Louie 5×02 ‘A La Carte’: The choices we make…

Louie 5x02-4

People are always trying to direct each other’s lives.  We think that we have some intimate knowledge of the world, and when we find an opening, we like to impart that knowledge onto those around us.  Sure, we might be trying to help those around us, but in reality, we’re also trying to validate our own deluded minds.  We’re so insecure that we need that validation in order to adequately function, in order to make choices of our own that we can call informed or decent.  And maybe our advice will be worth something and we’ll be helping somebody.  Or maybe it’s worthless and we’re just hurting those around us.

Louie 5x02-1

Source: FX

“A La Carte” is about choices, how our choices damn us or save us, and how we really don’t know how our choices are going to affect us until after they do.  The episode opens with a truly hilarious bit where Louis C.K. has to take a massive dump and can’t find anywhere to go, running with his children from store to store, searching for a bathroom.  Of course, this is after he leaves the market where there was a bathroom, but he didn’t have to go badly enough to transcend his dislike of public restrooms.  So all of his choices lead him to inevitably poop his pants, shouting at his daughters not to look at him, his daughter Jane screaming at her father like she’s leaving him behind in the heat of combat.  It’s wildly humorous, not just because it’s a great poop joke, but also because it spirals from Louie being mildly uncomfortable to absolute chaos.

Louie 5x02-3

Source: FX

The rest of the episode is still funny, but a little more mournful as Louie moves through two separate vignettes, both of which revolve around scenes where Louie meets with people at a restaurant.  The first vignette has Louie hosting an open mic show, where one comedian Bart talks candidly on stage about wetting the bed as a child.  It’s hilarious in how bizarre and uncomfortable it is, but when Bart asks Louie for a critique after the fact, Louie tells him that he’s not going to make it as a comedian because his jokes simply aren’t funny.  Louie feels as if he has the comedic experience to impact this knowledge to Bart, even though Bart says that he would rather die than give up comedy.  But, despite that, Louie still sticks to his advice, to the point where he just tells Bart to use a funny voice and moves on.  From the beginning, he never really wanted to help the new comedian.  He tried to avoid him as long as he could, just as he tried to avoid the entire open mic night.  He wanted nothing to do with those new comedians because he figured that many of them would bother him for advice.  Louie’s perspective on the open mic night shows how little he actually wanted to deal with Bart and how, when he did have to deal with Bart, he would rather just use his expertise to push Bart away.

Louie 5x02 Cover

Source: FX

The next vignette inverts Louie’s situation, where instead of giving advice, Louie is receiving advice from Pamela.  In this episode, they’re still together (which goes to show that Louie’s level of continuity differs from episode to episode), and Pamela is still experiencing the level of detachment that she experienced from Louie last season.  She still very much loves him and wants to be with him, but she doesn’t want to commit to him further than she has already.  It’s an opinion that she’s already shared with him before, so Louie definitely understands how she feels towards him, but he still presses her at dinner about moving in together.  She quickly shuts him down, expressing to him that moving in together would kill off the love that she experiences towards him and likely the love he experiences towards her.  She persuades him to make their relationship open, which he eventually gives in to doing.

Louie 5x02-2

Source: FX

It’s not necessarily because it’s what would he best for him, but it’s because she’s forceful enough and he’s insecure enough to give in to her train of thought.  It’s less advice that she’s giving him and more a way to validate the fear that she feels in her own life.  She needs Louie to be like her in order to receive that validation.  And Louie is able to convince himself that he can be like that.  He sees the busty woman a couple tables down and has no problem with Pamela telling him that he’s free to have sex with women like her.  But it’s the final scene that places a spin on the thematic messages of the episode.  While in bed with Pamela, Louie catches an episode of The Tonight Show where the newest comedy sensation, Bart, is reciting his comedy in his new funny voice.  Sometimes, in our selfish desire to validate ourselves, we inadvertently do something decent.

Louie has been experiencing a return to form this season, where it has the same level of humor we’ve seen from the seasons prior to the fourth one, but still manages to inject the level of dramatic tension that we’ve seen in the fourth season.  So far, Season 5 has been exploring the idea of unpacking the choices that we’ve made in our lives, as well as the consequences that they have on ourselves and those around us.  And, as we saw in the opening sequence, as well as the ending with Bart on The Tonight Show, our simplest choices can have the most ridiculous consequences.

So what did you think of “A La Carte”?  Has this season of Louie lived up to the quality of the last season?  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.

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