by Alex Greenberger
“I diarrhea-ed in the tub” could just be the line of the year. Yes, I know there are five months left in the year, but seriously, when is the next time you’re going to see a fat child named Never sitting in a bathtub, floating in brown water again?
You’re not going to see that in anything else. You’re just not. And I honestly wonder how C.K. came up with that scene. His penchant for absurdity brings about amazing things, and “Barney/Never” is one of those episodes where C.K. proves just how great he really is.
“Barney/Never” notably strips the episode of its typical “Brother Louie” opening in favor of a melancholy, black-and-white sequence in which Louie walks through a graveyard. Most shows change their openings as a gimmick (“The Simpsons,” for example, has a different opening sequence every week as something of an ongoing joke), but C.K. uses it here to create a somber, deeply upsetting atmosphere. And something bad has happened—Louie has lost a friend named Barney, a fellow comedian that used to work at the Comedy Cellar.
But of course, this is “Louie,” and I think we all know that C.K. has the power to make anything funny, even death, which is why the “Barney” segment of this episode turns darkly humorous pretty quickly when Louie talks to another friend of Barney over coffee. This other friend is played by Robin Williams, who gives a nice, understated performance here. He’s a friend who clearly couldn’t have cared about Barney too much, because he can’t agree with Louie when Louie says how much he misses Barney.
To honor Barney, the two go off to Barney’s favorite strip club. And this is where the episode gets really good—they tell the strippers that Barney has died, and everyone, aside from Williams and Louie, begins to cry as “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger is played as an elegy. A scene like this could, in the right context and under the right circumstances, maybe, just maybe be really sad. But well, there’s just something inherently funny about crying strippers, isn’t there? And there’s something even more funny about when their bosses cry along with them, right? It’s just me? Well, fine, but I know you all had to have thought this was as funny as I did, because C.K. and Williams’ faces of confusion are priceless.
Then, after a commercial break, we begin the “Never” segment, in which a mother who “has to get her vagina removed” leaves her child named Never in care of Louie when she has to get a preliminary check-up. But she warns Louie that Never doesn’t eat carbon (“I’ll die,” he later explains when Louie attempts to give him peanut butter, which apparently has carbon in it) and that she never says “no” to him.
While Louie attempts to deal with a daughter who doesn’t want to play with Never, one of the episode’s finest moments occurs as Never pushes a baby stroller (presumably with a baby still in it) into the street and causes a triple-car accident. C.K.’s best decision here is to have that all happen in the background and out of focus while he talks to his daughter. This, of course, is casual in Louie’s universe.
Never, Louie, and his daughter go back to Louie’s apartment, where Louie tries to please Never, who wants to Louie to bathe him. Not just fill his bath, but bathe him as well. Thankfully, Louie doesn’t do this and does a phone interview with a radio in Kansas City. But what would “Louie” be if Louie didn’t royally screw up in every episode? The interview comes to an abrupt close when Louie unloads his hatred for Kansas City in hopes they will note his facetiousness. And then Louie finds Never in the tub, diarrhea and all. For the record, I’m very happy that C.K. has turned the word “diarrhea” into a verb.
Even the ending credits are great, in which the two gravediggers argue back and forth—one in a foreign language, and the other in English, asking his friend to talk about “farts or something” in a language he can understand. It’s beautifully sardonic and wonderfully dark, to say the least.
So, no Parker Posey in this episode, but diarrhea is officially a verb and “Sister Christian” gets revitalized. In other words, this episode is another slam dunk for “Louie.”
Alex Greenberger is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.