There are three things Louie is struggling with in this episode: He’s not sure if he can give the right advice to a new comedian, he’s not sure if Pamela can be faithful to him, and he’s not sure if he’s going to crap his pants at a grocery store.
The opener this week is hilariously uncomfortable. Louie can’t poop in public, as Jane jokingly points out when he abandons half of their groceries at checkout, so he starts a mad dash home with two kids, two bags of groceries, and two pounds of poop pushing on his sphincter. It’s a game at first — the girls walk behind him and mock the way he’s rigidly walking, giggling the entire time. They roll past a “no dumping” sign and into a bodega where the cashier not only refuses to let him use the bathroom but also calls Lilly a “little white bitch” when she tells him that he’s mean. That’s how you know this is serious; in any other situation, I think Louie would have been across the counter in seconds, but he just grabs the kids and runs back outside. It seems to trigger something in Lilly and Jane, who now appreciate the seriousness of what’s happening, and when they plead with a police officer for help to no avail (“Police! Help my daddy! He has to take a huge poo and no one will help him!”), Louie leaves them to scream bloody murder and walk away while he craps his pants, looking dejected and humiliated the entire time. The scene was set up like an old war movie, but instead of leaving behind a wounded soldier, you’re just walking away from your weird, stinky old dad, and this all happens before the credits. It was as masterful as a poop joke could get.
It’s not weird that people come to Louie for career advice, but it is weird that he might have some that works, since his own career has been such a gamble. When he reluctantly hosts an open mic night at the Comic Strip, a new, nervous comedian named Bart asks him to watch his set. And he does — every painful joke without a punch line about bed-wetting and abusive parents. Bart is the type of person who turns an open mic into a confessional, with no relief or payoff. Louie takes him out for coffee after, and at first it seems like one of those conversations he could be having with himself, like the speech Sarah Baker gave last season in “So Did the Fat Lady.” In the midst of finding ways to try and help Bart, he finally tells him that he’s not cut out for comedy. When Bart won’t quit, Louie, half a foot out the door, tells him to do a funny voice if he can’t quit, thinking it will get the kid off his back and out of his life. When Bart pops up on the Jimmy Fallon show later in the episode, having launched a huge career with a new, funny voice and the same old, unfunny jokes, it’s both a testament to Louie’s advice and a condemnation of how easy we are to laugh at utter garbage.
That’s why it’s not too surprising that he’s having some strife with Pamela this episode. Louie expects people to be awful, but somehow gives her a pass even though she treats him the most terrible of all. I love the way she busts his balls, making fun of him about the arty movie he wants to see and, after he explains that this is a way he educates himself, shutting down his explanation of why he never went to college because “it sounds too long.” She cares about him, but not a lot, and isn’t afraid to keep him at arm’s length, and I love her for it. Once inside the theater, she cons him into asking her to give him a blow job instead of watching the movie, and when he does, she laughs in his face. It only gets worse when they get to this cool, old Italian restaurant with a mountain of melted candles in the center; Louie asks her to move in with him when she suggests a sleepover, and she recommends they keep their relationship “à la carte.”
Louie can’t handle this at all. When Pamela says “à la carte,” she means that she wants them to keep their relationship fun and “keep making the choice to be together.” They’ve both had bad relationships, and she’s trying to keep them off the road of “friends, sex, love, marriage, divorce, ruin” by suggesting they keep boning other people if the situation ever calls for it. Louie, of course, only focuses on his worry that she’s going to find someone else and leave him, which opens the path for Pamela to make a brilliant observation: “You don’t have me — we’re just closer than we were before. I’m not yours, and you’re not mine.” Even though this is philosophically deep and emotionally resonant, Louie simply can’t get there, even when she points out a woman with a huge chest across the room that he could potentially get with. He doesn’t want to do à la carte, but reluctantly agrees to it, and on their sad walk home, he’s entirely in his head. Pamela doesn’t want to “waste what we have left on each other,” but it’s clear that Louie can’t trust a relationship that isn’t fully committed, even if he’s unable to do so with her. It was a weird and sad ending, punctuated by the strangeness of Bart’s success. In the end, who is Louie to give life advice, even to himself?