A review of tonight's “Louie” coming up just as soon as my mascara is running…
What a tumultuous relationship “Louie” – both character and show – can have with women. There are times when Louie is the biggest clod in the world and deserving of every last bit of grief he gets from perfectly nice and sane women, and then there are other times where he winds up suffering abundant humiliation – or worse – simply because he crossed paths with the wrong pile of crazy at the wrong moment.
“Bobby's Place” is all about the latter encounter, combining a bunch of past Louie mortifications into one sharknado-sized nightmare whose only benefit is providing a reason for Louie's brother to feel better about his life at the episode's end than he did at its beginning.
We've seen a woman (no less than Oscar Winner Melissa Leo) force herself sexually on Louie. We've seen a woman (RIP, Liz) cajole him into dressing in drag. We've seen several women (notably Gaby Hoffmann's character in “Something Is Wrong”) dump him in brutal, if not undeserved, terms. And we've seen a Louie encounter with a woman end in physical violence, though in the case of the astronaut's daughter, the violence was both accidental and delivered by him.
“Bobby's Place” balls all that up and more into a day in which Louie gets pretty savagely beaten by a crazy woman at a bus stop, laughed at about it by his daughters and Pamela, then put in drag for a bit of gender reversal role play(*) that goes much further than he had anticipated, then dumped by her as he's feeling at his most vulnerable (if not outright violated).
(*) Two thoughts on the gender swap. First, “Jornetha” is an amazing drag name for Louie. Second, this kind of journey across the acting gender divide is old-hat for Pamela Adlon. She spent 13 seasons playing Bobby Hill on “King of the Hill,” and one of her earliest roles as a child actress was in a movie called “Willy Milly” (aka “Something Special”) as a girl whose wish to be a boy comes true. Take a moment to watch the trailer. You can thank me after.
The end of the affair with Pamela is simultaneously horrifying and reassuring. Regardless of the gender roles, to dump Louie in that moment – using him up and tossing him aside – is about the most awful thing she's done to him. Yet it also feels like the show finally acknowledging her awfulness in a way it hasn't before(**). I mean, yes, she has treated him like garbage for most of her time on the show, and particularly since she returned from Europe last season. But because the series is sympathetic to Louie, and because Louie was so smitten with her even as she belittled him at every turn, there was always the implication that he was right to keep trailing after her like an abused puppy – that Pamela was secretly as great as Louie seemed to believe, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. For her to dump him this way is too much for even Louie, let alone the show, to ignore. And much as I like Pamela Adlon the actor and “Louie” producer, I'll be happy if this is the last we see of Pamela the character.
(**) The whole encounter could also be Louis C.K.'s reaction to all the rape talk from late last season.
The scenes with Bobby that give the episode its title are mainly there to provide a funny outlet to a fairly miserable experience for Louie, in that he finally helps Bobby smile, and laugh, and stop feeling jealous of his older brother. But I also liked how Bobby's confusion about so many things – which of them is younger, whose funeral they're going to – played into what happened to Louie later. At the bus stop, Louie assumes he can be the reasonable Samaritan, and instead gets hurt much worse than the guy he was trying to protect. And with Pamela, he has no idea what she actually means to do to him, both sexually and emotionally, until it's too late.
Such a strange, unsettling, and at times (like the look on Louie's face as Pamela has him right where she wants him) hilarious episode of “Louie.”
What did everybody else think?