kimberlee rossi-fuchs welcomes you to miami…
While most of us would relish a business trip to America’s version of a tropical paradise, Louie’s tour stop in “Miami,” is initially pretty dreary. Aside from the flight attendant’s recitation of landing protocol and a randomly hilarious, brief snippet from CK’s first performance in town (“I know it’s not popular to say, but I hate balloons.”), the first few minutes of the episode are largely silent and absent dialogue, emphasizing the decidedly unglamorous and lonely nature of Louie’s life on the road.
From the moment he leaves the airport, Louie is surrounded by the beautiful people, whose unapproachable good looks only serve to throw his own awkward unattractiveness into stark relief. When Louie arrives at his hotel, he sees a sculpted, shirtless male model in the lobby, standing idly by, pouting and gazing sexily into middle distance. Looking like a Greek statue come to life, there’s no reason for this man to be standing there like that, except to serve as a visual representation of how much better looking he is than Louie. Being surrounded by so much physical perfection soon becomes grating and rather than being titillated by the sights, Louie’s just pissed off by the hotness of the young women around him, observing them on the beach and muttering to himself, “This is bullshit.”
Later, a bikini-clad blonde cavalierly asks if she can have a strawberry as she’s already scooping it up from his plate. t’s an obnoxious move, one based on the assumption that he’ll be so charmed by her looks, he won’t take offense to the fact that a stranger just stuck her well-manicured hands into his snack. “No,” he tells her. “You just ate a strawberry you can’t have.” Nonplussed, she shrugs it off and walks away.
Rather than appearing ridiculous or gross to these intimidatingly gorgeous creatures, Louie is merely invisible and is practically trampled on the beach by a group of ridiculously hot twenty-somethings who didn’t even notice him standing two feet in front of him. Louie’s essentially a ghost in Miami – hiding out in his hotel room by day, sleeping, scarfing down enormous sandwiches, and peering sadly out his window like a forlorn ginger gargoyle and is only free to emerge from his lair at dusk, when the pretty people vacate the white sands and the gnomes come out to play. The nod of recognition the fat, old dude on the beach gives Louie as he removes his t-shirt just reinforces the depressing notion that this is who he is and where he belongs.
While swimming in the ocean, Louie notices a hotel employee packing up his beach chair and gestures furiously at the man to leave his stuff alone. While the employee is oblivious to Louie’s thrashings, the lifeguard mistakes his cries as those of a drowning man and rushes to his rescue. Trying to avoid any further emasculation, Louie insists that he isn’t drowning, but the strapping, young lifeguard thinks he’s only trying to save face and insists on helping him to shore despite his protests. Once back on land, the lifeguard introduces himself as Ramon and chats Louie up for a bit, impressed to discover that he’s a comedian. He shows up at Louie’s show that night and later, after bonding over a drink and their shared Hispanic roots (Ramon’s Cuban, CK spent his early childhood in Mexico), Ramon offers to take Louie out to show him “the real Miami.”
What follows is a breezy little montage of Louie and Ramon just hanging out the next afternoon. Ramon doesn’t take Louie to any trendy nightclubs or hotspots, just around the Latin-flavored neighborhood, hitting up some down-home eateries, meeting up with some friends on the street, and even chasing some loose roosters around. Later, he takes him to a bustling house party, packed with his family and friends, where he introduces Louie as his “amigo.” Everyone is warm and welcoming to Louie (well, except the two young women he lamely approaches with the world’s whitest-sounding “Hola.”) and when he realizes he’s running late for that night’s show, Ramon and his buddies drive him to the venue, laughing and hollering at girls the whole way there.
It’s not often we get to see Louie having fun and the sequence was almost adorable, but of course, it’s followed by his immediate humiliation as he quickly overstays his welcome. Having had such a good time the night before and feeling a connection with his new friend, Louie decides to extend his stay in Miami by a few days. When he shows up on the beach the next day and approaches the lifeguard chair, it’s clear that Ramon’s a bit weirded out by the fact that he’s still around. Things veer into seemingly homoerotic territory, as the two men go for a swim, wrestling and tossing the football around. (The playful little splash Louie gives Ramon as they run into the ocean had me dying.) Ramon’s clearly uncomfortable with what he believes to be Louie’s intentions and when Louie later runs into him in the hotel lobby and asks him to hang out, Ramon feels he has to cut him loose.
In a more-cringeworthy moment than anything Curb Your Enthusiasm has had to offer in recent years, Ramon basically accuses Louie of being attracted to him and turns him down. Louie can’t even defend himself, since anything he begins to say in response seems to prove Ramon’s assumption, as to admit any kind of feeling of connection to another man, even a purely platonic one, does seem a little gay at best and at worst, really pathetic. “I just felt,” he begins then quickly stops, and Ramon laughs, his belief confirmed. Very little is actually said in their non-conversation of sputtering sentence fragments and stutters, but Ramon’s implication is clear and it’s just painfully awkward and hilarious. The episode then closes with a well-placed bit from CK’s live act about all the things straight men won’t do out of an irrational fear of seeming gay (like casually using the word “wonderful”) that ends the episode nicely.
In a more traditional sitcom, our protagonist would have been rescued by a cute, female lifeguard and shared an amazing, perspective-granting night on the town with her before heading back to New York refreshed and richer for his experience. This is Louie, however – no life lessons are learned and whatever perspective is gained is immediately wiped out by defeat and humiliation. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.