendship with the neighbourhood FBI. Speaking of their friendly neighbourhood FBI, I was happy that Stan is still being portrayed as a competent agent, spotting Nina’s tail and seemingly able to meet with her without being caught. Of course, I suspect that poor Nina will be heading for a new life in Cuba before too long (by the way, heading for a new life in Cuba is my new favourite euphemism. Sorry Joyce). But for now, it’s exciting to watch everyone be competent on their struggles to stay one step ahead.

Throughout this episode, Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage was at the forefront as they disagreed about how to proceed. Flashbacks explained that Elizabeth had grown up knowing that the only person she could rely on was herself, but by the end, she realized that sometimes it’s okay to listen to Phillip. Indeed, despite the snippiness at each other during the day, by the time they crawled into bed, they were firmly back on the same team again, content in the knowledge that they are in this thing together, for better or for worse.

The same cannot be said for the increasingly strained relationship between Stan and Sandra. It’s perhaps a bit obvious, but I liked the juxtaposition of the Jennings’ relationship growing stronger every day while the Beemans continually grow apart. Sandra had built a life alone while Stan was undercover, and now that he’s back, they don’t know how to recapture what they had. It’s no coincidence that last week’s episode ended with Elizabeth asserting that she’s feeling something new for Phillip 20 years into their marriage and this week’s episode ended with Stan asserting exactly the opposite to his wife. They’ve lost their connection and it’s going to be exponentially harder to get it back when Stan’s job involves keeping secrets from everyone. Phillip and Elizabeth may have their problems, but at least they know (mostly) what each other does each day.

Overall, this was another strong episode in what looks increasingly like a show on the verge of greatness. The only thing that gives me pause is Phillip and Elizabeth’s daughter’s relationship with Stan’s son. I don’t mind a little Romeo and Juliet action but if they hit somebody with a car and then drive off, I might have to be out.

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After an unintentionally extended blogging break brought about by a combination of comprehensive exams and a lack of quality TV shows worth reviewing, it’s finally time to kick of 2013 with an exciting new show, The Americans. Last week’s premiere was effective and engrossing, and I found myself looking forward to Wednesday to see what would happen next in the lives of “Philip” and “Elizabeth.”

As they were warned last week, this week our favourite suburbanite Socialists find the stakes irrevocably raised. They’re asked to do the impossible – plant a bug in the office of the Secretary of Defense in only 3 days, despite the fact that such an operation would normally take 6 months. The only way they can achieve the impossible is by putting themselves out there, revealing themselves (albeit in disguises primarily made up of yet more wigs) to the Secretary’s maid as they blackmail her into stealing the titular clock by poisoning her son.

What The Americans does so well is blend the human/familial aspect with the cold and calculating world of espionage. Neither Phillip nor Elizabeth enjoy poisoning the innocent son or terrorizing his mother, but they both recognize their actions as a means to an end. Additionally, both are upset about being placed in such a position in the first place largely because they know that getting caught would mean being separated from their children indefinitely. Elizabeth, always the pragmatic one, stays up at night worrying about how her children will react and reveals to Phillip that she has no intentions of being taken alive. Phillip, meanwhile, prefers to sweep it under the rug with a simple “they’ll be fine.” Still, after last week’s flirtation with defection to the other side, this week Phillip shows no inclination to betray Mother Russia. For better or for worse, Phillip and Elizabeth are in it together and they can only hope to continue to stay one step ahead.

While Phillip and Elizabeth are strong-arming the maid, their FBI neighbour Stan and his partner conduct a shakedown of their own. While stealing caviar and shoving speaker foam into a shopkeeper’s mouth pales in comparison to Phillip breaking the maid’s brother’s arm and Elizabeth poisoning her son with an umbrella, the FBI agents reveal that they’re not exactly “good guys.” Whatever the merits of their methods, they get what they wanted – a mole into the soviet office, tantalizingly close to where discussion of Directorate S is going on. I appreciate that this show, while the FBI agents are nominally the antagonists to the Soviet spy protagonists, they’re not portrayed as stupid. It’s easy in these kinds of shows to depict public officials as almost comically inept, but in this case, the FBI agents are already right on the Soviet’s heels. They might be a step behind, but they’re keeping in step.

