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It's no secret that Louie is more than a comedy. The show can range from the happily hilarious to the utterly depressing. So for this fourth season, we're going to plot each episode on "The Louie Scale" to figure out just how comedic or dramatic it was.

"There's no way for me to say anything but shit now, which is all that's coming out of my mouth," Louie says in the middle of a discussion with his ex-wife Janet (Susan Kelechi Watson) about sending their daughter Jane to private school. Jane's been sent home from school after ripping a teacher's skirt off, and she's not really feeling school in general (apparently her teachers can't answer the tough questions, like, why is there even an America?), so Janet thinks it is time for private school. Louie vehemently protests – he doesn't want his daughter turned into some Hitler youth, he wants her in "the real world," a phrase he repeats over and over. The conversation itself is very real, a discussion between parents that accomplishes little and becomes more about the two of them than about their daughter. It's a stark presentation of Louie's life, a tedious debate that, with the show's willingness to linger, becomes a definition of his character.

The hyper-real scene is bookended by Louie's interactions with Evanka (Ellen Burstyn, freed from the elevator) and her niece Amia (Eszter Balin), both of which showcase the show's worship of food. First there is the opening of "Elevator Part 2" in a Fairway, as Louie selects the best items to put in a gift basket for his new friends. The episode ends with Louie on a date with Amia, who isn't fond of the fish at Russ & Daughters. "I needed a good time," he says to her, and for once the show gives him what he needs.

                                               "Elevator Part 2" 

The same story lines – Jane and Amia – run through the third part of Elevator, with one addition at the beginning: Pamela. Yes, Pamela, who Louie hasn't seen since the end of season two in the airport, who he once told "I don’t have enough time in any day to think about you enough," is back. And how does she greet him? "Hi, stupid asshole." It's a perfect moment, from Pamela's nonchalance to Louie's inability to process what he's seeing. She hugs him, and she has to make him hug her back.

Of course the show brings Louie's one true heartbreak back into reality once things finally start going kinda/sorta okay with Amia. And of course she's actually into the idea of a "guy-girl kissing type of thing" with Louie now, but he can't. He's seeing Amia, he tells her, even if she doesn't believe him ("No one wants to be with you, Louie, stop lying," Pamela says, as only she can). 

There are beautiful moments in the episode like when Amia and Jane, the two women currently driving Louie's life, have a violin duet in the hallway, and there are darker moments – Louie learns that Amia is returning to Hungary in a month, he takes a baseball bat to his piano – but it's Pamela's return that hangs over the episode, even if she's never brought up after that first scene. 

Non-Pamela highlights of the episode? Louie's favorite things: 1. Remembering being with Jane 2. Collecting hydrogen 3. Riding elephants 4. Being with Jane, and at the very end, when Louie stops Dr. Bigelow in his building for more advice. "No one cares whether you date this girl or you don't," he tells Louie, keeping things in perspective. Thanks, doc.

                                                                     "Elevator Part 3" 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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