A quick review of tonight’s “Louie” coming up just as soon as I put on some sunscreen…
Had “Duckling” just been a fly-on-the-wall travelogue of Louie going on a USO tour to Afghanistan(*), it would have been a terrific episode, I think. Sometimes, you don’t need any kind of story, and where this could have easily been about Louie making a fool of himself in front of the soldiers, or the cheerleaders (well, there was a little of that), or in some other way coming up with a new thing to hate about himself, the simplicity of just seeing him go from base to base to do his act and interact with the soldiers was incredibly compelling on its own.(**) Louie doesn’t screw up, and nor does he do anything incredible. He just does his act, works the crowd, gets some laughs and smiles and hopefully brightens some lousy days. And for an episode, that was enough.
(*) Playing the role of Afghanistan: Texas and California. As Louis C.K. explained to James Poniewozik, this was an episode where he needed more than his usual budget and therefore shared his plans in advance with FX, which he doesn’t usually do as part of the arrangement.
(**) The visit to the Forward Operating Base was, no doubt intentionally, very reminiscent of the documentary “Restrepo,” which was co-directed by the late Tim Hetherington, to whom the episode was dedicated.
But the duckling fulfilling Lily’s belief that it would keep her daddy safe? That was, frankly, beautiful.(***) To hell with all the “the room got dusty” euphemisms; I got genuinely choked up watching the duck save not only Louie’s life, but potentially that of every man, woman and child in that valley. So much of human conflict comes through a lack of understanding, where it’s hard to find a common frame of reference even if you speak the same language. The soldiers and the Afghani locals were on the verge of shooting at each other out of fear and confusion, not because either side actually wanted to do it. They just needed to find something both groups could understand, and as it turns out, a pasty, schlubby man falling over while chasing a duckling is a universal language.
(***) And, as the end of the credits noted, the whole duckling story was the idea of Louis C.K.’s daughter Mary Louise. Between this episode and Tina Fey’s daughter giving the world “I want to go to there,” I may need to start pumping my kids for column ideas.
Fantastic episode. It’s been twelve hours since I watched it, and I’m still smiling just thinking about it.
What did everybody else think?