Louie takes places in a world like ours, but not. Even though it’s full of the confusion and frustration of the real world it’s also an idealised one, one where people actually say what they mean, what they’re thinking, and call each other out on their crap. This might lead to more hurt and rejection in the short term, but it’s clear that C.K. sees it as the lesser of two evils. Last season’s speech by Vanessa in “So Did The Fat Lady” as if speaking on behalf of all fat women, or Pamela being completely open about what she wants and how she feels in last week’s “A La Carte” are just two examples, and we get a couple more instances of it this week.
Alongside Louie’s concern with the truth, the main idea behind this week’s episode, which consists of the main “Cop Story” and the introductory vignette, can be seen as the invisibility of middle-aged men. Louie is invisible to the young store worker, who initially ignores his request for help and then tells him that he shouldn’t be interested in the product. “Oh, those are professional grade. Like, for very serious cooks,” she says before walking off as he stutters his reply to thin air. (What follows is a delightfully absurd moment when, with no one else around him to talk to, Louie chats with and then tenderly kisses a mannequin). Louie then confronts the clerk, who turns out to be the owner, about her ignoring him and, like many people Louie interacts with, she intuitively taps into what’s really behind Louie’s deal with the situation. Even though she’s a jerk about not helping him because “most of our clientele are younger and they are serious about cooking” and she doesn’t believe the customer is always right, she correctly identifies his uncomfortableness around younger people. She sees his fear about not mattering anymore, that he’s invisible, that he could die then and it wouldn’t matter.
That feeling is something that Louie observes in someone else in the main plot of “Cop Story”, which sees Louie run into a guy from back home who used to date his sister. The guy is now a cop in New York and flags him down on the street, basically forcing him to agree to hang out later. Michael Rapaport is fantastic as Lenny; at first he seems like just an obnoxious cop who personifies the insulting, aggressive behaviour that many men mistake for being matey, but a deep sadness underneath the bravado and the aggression comes out when the pair go to out to a basketball game.
Initially the threat of violence feels like it’s bubbling under the surface and could come out at any moment with Lenny, even when just hanging out with his ‘friend’ (perhaps a commentary by C.K. on how people currently view the police in the US). Before they go to a Knicks game he bursts into Louie’s apartment (who’s hilariously doing crochet and then hides it under a chair) waving his gun around and then busting Louie’s balls. After not being allowed into the arena (Lenny thinks he can just walk in the back entrance because he’s a cop), the pair settle for watching the game at a bar. It’s here that Lenny’s deep depression is revealed, saying how down he’s been since Louie’s sister dumped him. He mirrors Louie’s fears from the opening scene, saying “The thing about guys like you and me is like we’re being selected out, like we don’t even matter anymore.” He’s still an asshole though, only talking about himself, not asking anything about Louie, and expecting that things should just be handed to him because he’s a man – “Like, they’re the ones with the pussies so they get to decide who has a family, who has a girlfriend.”
Louie finally has enough as they walk home together and, like the store owner did to him, speaks the rare truth. He tells Lenny that he doesn’t want to hang out anymore, that he’s tired of being insulted, not asked anything and getting hit. There’s some lovely visual work in this scene by C.K, as the camera shifts as the dynamic in the conversation changes, ending up looking up at Lenny as he admits he knows he’s hard to be around, reveals he has no friends and thinks about shooting himself. It’s then he realises he’s lost his gun.
What follows is a great performance from Rapaport, a surprisingly emotional conclusion to the episode. Lenny just loses it when he realises he hasn’t got his gun. He’s just admitted he has nothing and now he’s lost the only thing that gives his life something close to a meaning. Lose his gun and he’s lost his job. They check the street, the bar and eventually Louie’s apartment, and when they still can’t find it Lenny breaks down, crumpled into a crying heap on the floor. Louie can’t watch him like this and goes out to find the weapon, luckily eventually having a brainwave and finding it in a pile of snow. Lenny’s face and the sight of them hugging on the floor when Louie gives him back his gun, gives him back his life, is one of the sweetest and most affecting in Louie’s history. To top it off it’s then followed by a brilliant coda of Louie teaching Lenny how to crochet.
The stand-out episode of the season so far in terms of drama, and featuring an exceptional guest performance from Michael Rapaport.