It's been a long, sleepless month dwelling on the woman called Tape Recorder, for us as well as for Louie. In tonight's four-weeks-later-follow-up, Louie professes he couldn't make exact sense of that fateful date any better than we could, although he'd had Parker Posey's manic adult dream woman as burned onto his memory as we had. He's been dreaming of Liz saying she loves him, repurposing both that great close-up footage from the credits of her episode and the unforgettable music from the haunting rooftop scene. (Nicely done, C.K.)
"It wasn't like any date I've been on before," Louie later says. "She changed how I feel about everything in one night. And then at the end, I don't know, it just, it got kinda, she just got really sad and, uh, it's hard to describe."
So of course he's trying to follow up. He needs one more glimpse to be certain that his grounded-in-nothing expectations about Liz — that she'd be the perfect mother to his daughters as well as the ideal woman for him — are far from accurate.
None of Louie and his new friend Chloë Sevigny's attempts to find Liz go according to romantic expectations, either. Plans go awry. Life seems shorter than you want it to ("80-some years; buy some shit, use it, it breaks; try to fuck somebody; hope your shits don't hurt too bad"). You come to terms with things not being meant to be, or not meant to be the way you wanted them to be.
Louie, however, forces you to come to terms with another thing: Not only are things not going the way you expected, they're aggressively not going the way you expected. Sevigny might not receive the "get this woman an Emmy STAT!" Internet campaign her fellow indie-famous actress Parker Posey warranted, but Sevigny is startlingly captivating nonetheless. Her earnest manner and her zealous desire to help Louie "make it meant to be" come out of left field, but they're believable and also spooky.
Sevigny's Jeanie is off-putting from the start. She's not really flirting with him, is she? She seems to enjoy berating him to be more romantic, chastising him thusly: "You can't just drift through life and hope that love is just gonna flow into you like plankton into a whale's fucking mouth. You have to prove yourself. You have to make things happen and choose."
And at the precise moment it becomes clear Louie may never be capable of a non-plankton-gathering approach to life, we get the When Harry Met Sally scene in real life. I knew there was something fishy about the "I get off in twenty minutes" line (which wasn't just my perversion — watch Louie stare at Jeanie and pause for a beat) back at the bookstore. And yes, she actually gets off on — what? Trying to help people? Not quite. Thwarted romance? Maybe. Beating her head against a wall? We'll never know — just like we'll never know what Liz was about — but Jeanie gets off on whatever was going on with Louie, and she's married, so he shouldn't really come back by the store or anything. Okay.
Louie moves from looking for Liz to looking for Lilly, his older daughter, in one of the first genuinely tough, not-just-for-comedic-purposes parenting scenarios the show has served up. Lilly, having been bullied at school and lamely rescued by her oafish dad, is upset. She calls Louie out on his "do your homework all the time" policy I noted last week, spitting, "I always do my homework."
Louie's expectations — that the halves of each week he spends single-parenting his daughters will be magical and connective and packed with growth and love — are shot to shit again. If only the whole marrying Liz thing hadn't gone catastrophically awry as well, she'd be here to help him navigate Lilly's impenetrable personality shift. Louie spends the episode searching for the two of them physically, but also emotionally. He never understood who the hell Liz was, and he's verging on losing his understanding of one of his daughters, too.
Liz's specter haunts the whole episode, never more so than the resolution of Lilly's disappearance: She's been in the closet, reading. Silly daddy! It's a perfect moment not only in its genuine execution and comic wrap-up to the scary quandary, but in that it picks up the Liz thread again: Louie courted her by getting reading recommendations for Lilly, who's currently digging depressing novels about people’s heads falling off. She's safe after all, is what's important. We can't say the same about Louie's future happiness and well-being quite yet. The guy could use a co-pilot who'll advise him that the way to cheer up your 10-year-old daughter isn't to take her on a merry-go-round and smile maniacally into her face.
• "I'm not good at describing people. Maybe 32 years old?"
• The reappearance of Louie's neighbors from the season two premiere was another great touch and a showing in the direction of continuity. One of the teachers Louie mooned over in "Daddy's Girlfriend Pt. 1" also showed up.
• The sneaky middle finger to the kids returns as well.
• Last time Louie filmed in Park Slope's Community Bookstore I scoured the shelves to see if C.K. did any Lost-like book placement to give us insight into his psyche. I came up with nothing. This time, John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead got a big spotlight and Teju Cole's Open City was also visible. I hope C.K. has read and enjoyed both these fine books.
• I thought the gag with Jane shouting in a foreign tongue was going to run along the lines of the incomprehensible youth-speak Louie encountered in the coffee shop that one time, but nope, it was just "Slovenian." (Although she might've actually said "So-veen-yet"?)
• "No sitcom has dared to hold such dissimilar modes within the same episode before, but here's Louie doing it whenever it feels the urge, and doing it so proficiently that the pieces fit together more easily than you might expect." That's Matt Zoller Seitz on how Louie turns stand-up comedy's sensibilities into a remarkable TV series — highly recommended reading for fans who might've missed it.