I’m not sure what to make of Stan’s caviar session with Phillip. Does he still harbour suspicions even though his midnight search of the truck last episode revealed nothing? Or is he just being a nice neighbour? Phillip and Elizabeth continue to be wary of Stan’s true intentions and I’m looking forward to watching their back and forth continue.

Indeed, there’s much to look forward to. The ongoing dynamic of Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage continues to become more and more complex as we discovered this week that both are using sex to get what they want from various marks, and neither are entirely comfortable with it. Elizabeth continues to struggle to connect with her thoroughly American children, particularly her daughter. I’m not sure how much I would’ve enjoyed my mother waking me up in the middle of the night to pierce my ears, but it served well as a bonding exercise. Finally, I’m not sure how long until this will get old, but I’m quite enjoying the ’80s technology on display – the comically large camera, the need for a giant clock to hide the listening device, and an entire trunk’s worth of space required for its receiver. Not to mention the never-ending array of wigs. I can’t wait to see what new tricks Phillip and Elizabeth break out next week.

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How completely typical of Louie to give us a Christmas/New Years’ Eve episode as its September finale. I loved it.

After the triumphal failure of Louie’s attempts to take over the Late Show, this week’s episode opens with a close shot of Louie, shoulders wrapped in a blanket and hovering over a coffee cup. At first it seems as though he might be nursing an epic hangover after a night of yelling at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, but the camera pans back to reveal that it’s Christmas morning and Jane and Lily are enthusiastically ripping open presents from “Santa.” With each one, Louie flashes back to the varying levels of hell that he went through to obtain the presents for them. Struggles with wrapping paper, heated encounters looking for a purple monkey at the mall, and, most hilariously of all, Louie’s repeated and escalating attempts to fix a baby doll whose eyes have creepily fallen back into its head. As Louie saws, drills, glues, scrubs, and paints with melted crayons, his desperation to give his daughters the perfect Christmas seems more and more unlikely to be successful. In the end, though, Lily loves it, but gives the credit again to Santa. When she next opens a book about a duck from China, Louie finally speaks up that it’s from him. He begins to read it to his daughters, the camera panning lovingly across the  hand-drawn pictures, and Lily sighs dreamily that it looks like it would be nice to live on the Yangtze River.

This tender father-daughter moment is interrupted by Louie’s ex-wife and her boyfriend, who are coming to whisk the kids away on an unspecified international trip until the middle of January. Louie has to admit to his ex-wife that the Late Show dream is definitely over, and the shot of the elevator door closing on the foursome emphasizes Louie’s sense of isolation. In typical fashion, Louie spirals into a vortex of darkness and isolation. He immediately rids the apartment of any vestiges of Christmas (culminating int shoving the tree out of the window) and settles in to hibernate in the dark. He’s interrupted by his sister (Amy Poehler) and her Texas husband who call and insist that he join them for New Years in Mexico. They don’t want him to be alone, and the way Amy Poehler’s voice shakes, it’s clear she’s expecting these few weeks without the kids to break Louie. He insists he’s fine, though, and goes back to his sugar-bingeing and sleeping pattern. Then, he has a wonderful dream in which a grown-up Lily and Jane meet, discuss how they’re probably in their twenties, and how one of them has a careery job and the other is doing something arty that’s hopefully going well, and how they both agree that growing up with such a lonely and lethargic dad probably scarred them pretty severely.

It’s this dream that spurs Louie into action. He gets off the couch not for himself, but for his daughters. He tried so hard to give them a perfect Christmas by giving them stuff, but now he realizes that the gift he needs to give him is by being a better (or at least, more active) person. In the middle of the Late Night drama, Louie’s ex-wife told him that his daughters need a role model more than they need his constant presence, but this time, it appears, Louie has reached that conclusion all on his own. He packs a bag, grabs his passport, and hops on a bus for the airport.

