Louie Episode a Well-Crafted Short Story: “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2”

I knew the comic/writer/director/actor, Louie C.K., could be funny and uninhibitedly crude, but I had no idea that he could write so well until I saw the episode, “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2.” Interestingly, the episode wasn’t even that funny, but how he handled the story was masterful. The plot takes Louie through a series of uncertainties that culminate into a high-risk, to-be-or-not-to-be moment. Below is a summary of the story as I saw it.

The set up, from Part 1, is shy Louie has awkwardly asked a bookstore clerk out on a date. Then in Part 2:

Louie waits for his date (played by Parker Posey) outside the bookstore where she works. Louie is nervous–about the date, the girl, his life. He doesn’t know what to expect, and right away the girl (Louie doesn’t know her name yet) wants to get a drink. Not Louie’s first choice. He wants to talk, to get to know her, but she is pushing forward, walking fast, expecting Louie to follow. She goes into a loud bar and pushes her way to the bartender–much ballsier than Louie–and orders three drinks (two for her), but the barkeep, outside of Louie’s earshot, refuses her: “Not after last time,” the bartender says. Already, I’m feeling for Louie. He had such high hopes for this girl, still does, though he doesn’t really like the bar scene, but he has no idea that she’s got a drinking problem.

She walks out of the bar, upset. Louie has no idea why she’s upset, but his feelers are up. Something is askew. She tells Louie she doesn’t want to stay at the bar. Louie is relieved. What she’d really like to do is walk. Jokingly, Louie asks if she wants to walk because Louie’s fat; surprisingly, Liz says, yes, and then she says, “You’re fat and I don’t have any tits. Let’s be honest.” Her hands are on him and she’s up in his face. If he wants this date to continue, she says, they have to stay honest. It’s edgy and weird, but Louie kind of likes it. Until she tells him about having cancer when she was fourteen, how her life was over, how she went crazy, lost her teeth and had to wear dentures. At this point the camera backs off (Louie C.K. directs the show too) and focuses on the woman. Louie (the character) is out of the shot as his date maniacally describes what it was like to almost die. Then the camera goes to Louie. He’s standing back, eyes a little bugged like he’s scared, like he doesn’t know what to do. No teeth, no breast? Is she going to die? What has he gotten himself into.

This theme of uncertainty begins to ramp up.

But before Louie decides to graciously back out of the date, she asks if he’d like to go into a clothes boutique. A change of scene, yes. There, she explains that she recovered from her cancer and is perfectly fine. Louie seems relieved. She picks out a slinky dress and puts it up to her body, and Louie smiles. The image is appealing. Then she says, “You put it on.”

The plot thickens.

Louie has a choice: she’s asking him to do something that’s not just outside his comfort zone, it’s downright nutty. Which means she’s nutty or bat-shit crazy. Of course he says no, but she guides him into a dressing room closet and gets in his face and tells him that she knows it’s crazy, but rather than Louie winning her over with a series of ritualistic tests, he can win her over right now by putting the dress on. She says she’ll stay in the dressing room with him and get a preview of what’s to come (sex). Louie thinks, What the hell? And he does puts the dress on. Maybe this crazy girl is teaching Louie to live life in a new way. The change in the dressing room is an up-close camera shot, the actors pressed together. It’s intimate, and though Louie feels stupid, it earns him a kiss and the promise of something more.

Out on the streets again, she asks if Louie is hungry. When he says yes, she says that hunger is good and that they should not eat. At one point she asks Louie his name. They hadn’t exchanged names. Embarrassed Louie asks her name, and she says, hesitantly, that her name is “Tape-Recorder.” Again, Louie doesn’t know what to believe. Finally, he says how mean to name a child that, and she laughs–at him. It’s not her name, and she can’t believe how gullible Louie is.

Feeling he deserves payback after being duped by the name, he tells her they should get something to eat. She takes him to a fresh-food bodega, and they pig out in the store, eating off napkins: cooked herring, raw tuna, pickles, caviar and bagels, bread. It’s orgiastic. Louie has never had anything so delicious. All the weirdness of the night disappears and they leave the store for the streets again, full and laughing, connecting, living the date Louie had hoped for.

As they walk Louie drops a homeless man a bag of leftovers he took from the bodega. He doesn’t think the girl sees. But she does, and again she rallies Louie to live large. She tells him not to do it halfway, and they go back to the homeless man. She gets down in his face and is caring and comforting and natural. Louie is impressed, but when the homeless man admits to hallucinating and seeing a snake on the face of Louie’s date, she turns to Louie concerned–as if she believes that there really is a snake on her face. Once again, Louie is left in no-man’s land. Does she really believe a reptile is on her face? The moment passes and she and Louie help the homeless man by buying him medicine and a room at a hotel.

The story is almost over. We’ve gone through a number of plot reversals, learned things about both characters, and now the girl, on another high, leads Louie to an illegal entrance into a building. “We can’t go in there,” Louie protests. She, of course, doesn’t listen and promises Louie a view at the top that he will never regret. Once they are in the stairwell climbing, Louie says he can’t do it. It’s too many steps and he’s too old and out of shape. She gets in his face again and tells him that tonight he’s put on a dress and saved a man’s life. “You’re going to do this.” So Louie tries, but struggles. It’s probably 40 flights up and he eventually stops. “I can’t do it,” he says. And she screams at him, repeatedly, demanding that he has no choice.

So he does what she says. When they make it to the top, she walks to the edge of the building and says, “Isn’t it amazing?” Louie doesn’t think so. He’s gassed, hands on knees. But soon he starts to look around, and it is beautiful. He takes it in, and then he notices his date is sitting on the edge of the building, her knee hanging off, and Louie, who tried to look down to the street below but couldn’t, begs her to come away from the edge. This is the climactic moment. The whole theme of balance is at play–is she crazy, is she full of life, is she safe, dangerous. What will happen? The tension is full bore. And Louie is pleading, his entire life it seems–his greatest hopes and fears–hangs on the verge of disaster. But the girl is calm and relaxed and she tells Louie that she would only fall if she wanted to jump, and that she doesn’t want to jump. She would never do that. Life is too good. Her smile is beautiful. It relaxes Louie. She’s right, life is beautiful. Then she tells Louie that’s why he’s afraid of the edge. He’s afraid that he might want to jump. Once again, she’s challenging him. His smile is gone, but she is still smiling. She’s beautiful and thoughtful and then her smile disappears and her face goes blank, then dark. She turns back to the precipice and something serious comes over her. Louie has no idea what she will do. Stay still, jump, walk away?

What she does is get up, walk toward Louie, and say she’s ready to go. Her manic self is spent. She seems down, depressed. Louie is confused. And as she walks through the door back into the stairwell, she tells Louie her name. Liz. As if to say, this is who I am. Take it or leave it. As Louie closes the door, the camera focuses on what he sees: the edge of the building and the skyline, both beautiful and dangerous. And we the viewer are hung in between the two worlds. Life, death. Joy, heartbreak.

Bravo Louie C.K.

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