This episode is called “Poker/Divorce”, and it features Louie playing poker and getting divorced. Of course, there’s a lot more going on then that, but if this episode had a blurb in the television listings it would be quite similar to that. The two pieces aren’t as thematically linked as future episodes will be. The only constant about them is that they involve sex in some capacity, which can be said about almost everything in Louie. So the episode doesn’t add up to much more than the sum of its parts, though they are very funny parts. The most immediate thing to take from the episode (apart from the sometimes explicit material getting treated like everyday occurrences) is its structure. C.K gives us a cold open that lasts 7 minutes, then the title sequence plays, then does a flashback, then back to the present, then a flashback even further in the past, then a fantasy sequence, then the present, then another fantasy sequence with the characters from the present placed in the past, with everything separated by stand-up sequences of the highest calibre. All in 23 minutes. This is just the second episode of the show, remember.
The cold open is the titular poker match between Louie and some of his comedian friends. It starts with a montage of them doing what they do best: telling jokes. Then the other comedians start asking the one homosexual at the table, Rick Crom, about various aspects of gay life. It starts with Crom relaying information about a club called City Jerks, a gay club whose title is pretty self explanatory. Then the tone gets slightly dramatic when Crom tells the origins of the word “faggot” and why it’s offensive to homosexuals. It involves how in the middle ages, homosexuals were perceived to be of a lower class then witches, so while the witches got their own stake to burn on, the gay people were thrown “in with the other faggots”, meaning bundle of sticks.
The tone of this scene is very dry, with everything that’s said being very matter-of-fact. There’s no pretence here, and Louie says on the commentary that he isn’t trying to say anything, he’s just trying to show a different perspective. When Crom is telling the story of the word faggot, he isn’t lecturing or trying to prove a point, he’s just telling the story. In fact, Crom told that story and the one about City Jerks to Louie in real life, 15 years apart. So while other shows would likely use this material to shock or get a point across, Louie is just trying to show his day to day life.
After some of the best stand up of the season, where Louie explains how getting divorced after 14 years of marriage is like being stuck in a time-machine that travels in real time, we see the “divorce” sequence, which covers a lot of ground in ten minutes. After a flashback of Louie signing the divorce papers, we see Louie get hassled about it by his fictional brother, Robbie. Louie is trying to stay positive, but Robbie isn’t having any of it. “You signed a paper that guarantees that you’ll die alone in a room with a thin blanket over you, and the nurse comes in and just shuts the machine off.” He isn’t trying to annoy Louie. Instead he is concerned, concerned for his own happiness now that he has to think of his brother being alone. Which ironically leaves Louie completely annoyed. It’s one of those classic Louie scenes where if it was played just slightly different, it would be incredibly depressing. As it is, it’s incredibly funny.
We see some more stand up, then Louie takes a ‘sexual inventory’ like he talked about on his “Hilarious” special, which basically just involves seeing his gut and ass in the mirror. This isn’t the last time we see his ass in the series either. Louie then goes through an old year book, and fixates on a girl called Tammy Wickilinis. Again in flashback, this time shot with a more saturated colour scheme to show how far back we’ve jumped, we see a pre-teen Tammy and Louie in the woods as Tammy asks Louie to “Whip it out”. Present day Louie imagines what she would look like today and immediately jumps on Facebook to ask to meet up.
Louie then shows us some realities of being newly single and trying to date at 42. When he gets to Tammy’s house, he sees that she is not the perfect being that he envisioned. Instead, Tammy has a husband and 3 kids, looks a little haggard, and has the same size frame that he does. Louie tells her that he got in contact with her because of a “moment” they had together that had stuck with him, something she had said, i.e. “whip it out”. Tammy can’t recall what she said, so she badgers Louie into telling her. He finally caves just as he’s leaving. We see present day Tammy and Louie in place of their childhood counterparts in the woods, their positions and desires still in tact. They give in, and they violently make out, knocking over anything that gets in their way. C.K says on the commentary that he tried to make it “like a monster movie”, and he does an admirable job. Louie goes to the “they unexpectedly start having sex” ending well a couple more times in upcoming episodes, almost becoming like Louie’s catch phrase. While it might seem lazy then, here it is unexpected and fresh.
The episode then ends as it began, with the comics at the poker table cracking each other up by saying the most obscene things. There’s only one show that would feature a discussion over whether you can get AIDS after giving a blow-job then brushing your teeth, and that’s Louie.