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Louie has always been known as a show able to find humor in taboo subjects, almost as well known as it is for doing very much with very little. “Country Drive” took both of those aspects to new levels. Essentially with just three extended scenes – including C.K.'s standup segment – the episode proved, like all Louie episodes, that if you need bells and whistles to entertain an audience, you aren't trying hard enough.
The first third of the episode saw Louie and his girls, Jane and Lilly, on the road to visit Louie's Great Aunt Ellen. Jane was a pretty steady source of humor, and more for just her repeated “I'm bored!” line. There was also some great flute playing overlaying the trip that felt like the perfect theme for the montage of road scenes. The real musical highlight, though, came with Louie lip-synching to The Who's “Who Are You?” For nearly three minutes, he emphatically sang along to the track, while “air guitaring” and making erratic gestures at Jane and Lilly. And every single second of it was gold. The only thing topping Louie's show was the girls' reactions to it. They both scored great laughs, as Jane tries – and fails – to cover her own giggling, and Lilly shifts from complete apathy, to looking as though she is fearing for her life when Louie's performance reaches its most intense moments.
Having a major role in this episode, the girls' young actresses didn't disappoint. Jane always does outshine her big sis though. And while “Country Drive” was no exception, Lilly was also responsible for much of the episode's enjoyment. It's ironic how much their characters clash with how they perform as actors. Though Lilly has to explain death to Jane – much to Louie's chagrin – Jane's actress, Ursula Parker, seems much more worldly than her older counterpart. This was evident in their improvised/real life reactions to Louie's musical rendition. When Louie drops the F-word, Jane can't help but outright laugh, and you can just catch Lilly's eyes go wide, as she gasps at Mr. C.K. “swearing.” Both of which were equally funny reactions, but it also showed that Parker has a better sense of humor. The girls held up well throughout the episode in what was likely the most screen time they have seen.
It's not long after their arrival at Aunt Ellen's that things take a disturbing turn. In true Louie style, he makes the audience pity Aunt Ellen before shocking us with her racism. With this series, it's always just a matter of time before a plot hits home for a viewer, and this one did it for me. I'd be lying if I said I'd made it through childhood without hearing that term for Brazil Nuts from one of my more senior and senile relatives. But as Louie tries to make the girls understand, “Set in their ways” takes on a whole new meaning when you have been around that long. Eunice Anderson (Now is that an old person's name or what?), who played Aunt Ellen, got some half gasps and half laughs for her shock value humor. Even better was her out-of-character moment with C.K. at the end of the episode. The conversation between them again takes recalled childhood moments. We have probably all had that aunt or grandmother who kept her age secret on pain of death. Before that, though, C.K. had more dark humor in mind for the character.
Jane's lesson in mortality becomes a hands-on one in a scene that didn't lose its emotional edge for being easy to see coming. There was just no way that with Louie's luck any 97-year-old was going to make it through alive. It was another classic example of the worst things happening to the nicest people – or at least a person who was trying to do a nice thing. (Recalling the episode “Dogpound” when Louie adopted an older dog instead of a puppy, only to have it die the minute he arrived home with it.) The flute kicking in one last time was a great capper to the scene. It almost seemed to be mocking Louie at this point for his good deed backfiring, and for insuring that Jane would know all about death by the day was over. If not for that second part it would be easy to simply laugh along with the music. Now Jane, having literally just learned the concept of death, will take it in firsthand.
The standup also reflected Louie's inability to keep his daughters as the innocent angels he wants them to be. He's not even able to shelter them from the foulness of the N-word when reading a Mark Twain novel. The humor and subject of C.K.'s standup made his own use of the word completely secondary. More than for just the comedy, it was an enjoyable end to the storyline of the episode. After the horrible day they had, it would be easy to see Louie trying to get his girls over it with a nice bedtime story, only to have that same horrible word that began the downward spiral of their day resurface yet again. My guess of what would happen after that? Louie has a few drinks before he has to explain to his ex-wife why the girls will probably have a few questions about death when they get back to her place.
The many laughs it engendered, as well as the emotional strings it tugged, propelled this episode to just behind “Pregnant” in the ranks of Louie's best this season; and it was a very close second. The low budget of Louie has not been a detriment in any way to the series, remaining one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking comedies currently on television. And in fact, as the series only improves, producing on a pittance is just something else C.K can take pride in.