Last night’s episode of Louie is titled “Bobby’s House,” which could be construed as misleading considering the fact that the dénouement of the episode features our hero getting pegged by Pamela (Pamela Adlon) before she breaks up with him. The title is, instead, a reference to the episode’s opening salvo, in where Louie (Louis C.K.) and his younger brother, Bobby (Robert Kelly), spend some time together in New Jersey. This begins with them accidentally crashing a funeral, but the more interesting part comes later, when Bobby pleads Louie to pass along some of his luck in life, which would seemingly be code for money. Bobby is desperate and miserable but C.K. reminds him that even he has his problems. Louie’s issues are private whereas Bobby’s sadness is very public, from his apartment to his shameless begging and complaining, and the episode pivoted on Louie making his particular stresses and unwelcome revelations open to Bobby.
And the pegging is clearly a sort of revelation for Louie, as well as the show itself. The scenario is revealingly sparked by shame over being beat up by a young, unstable woman, whom he attempts to calm down when she attacks a seemingly random pedestrian. Louie’s daughters laugh at him, as does Pamela, whom he implores to put make-up on his face to cover the rather extensive bruises and cuts on his face, to which Pamela adds some nice eyeliner. This sparks a remarkably convincing and very funny depiction of gender role reversal, with Pamela inflecting a deep baritone, donning a baseball cap, and even slightly parodying the style in which men stereotypically excite and seduce women. For his part, Louie adds a feminine lilt to his speech pattern, and plays sheepish. It’s cute at first but before long, of course, Pamela is going all Dirk Diggler on C.K. from behind.
In one way, the sequence serves as an upending of chauvinistic behavior; a play off of the familiar misogynistic ploy to get one last lay in before breaking the relationship off. The emotional reckoning that comes along with the pegging complicates that though, as its clear that Pamela does truly love Louie. The character that Adlon has created, one of the few great female roles currently on television, sees relationships as warfare, and the sensitive, emotional, and attentive man that Louie has become. That’s not what relationships are about to Pamela, and that’s why they were never going to work out. Not only would this seemingly open the narrative to once again survey the trials and tribulations of New York City’s perilous dating scene, its also an awakening for Louie as a character, which may help him more accurately look for what a man like him needs from relationships. That C.K.’s writing and direction never once hints at sensationalism, shame, or judgment in this sequence continues his show’s staggering streak of breaking taboos with a thoughtful and sensitive eye that never betrays its savage sense of humor.
To that point, Bobby hardly attempts to quiet his own guffaws following C.K.’s presumable relaying of the story to him over lunch, which punctuates the end of the episode. It’s not just a testament to the weird and warm relationship that Louie and Bobby have but a reminder of why C.K.’s brand of humor is so necessary. By insisting on talking about his most intimate experiences and embarrassments so candidly, he affords comfort and assurance to those who might feel shame for such things, and allows the workaday people of the world a hardy laugh and a needed reminder that, most of the time, you’re better off with the problems you have rather than the one’s the person across the table from you.
The next episode of Louie Season 5 will air May 7th at 10:30 p.m.