TV Club

Louie season 3 episode guide: “Barney/Never”

Boy, did I recognize Louie’s crisis-management techniques in the bathroom.

still from Louie.
Louis C.K. and Jeremy Shinder in Louie

Courtesy FX.

Like Jonah, I thought the second section of this episode worked better than the first. Louie’s quickly evolving reaction to Never’s poop-in-bath situation perfectly encapsulates a certain, very familiar set of parental responses. The cycle starts with utter rage and disgust: How could this little asshole do something so awful and not even realize how awful it is!? Just a split second later comes the Oh shit, I have to deal with this phase, when Louie realizes that there is no one else around to fix the mess. He is the fixer. He alone must come up with an answer to the logistical challenge of how to get Never and the tub clean while keeping the collateral damage—shit on the sink, shit on the toilet, shit on the shower curtain—as contained as possible.

And finally, with everyone rinsed off and clothes changed, comes the necessary end: empathy. While any rational person would lock Never in a bedroom with an apple and peanut butter after that stunt, Louie is not a rational person. He’s a parent. So he sits on the couch with Never and tries to connect with him. Because as terrible a thing as shitting in someone else’s tub after demanding a bowl of raw meat is, what’s more terrible is the confusion and self-hate rattling around in that little (OK, big) kid’s brain and the impulses in his body that he can’t control. So Louie wants to help. (Without that final stage of the cycle, we’d all hate our kids all of the time.)

There were other great moments in the Never half—the carbon allergy, the Letterman-like rug toss out the window—but the fact that Louie agreed to take Never home in the first place made me wonder more than ever before (and we’ve all wondered this a lot through the season) where Louis C.K. ends and Louie the character begins. Would the real Louis say yes to Never’s mom when she chases him down outside the school and begs him to take Never for the afternoon so she can make it to her first vagina-removal consultation? I would have come up with a thousand lies to get out of that playdate. Is Louis as good of a person as Louie?

He certainly likes to portray himself as an unusually upstanding guy. I loved the moment in Sweet Charity when Louie and “Robin Willaims” turn down two lap dances in a row, waving the girls away as if to say, “Oh, no, we’re not here to objectify you! We’re the good guys.” And the girls’ response is basically, “Jesus Christ, either pay up for a lap dance or get out.” Barney Ross would never have treated them so poorly!

Oh, and David, I too loved that blast of Night Ranger. After so much noodling jazz this season, the big MOTORIN’ crescendo was long overdue. I may have actually unleashed an involuntary Pete Sampras fist pump when the song kicked in, but that’s between me and my couch.

A couple of other things: The tween agent, dressed in a too-big suit and barking into his cell, never gets old. (“These guys!” he says to his Asian girlfriend/nanny in the backseat of a limo after hanging up the phone with Louie.) The drive-time bit was funny enough but a little broad—it reminded me of the too on-the-nose reality TV parody from a couple of episodes back. Though unlike you guys I thought the DJ’s reaction to Louie dissing Kansas City was pretty great, a two-sentence exchange that easily communicated how parochial those big-fish-in-little-pond radio dicks can be.

When the episode ended last night, I said out loud, “OK, so how do the first and second parts connect?” But then I got really tired and went to bed. I was thrilled to wake up and find that Jonah had figured it out for me! Barney and Never—unlikeable people who need people. But I’m not sure we even have to pull it all together this week. After some mostly successful attempts at narrative coherence, Louie returned this episode to its free-floating form. Some of it worked, some didn’t. But even though I’ve been the one bitching and moaning about whether we’ve all been giving C.K. a pass for his haphazard, anything-goes approach, it turns out I had missed it.

Oh, and just in general, guys? Your moms are wrong.