Louie Recap: Heads Will Roll

Photo: ??2011 FX
Photo: ??2011 FX

The title of last night’s Louie was “Bummer/Blueberries,” but perhaps a more fitting name would be “That Shit Was Insane,” which is likely how you’ll be referring to it for the rest of the summer. How else would you describe an episode in which a homeless guy is decapitated by a garbage truck? There you were, settling in for a half-hour’s worth of pathos-bathed comedy, still doo-be-doo-be-doo-be-doo-wahh-ing the theme song to yourself, when all of a sudden, some guy’s head goes bobbing down the street like a deflated kickball. Doo-be-doo-be-doo-be-doo-whaaaaaaaaa?!

But let’s start at the beginning. Last night’s two-parter started with Louie onstage, discussing his boinkability — or lack thereof. “When I fuck, I gross myself out,“ he says, comparing his jiggling belly to that of a “fourteen-nippled mother dog.” We then watch him at home, phone in hand, looking anxious before finally calling a non-excitable yuppie named Janice and asking her on a date. Despite the fact that the two know each other in a “professional capacity” — and that she clearly has something going with the young stud behind her in the bedroom — she agrees to see a movie.

The next day, Louie’s ambling down the street when a raving homeless man charges toward him, unprovoked. Louie moves out of the way at the last second, and the would-be assailant tumbles in front of an oncoming truck, which squishes his torso, and punts his head into traffic, all as Louie looks on in horror …

… or does he? From its very first episode, in which a young woman flees a bad date by running into a nearby helicopter, Louie’s been locked in an ongoing negotiation between workaday reality and fatalist fantasy. So you can’t blame me for wondering if the bum-rushing incident even happened at all, or if it’s just a worst-case scenario Louie came up with to distract himself from his own nerves — a scenario that proved so horrifying, he convinced himself it was true. This is merely a far-fetched theory, of course. But isn’t it odd that Louie, who seems neither cowardly nor easily shockable, doesn’t stick around to talk to the cops?

Either way, by the time Louie arrives at the theater (now playing: Touch a Ball), he isn’t in the mood for chitchat. Instead, he takes Janice for an existential stroll. “It’s just so arrogant the way we live our lives,” he says. “We’re constantly right on the edge of existence and nothing. And we live in total disrespect of that.” Janice demonstrates her agreeability with a deep kiss, and afterward, as a reaction to his being so “awesomely honest,” admits she always saw him as a goof, and reveals the only reason she went out with him was to help her career. She then asks what brought on Louie’s newfound lust for life, and he relays the accident’s grisly details. The particulars shock Janice, as does Louie’s decision to show up afterward for the date. Upset, she leaves Louie alone on the High Line, where he’s more likely to collide with a German tourist than a garbage truck.

After a quick, tangentially unconnected stand-up bit about living in fear of the city, we’re off to “Blueberries,” in which Louie drops his kid off at school, only to be propositioned by a fellow parent named Dolores, whose flirting technique is somewhere between “pragmatic” and “robotic”: “I haven’t had sex in a long time,” she says. “I’m approaching you because you seem safe and discreet.” Louie shows up to her apartment, to find that she’s ready to go — she just needs to change into a nightgown that hasn’t been seen on TV since Little House on the Prairie and get Louie to pick up some items: condoms, lubricant, blueberries, and something called Vagiteen. Louie, realizing this whole night is become more trouble than it’s worth, looks as though he’s about to bolt. But Dolores is so sad, so desperate to get laid — more so than even Louie himself — that he can’t bail on her in good conscience. Louie hits the town, looking for Vagiteen, though he’s not allowed to pay for it. Delores has too much pride for that.

Once he returns, they get down to business, culminating in Dolores’ wish to be spanked while calling Louie “daddy.” By the end, she’s sobbing on her bed, as Louie looks on helplessly. A quick post-pork pow-wow follows, in which she eats the berries and asks Louie about his kids’ school plans, as if the traumatic bedroom escapade had never happened. The episode closes with another stand-up bit, and an extraneous one at that, with Louie haranguing a few audience members for chiming in.

All of which adds up to … what, exactly? A treatise on the ways we sabotage intimacy? A reminder of how we hide our true nature? Or simply a spiel on how hard is to get laid in your forties? I wouldn’t want to suggest that each multi-chapter episode of Louie must sync up, or even make sense; the show maintains such a loosey-goosey tone that sometimes the only connective tissue necessary is a few artfully segued one-liners. But these two segments feel especially incongruous. Perhaps it’s a matter of scale: The events of “Bummer” would be enough to justify a year’s worth of couch trips, while “Blueberries” feels, at best, like a bar-stool brag gone awry.

But there’s also a philosophical distance between these two chapters. One asks us to appreciate our existence, while the other shows how all the pain and deep-rooted sadness we accumulate can make said existence really, really suck. Either topic would be more than enough to occupy a single-story, half-hour of television. Combine them with a horrific act of violence — one that, for better or worse, overshadows nearly everything that follows — and you’ve got an episode of Louie that’s admirable, but hard to fully get your head around.

Louie Recap: Heads Will Roll