And then, on that same bus, is TapeRecorder (Liz). Just as quickly as the thoughts of what a New Year’s Eve with Liz would look like entered my head, they were shoved out when Liz rushes towards Louie, bleeds heavily from her nose, collapses, is taken to the hospital, and dies at 11:59. She leaves Louie with only a hesitant, questioning “Bye?” and he walks out of the room in a daze, surrounded by hospital staff celebrating the New Year. It’s quite the end to one of the strangest characters on TV, but I’m glad that Louie won’t be left to search after her and wonder what might have been.

Louie continues to the airport, but can’t make himself take one of the once-every-5-minutes flights to Mexico City. Instead, his eye falls on Beijing. Once there, he struggles to find the Yangtze River, attempting several different unsuccessful ways of miming the word “river.” Finally, Louie sees a truck full of ducks whose driver appears to understand him, or at least gives him a ride. They end up at something smaller than a creek, which the man seems to insist is the Yangtze. With a rueful laugh, Louie once again wanders around aimlessly until he encounters a woman who invites him into her home for dinner and laughter. For the first time in the episode, Louie seems alive and happy. He’s not detached as he was watching his kids open their Christmas presents. He’s present, trying to make himself understood, trying to learn how to communicate.

In some ways, the struggle to communicate has been the theme for the whole season – he tries to connect with various women, with his daughters, with his ex-wife, with his fellow comedians, and with random strangers. Until this point, he has failed at every turn, but here, in the middle of nowhere in China, Louie is finally connecting with people. It’s a hopeful way to end a season, and I can’t wait to see what happens in season 4.

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One of the best things about Louie is its ability to transcend genres. As I’ve mentioned before, you never know what kind of show you’re going to get from week to week. With the final instalment of his Late Show saga, Louis C.K. gave us a brilliant combination of satire and heart.

While the previous episode was filled with other people telling Louie that he should seize the opportunity presented to him, Louie still wasn’t sure if he really wanted to try. The turning point came when David Lynch’s Jack Dahl (who thought he was a newsman, not a comedian) commanded Louie to be funny (in 3, 2, 1, GO . . . or did you want him to count up? 1, 2, 3, GO). Louie protested that he’s not “that kind” of funny, but Jack rightly pointed out that you have to be in late night. Louie might think a lot of his craft, but if he wants the Late Show, he’s going to have to change somewhere. He gets up to walk out but then pauses, finally admitting without turning around to face Jack that he does want this. This is either a door or a wall, he says, and he’d like it to be a door. Jack gives him one more shot, and this time Louie jumps in on cue. He doesn’t do one of his hilarious standup bits though, but instead jumps around, showing off his belly while making ridiculous sound effects. It’s absurdly funny and it buys Louie another week of practice with Jack.

From that point on, it’s clear that Louie has decided to actually give it a go. In a lovely little scene with his daughters, Louie jogs along side a biking Jane and a rollerblading Lily. Jane, in her way, asks her dad why he’s jogging, pointing out that he’s just a fat daddy, in case he didn’t know. Louie explains that he’s working hard to get something and that if he gets it, it will just be the beginning of the hard work, because he’ll have to do it 5 days a week, every week. The girls ask when they’ll see him if he’s working so much, and we get a sense of the conflict Louie faces. Sure, it’s a bit of a stereotype, but it’s also a legitimate concern for both Louie and Louis, I would imagine. Later, the girls show up at his apartment the night before the test show and present him with good luck cards featuring drawings of “Dad Night Live.” It’s heartwarming and emotional without being trite, which is a feat unto itself.

Still, there are subtle moments of satire throughout. The montages are clearly referencing films like Rocky, and, at one point, a jogging Louie is joined by a few random teenagers. By the day of his test show, Louie’s stomach is noticeably reduced, and he not only agrees to wear a suit on air, he seems to be genuinely moved that Jack’s had a custom one made for him. After a disastrous practice interview in which he made the cleaning lady cry by bringing up her long-dead mother, Jack comes in before the show to speak to him one last time. If Louie gets the show, he explains, he’ll be replaced by a younger producer, and if not, well, there’s no real need for him anymore either. He departs by giving Louie 3 important show-business lessons: 1) look the audience in the eye and speak from the heart; 2) you have to go away to come back; and 3) if anyone ever tells you to keep a secret, that secret is a lie.

