If you pull back from this episode a little bit, it’s an interesting mix, from start to finish, of how we perform masculinity. It’s also about incredibly annoying people, and the bullshit we have to put up with when they swoop in and piss all over our lives.
The absurdity of the opening jokes is one of my favorite things about this season. I like that they’re not always in line with the rest of the episode, especially episodes like this that raise your blood pressure after every commercial break. After the young owner of a trendy cooking-supply store refuses to help him, Louie makes out with a mannequin and spirals into the oldest, most generationally challenged version of himself at checkout. There are lots of reason the clerk (whom we soon learn is the owner) didn’t want to help him — it was close to closing time, he didn’t look like a serious chef — but nothing bothered Louie more than her hubris. How dare she not want to help him, a man, but especially a man who can afford to drop $2,000 in a store like that even if he doesn’t look the part of someone who could? At first I sided with Louie, but the more she talked about the historical need for children to do better than their parents and Louie’s naturally uncomfortable disposition around younger people, the more I sided with the owner. It’s one of the reasons I love this show — there’s no allegiance to emotion, and Louie will shake a scene around until you’re 180 degrees away from where you started.
The meat of the episode, though, is Louie’s night out with Lenny (Michael Rappaport), his sister’s annoying high-school ex-boyfriend who is now a member of the NYPD. On the surface, Lenny is a mess, and the worst example of what men have to offer — he’s loud, physically abusive, dismissive, aggressive, and insulting. When Louie balked at exchanging information with him on the street, Lenny frisked him for his phone, insulted it, put his information in it, and gave it back to Louie so they could meet up for the forced date to a Knicks game he also just arranged. Lenny is a crass, horrible counterpart to Louie’s mild-mannered, quiet personality, and it’s uncomfortable from the get-go.
Louie is knitting when Lenny comes over to pick him up (Louie knitting anything might be my new, very specific sexual orientation), but he quickly jams it under the chair cushion, and when he answers the door, Lenny is holding his police-issued gun in his face. This singular moment could sum up their entire relationship, but the rest of the night drives it to deeper, darker levels.
Lenny is constantly poking and punching Louie, jumping around pretending to play basketball, in a way that makes him seem juvenile. He’s definitely that guy from high school who called everything a joke, even when he was causing egregious harm. But when he’s turned away from sneaking into the game and they end up at a sports bar, he opens up to Louie about how sad he feels sometimes. He can’t really access his emotions, so his way of dealing seems to be ignoring them most of the time. Even when he opens up about it, he’s still blaming women for his problems, saying Louie’s sister was below average and getting visibly upset that women have the power to deny him. It’s weird and savage, and very scary for how many guys like that I see all over this city.
When Louie tries to shake him loose, he does so in a way that mirrors the language a lot of women use against their aggressors, like, “I’m telling you that it hurt, you don’t get to deny that!” after Lenny punches him in the arm again. Lenny knows he’s annoying but can’t stop, and it’s not until he reveals that he thinks about killing himself with his gun that he realizes his gun is gone.
In the subsequent freak-out, it’s clear that Lenny is a fragile shell of a man. The gun is not at Louie’s apartment, so he just thrashes and destroys everything in sight until he collapses into a heap of tears on the ground. Louie goes out to find the gun (eventually locating it around the place where Lenny was pretending to play basketball) and is faced with the wildly hilarious task of bringing it back. He has no idea what he’s doing, at all, pushing it into his jacket and even dropping it on the ground in front of a van full of NYPD. That was probably the funniest part of the episode for me; it was a cool way of pointing out both how useless the NYPD can be while also showing how abjectly useless Louie can be in his own way, too. When he brings the gun back, Lenny tackles him, an affectionate hug wrapped up in all the aggression that lets you know he’ll be back to his old self in no time. What other choice does he have?