My original recap for the first episode of season two of Louie wasn’t very positive. I wrote it too soon after watching “Pregnant,” without giving myself enough time to let things sink in. Or maybe I just needed to air myself out, to let go of something that had been building inside of me.
Something like, I don’t know: a fart.
Let’s start there. Louie’s sister, Gretchen, appears unexpectedly at his door because she’s in town for an appointment, and after some “no, I couldn’t” and “but I’m insist” talk, it’s decided she’s staying at her brother’s place for the night. Gretchen (played by the wonderfully named Rusty Schwimmer, who Six Feet Under fans might remember as the biker who gives Nate a motorcycle) is very pregnant and also very scared; the last time she was expecting, she had a miscarriage, so every little pain is cause for concern. There’s a wonderful conversation between the two, the sitcom versions of Janice and Tony Soprano, where she praises her brother for how well he’s doing as a father. Louie soaks it all in, but says, “There are times when I wish they weren’t alive.”
And then things took a turn for the weird. Gretchen begins screaming in the middle of the night, yelling that the pains she’s having means her baby’s going to die. There’s a continuous knock on the door: Louis’s never-before-seen, to both us and Louis, appear, one staying behind to watch the kids (he’s a natural mommy) and the other willing Louie to take a cab to the hospital with his sister. They arrive, the scene continues on like it would on E.R. or Nurse Jackie with doctors and nurses flying around — and then Gretchen unleashes a massive fart. She says, “I’m fine.” Louis’s response: “Dude…”
Louie and company arrive back at the apartment, and he starts to follow his own advice he gave to his daughter earlier in the episode: you need your neighbors (and something about looking at their bowls). And then there’s a pretty great stand-up bit about making new friends when you’re a 43-year-old man and there’s no way that’s not creepy. Also: “If you don’t eat your friend’s asshole out with your tongue, you’re not a friend.”
The aforementioned original recap questioned Louie’s motives of leaving his little girls behind with a total stranger, without telling them where he is or why he doesn’t have a phone, and I didn’t initially believe that fart joke was good enough of a punch line for so much set-up. I was wrong, and thank God that document has long since been trashed. Louie’s neighbors are so creepy that you expect something to go wrong: nothing does; they’re actually wonderful people and Louie’s new friends. You expect Gretchen to lose the baby: she doesn’t; she needs to let loose some gas. Louie loves to drum up expectations, only to either to not have what you’re predicting come true, or to come up with the simplest, most ridiculous solution. In “Pregnant,” instead of a dead baby, it’s a long-in-the-works fart. And there ain’t nothing in the world funnier than that.
There were other things going on in the episode — like Louie’s daughter telling him that she’d rather be at her mom’s house because she makes better food and because she loves her mom more, and middle finger Louie gives to the little girl when her back is turned (loved that the camera was focused on Louie’s face, keeping the “Fuck You” salute out of focus) — but those are things we’ll discuss throughout the season. What interested me most about “Pregnant,” and what interests me most about the show in the general, is the way Louie can go from a long, serious conversation between siblings about the death of an unborn child to a seemingly just as lengthy fart sound effect (oh, to be the person who provided the wonderful noise of flatulence), all in the span of a few minutes. With some stand-up sets built in-between. It’s profound one minute, profane the next.
No other show on TV can switch moods as quickly, as effectively, as hilariously, as thought provokingly as Louie, and as long as CK’s miserable and wanting to kill his children and willing to have an honest-to-God fart as the climax of an episode, it will also continue to be one of the best.
Josh Kurp feels a great relief.