It's tough to surprise Louis C.K. with a joke. After doing comedy for 25 years, he knows how jokes work. He gets it. He can predict the twists and turns that a bit will take and see the punchline coming long before it hits.
Except for when his youngest daughter, Jane, tries out her material.
"Her jokes, I have no idea what's going to happen," Louie tells an audience at The Comedy Cellar. "They're not like anybody else's jokes, that's why I like them."
That same sort of unpredictability is what makes "Louie" so fascinating. C.K. has created a bizarre, slightly heightened reality where pretty much anything can happen at any time. That's how a simple dinner invitation can lead to Louie being punched in the face and forced to perform oral sex on Melissa Leo.
Allan Havey, Louie's friend and fellow comedian, says his wife wants to have Louie over for dinner. Even though he's sure Havey's wife doesn't like him, Louie agrees. So, he rides his motorcycle (yep, the one from last week -- that's a rare bit of continuity for this show) up to the Havey house. Once he's there, Louie finds that the dinner is actually a ploy to set him up with Laurie, a morose-looking middle-aged woman who owns a landscaping business, brilliantly played by Melissa Leo.
After dinner, while the hosts argue with each other, Laurie and Louie decide to ditch the matchmakers and go to a bar. A few hours and many drinks later, the lonesome pair are sitting in Laurie's car, parked in an alley.
"Whip it out," she says to him, offering oral sex.
"Seriously?" he asks.
Cut to an exterior shot of the car, and then back to Louie, who looks satisfied, and Laurie, who expects the favor to be returned.
"Well, I don't really want to do that," he tells her. "That's very intimate. I don't really know you."
Laurie feels cheated, says that it's not fair, but she's also deeply hurt.
"Are you saying I'm a whore?" she asks.
Here, Louie's honesty fails him.
"No," he says. "I'm just saying, that if I had done what you did I would feel like a whore."
What's great about this scene is they're both right. Louie shouldn't have to do something he doesn't want to just because he feels obligated, but Laurie just went down on him, so what's the difference? Louie wants it both ways: He wants the pleasure, but not the commitment (however short term it may be). They may not have known each other 12 hours ago, but no matter how Louie looks at it they already have done something intimate.
"Your sperms are dying inside my mouth right now," she snaps. "What is wrong with this country?"
Here, Laurie's persistence succeeds. After seeming to blame President Obama for Louie's refusal (the "What about Obama?" callbacks are another nice bit of continuity, dating back to last season's beautiful "Moving" episode), she bets him $1,000 he'll change his mind in the next three minutes.
First, she tries reverse psychology, insisting that Louie's gay and that's why he won't reciprocate. Then, when that doesn't work, she just socks him with a right hook so hard that it splinters the passenger-side window and threatens to break his finger until he'll "lick it."
Many other TV shows probably would have just had these two characters have a drunken one-night stand and cut to a really awkward, regret-filled morning after. Instead, "Louie" goes for date rape. And not only is it date rape, but it's the date rape of a grown man in a scene that's honest and creepy and weird while you're watching it, but grimly funny and absurd when you think back on it. Louie does get it both ways, after all.
And after it's all over, Laurie reminds Louie that he owes her $1,000. He doesn't have that kind of cash on him, so he'll just pay her later, because "of course" he's going to see her again.
To cap the episode, the end credits tag is Louie sitting with his daughters at the dinner table. It's a callback to the cold open, when he and his girls trade knock-knock jokes as well as to the stand-up scene. We get to see the joke Louie shared with the audience at The Comedy Cellar, delivered by Jane.
"Who told the gorilla that he couldn't go to the ballet performance?" she sets up.
"Just whoever was in charge," Jane says. "The people in charge were ... [They] decided not to let the gorilla in."
Dinner's done; the girls leave the table and Louie's alone, clearing the plates. He's busy cleaning up after them, which is a different kind of thankless task.
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