Last week’s episode of Louie appeared to herald a return to an earlier form of the show, and ‘A La Carte’ continued that theme, signalling a clear break with the style of last season when Pamela (Pamela Adlon) shuts down Louie’s childhood flashback with “I don’t want to hear this. It sounds long.” This can be seen as Louis CK.’s meta-nod to Season Four’s “Into The Woods”, which delved into his past and, while a beautiful, complex piece of storytelling, was seen by some as hard work.
The episode starts with something a bit simpler – a poop joke. Of course, Louis C.K.’s poop joke isn’t just straightforward and, building on a old stand-up bit about how he always seems to be in a 48 hour window of diarrhea, turns it into a bit on the people of New York and a spoof of the ‘no man left behind’ action movie trope. “Daddy, no!” his daughter Jane screams as she’s pulled away by her sister. “Don’t look at me. I love you” a humiliated Louie says as he hilariously gives up and just lets it all come out.
It’s not the last time in the episode that Louie is made to feel really uncomfortable. He’s cajoled into hosting an awkward open-mic night at the club where he’s just performed, and then feels obligated to help out a deeply unfunny kid who begs him for his critique. Bart (Nate Fernald) thinks comedy begins with telling the truth and uses his time of stage to tell joke-less stories about wetting the bed and being hit by his mother. Louie tries to help the kid out by telling him that he should just quit, that he’s not cut out for it. Undeterred, Bart says that he’d rather die than quit and so Louie, stuck without anything else to offer, half-heartedly suggests he do a funny voice or something. He’s of course shocked to see Bart appearing on Jimmy Fallon weeks later, doing the same unfunny bit in a stupid voice and apparently killing it. It’s a commentary of the fragile and ethereal nature of comedy, and also another blow for someone who’s so great on stage and not going anywhere with his career.
The real meat of the episode though comes with the interactions between Louie and Pamela. Louie isn’t the only one who shits all over himself, Pamela does it too, and she tells him it’s because he’s just an unfunny person – “That’s my job. To make you fun by making fun of you.” She teases him about going to see an art-house French film and then tricks him into getting his dick out in the theatre. But she loves him and they’re really great together because she challenges him. Louie has a tendency to overthink his relationships, to get really serious and want to talk about what things mean and where they’re going, and that’s hurt his previous ones (like last season’s “Elevator” arc). He doesn’t just enjoy what he’s got. But Pamela’s got it figured out, she wants their relationship to be ‘a la carte’, to enjoy what they’ve got while they can; to not go down the “road to ruin” by moving in, marrying or anything of that. Louie’s confused but accepting, not wanting to throw away what he’s got. The episode looks likes it’s going to finish in a nice way with Pamela not being able to stop herself laughing as Louie cracks up an audience, only to end of the blow on Bart on late night.
While lacking the big laughs of last week (save for the opening) there were some great surreal and absurdist moments sprinkled among the drama in “a la carte”, and the evolving relationship between Pamela and Louie is going to make for great viewing.
Louie airs on American channel FX Thursday nights. You can read more recaps of Louie here.