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‘Louie’ Review: “Elevator Part 2 / Elevator Part 3″

Louie Season 4 Elevator Part 4 Review
– FX

FX’s ‘Louie’ season 4 keeps the dramedy rolling with tonight’s double-installments “Elevator Part 2″ and “Elevator Part 3,”  the first half of which sees Louie navigating a school incident with Jane and spending time with his downstairs neighbor’s niece Amia, while the second installment sees Pamela (Pamela Adlon)’s return complicating his new relationship.

Last week’s ‘Louie’ episodes “So Did the Fat Lady / Elevator Part 1” saw Louie confronted by his own hangups about dating a heavyset woman (Sarah Baker), after which an older woman (Ellen Burstyn) became trapped in his building’s elevator. So how do “Elevator Part 2″ and “Elevator Part 3” continue the cycle of amiable misery?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Louie’ season 4, episodes 5 and 6, “Elevator Part 1” and “Elevator Part 2″!

Louie buys an large quantity of food, bringing a gift basket to his previously elevator-trapped neighbor Ivanka, largely as an excuse to see her niece Amia. With Amia out, Louie instead gets to know Ivanka, who reveals her own past singing and playing piano to entertain the Hungarian army, before Louie get a call from Jane’s school to come pick her up for bad behavior.

Louie picks up Jane, though no one will tell him exactly what transpired, until he and Jane sit down on a nearby park bench. Jane expresses her disdain for school, given that none of the teachers can answer any of her broader questions, and only read students the lessons in their textbooks, while the other children are mean. When Louie presses, Jane admits that she’d gotten upset about her turn on a playground spring-horse being stolen, while the teacher ignored her rational pleas, for which Jane pulled down the woman’s skirt and embarrassed her.

Bringing Jane home, Louie invites her mother Janet out to talk over the matter, as Janet once again presses the idea that their children should be in private school. Louie hates the idea, believing they’ll learn more valuable lessons about society in public school, though Janet believes Louie to be allowing his own middle-class upbringing and insecurity to affect opportunities for his own daughters. Louie grows agitated and admits that she’s right about his personal bias, but that his anger prevents him from contributing anything else of value to the conversation.

Louie returns to his apartment and encounters Amia coming out of the elevator, so Louie attempts to communicate an invitation to spend the day with him. Amia accepts, and the two sample herring at Russ and Daughters (as he’d done with Liz), take the Staten Island Ferry and walk through the park. Later walking through a drug store, Louie attempts to find Amia what she’s looking for, as she sensually pantomimes her entire shower routine to communicate her need for a blowdryer. Afterward, the two share somewhat awkward goodbyes at her door, before Louie returns home.

“Elevator Part 3″

Louie Season 4 Elevator Part 4 Review
FX

Louie argues with his brother Robbie about fixing his Blackberry, shortly before encountering the long-absent Pamela in a supermarket, and ending up speechless by her return. A while later over coffee, Pamela explains that things didn’t work out with her ex-husband in Europe, though she’ll have plenty of free time to hang out now that she’s back in New York. Pamela admits that Louie got under her skin, and that she’d be open to a romantic relationship with him, though Louie insists that he’s with someone now, surprising her.  Pamela reluctantly wishes him well, chiding him as he leaves the restaurant awkwardly.

Louie goes to Ivanka’s apartment, asking her to translate to Amia Louie’s request for a proper date, though Amia cuts him off to convey that she’ll be going back to Hungary before long. Louie begs her to stay, regardless of how implausible it seems, but when Amia goes to respond through Ivanka, Louie claims to have gotten the message, and sullenly leaves the apartment.

Upstairs, Louie takes his frustration out on the piano with a baseball bat, only to be interrupted by Amia and Ivanka at the door, who explain that Louie didn’t let her finish. Ivanka relays that Amia will remain in New York for a month to help her aunt move back to Hungary, and however temporarily, she would love to spend more time with Louie. Amia agrees to dinner the following night, as Louie relays that he has two daughters.

Jane apologizes to her teacher for the earlier incident, before the school’s principal questions Louie and Janet about their plans for Jane. Neither has an answer, but when the principal leaves the two alone to communicate better, both pull out their phones and ignore one another. Later that afternoon, Louie and Jane run into Amia in the building, for which Louie is surprised to find that Jane knows the Hungarian for “hello,” while Amia sees Jane’s violin and goes to fetch her own. Amia and Jane manage to play a surprisingly cogent piece together, leaving Louie all but speechless.

Louie drops Jane off at school the following morning, insisting that no one is mad at her, but rather that they worry, assuring her that she’s an easy person to be around. Later on, Louie encounters Dr. Bigelow (Charles Grodin) in the hall and thanks him for helping with his back, though Bigelow denies any contribution. Louie also blurts out that he doesn’t know if he should keep seeing Amia, given her imminent departure, to which Bigelow first expresses his confusion and disinterest in the matter, before pointing to his three-legged dog as an example of being happy in spite of what you might one day lose.

OUR REVIEW:

Although it’s been said many times in many ways, ‘Louie’ is an exceptionally weird show. You never know quite which way the narrative will lean from episode to episode, or which plots and characters we’ll end up following over the course of a season. We weren’t altogether surprised to find that despite her tour-de-force debut last week, Sarah Baker’s Vanessa is nowhere to be found, though it’s no less weird to pick up with Louie attempting to spend time with his downstairs neighbor’s Hungarian niece, given the language and timing barrier inherent to their courtship.

As far as unorthodox love stories in New York go, the first half of tonight’s installment seems largely par for the course, both wonderfully endearing and a bit familiar (poor Amia would never know how Louie got the idea for Russ and Daughters), with enough originality in moments like Amia’s pantomimed shower to sell what keeps either character coming back to one another. Of course, this early in the game, it’s impossible to know what to make of Louie and Amia’s relationship with regard to the future, or how Pamela’s return might further complicate the brief affair.

If nothing else, Pamela Adlon’s return serves as a strong reminder of exactly how much time has passed over the course of the series, given the character hasn’t appeared since the 2011 finale.* Future episodes not titled “Elevator” make clear Pamela has a larger role to play over the course of the season, fitting given her apparently monumental decision to proposition Louie for a relationship, though for the moment the story remains a well-worn tale of one party having moved on from the other. Similar to Robert Kelly’s brief reappearances as Louie’s brother, both characters seem like outside distractions for the moment, coming and going amid a central focus on the stories inherent to Louie’s building.

Neatly tying either ends of the hour together, tonight’s Jane stories were notably strong as well, bringing to mind a few rational concerns of the blue collar Louie (no doubt owing to the real Louis C.K.’s love-hate relationship with public schools and standardized testing as well), without necessarily sacrificing the character’s self-awareness for bettering his children. Young Jane proves surprisingly knowledgeable about her situation as well, though we’d hope that Jane’s increased spotlight over the last few episodes doesn’t end up overshadowing Lily, who surely has her own adolescent issues to face.

We hesitate to get attached to some of these stories, considering how ‘Louie’ tends to bat serialized viewers around, but the “Elevator” series to date has still afforded some strong, sweet and richly funny material throughout, with a few layered bits of sincerity (watching Louie react to the violin concert was a thing of beauty) and parallel between the ways men and women relate to one another.

* – IMDb tells us that Adlon actually provided the voice of the cable hotline operator last week, in a neat bit of foreshadowing, if true.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of awkward ‘Louie’ laughs? Did tonight’s installments hold up to last week’s duo? Let us know in the comments and check back next week for more all-new ‘Louie’ episode recaps of “Elevator Part 4,” and “Elevator Part 5″ on FX! Yep, still!

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