During last night's Louie, Louis C.K.'s TV alter ego grabs his friend and long-time crush Pamela by the arm and attempts to drag her into his bedroom as she fights him off. "I'm gonna take control and make something happen," he tells her.
He doesn't succeed. Not fully anyway. "This would be rape if you weren't so stupid," Pamela says as she attempts to get past him. "You can't even rape well."
Ultimately, she allows (and I use that word very loosely here) him to kiss her and is repulsed. She leaves the apartment and Louis leans back against the front door, pumping his fists in victory like a teenage boy who has just gotten his first kiss from the girl he likes.
But we're not cheering alongside him. I don't think Louis C.K. (the real man, not the character) is cheering for him either, but regardless of intent, the result is a Louie episode that's puzzling, disturbing and thought-provoking. Whether it's thought-provoking in a good way or a bad — well, I personally haven't sorted that out yet.
Prior to the sexual assault (and it was a sexual assault), Louis is at the Comedy Cellar doing standup, only this time, his bit runs a lot longer than usual and is all about how women have been abused by men throughout American history. But it begins with this:
"It doesn't make sense that men would be in charge. It makes sense that women would be in charge because your mom is the first person who takes care of you. It just makes sense that mothers would run the world. And they don't. It's the opposite. We have this weird system of men — it's kind of upside-down. I think the reason is because women were in charge a long time ago and they were really mean. They were horrible. You had to walk around naked and they would flick your penis and laugh at you, so we're so scared of them and finally one guy punched a woman and she was like, "Wah!" and he was like, "We can hit them!"
He goes on to more feminist-friendly material about the suffrage movement, the way men can get away with abusing their wives and how the term "wife-beater" is still considered an appropriate nickname for an article of clothing. Still, it's that first part that stands out as the episode progresses.
Earlier in the episode, Louis and Pamela meet for lunch. Months prior, she said that she was interested in a relationship with him, but Louis turned her down. Now that he's heartbroken after a failed relationship with a different woman, he wants another shot with Pamela, but she's no longer interested.
"Why are you so mean to me?" he asks when she rejects him.
She replies in her typical no-bullshit way: "Why do you like it?"
Pamela not being interested in him is not her being mean. Sure, she's sarcastic and harsh, but that's not what the character Louis struggles with. He struggles with her unwillingness to coddle him or feel sorry for him when he's being selfish and pathetic. In his mind, that might equal her laughing at him and flicking his penis as he walks around naked, but that — just like his hypothetical women-controlling-men bit at the Comedy Cellar — is a figment of his imagination. The only part of it that's real is that in both scenarios, men end up hurting women: A guy punches a lady to get control, Louis almost rapes Pamela in his apartment because he wants to "make something happen."
This episode — "Pamela 1" — is the first part of the season finale. How the sexual assault (and the auteur behind it) will ultimately be viewed is likely to emerge from how they handle "Pamela 2."