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Louie, Ep. 5.05: “Untitled” pushes the series’ surreality past the breaking point

Louie, Ep. 5.05: “Untitled” pushes the series’ surreality past the breaking point

Louie 505

Louie, Season 5, Episode 5: “Untitled”
Written by Louis C.K.
Directed by Louis C.K.
Airs Thursdays at 10:30pm ET on FX

It’s generally assumed that Louie takes place within the mental confines of its titular character, but there’s never been an episode quite as doggedly insular as “Untitled,” which places Louie within a cascading nightmare he can’t seem to escape. It’s never boring, but it turns out that literalizing the series’ sense of surreality only serves to emphasize how awkward it can be when C.K. pushes the show’s stylistic boundaries too far. “Untitled” frequently threatens to tip over into outright self-parody. For those who find Louie to be too self-determined for its own good – and those people do exist – “Untitled” is the new Exhibit A.

Things start out harmlessly enough, with Louie at the Comedy Cellar, telling an unusally hacky joke about beekeeping (our first sign that not all is as it seems). After the set, he bumps into Jon Glaser (playing a version of himself, constantly introduced as “Crazy Glazy” by the MC), who attempts to deconstruct the joke, killing whatever meager entertainment value it may have once held in the process. Later, Louie takes his younger daughter, Jane, to see a doctor (Charles Grodin, apparently reprising his role from last season), after she complains of a rash – one she claims to have had for a month, while Louie insists it was only two days. She also tells of “sweating on the inside of [her] face” and seeing the electrons in everything. Dr. Grodin chalks it up to mild dehydration. Then Louie makes yet another woman cry, this time by refusing to help her move a giant fish tank. Then he falls asleep.

And then a mostly-naked man with beady, tiny black eyes leaps out from a black doorway and attacks Louie. Repeat ad infinitum, or at least for the next 15 minutes.

‘Untitled” wants to evoke Lynch (the rabbit suit is a dead giveaway), but it’s hard not to think mainly of Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, in which Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as a playwright whose life devolves into a kind of temporal slipstream as he works on a life-defining work of art. Like Hoffman’s Caden Cotard, Louie can’t seem to distinguish waking life from dream, his sense of time is distorted, he is obsessed with bodily infirmity (Jane’s bizarre symptoms, his ear-dick, the constant physical attacks), and even those closest to him have stopped making sense. Even his usual source of respite – his comedy – is taken from him, as Glaser first steals his joke, then his jacket. Making things even more confusing: the episode is peppered with bis that could be in any Louie episode, especially the scenes involving Todd Barry, whose vicious heckling of Louie is never not welcome, and Nick DiPaolo.

No one is more interested in reading into Louie than I am, but it’s tough to shake the feeling that “Untitled,” right down to its lack of title, is meant as a pure lark, a chance for C.K. to flex his filmmaking muscles a bit rather than focus on any particular theme. And that’s fine; part of what makes the show great is its sense of play, and the sense that anything can happen or that the show can be something new and different every week. It just so happens that in this case, that sense of experimentation doesn’t go anywhere – seemingly on purpose. There’s value to the aimlessness, it’s just tough not to want a little more than just antics from Louie.

Other thoughts:

We get a brief appearance from brother Bobby, with whom Louie shares some disturbing physical comedy, sometimes involving a bunny suit.

“You look tired. Ugly, also.”

Louie, to Jane, on lobsters: “Those people are food.”

The moral of this episode can perhaps be parsed from the fake old song that closes the episode as Louie drifts off once again:

If I go to bed
I wish that something else would be in my dreams
here come those little monsters
crawling up my leg
I dream of dying babies
and why do they smile?
I hate those dying babies
why don’t they just die?
their smiling faces give me diarrhea
please die, you dying babies
in my diarrhea.