May 1, 2015

TV Recap: Louie - "Bobby's House"

Hello and welcome to the TV Recap series on FX's Louie. Join me every Friday as I recap all of the events that have happened over the course of the fifth season. Join as the show reaches new highs and news lows while following the stand-up career of Louis C.K. with his family and friends. Will it be better than the overtly ambitious season four? Will the show produce its best season yet? You'll have to read on to find out all of the juicy details along with plot descriptions and opinions on every memorable moment.
It seems like Louie has been in top form this season in ways that are far more interesting than last season. After last week saw "Cop Story" turned incompetent law enforcers into sympathetic people, this episode pits C.K. as the victim in a lot of situations. Where we're familiar with seeing women fall prey to a lot of the cases seen in the episode, this one features a lot of memorable moments that features an absurd take on tragedy that, as is the case in most of them, results in just a healthy dose of laughing.
The episode opens with C.K. sleeping on the couch and receiving a call from his brother Bobby (Robert Kelly). This is because of a relative's wake that is happening. C.K. wasn't aware of it and shows up at the last minute. Afterwards, Bobby invites C.K. up to his apartment to hang out. As they do, Bobby unveils his jealousy of C.K.'s ability to do what he loves and pay his way with his passion. It drives him nuts and soon it results in C.K. trying to help him with his problems. However, Bobby isn't responsive to the help.
While walking around the next day, he runs into a woman who is in an argument with another person. He tries to interfere, believing that the man is going to be abusive to her. However, things turn on C.K. and he ends up being assaulted by the woman. He is bruised and laughed at by his children (Hadley Delany and Ursula Parker). He seeks help from Pamela (Pamela Adlon), who in return decides to cover him in make-up and try to cover wounds so that he doesn't look like a mess for his stand-up gig that evening.
This leads to a little role reversal in which Pamela plays a man and C.K. is a woman, seeing as his face is now covered in make-up. They seduce each other and it slowly leads to having sex with the role reversals still in play. When they wake up, they have a moment in which they pretend to break-up and Pamela laughs at C.K. since his make-up is running. The episode ends with Bobby laughing at a bruised up C.K. at a restaurant.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Left to right: Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon
 It is nice to see this show hitting its stride yet again. I will retort that one of last season's more annoying aspects that it was edgy in a very preachy sort of way. Beyond "So Did the Fat Lady," he tried to address rape and drug abuse in ways that just weren't all that interesting. This season has featured its fair share of weird sexual humor, but it also feels like the commentary comes from a more natural place than it has in awhile. In the episode's centerpiece, C.K. gets beaten up. There's clearly some subversion going on here in which had C.K. been a woman, it would be a greatly sympathized case that would get him some support. Instead, he has his children laughing at him for being beaten up by a woman. The question isn't how he was beaten up but if she was pretty.
In fact, this whole episode has a lot of strong moments. While Bobby's encounter may be the least memorable, it does allow for some sibling bonding. Bobby is a reluctant character and thus is unable to take any solitude in C.K.'s advice. There isn't much to it beyond establishing where C.K. is in his life. While we have seen him as a struggling comic, we haven't really gotten a vocal response from him about it. There is a stubbornness to both of their characters, and the results aren't pretty. Where Bobby would be one of the more sympathetic characters towards C.K. in this episode, he is the laughter that ends the episode.
Then there's the subversion of physical abuse tropes that establish the second half. He is beaten up by a woman on the street after wanting to help. He gets laughed at by everyone. I feel like what separates this from "So Did the Fat Lady" area is that it is about the crisis instead of just discussing the crisis. It paints an interesting picture as to how we see abuse and that the idea of masculinity is so ingrained that even if a man is badly injured, it is more comical than sad. C.K. isn't necessarily the most masculine man on TV, but we don't feel sympathy when we find him in a bloody pulp showing up to Pamela's house.
However, the episode's best moment comes when the themes are laid on hard and Pamela and C.K. do essentially a role reversal. With a relationship that has always been way too bizarre for words, they try to play opposite of their gender and have interesting results. Pamela has always seemed rather cynical and dominating anyways, but when given the right to do so to C.K., it turns out to have some fun. Even in make-up, the "female" C.K. is sort of laughable. It doesn't dismiss that these situations have tragic consequences sometimes, but it does suggest that we should reconsider how we treat each other. 
That is the genius of latter day Louie. It is trying to be more than the morose sitcom parody that it started as. It wants to be respected as tackling issues in ways that are more organic and feel original. The results are sometimes not pleasant, but they do often feel profound in the way that C.K. adds an indie aesthetic that results in presenting something grittier and far more interesting. It isn't ever convenient and leaves a lot of room for discussion. However, that may be its best legacy. I am glad to see that the show is back to its old tricks and doing it better than ever. One can only hope that it stays this way for the rest of the season.

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