Of course, Jack’s exit is immediately followed by Jerry Seinfeld’s entrance, ostensibly just coming to do Louie a solid by letting him know that he’s already signed the contracts for the show and they’re just making Louie jump through hoops for the sake of it. He says he felt bad for letting Louie do the show that he has no chance of getting. Louie seems resigned but thanks Jerry for coming and then, just as Jerry’s leaving, he asks him if he could just keep it a secret since no one ever knows about it. Is it typical and expected? Of course. Was it meant to be that way as a satirical comment on TV tropes and showbiz in general? Also of course. This point was underlined by Louie and his agent, Doug, repeating Dahl’s third rule. Seinfeld is lying, and goddamn it, Louie’s not going to let him get away with it! He’s going to go out there and put on the best show there is!

The amazing part is, Louie’s show was actually amazing. It felt like a late night show, but it also kept Louie’s voice in there, from the monologue jokes about Obama killing Osama a couple more times, to the random black card bit with JEWS written on it, to his interviews with Susan Sarandon and Paul Rudd (he thanked Susan for appearing in her underwear in the Rocky Horror Picture Show and made fun of Paul’s wife naming their daughter Darby) — everything was very Louie. I could imagine a world where I’d happily stay up late every night watching that show.

Afterwards, Louie meets with his comedian friends Nick DiPaolo, Jim Norton, and Todd Berry, who congratulate him on a job well done and he admits that he’s cautiously optimistic. Once again, Maria Menounos comes on the TV and rains on Louie’s parade, announcing that David Letterman signed on for another 10 years. Doug then walks in and lets him know that CBS just used Louie to bring down Letterman’s deal and that now Letterman has said that Louie will never be allowed on his show. By way of consolation, Nick DiPaolo tells Louie that he should be proud that he was good enough to cost Letterman 20 million dollars. Their support was endearing and Louie seemed to take heart in knowing that, in the end, he was good enough. He’d tried his best and, while he didn’t exactly win, he definitely succeeded.

He leaves the bar and stands outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre. There, he exuberantly shouts up at the empty windows that he did it, finally yelling “Fuck you Dave!” In a show like this, there’s always some truth behind it all, and I’d love to hear exactly what Louis and Dave’s relationship is like in reality. It’s definitely telling that he didn’t make an appearance and I’m guessing that Louis won’t be making an appearance on the real Late Show anytime soon.

The scene during the credits confirmed that Louie is finally on an upward trajectory, as he was back in the boxing ring. This time, though, he wasn’t just passively getting beaten up; he was actually doling out the punches. After a season in which Louie wandered aimlessly from (crazy) woman to (crazy) woman looking for some kind of meaning and purpose, it appears that trying for something and not getting it was just the jumpstart he needed to start having agency in his own life again. I’m eager to find out the way that this manifests itself in next week’s season finale.

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After an annoying bye week thanks to the DNC, Louie was back with part 2 of the 3-part story arc that explores the possibility that Louie might get to replace David Letterman on the Late Show. This week circled around Louie’s continued struggles to decide whether or not it was something he really wanted to try to do. The opening scene finally had him face to face with his ex-wife, bumbling through telling her that he might have a shot at hosting the show just as awkwardly as he asks out attractive-but-crazy bookstore employees. Unlike every other woman we’ve seen Louie with, Louie’s ex-wife immediately sees through his bullshit and calls him on the fact that he’s only telling her about this in the hopes that she’ll say that he can’t do it. He feebly tries to explain that the show will be a lot of work and he won’t be able to spend as much time with the girls as he does now, but she cuts him off with a blunt, “they don’t need a dad that much.” It sounds harsh, but she clarifies that what they really need is a role model, someone who tries and actually achieves something. Even when Louie protests that he does actually have a job already, it’s clear what she means. Louie’s current job (while paying in the range of $80k/year) isn’t exactly a shining example of work ethic to his impressionable daughters. He wears crappy t-shirts and jeans whether he’s going to work or just waking up, and his life has been at a standstill (both professionally and personally) ever since he got the divorce. Of course, this may also just be self-serving on her part, as a better job for Louie certainly means more financial stability for both her and the girls. Nevertheless, her underlying point is accurate and it’s telling that the only reason that Louie’s even in this position in the first place is because he was pushed into going on Leno at the last minute because of a guest cancellation. If he would’ve been asked ahead of time whether he wanted to do a whole hour with Leno, he definitely would’ve found a way out of it. But he didn’t, and now he’s trying to figure out a way out of his own success.

