Louie, Season 5, Episode 6: “Sleepover”
Written by Louis C.K. (story by C.K. and Pamela Adlon)
Directed by Louis C.K.
Airs Thursdays at 10:30pm ET on FX
A few episodes back, Louie had a contentious conversation with the proprietor of a kitchenware store, who insisted that if the young seemed to be outpacing him, it was a sure sign that things were going well, and that the future would be in capable hands – hands like those of his daughters, Lilly and Jane. In the opening of “Sleepover,” Louie takes Lilly to Broadway to see a 60s-era play (actually conceived for Louie) with a star-studded cast (John Lithgow, Michael Cera, Glenn Close, and returning Louie guest Matthew Broderick) , and is distressed to see her using her phone during the performance. As it turns out, she was actually using her phone to read up on the play and enrich her own understanding of the material, while simultaneously being totally engaged with it. Watching Louie take in this moment, to realize once again that he’s somehow helped to create and foster an incredible little human, is a great one, and a rare moment of complete optimism on a series noted for its wounded take on…just about every aspect of modern life, really.
“Sleepover” maintains that unusual level of optimism throughout, albeit with some stray hints of darkness around the edges. The bulk of the episode is concerned with Louie hosting a birthday sleepover with seven of Jane’s friends, including kids named Afghanistan (callback!) and “Tranquilité.” (Or possibly “Tranquillitay.”) While there’s a weirdly sitcommish running gag involving Louie trying to have a discussion about her parents’ possible divorce, for the most part, the sleepover itself winds up mostly getting sidestepped in favor of a pair of digressions. In the first, Louie gets a text – accompanied by an appropriately lilting music cue – from Pamela, whom he presumably hasn’t heard from since the events of “Bobby’s House.” She asks him how he is; after some hesitation, he replies: “dogs.” Thus begins their dance once again, though this time around, Louie seems a little bolder, a little less apt to settle for Pamela dictating the terms of their relationship 100% of the time. All we get for now, though, is an abortive attempt at phone sex and a disembodied male voice calling to Pamela in her apartment, possibly belonging to her ex-husband. To be continued – maybe.
Later, with the kids finally having calmed down a bit, Louie gets a call from his brother Bobby – he’s in jail, and he’ll only get out if Louie can come by that evening. That means it’s road-trip time with the kids in tow, and the resulting sequence is…cute? That’s a term that can’t possibly be applied to any other Louie episode or even sequence ever, but these scenes feel like outtakes from the comic-heavy kiddie feature Unaccompanied Minors. Things get even wackier when Bobby tells the outlandish tale of how he landed in the clink, complete with 1920s-film visual aids. The true punchline doesn’t land until the final sequence, in which Bobby and Louie talk about what really happened over breakfast, and their talk reverts to the sort of vulgar banality you’d expect.
“Sleepover” makes for yet another episode this season that resists a deeper reading. It seems to exist mostly to lighten up what’s been a sometimes-heavy season, and to allow for the slight advancement of the Louie-Pamela arc. There’s a tiny thread on preserving the childhood experience – Louie declining to explain rape to Jane, or Bobby coming up with an absurd story to cover up the fact that he got arrested for getting a handjob at a massage parlor – but it’s not a major emphasis throughout the episode. Next week brings with it the first part of the two-parter “The Road,” which promises the explore a subject C.K. has often discussed in interviews but somehow never dramatized on the show: road work as a comedian. It’ll need to do some heavy lifting if it’s going to attempt to tie in some of the season’s running thematic ideas while it’s at it.
Even in the fantastical world of Bobby’s fake arrest story, a back guy still gets pulled into the vintage caddy wagon just for being there. Timely!
Typically of this odd, idiosyncratic season, the episode features nearly all of the celebrity guests we’ve gotten this season in the opening two minutes or so.
“I’m gonna put my ass in your ass!” The prisoners in Bobby’s cell mean business.
In other kiddie-related news as is relates to C.K., I just discovered that he’ll be starring in the next film from the directors of The Lorax. OK, then!