After the little sojourn with Lenny in the previous episode, Louie returns to catching us up with how Louie and Pamela’s relationship is going. And though where it’s going isn’t so hot for Louie, it makes for the best episode of the season so far.
The reason I like this one so much is that it does what the second episode, “A la Carte,” did but refines it. For at least three of its seasons, Louie was largely defined by how undefinable it was; it was seemingly so without structure that anything could happen, in any order, for any period of time, pacing and continuity be damned. What’s great about the episodes in this season, especially this one, is they still have the appearance of formlessness, but this belies a structure underneath. It’s a simple, basic structure that doesn’t rob the show of its key quality of surprise, but adds the small, happy feeling of payoff that comes with a fundamental adherence to conventional narrative format.
How Louis C.K. accomplishes this is by beginning the episode with a non-sequitur. The first story, about Louie’s brother Bobby (Robert Kelly), doesn’t really have anything to do with anything else. It functions wonderfully as a self-contained, funny treat as Bobby convinces Louie to drive the two of them to the wake of an uncle who Louie didn’t even know was dead. Bobby’s not the brightest; it turns out to be a funeral for an Asian guy who’s decidedly not their uncle after all.
Bobby reasons, “He fought in Vietnam.”
“What, so then they all came here?” asks Louie.
After that, in Bobby’s apartment, Bobby and Louie have an awkward heart-to-heart of sorts, which features multiple great lines (Bobby says he’s got “no money, no skills, no Twitter”). The length of this scene is brilliantly timed by an electricity-saving timer that Bobby sets when the two first enter the apartment. The conversation and the scene end abruptly when the lights suddenly cut out.
The main plot of the episode is then introduced, though in a crafty, unobvious way. The story is actually about how, no longer wanting to hurt Louie (who clearly needs to be in a more serious relationship to be happy), Pamela decides they need to go back to just being friends. But we get there by first watching Louie step in to defend a random guy on the street who’s being bullied by a woman, only for her to turn on Louie and beat the crap out of him instead. It’s only because Louie has to do stand-up that night that he (after first going home and getting laughed at by his daughters) goes to Pamela’s to ask her to put some makeup on him to conceal his injuries. This leads to them having sex, which leads to them talking after sex, which leads to them breaking up.
What’s so cool about this is how naturalistic and haphazard it all seems, like Louie at its best does. It flows like it’s just a bunch of consecutive occurrences that happened to befall Louie that day. But on closer inspection it all fits together satisfyingly. For example, the scene where Louie’s daughters laugh at him after learning he got beat up by a girl doesn’t appear to add anything too meaningful to the plot, but it contributes to the recurring theme (both in the episode as well as the overall series) of Louie getting laughed at. The scene cuts from his daughters laughing to Pamela laughing. And at the end of the episode, during the credits, we get the tag of Bobby laughing at Louie as they have lunch, looping Bobby into the main story and bringing the episode full-circle.
However, these scenes perform really well in isolation, too. Each one has hilarious moments. Louis C.K. knows it’s funny to have people laugh at him and it gets progressively funnier each of the three times it happens here. I also love how, in the fight scene, Louie looks around to make sure no one’s watching before he gives the woman a weak, retaliatory punch. And the sex scene—in which Pamela takes on the typically masculine role and Louie the feminine—is equal parts uncomfortable, touching, and funny (special attention must be given to Louie’s choice of name for his female persona: Joenetha).
What’s so satisfying about “Bobby’s House” (the title, by the way, is a misdirect in itself as Bobby’s apartment plays a very minor role) are the hints of structure permeating the episode throughout. With Louie getting both beaten up by and then dominated sexually by women, there even seems to be a bit of a message running through some of this episode, one which Louie imparts to his daughters: “You should know that women are strong.”
Thanks to the final shot, the show opener even receives closure as Bobby’s pleas for Louie to somehow help him don’t go unanswered. It’s not a solution to any of Bobby’s life problems, but Louie’s misfortune at least makes Bobby so happy he can’t help but laugh uncontrollably. It’s minor, but it’s still a payoff and it’s an unexpected one, rounding out “Bobby’s House” as a gratifying episode of subtly structured chaos.