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Louie, Ep. 4.07-08, “Elevator Part 4” and “Elevator Part 5” examine isolation and perception

Louie, Ep. 4.07-08, “Elevator Part 4” and “Elevator Part 5” examine isolation and perception

Louie, S04E08 promo image

Louie, Season 4, Episode 7, “Elevator Part 4”
Louie, Season 4, Episode 8, “Elevator Part 5”
Written and Directed by Louis C.K.
Airs Mondays at 10pm EST on FX

This week, on Louie: Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe bears down, Louie thinks on the past, and Todd Barry gets a free donut

“Elevator” continues its dreamlike examination of Louie’s psyche this week, with our increasingly insecure lead pushing his relationship with Amia to the next level and losing it in the process. Louie spends quite a bit of these two episodes validating his romance with Amia to other people in his life and as they voice their doubts, Louie grows more and more self-conscious. At the start of “Elevator Part 4”, Louie and Amia are out at a hockey game, having a great time; Louie practically glows when Janet asks about his new leading lady. It’s sweet and just like Janet, viewers will be happy to see our sad-sack protagonist in a positive place, emotionally.

Unfortunately, Louie decides he can’t be content with what he has. Amia will be gone soon and as his ex and Amia’s aunt tell him, their relationship only has meaning if the two have consummated their courtship. By listening to these outside voices and not trusting his judgment of the situation, Louie loses what he had—after the couple shares a passionate, if somewhat awkward night together, Louie awakens to Amia staring at him, trying to decide what comes next. This is where their inability to communicate becomes a burden, rather than an adorable hurdle. The complicated emotions of fear, regret, and maybe love bubble up, but Louie can’t continue the conversation he begins and Amia expands upon. She is forced to make the dispassionate decision, leaving the emotional, still somewhat hazy Louie alone.

It’s a repeat of the progression of Young Louie’s discussion with Young Janet, with Young Louie prompting the conversation but Young Janet guiding it, presenting a logical thought experiment that leads to their planned divorce. The difference is that the young couple speaks the same language, allowing them space to think and time to react. They can ponder out loud and build on each other’s statements, they’re connected even as they’re at their most emotionally disconnected. When we move forward to the present day, the couple is communicating much worse. Janet is still the organized one, speaking with the therapist about her concerns as words fail Louie and he goes to the window to vent his frustrations with a barbaric yawp to the city at large.

Louie, S04E07 promo imageLouie’s incredibly emotional with Janet now, whereas he was resigned in the flashback. Neither got out when they should have and their built-up baggage has come back recently, bringing frustration with it. Louie rises to anger quickly with Janet, a new and recurring development this season, repeatedly jabbing at her with an accusatory pointer finger in their post-counseling session conversation. Whereas he could calmly discuss with her in the past, now he’s unwilling to, his emotions barring him; with Amia, he has an excuse not to and it’s one he takes full advantage of—it’s been most of a month. He could have picked up some Hungarian. He’s not interested in doing so. Louie is terrified of being hurt, as we saw last week with Pamela, and he’s decided isolation, be it physical or lingual, is his best protection.

Of course this doesn’t work; as humans we need other people—a theme highlighted this week with Evanka’s near death by choking—and more specifically, Louie is a character who very much requires connection in his life, as explored in season three. The alternative is an existence like Todd Barry’s, one in which a free pity donut, a free bowl of ramen, or the ability to harass a club manager into correcting a typo is a major victory and the sign of a great day. (Todd’s ability to spin this into an epic tale of accomplishment is a mark of his talent as a storyteller and comedian, winning over even Louie by the end.) This isn’t what Louie wants for himself or his daughters, but at the moment, he’s unable though not unwilling to change. He knows something is wrong, he sat down with Janet last week and seeks counseling this week, but he can’t put his finger on what that is. With only one installment left before the final two multiple episode arcs of the season, “Pamela” and “In the Woods”, hopefully Louie will piece things together soon.

Kate Kulzick

Other thoughts/observations:

—Jane pulls out her violin again this week, getting some pointers from Amia on Hungarian fiddle playing. Notably, she does not seem particularly relaxed while doing so, much as she didn’t last week. Though her duet with Amia was lovely, anxiety was writ upon Jane’s face. When she switches to Massenet’s “Meditation” from Thaïs this week (standard repertoire for many students at Jane’s level and a piece she would be very familiar with), she is calm, serene, and actually seems to be enjoying herself.

—These episodes are incredibly dreamlike, to the point where it’s difficult to get a sense of just how much of what we’re seeing is actually happening. From the news anchors’ assertions that the forthcoming Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe is projected to do, “Thrumpole-de-newsity dollars and 18 cents” worth of damage and has a “seventy-ten percent” likelihood of hitting New York, to Louie’s unremarked upon sojourn to the window in the therapist’s office, to the idyllic, perhaps fantasized family tableau of Louie, Amia, Lilly, and Jane happy together, Louis C.K. invites viewers to question Louie’s state of mind and experiences.

—Evanka’s description of the elevator as, “an evil box of death” is delightful, as is the return of Charles Grodin and the good doctor’s interest in Evanka’s history with Jackie Gleeson. While the season has done well by its guest stars, Young Janet (Brooke Bloom) and Young Louie (Conner O’Malley) are a bit of a misfire, though perhaps a necessary one. O’Malley may have C.K.’s mannerisms down and his rapport with Bloom may be very reminiscent of C.K. and Susan Kelechi Watson’s, but this show is so tied to C.K. and his particular presence that seeing anyone else in that role is jarring, making the scene feel like Louie lite. It’s hard to imagine a way the scene could have been played with C.K. as his younger self, but if more flashbacks are in the show’s future, hopefully C.K. will be able to tweak his approach to more fully imbue them with the series’ characteristic tone.