After being told that his kids don’t need him, we get a brief interlude of Louie with his daughters at the grocery store. Jane sees an old woman putting food into her purse and immediately starts yelling about it, pointing it out to a security guard as Louie tries to stop her. As the old woman is taken away, she triumphantly turns to Louie and proclaims, “I did good!” It’s clear that Louie wants to criticize her for her actions, but he doesn’t. Perhaps his realization that his idea of parenting is teaching his daughters not to tell the truth pushes him even further towards attempting to get the Late Show gig.

Most of the rest of the episode is spent with Louie entering the surreal world of late night talk shows. He’s sent to a mentor (played by David Lynch – who, I’ll admit, I don’t know much about and should probably spend the weekend watching David Lynch movies as penance. Wikipedia assured me that he’s known for non-linear and surrealist stories, so he fits perfectly within the world of Louie). In any case, the mentor forces Louie to read antiquated jokes about Nixon and Reagan, insisting he’s not ready for current material yet. He tells Louie to work on his timing, insists that he wear a suit, and demonstrates the art of coming through a curtain and working to an imaginary crowd. It’s surreal and yet completely familiar to the late night format. (The person who’s done the most work at subverting this convention is Craig Ferguson, but he even still [usually] wears a suit.)

After the incident at the grocery store, Louie receives a phone call from Jay Leno, who’s heard that he might be up for the Letterman job. Louie asks him if he should go for it (since apparently his ex-wife’s opinion still wasn’t enough) and Leno tells him that he shouldn’t because right now, he’s the edgy guy but you can’t be the edgy guy for 14 minutes 5 nights a week. “I used to be you,” Leno laments. It’s hard to tell whether I should be praising Leno for his acting (which is weird to say), or Louie for his honest writing, or both, but it was a strangely moving couple minutes of screen time. I don’t like the Tonight Show and I don’t know anyone younger than my parents who do, but I know from listening to people like Louie and Jim Norton that Leno wasn’t always the lame corporate sellout telling the bland jokes that he is today. It sounds like, in the 70s and 80s, he really was like Louie is today, but then he took the Tonight Show and the money and the network got to him. I don’t know how much of that is true and how much of it is revisionist history, but it was an interesting little aside. If Louie’s destiny is to become like Jay Leno, then I definitely don’t want him to take the job either.

Or, it could all just be bullshit, as Chris Rock points out in the following scene. Of course Louie should go for it, he tells him, and Jay is just telling him not to as a way of getting in his head. Naturally, as soon as Louie leaves, Chris Rock gets on the phone and starts asking questions about why he didn’t know that Letterman was leaving.

David Lynch sends Louie to a boxing gym as part of his preparation (something Louis C.K. really does to keep in shape), and The Wire’s Clay Davis (shiiiiiiiit) tells him to put on his gear and get in the ring. Louie gets his ass kicked and is told to come back tomorrow for another round. As he sits at home with a bag of frozen peas on his swollen eye, Maria Menounos appears on his TV screen and tells him that Chris Rock is now a frontrunner (along with Jerry Seinfeld) for the Letterman job. It’s clear that, since everyone who gives him advice about what to do is just feeding him self-serving bullshit, Louie’s just going to have to figure out what to do all on his own.

