I tell ya, I feel like a right chump because I spent the early episodes of this series rambling on and on about how little Louis C.K. cares about continuity and then he throws a six-part episode at us followed by an episode that picks up right where that one left off with Louie all sad about his girlfriend Amia leaving to go back to Hungary. Then Charles Grodin comes back with this three-legged dog and Louie gets a text from Pamela, who you’ll remember showed up back in town some episodes back.
Of course then it goes all slapdash and weird like the less cohesive episodes of Louie are wont to do and, coming off of the sustained six-part narrative of “Elevator,” “Pamela Part 1” invariably seems weaker.
But it’s also the funniest episode Louie’s done in a long while. Charles Grodin is again great, offering sage wisdom (“You’re like a walking poem”), which is capped off with “Pick up the dog poop, would you please?” And Pamela (Pamela Adlon) is still relentlessly mean (she tells Louie he’s missed his window of opportunity with her) but, unlike the last time she showed up, she’s actually super-funny again (when Louie’s phone rings: “Oh yeah, you’d better get that, maybe it’s your balls calling from wherever they went”). There’s also a wonderful bit of New York City-centric humor when Louie spots a guy on the subway (played by Michael Kostroff from The Wire!) rambling endlessly to no one in particular and Louie takes it upon himself to sit next to the guy and listen to his grievances.
But the episode is an oddly-paced grab bag. Most of the scenes feel disconnected and isolated from one another and seven minutes right in the middle of “Pamela Part 1” are dedicated to Louie’s stand-up act. Plus, it happens to feature mostly the same material he used for his monologue the second time he hosted SNL. I still laughed at a few jokes here, but well, I’d pretty much heard them all before.
Still, I think the more important issue is the way the stand-up in the middle screws up the episode’s pacing and focus. However, that’s not being entirely fair because much of the material here is about how men treat women, ending on a joke about violence against women (specifically, how weird it is that we toss around the term “wife-beater” so casually). And violence against women is obviously a theme of the episode since the penultimate theme is Louie’s attempted rape of Pamela.
Ultimately, it’s only the very first stages of an attempted rape; Louie doesn’t even manage to get one item of clothing off. But it’s still disturbing for a few moments there. Pamela’s really not being snarky with Louie at all. She’s saying “no” and freaking out and Louie is being scarily aggressive, dragging her toward his bedroom and doing a terrible job of trying to yank her shirt off. It made me say out loud, “Oh man, is he really doing this?” (I think I was referring to Louis C.K. the writer more than Louie the character).
But then Pamela diffuses it some by calling Louie out on it with the hilarious line: “This would be rape if you weren’t so stupid! God, you can’t even rape well.”
Louie’s still kind of aggressive at the end of it, but he’s also shrunk back to being his awkward self some, claiming he’s going to “take control” and “make something happen” because “You said you wanted to be— do— be in a thing!” He then semi-forces on her the most ridiculous, least romantic kiss in history.
It’s an odd scene that feels like it’s challenging you to decide where you stand on it all and whether or not you want to find any of it funny. I think I’m kind of in the middle here. I found Louie’s initial actions genuinely discomforting as the implication was, if things kept going the way they were, the end result would indeed have been rape as the situation was presented as a helluva lot more nonconsensual than Louie’s recent romp with Amia. Plus, not that this excuses Louie, but if you’re familiar with his entire history with Pamela, you can understand to an extent how his frustration with her has built to this point.
It’s also interesting how Pamela seems at first frightened but then appears to not be taking Louie very seriously again at the end of it all. The whole end of the scene cracked me up, like after the horrible kiss when Pamela says, “Thank you for the that” and how Louie absurdly sees it as some kind of victory.
Anyway, it was easily the most interesting scene of the episode. It’s a disturbing sequence that transitions into hilarity. Pamela doesn’t seem too genuinely afraid of Louie once it’s over, but one assumes it might also be hard to regard someone the same way you once did after they got rapey with you, no? I feel like it’s an unfortunate scene ultimately, because I guess I was really hoping for Louie and Pamela to one day have some kind of rosy, wonderful romance explosion resulting in a fun and funny relationship, but I don’t think we’re going to get that on this show. After all, Louie already got to be married to Pamela Adlon on his HBO show. I don’t think he’ll be so lucky again.