Louie, Ep. 3.07: “IKEA/Piano Lesson” offers a great first segment and a shaggy, aimless second

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Louie, Season 3, Episode 7: “IKEA/Piano Lesson”
Written by Louis C.K.
Directed by Louis C.K.
Airs Thursdays at 10:30pm ET on FX

Well, this is an odd one. “IKEA/Piano Lesson” continues Louie‘s recent experimentation with continuity – including a flashback to a previous point in the series! – as well as its exploitation of real-life figures playing variations on their public personae, but the results are more mixed than usual, by a lot.

The episode is ostensibly divided into two parts, but they more or less coalesce to tell the story of one epically bad day. The “IKEA” segment, which only takes up the first third or so, is pretty much a straight-up homerun, with a rapid-fire comic pacing that’s much broader than we’re used to. It features the unexpected return of Dolores (from Season 2’s “Blueberries”), who first demands that Louie come with her to therapy to “discuss” what happened between them (an idea that, while funny to consider, would probably have felt like a rehash, so it’s probably for the best that Louie flatly declines), before settling for having him come to IKEA with her. In just a few short minutes, Louie packs in an epic bit about a rug (“it’s not a portal to somewhere”), a public breakdown, yet another awkward bit on oral-sex ethics (with a wonderfully disgusted line-reading of “I’ll suck your…dick“), and a very funny cutaway to a photogenic young couple who pledge to be nothing like Louie and Dolores when they get older.

It’s the “Piano Lesson” half that feels a bit shaggy, going off in all sorts of directions buit never coalescing around a theme or even an effective gag. It opens with CK attempting to learn piano since his kids more or less refuse to, but that’s rudely interrupted in by far the second half’s funniest bit, an impromptu call from Maria Bamford (more continuity!), who lets him know that either she gave him crabs or it was the other way around; she’s not sure. (“So, fuck you, or I’m sorry.”) That leads to a mildly amusing pharmacy run, featuring the world’s most misanthropic pharmacist, and that more or less ends the “crabs” portion of the episode. We then awkwardly segue into the final stretch, which admittedly opens with a pretty striking image: Louie, watching himself as a younger, fitter comic in the 80s, as his black-and-white webcam reflection looks on shabbily. He then phones up Sarah Silverman (playing herself, of course), who then encourages him to get back in touch with Marc Maron (ditto), with whom he had a decade-old falling out we never learn the particulars of.

Anyone who’s listened to CK’s appearance on WTF with Marc Maron, which ran an epic two hours and featured both hilarious stories and pained admissions, will find nothing entertaining or new about Maron and Louie’s episode-capping conversation here, and it’s hard to imagine that the uninitiated will find it all that special, either. Mostly it feels like an excuse to restage a bit of that conversation within the context of Louie, which doesn’t feel like enough. Had CK been able to find a way to push his and Maron’s testy dynamic in a new direction, “Piano Lesson” might not have felt so strangely lost; as is, it’s a rare misfire.

Simon Howell

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