HomeTelevisionTV Recap: Louie, 'Bobby's House'

TV Recap: Louie, ‘Bobby’s House’

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The differences between men and women have always served as comic fodder and it’s a topic Louie CK has frequently ruminated upon in both his stand-up and his eponymous sitcom. While Louie often features strong women and a focus on the fictionalized-CK’s troubled relationships with them, “Bobby’s House” brings notions of masculinity to the forefront, namely how one’s sense of manhood is often fragile and easily damaged by the success of another man or, as is the case in several ways this week, by the force of a strong woman.

Photo Credit: KC Bailey/FX
Photo Credit: KC Bailey/FX

Though the show’s version of CK is often portrayed as somewhat of a schlubby loser, he’s actually doing pretty well in life, especially when viewed through the eyes of someone like his brother, Bobby (the always-welcome Robert Kelly). After a case of mistaken obituary identity results in the two brothers crashing an elderly Vietnamese man’s wake, Bobby invites Louie back up to his apartment, a request Louie eventually reluctantly accepts. The relationship between the two is clearly a bit strained (though not altogether unloving), as Louie’s never been to his brother’s apartment and Bobby doesn’t even remember whether Louie’s the older or younger brother.

For Bobby, that difference doesn’t even matter, since either way he views himself as a failure in contrast to his brother’s relative success. He points out that while Louie has a dream job, a beautiful ex-wife, and partial custody of two lovely daughters, he’s got nothing but a sad little apartment he can barely afford to keep in electricity (I loved Bobby’s admission that, on top of everything else, his sperm are all dead, too – a true sad sack, indeed). After offering a rather insincere expression of happiness regarding his brother’s good fortune, Bobby asks Louie to help him but is unable to articulate just how he’s supposed to do that. Due to the palpable envy in his voice, when Bobby asks his brother to “help me get good things in MY life,” it’s clear that he’s really asking Louie to help him get what he has. Bobby doesn’t have comedic aspirations or even any real desire to have children (in fact, he admits he had his sperm count tested just to see how he measures up to Louie in that regard, as well), but yet he holds Louie’s life as a benchmark of success because it looks so much better to him than his own. Bobby’s identity isn’t based on his own achievements, goals, or aspirations, just in a negative comparison to his younger (or older – whatever) brother.

Soon after dealing with Bobby’s insecurities about his apparent lack of success as a man, Louie is forced to question with his own masculinity after getting his ass kicked by a woman on the street. He walks away from the fight (a good bit of physical comedy between Louie and guest star Heather Hardy) with his face battered and bruised, but the bruised ego comes later when he gets home and has to explain to his daughters what happened. Lilly and Jane (Hadley Delany and Ursula Parker) are initially worried and concerned, but when they catch on to his desperate avoidance of any gender-specific pronouns when describing the incident, Louie is forced to confess that he was attacked by a woman. He tries to spin it as a lesson in gender equality for his daughters (“you should know women are strong”), but they immediately dissolve into giggles at the image of their father being beaten up by a lady (the always hilarious Jane: “Was she pretty?”)

Photo Credit: KC Bailey/FX
Photo Credit: KC Bailey/FX

Of course, Pam (Pamela Adlon) has an even more uproarious reaction to Louie’s story and can barely get her laughter under control until Louie asks her to apply some makeup to his bruises so he can perform at his show later that night. Pam lights up at the idea, proclaiming, “This just became the best night of my life.” After covering his bruises, Pam begs Louie to go further, promising the best sex of his life if he’ll let her fully make-up his face “like a lady.” (Confession: I’ve also wanted to do this to men before and was always told no, so I shared Pam’s excited delight when Louie, of course, agreed.)

Whereas the angry woman on the street clearly emasculated him, it takes Pam and their gender-reversal role play to ultimately make a proper lady of Louie. Once his face is fully made up (with the same dark eye makeup Pam favors), Pam takes it a step farther, piling her hair into a baseball cap and approaching Louie as “Peter.” She adopts a laid-back swagger and spits some pickup lines at Louie and asks him to dance. The back and forth between the two in this scene was just hilarious and I laughed out loud at Louie’s girly voice and his fantastically bizarre, off-the-cuff character name choice, Jornetha (it might be Danish). Peter moves quick and soon gets Jornetha in bed, where he turns her around and, rather forcefully, penetrates her from behind (again, CK’s was SO funny in this scene – loved his partly passionate, partly terrified, yet always lady-like moans).

After Louie’s penetration at the hands (or possibly fist) of his kinda-sorta girlfriend, the gender roles between the two appear to have been completely switched, as a still made-up Louie lies in bed next to the cool, distant Pam and tries to talk about his feelings (Once again, Pam reverts from her fun, playful mode to one of sarcasm and dismissive cruelty – a side of her character I find increasingly irritating). In Louie’s eyes, what happened between them was an intimate act that portends they should take their relationship to the next level, but for Pam, it was just sex. Ever since becoming romantically involved, Pam has always pushed to maintain a distance, to keep things easy, and when Louie pushes for something more again here, she breaks up with him. While a lot of Pam’s reasoning makes perfect sense (Louie’s consistent requests for something more make it abundantly clear that they’re not on the same page), she comes across as needlessly callous in this scene, particularly with her dismissive response that yeah, “it sucks” and seemingly insincere condolence that the break-up will be hard for her too. The scene, and their relationship for the time being, closes on the perfect visual summary of their dynamic, with Pam laughing at Louie’s smudged mascara, the tears dripping from
his face suddenly transforming him from sweet Jornetha to the iconic sad clown of velvet painting fame.

Photo Credit: KC Bailey/FX
Photo Credit: KC Bailey/FX

That sad clown persona is one Louie has frequently adopted throughout the series’ run (and, in a nice, full-circle closing, also serves to uplift Bobby a bit, as he laughs at his brother’s bruised face, suddenly feeling better about himself) and, although I laughed often throughout “Bobby’s House,” it does grow tiresome to see him continually debased at the hands of the often overly abrasive Pam. Rather than offer any real gender fluidity, Louie and Pam’s role reversal is rooted in stereotypes (with her adopting a bro-centric masculine identity and his transformation into a weepy, emotional sap), representing a far less nuanced take on the traditional battle of the sexes than is usually typical of CK’s comedy. As a result, “Bobby’s House” is a relatively unsubstantial episode of Louie, laugh out loud funny here and there, but missing the shrewd insight CK brings to the show at its finest.

‘Bobby’s House’ Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs is a Senior Writer for Pop-Break, regularly covering Game of Thrones, Louie, Futurama, and Boardwalk Empire, as well as other delectable nuggets of TV, film, and music throughout the year. Since graduating with Highest Honors from Rutgers University with a degree in English, Kimberlee currently finds herself in a financially comfortable, yet stifling corporate environment where her witty and insightful literary and pop culture references are largely met with confused silence and requests to, “Get away from me, weirdo.” Still, she’s often thought of as a modern-day Oscar Wilde (by herself) and one day hopes her wit, charm, and intellect (again, self-perceived) will make her a very wealthy, very drunk woman. She’s also the mother of a darling little boy, Charlie Miles (aka Young Chizzy) who she hopes will grow up to not be too embarrassed of all of the baby pics she relentlessly shares of him on various social media sites.


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