Louie 5×01 ‘Pot Luck’: The ballad of Louis C.K.

Louie 5x01 Cover

There’s a certain loneliness inherent to existence.  As we grow up, we grow apart from people and grow towards others, a repeating loop that continues and continues until we grow old and watch those around us die, until we become irrelevant to society and waste away on our own.  And it’s inevitable that we reach that point.  We can’t stay connected to the same people forever.  We can’t stay relevant forever.  But we can’t ever just give in to that.  In the search for connection, for relevance, for happiness, there’s always the chance we can find something worth holding on to.

Louie 5x01-4

Source: FX

Season 5 of Louie isn’t quite as melancholy and full of existential dread, but the sentiment is still there.  Back is the theme song, Louie walking down the New York streets as if a zombie staggering through life.  He’s single again, Pamela having apparently left him sometime between the end of Season 4 and the beginning of this season.  And he is lonely, worried that he’s just some boring jerk who cannot connect with anybody.  So “Pot Luck” features a Louie that is trying to branch out, even though he’s always turned away by those different than him.

Louie 5x01-3

Source: FX

“Pot Luck” has a lot of fun with people that are different than Louie actively rejecting him.  It’s never played off as those people being worse than Louie (though that is certainly the case on occasion), but it’s just that Louie doesn’t know how to integrate himself into groups of people.  Even when there are similarities, those similarities are disjointed in a way.  Somebody (often Louie) will take those similarities and point out a difference, breaking the fragile bond that is forged in the sharing of those similarities.  When Louie meets the mother whose kid also takes violin lessons, instead of bonding with her, Louie talks about how his daughter takes private lessons, and mutters under his breath that he daughter is better than her kid at violin.  In being fragile, Louie actively puts up these defense mechanisms that shield him from connection, and it shows when he takes those moments of connection and throws them away when they’re with somebody who doesn’t seem weak or timid.  It’s a lack of comfort that keeps Louie from fully experiencing connection.

Louie 5x01-2

Source: FX

Louie also creates quite a bit of his own problems.  He accidentally walks into the wrong apartment, thinking it’s the school potluck, but it’s some strange cult gathering, where he obviously has no way of fitting in.  Of course, he forgets the fried chicken he made and has to pick up KFC for the school potluck anyway.  The fried chicken is a strange point of reference throughout the episode.  The camera focuses intently on extreme close-ups when Louie is making the food, and charts all of the steps he undertakes in order to make it.  Food is Louie’s way of bonding, as he really wanted to make his special recipe of fried chicken for the potluck.  It’s his way of showing that he’s trying, even though it wasn’t what Marina (the potluck organizer) wanted.  But it’s not really about Marina.  Louie wants to bond his way, as that bond will be more meaningful than merely complying with somebody else’s demand.  When Louie loses the fried chicken and brings the KFC to the table, he shares a silent moment with another man who picks up a piece, bites it, and tells him that it’s really good.  That moment is silent recognition is what Louie is looking for, as connection is a way to receive validation, and Louie is happy to receive validation for his effort.

Louie 5x01-1

Source: FX

The second half of the episode focuses intently on Louie’s connection with the surrogate parent of Marina’s child.  She’s set up as being voiceless and powerless, as Marina constantly speaks for her and insists that the birth will be done naturally, all without a word coming from the surrogate Vanessa’s mouth.  Out of everybody in the episode, Vanessa is the one that Louie identifies with the most, as she is out of control of her life, and self-victimizing Louie feels like he can connect with her on that level.  When they take an Uber ride back to her apartment and she begins to cry (an absolutely hilarious scene considering the sound of Louie urinating in the background), he awkwardly comforts her, and his efforts are rewarded with sex.  But since Louie can’t connect with other people without something going wrong, she has an orgasm and goes into labor, much to Marina’s chagrin, who wanted Julianne to have the child naturally and with another doctor.  “Some things just don’t work out the way you plan them”, says Louie, and it’s not just true for Marina, but it’s also true for Louie.  He didn’t end up with any connections that stuck by the end of the episode, but he did meet some new people, had some new experience, forged a couple fleeting connections.  He’s experiencing life instead of sitting around and lamenting being alone.

In the background of the entire episode, we hear a street performer playing the banjo, the performance bridging the various scenes of the episode.  In addition to this being a simple bridging technique, it’s a great way to frame the episode.  We’re essentially watching the ballad of Louis C.K., what happens when this sad sack places himself in awkward situations.  It’s not all great, it’s not all misery, but it is life.  In trying to meet new people and try new things, he’s managing to take charge of his own existence.

And that’s really all we can do in our lives, after nothing goes the way we plan them.  We try.

So what did you all think of “Pot Luck”?  Is Louie coming back strong?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.