Louie has found a theme. While we'll never know exactly how exaggerated Louis C.K.'s onscreen alter ego's suffering is, it's clear Louie-the-character can't accept his fate as a single dad. He'll feign indifference in his stand-up, but this season's overarching story line has so far been a clear quest for companionship, even if the companion Louie's courting is a male Cuban lifeguard or a motorcycle or a woman who sexually assaults him.
Louie sets the tone with a stage bit about prejudice. "Prejudice is that you ... judge before — pre ... jud-ice. Pre-judge-idice. You judged before." He relates how he stammered through an academically suitable definition for his 10-year-old daughter, then gives the audience his actual understanding of the concept: Prejudice for Louie is being positive he'd die to sleep with Scarlett Johansson, without having ever met or been near her. "I just know. C'mon. I just know that would be the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and the worst thing that ever happened to her."
At a diner with his daughters (again, eating — so much eating), Louie offers face-stuffed teaching moments. Jane learns about taxation via French fries. Lilly asks why tyrant is said one way and tyranny pronounced another. But all roads have lead to loneliness this season, and soon enough Louie's little ones are wondering when the hell he'll get a girlfriend. (Mommy has her friend, Patrick, after all, and he's been on a blimp and is pretty funny. Ouch.) Terror shoots through Louie's eyes as he realizes his primary source of unhappiness has revealed itself even to his grade-school-age children. "I think he just needs to find the right person," Lilly says wisely. "Exactly," agrees Jane, ageless.
Now's as good a time as any to comment on how terrific and natural these two girls continue to be. Hadley Delany as Lilly is convincingly curious and loving toward Louie; Ursula Parker's Jane is unpredictable and a riot, jabbing her finger in Louie's face and berating him for his self-pitying singleness. (Her repeated line on last season's "Country Drive," "I'm ... BO-WAHHD!" is imitated often in my home.) It's hard imagining C.K. having anything but a breezy time working with and directing these two. Though they aren't his actual daughters, the dynamic feels like it's got to be close to accurate.
Very funny comedian Maria Bamford gets some decent stage time, bringing out a few silly voices and a routine about leaving her religious mother voice mails from Baby Jesus. Louie, his daughters' plea for him to not be so damned sad and lonely still ringing in his ears, asks Maria to get together. The two clearly have an existing, unfulfilling sexual arrangement. From the moment Louie starts to make his play for it to be something more, for Maria to come to dinner and meet his kids, her face is a study in nausea.
"I really don't wanna do that. I do not wanna meet your kids," Maria says, assuming a Jabba the Hutt look and showing the honesty Louie tends to totally lack. And Louie's subterfuge here — he's only trying to check off a box for his uncomfortable daughters — has Maria "all dicked-up in the head." But at least she's got a reason to finally tell Louie he's awful at sex. Three times.
Louie unleashes his lecherous eye on the construction-papered hallways of Jane's school, his black-and-white fantasies set to a romantic ditty resembling "Earth Angel." Only when every teacher appears to be uninterested, unavailable, unattractive, or just plain teaching rather than cruising, does Louie move his prowl to a bookstore (filmed in Park Slope's Community Bookstore).
Lo and behold Parker Posey, whom Louie is about to prejudice the shit out of, Johansson-style. The problem with this escalating bookstore crush is that in filling in all the blanks for this librarian-like brunette, Louie assumes her professionalism is indicative of, or at least tangential to, her interest in him and his daughters. "I think it's great that you pay so much attention to what they read, and I think it's great that you come into a real bookstore instead of just perusing Amazon," is what comes out of her mouth, but what Louie hears is a series of sweet nothings that will obviously lead to the two of them sucking face and groping madly while books explode through the air and that sexified "Earth Angel" knockoff plays.
There are elements of Posey's not-yet-named bookseller (although the credits have her as Liz) that Louie does actively enjoy. Helping Louie select the right books for a pre-angsty 10-year-old Lilly, she offers an honest nugget about coming of age as a young girl and turning to novels to comprehend the blaring rainbow of emotions suddenly obscuring every sight. C.K.'s sometime collaborator Pamela Adlon has a story credit on this episode; I had to wonder if she gifted this tidbit to Louie.
Speaking of Pamela, remember the all-time great love monologue Louie delivered to her last season? His asking out of Posey belongs in another, far less admirable superlative category. He prefaces his approach thusly: "Okay, I'm gonna come out and tell you I'm askin' you out. And please don't answer yet, because I know you might have a no queued up in your head already. And I, but I, please, will you let me say a few things?" He then lists every reason he figures she'll shoot him down. (Key lines: "Nothing horrible would happen if you came out with me," "I sweat a lot and I'm lumpy.") In short, it would be the best thing to ever happen to him and hopefully not the worst thing to ever happen to her, but, hey, no promises.
Her answer, after the screwing-with-him reply that she's a lesbian, is a trillion-watt smile and an "of course, why not?" She's not afraid to respond directly to Louie's cripplingly self-effacing monologue, either: "You're not a troll, for Christ's sake. Get some confidence." And their date is set for that evening.
It's a joy to see the rarity that is Louie succeeding, even if temporarily. Still, seated not far behind my smile at Louie's triumph was the familiar dread this show trains its viewers to feel: I would love for this go well, and there is no way this will go well.
• "I still just jerk off to that wedding album I found in the garbage."
• Take care to implement Louie's writhing fist-pump into your daily victories. It's both fun and funny, even if only tennis and golf players do it. Because they're alone.
• But don't search too hard for the kidsy flower book Posey offers Louie, Harry's Garden Apartment. The Internet doesn't seem to have heard of it.
• Louie's misanthropic take on reality TV can't go unmentioned: a Real World–style show with contestants so self-obsessed and inane that one stabs another in the chest with a butcher knife and screams "I didn't mean it!" Another uses a talking-head confessional spot to fully recount the lifeless dialogue we just witnessed.
• Episodes offhandedly mentioning Obama so far: three out of four.