"Bully" S1 / E9
- A- Community Grade
Tonight’s excruciatingly awesome episode of Louie was all about sex and violence, though the connection between the two was sometimes tenuous, even during a callback during C.K’s last stand-up comedy bit about how at the age of forty two he’s officially reached the point where he’ll never suck a dick, beat somebody up or ski.
The episode began with our trepid hero recounting how he learned about sex and its infinite horrors. Like a lot of us, he had but a fuzzy, somewhat terrifying conception of sex before his father sat him down and delivered the talk that every boy dreads. Only C.K’s father made it much more embarrassing by describing sex not in loose, general, birds-and-bees type terms but rather as a very specific technique that involves poking just the head of the cock into a woman, then teasing her with it until she’s so filled with sexual desire that she explodes with passion.
During the whole agonizing, intricately worded monologue I consoled myself with the knowledge that the gifted kid actor playing C.K’s younger self at least didn’t have to actually listen to the unsolicited advice on how to properly make love to a woman. Ah, but Louie wasn’t about to let me or him or you get away that easily, and the child actor was forced to repeat the questionable advice for his father’s benefit.
We then segued from the sexual humiliation of the distant past to the sexual humiliation of the uncertain present as C.K enjoys what appears to be a very solid first date with a smart, middle-aged woman with definite potential. Things begin to go awry, however, when a group of rowdy youngsters enter the donut shop where C.K and his date are having a nice cup of coffee and proceed to make an unholy ruckus.
C.K is unwise enough to ask them to pipe down, at which point one of the youngsters comes over to C.K’s table and delivers some one-on-one bullying. The acting and dialogue in this scene were pitch-perfect, from the faux-ingratiating opening of the bully’s menacing spiel to the look of mortification mixed with mild terror on C.K’s wonderfully expressive face once he realizes that there is a possibility, however slim, that he will get his ass kicked.
The scene was characterized by an almost unbearable tension. Would the bully make good on his threat to beat the holy living shit out of C.K? Was his bark worse than his bite? Who would back down first, C.K or the bully? Who would cry uncle? Would C.K emerge with his dignity or his safety intact?
C.K’s date was torn between respecting C.K’s pacifistic ways and very grown-up, very adult refusal to fight or provoke the situation any further and what she describes as sort of prehistoric irritation that C.K wouldn’t stand up to the bully. So while she intellectually understood that he was doing the right thing, emotionally she thought he was being a pussy and a loser.
Most TV shows would end there. Hell, most TV shows wouldn’t even get within the same hemisphere of such a weird, uncomfortable, queasily realistic depiction of the ugliness of human behavior but Louie then veered into some unexpected directions. His ego badly bruised, C.K stalks the young man back to his blue-collar Staten Island home and confronts the boy’s dad about his son’s thuggish behavior.
What followed lent an extra element of ambiguity to an episode already full of it. Once C.K sees that the boy is violent and aggressive because his father hits him his anger shifts from the boy to the man, from the symptom to the cause. But even that proves more complicated than it first appears. Outside the house, C.K and the dad have a cigarette and share an unlikely but very real moment of connection when they compare and contrast their diverging paths to fatherhood and manhood.
The episode ended a little too neatly with C.K spelling out the episode’s theme but by that point it had more than earned the right to a bit of an easy capper by plumbing dark depths with unblinking candor and thoughtfulness. Hot damn am I going to miss this show when its transcendent first season ends.