"Louie" does something that really no other comedy show on TV would, or could do — it's not afraid to not be funny. While loosely fitting into the half-hour sitcom format, Louis C.K.'s long since thrown off those shackles, both formally and in terms of the need to actually make you laugh. After all, he's one of the most critically acclaimed and successful stand-ups of his generation, and as such, doesn't exactly need that simple, immediate validation, and some of the best episodes of the show to date — last season's sublime "Duckling," for instance — had barely a chuckle to be found, without feeling lacking. This week's installment, "Miami," wasn't quite in that top tier, but was another demonstration that he's trying things that no one else is coming close to.
One of a sub-set of "Louie" episodes you could describe as "Louie on tour" (along with Season One's "Travel Day/South" and Season Two's "Joan," with Joan Rivers), it sees Louie down in Miami playing a couple of gigs at a hotel. He's pretty unhappy at first, intimidated by the attractiveness of everyone at the beach, and is reduced to eating a room service burger. Finally getting up the courage to go for a swim, Louie sees an attendant clearing away his chair, but a lifeguard, Ramon (Miguel Gomez), mistakes it for the sign of a drowning man and goes to rescue him. Louie's a little put out, but asks Ramon to come to see his show that night.
The two get on well after the show, bonding over their shared heritage (Ramon is from Cuba, while Louie, like C.K., is half-Mexican and lived in Mexico City until he was seven, an oft-forgotten fact), and the next day, Ramon invites him to a party. Louie has a blast, and despite having already bid goodbye to his new friend, elects to stay on a little longer. But things are a little more awkward when they're reunited, leading Ramon to enquire in a roundabout way if Louie has a little crush on him. Louie sort-of denies it, without ever really saying the words, and the two part on good terms, the episode closing on a piece of stand-up where Louie discusses heterosexual men's fear of appearing gay.
And that's about it, really. The episode was in many ways more travelogue than plot, with C.K. gorgeously capturing a side of Miami that isn't often seen on screen. The plot was pretty lightly sketched out, and dialogue was pretty minimal; Ramon's not the most articulate guy (although nicely shown by the end to be brighter and more perceptive than he first appears), and Louie's on his more awkward side throughout the episode.
And again, laughs were thin on the ground, although we're far beyond the part of begrudging that. Compared to the last couple of episodes, it did feel a little slight, as beautifully made as it was, but the looseness and naturalism was kind of wonderful. And the last scene between Louie and Ramon reinforced something we've felt across the season so far; C.K.'s giving the show a more coherent theme than ever before, with all three episodes focusing on masculinity to some degree.
Episode one saw Louie unable to man up and break up with his girlfriend, even when she encouraged him to do so. Episode two saw him belittled by Melissa Leo for refusing to go down on her, and here, he develops something of a man-crush on his not-quite savior, and yet goes to great lengths to deny it, even if Ramon, and the viewer, aren't quite convinced. There's an undeniable homo-eroticism of the two playing in the surf together, and C.K. neatly keeps Louie's real feelings ambiguous.
So while it felt a little thin compared to the show at its finest, it was absolutely of a piece with the season so far, and the joy of the show is that you can have an episode like this and know that this was simply C.K. stretching his wings ever further. [B]
Bits & Pieces
– The first reappearance of Louie' ex-wife, and her genuine pleasure at her guess that Louie's met someone was a sweet touch that's immediately opened up the character for further apperances.
– C.K. walks a fine line between himself and his character, and this episode was another good example; he shares the same Mexican heritage and background as the real life Louis, and yet seems to be more than a little rusty with Spanish, while C.K. is pretty much fluent.
– We can't find any obvious credits for Miguel Gomez, who played Ramon; did C.K. find a local Miami actor and give him a showcase? Was he even an actor? Either way, it was a lovely little performance.
– Great to see the unexpected little behind-the-scenes snippet at the end. Hell, we'd watch a whole episode like that.