Next week is part 3 of this story arc and I can say with confidence that I have no idea what’s going to happen, except that there will be a Jerry Seinfeld appearance at some point. I do think it’s interesting that the premise is about him taking over for Letterman, but so far we’ve just had Jay Leno appearances. I wonder if that will be remedied next week. I’m torn on what I want to happen. The expected thing would be that Louie decides to go for it, absolutely kills, and they still give the show to Seinfeld/Rock. That would be the expected commentary on the state of entertainment today and how talent matters less than celebrity. The next choice would be that Louie totally screws it up and doesn’t get the show and then it’s back to the drawing board of life for season 4. The least expected thing (and therefore the option that I’m most rooting for) is that he goes in, kills, and gets the job. Then next season is an entirely new show, with Louie running the Late Show, figuring out how to deal with guests, etc. Of course, with the way this show is structured, he could get the job and we’d still just see him doing it in snippets at the beginning of the occasional episode, and have him off on dating or family or whatever storylines the rest of the time. Whatever happens, I can’t wait to be taken along for the ride.

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The return of Louie’s standup routine  was much welcomed after the weirdness of last week’s episode.  But, the weirdness of the season as a whole still hung over everything. In yet another strange fit of continuity, Parker Posey’s manic Liz (aka. TapeRecorder) once again appeared in Louie’s dream, prompting a return trip to the bookstore, where he apparently hadn’t been since their pseudo-date. The manager tells him that Liz doesn’t work there anymore, and instead Louie meets her replacement, Jeanie, played by Chloe Sevigny. She’s essentially just a blond Liz and she quickly takes an inappropriate level of interest in helping Louie find his unrequited love. She can’t find Liz’s info in the bookstore’s files, so she cajoles Louie into going to her apartment building and insists on accompanying him on his stalking expedition. After she’s unsuccessful in getting past the doorman, she and Louie go get coffee and she reveals just how . . . exciting she finds this whole thing to be. As Jeanie acts her own all-too-real version When Harry Met Sally‘s most famous scene, Louie looks suitably horrified and uncomfortable. After Jeanie finishes, she announces that she has a husband, so Louie probably shouldn’t come by the store anymore. And just like that, Louie’s interaction with another crazy, flighty woman comes to an end. He’s no closer to finding Liz, but I can’t help thinking that’s a good thing. He told Jeanie that Liz changed the way he thought about everything in that one night. Maybe he’d be better off going back to his old way of looking at the world.

The second half was, for me, much more enjoyable, but it followed a similar theme – Louie chases after woman (girl) he doesn’t understand. This time, the girl in question is Louie’s 10-year-old daughter Lilly. When he’s picking up her and Jane from school, Louie sees Lilly being bullied by some mean girls. Louie walks over, but the bullies disperse before he can hear exactly what they’re saying and give them a piece of his mind. Frustratingly for Louie, Lilly doesn’t want to talk about what happened. Louie attempts to bring back the kid in her by forcing them to ride the carousel in Central Park. The shot of Lilly morosely riding on the horse while Louie looks on, first in hope and then in frustration, was brilliantly hilarious. They arrive back at the apartment and Lilly embodies the sullen pre-teen. Louie asks that they do their homework, and Lilly snaps back that she ALWAYS does her homework. Once again, the young actresses steal the scene. When Louie tells Lilly that she’s being really crappy to him and her sister, Jane pipes up that she doesn’t mind how she’s being. Her timing is perfect, and the frustration of dealing with his suddenly unrelatable daughters sends Louie into the bathroom with his laptop and cigarettes.

Ignoring Jane’s calls that she has something to tell him, Louie eventually emerges to find Jane drawing in the living room and Lilly missing. He asks Jane where she went, and she replies that she went out. “That’s what I was trying to tell you,” she says, barely looking up from her page. Louie immediately goes into panic mode, yelling Lilly’s name through the apartment, into the hallway (where we see – continuity again! – Louie’s gay neighbours from “Pregnant”), and into the street. The helplessness that Louie feels is portrayed in the music and his frantic indecision – he can’t leave the building in case Lilly comes back, but she’s obviously not in the building, so shouldn’t they be looking elsewhere? Louie’s inability to comprehend women is emphasized when Jane starts yelling for Lilly in Slovenian (her friend is teaching her).

