TV Recap: Louie, S05E05, Untitled

Throughout the recaps of this season of Louie we’ve continually been asking ourselves why Louie keeps trying to be the good guy when it rarely turns out well for him. This season alone we’ve had his disastrous encounter with the surrogate and last week’s intervention with the woman on the street, which ended with him in a bloody heap on the floor. Why doesn’t he just leave it and get on with his life, avoid giving the world more chances to unload on him? Well this week we see what happens if Louie steps back and ducks that responsibility he feels, and it’s terrifying.

The first half of the “Untitled” feels looser, more meandering than any this season so far, and appears to just be following Louie as he spends time with his daughters. Mixed in with seemingly regular Louie bits (a bit of stand-up, an awkward encounter with the adults of the world), there are hints of the surrealness that will come to dominate the episode in its back half. Louie takes his daughter Jane to see the doctor (a returning Charles Grodin) because she’s been complaining of some issues. Jane tells the doctor that she’s had a big rash on her arm for about a month (Louie’s convinced it’s only been a couple of days) and then tells him about what appear to be deep psychological issues – “I have this weird thing in my head”. She says she feels like she’s sweating on the inside of her face, that she can see electricity, and she wishes that she would just vanish. However, the doctor takes this information and diagnoses it as dehydration while Louie looks on confused.

Louie and Jane then go to pick up Lily from sleepover, and her friend’s mum asks Louie if he can help her with moving a large fish tank – she’s recently been divorced and can’t do it on her own. Louie says he can’t help her, that it’s a professional job, and she breaks down, crying that it’s all been too much recently. It’s a situation that we’ve seen many times across the show’s run, of Louie and an emotionally vulnerable woman, most recently in the first episode with the surrogate. But here he doesn’t get involved, remaining an observer until he leaves, pausing only to place a blanket over her shoulders and then hilariously her whole head to cover up her wails. It’s this action that dictates the course of the rest of the episode, which will demonstrate to Louie why he usually feels compelled to intervene in these situations.

On the way back from the grocery store (whose walls, like that of the doctor’s office, feel cramped and claustrophobic, as if Jane’s vocalisation of the strange things in her head have affected the world around them) Louie falls asleep in the cab, and then things gets distinctly weirder; identifying which parts of the episode from now on are dreams and which are meant as reality gets difficult. Louie is plagued by nightmares that appear to focus on fears on identity loss and physical injury. He’s attacked by a half-naked bald man with tiny black specs for eyes in the first genuinely scary moment, who then keeps popping up in different situations to scare the crap out of him. He also bitten by a random woman, realises that his genitals have become a swirling mash of skin and has the safety of the stage taken from him. In what we assume is the real world his joke is stolen by another comedian (who also later takes and wears Louie’s signature jacket), and in a nightmare is unable to speak properly when he goes up on stage. Mixed up in there are also some strange sections involving his brother Bobby and a giant rabbits head. All very weird and Lynchian.

Back in the real world (we think) Louie tries to reason with his head, make a bargain with his dreams to get them to stop. It’s only when he’s talking to his friend Nick (when he’s again unsure if it’s a nightmare or not), who asks him to think hard about what could be causing the nightmares that he finally realises – his lack of empathy for the divorcee.

So we cut to Louie helping her around the house, fixing her plumbing, empting her fish tank, and of course having some classic Louie random sex, so that he’s finally able to sleep soundly again. But this wouldn’t be Louie without a little twist on the seemingly happy ending – just listen carefully to the lyrics of the apparently innocent, sweet retro song that plays over the final montage and sounds like ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’: If I go to bed, I wish that something else would be in my dreams. Here come those little monsters, crawling up my leg. I dream of dying babies, and why do they smile? I hate those dying babies, why don’t they just die? Their smiling faces give me diarrhoea. Please die, you dying babies, in my diarrhoea.

What seemed initially like a run-of-the-mill episode took a very unexpected surreal turn, even by Louie standards. Laugh out loud moments, shockingly and weird images, it is fun just to watch someone playing around with form and technique and seeing what they can get away with.

Louie airs on American channel FX Thursday nights

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