Review: ‘Louie’ – ‘Ikea/Piano Lesson’

Senior Television Writer
08.09.12 59 Comments

A review of tonight’s “Louie” coming up just as soon as I think it’s laundry detergent…

There are times when we get a two-story “Louie” episode – though tonight’s came close to being a three-story outing – where Louis C.K. has clearly just put these parts together because they combined to fit the timeslot. “Ikea/Piano Lesson” was one of those outings, though, where I have to wonder if he either always intended for the pieces to go together, or if he at least recognized once they were done how well they fit thematically as well as time-wise.

“Ikea” brought back Maria Dizzia as Delores, the mom who was Louie’s horrible sex buddy in last season’s “Bummer/Blueberries” (which we glimpsed in some expertly-timed flashbacks, which felt used more for the joke than to remind us of this crazy lady). Delores, with all her neuroses and rules and ethical standards, is just a funny character, but the story of their uncomfortable trip to Ikea – where they inevitably would up acting like an old married couple(*) – wound up pairing nicely with the vignettes about Louie getting crabs and then seeking closure with Marc Maron.(**)

(*) As I say often, “Louie” often features stories that you’ve seen done on other sitcoms – “30 Rock” recently did an episode about how Ikea is the worst possible place any couple can go – but the “how” of the show is always more important than the “what.” 

(**) This is the point where I confess that I have never listened to the famous “WTF” episode where C.K. and Maron hashed out a lot of their old issues, though I do like the podcast in general. (I just came to it later.) Without having heard that, I’ll say (perhaps wrongly) that this episode didn’t so much feel like a rehash of last year’s “Tickets” with Dane Cook – where fictional Louie and fictional Dane discussed the specific details of a very public beef –  than using their relationship to illustrate a more general point about friendship, regret, etc.

“Ikea” starts off with Delores asking Louie to go to therapy with her so she can get closure on their bad date, and Louie understandably wants no part of coming into the safe space of this very erratic person to suffer God knows what. But given how things go on their Ikea trip, as Delores keeps pushing him to play the role of her husband (which Louie only seems to accept on the drive home when she asks about the chairs), he might have been better off just seeing the therapist and talking this ridiculousness out, no?

“Piano Lesson,” meanwhile, opens with the return of Maria Bamford, who either got crabs from Louie a few episodes ago or gave them to him, and therefore isn’t sure whether she should be mad at him or feel guilty. This leads to a funny, uncomfortable vignette at the pharmacy, where Louie waits for the appropriate shampoo while an older woman insists on getting an unnecessary consultation with the pharmacist, only to be humiliated when the man loudly begins asking her about all her bodily functions that day. In that case, talking it out was a bad idea.

And Bamford’s confusion about the crabs nicely leads us into Louie beginning to realize, 5 to 10 years too late, that the ancient beef he’s had with Maron was his fault, not Marc’s, and they should have discussed it long before now. The bittersweet coda to the story is that Louie had this exact realization – and this exact conversation – with Maron, 5 years ago, before forgetting about that too and going back to shunning him. Their conversation is even framed like Louie is the patient and Marc is the therapist – albeit a therapist who practices in boxers and dress socks – and you get the impression that Louie is just going to keep repeating this stupid pattern forever.

Sometimes, talking about things is the best thing you can possibly do. Other times, best to just shut up and take your medicine home with you quietly.

Some other thoughts:

* Louis C.K., advertising copywriter: “It’s flat, it’s blue, it goes on the floor, it’s not coated with AIDS, and it’s not a portal to a netherplace. It doesn’t make me cum, but it’s fine.” Don Draper couldn’t have said it any better.

* I began to wonder if anyone too young to have grown up with the “Laverne & Shirley” theme song would call his wife “Hasenfeffer,” but then my friend Google told me it’s also the name for a German stew. So okay.

* Did anyone recognize when those archival clips of C.K., Maron and Sarah Silverman were actually from? The special was presented as clips from the ’80s, but Silverman was only finishing up her teens when the ’80s ended, and I’m guessing even in that period she wasn’t getting on TV yet. Maron (born in ’63) is old enough, and C.K. (born in ’67) just barely. I liked that Louie felt the need to watch himself on the webcam at the same time he was seeing his younger, skinnier, less bald incarnation.

What did everybody else think?

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