kimberlee rossi-fuchs looks at the fifth episode of what many are calling the best show on tv…
Like last week’s episode, “Daddy’s Girlfriend (Part 2)” eschewed Louie’s usual multi-narrative format in favor of a concentrated focus on a single event, Louie’s date with the beguiling woman he met at the bookstore in Part 1. The episode seems to set the stage for a disastrous evening with his opening bit at the Comedy Cellar, in which he laments a ruined good date after he brought a woman home “and then I farted for the rest of my life.” Given Louie’s hapless nature, most fans likely anticipated yet another quick descent into brutal awkwardness ending in romantic failure, but for once, Louie doesn’t blow it. To be sure, Louie’s still a bit awkward and stumbling at times, but his date doesn’t really give him a chance to screw things up. Far from a shy, retiring bookworm, she’s a ragingly manic pixie dream girl and Louie’s just caught up in her tidal wave.
The episode picks up right where we left off, with Louie returning to the bookstore at 8 pm to pick her up for their date. At this point, they’re essentially still stranger, not even knowing each other’s names. Louie’s built an infatuation based primarily on what he’s imagined her to be in his head and obvious discrepancies soon emerge between his black and white fantasy sequences and reality. The two begin the night by heading off to a local bar she recommends. While Louie waits amongst the crowd, she pushes her way to the bar and orders a beer and two Jaegers. The bartender instantly recognizes that the two Jaegers are for her and sternly refuses to start her off double-fisting “after last time,” offering her a tame glass of Pinot Grigio instead. Perhaps not wanting to host her date at a venue in which she obviously recently embarrassed herself or just pissed at the thought of being restricted by this bartender, she grabs Louie and leaves, insisting the bar was too crowded and proposing that they take a walk instead. He asks if she’s making him walk because he’s fat, to which she replies, “Yes, you’re fat and I have no tits. Let’s be honest,” stating the date won’t work unless they’re honest with each other.
Almost immediately, her honesty begins to border on over-sharing. Though the two have still yet to exchange names, she rapidly discloses the graphic and personal details of the bout with childhood cancer that should have killed her at age fourteen, loquaciously describing being forced to wear dentures at fifteen and “vomiting chemo vomit” while attempting to comforting her grieving mother. It’s a lot of information to divulge in the first few minutes of a date, but Louie seems somewhat impressed. Despite her insistence on honesty, she may be bit of a liar, too. After learning Louie’s name, she initially reveals her name as “Tape Recorder,” claiming her arguing parents settled on the name of a random object until they could come up with a permanent name, but never got around to it. (“Do people call you Tape?,” asks Louie, buying it completely). Over the course of the evening, she takes Louie all over the city, convincing him to try on a dress at a boutique and later to provide a homeless man some medicine and a room at a Comfort Inn for the evening. Although she seems to be creating tests for Louie, these little tasks aren’t really a way for her to get to know him, but a way for her to project her personality to him. It’s as if she’s performing and the whole date is a show of this aggressively free-spirit personality she’s cultivated as a way of dealing with, or masking, whatever darker issues are lurking beneath the surface.
Much like his reaction to the “Tape Recorder” story, Louie seems to buy it all hook, line, and sinker. He straps on the sparkly gold frock without much protest (and is rewarded with a kiss), relishes their late-night meal at the deli counter she takes him to (a very New York blend of bagels, salted fish, and marble rye), and plays along with the homeless man’s complaint of face spiders at her behest. After walking around the city all night, she leads him into a random building. When he expresses doubts about entering, she encourages him by pointing out that he had already “put on a dress tonight and saved a man’s life,” two activities probably akin to dinner and a movie for a manic pixie dream girl date. She’s created a quirky-fun and memorable evening for him so far, he may as well follow her whims to their conclusion.
They begin hiking up a seemingly never-ending stairwell and she forces him to climb higher and higher – yelling at him in drill sergeant fashion at one point – despite his protests of being fat and tired. Both winded, they finally make it to the roof of the building, where a stunning view of the city skyline awaits. After a quick, dizzying peek over, Louie keeps his distance from the ledge, but she remains calmly seated right on it. He’s completely freaked out by her seeming carelessness and begs her to move back, but she insists that there’s nothing to be afraid of since one could only fall if they chose to jump. He’s only afraid because “a tiny part of you wants to jump, because it would be so easy,” she tells him, and insists that she’s safe because she’s having fun and doesn’t want to jump. The fact that she immediately chokes up upon mention of what a good time she’s having reveals that statement to be untrue and makes clear that she’s referring to more than just their evening together. It’s an abrupt, emotional change, one that must make the instability the audience has noticed the entire episode abundantly clear to Louie. When she asks to go home and then finally reveals, “My name’s Liz,” it might be the only honest moment she’s shared with him all night.
Again, Parker Posey was fantastic as Liz, bringing depth and darker edge to the manic pixie archetype, coming across as slightly unhinged and dangerous rather than flighty and whimsical. As a result of her performance, the episode had an overall darker feel than usual, despite the occasional moments of levity. It would have been expectedly downbeat had Louie succumbed to his standard awkwardness and ruined the date by farting for the rest of his life, but Liz’s instability was much more sad. Louie isn’t typically big on continuity, so I’m not sure if we’ll see Liz again this season and their first date may be their last. In a season that’s focused a lot on Louie’s attempts to connect with others, Liz represents both his strongest connection and largest disconnect, as they share a great, memorable night out, but she remains removed, her true self hidden behind her showy quirks.