Finally, Louie opts for calling the cops before calling his ex-wife, a move which draws the distain from the half-dozen cops in his apartment. Louie reluctantly picks up the phone to call her when . . . Lilly, wrapped in a blanket with headphones on her ears, wanders through the apartment, past everyone, and into the kitchen. She returns with a glass of milk, asking her dad why the cops are here. She’d been in the closet reading the entire time. “You didn’t look in the closet?” the cops ask before leaving in disgust. Lilly then apologizes for her shitty behaviour, and things seem temporarily back to normal in Louie’s world.

Ultimately, I’m more drawn to the realism of the second half of this episode than the surrealism of the first. I admire Louie for being able to pull of both, but I think surrealism works better when it’s carried throughout the entire episode (like “Daddy’s Girlfriend: Part 2”). The shift from Louie’s dream (nightmare?) world of Liz and Jeanie felt a bit too harsh up against the realistic humour that comes from Louie’s interactions with his daughters. I hope we’ll get to see more of them as the season winds to a close.

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Man, Louie has had a tough couple of months (or is it weeks? I’m not sure about how quickly time passes in the Louieverse). Anyway, this season has been almost unrelentingly dark, but this episode may have been the darkest of them all. For some reason not revealed to the audience, Louie is terrified of his father. Just the prospect of seeing his father causes him to become physically ill, vomiting out of nowhere at his comedian-friends poker game (which now includes Sarah Silverman) and developing a rash on his neck, which he absentmindedly scratches throughout. His anxiety was brought on by a visit from his mysterious Uncle X, who speaks circuitously of credenzas and Mexico before finally getting around to insisting that Louie go see his father. His comparison between Louie’s father and a prostitute was, I’m hoping, just another weird metaphor (he argues that you can protect yourself from a prostitute’s wretchedness with a condom, but you can’t have any barrier between family). When Louie finally goes to Boston, everything reminds him of the reason he’s there. The pilot announces they’re landing in Boston (“where your father lives”) and Louie gets into an extended dialogue with his GPS (why does he need a GPS to get to his father’s house? Has he not been there before? Why not?). In talking back to the GPS, who asks him why he’s being such a pussy about seeing his dad, Louie reveals that nothing bad happened with his father, he just “feels weird” around him.

But is that really the truth? Louie gets to the front door and waits while a shadowy figure walks towards him. In the last minute, he runs away, taking first one of those middle-aged 3-wheel motorcycles, and then a speedboat. He doesn’t stop fleeing until he’s in the middle of the water, away from everything and apparently safe for the moment. He starts laughing (perhaps at the absurdity of it all?), but the show ends with a long shot of Louie looking contemplatively out at the water. Whatever happened with his father, it remains unresolved.

There were two other scenes at the beginning of the episode that initially seem unrelated to the rest. The episode opened with Louie’s daughter Jane (played by Ursula Parker) playing the violin beautifully. Louie interrupts, telling her that it’s not time for violin, it’s time for homework. In a classic reversal, Louie’s daughter doesn’t want to stop practicing, and Louie has to forcefully take the violin from her, muttering, “this is bullshit.” I guess a connection between this and the rest of the episode could be a commentary on Louie’s parenting, but there’s a far cry from forcing your kid to do her homework and doing whatever Louie’s father did to cause the kind of anxiety that Louie feels. The other scene, in a Best Buy-type electronics store was strange – the employees first ignore Louie, then patronize him, and then set him up to trip over a box. When he complains to the management, they laugh at the footage rather than offer to help him. The best part of that section, for me, was when Louie sees himself on the video and it’s played by another actor. He asks if that’s him, to which the management confirms it is, and it’s a nice little observation about the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how we really are.

Ultimately, this wasn’t my favourite episode of Louie, but it was certainly a wonderful experiment in television and a glimpse once again into Louis C.K.’s artistic genius.

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