Merry Christmas! We’ve reached the end of our 12 Days of Christmas Episodes, and this year we’re wrapping it up with Louis C.K. This is probably the only time that we’ll run something about Louie that doesn’t include the picture of him pulling up his shirt onstage. Actually, stick around for the end. There may be a Christmas miracle in it for you.

Louie – “New Year’s Eve”

Original airdate: September 27, 2012

This episode is a bit of a cheat, since only the first third is Christmas, as evidenced by the title. But it’s my list and I get to make the call. I’ll talk more about it in a bit, but I want to note that this is the Season Three finale of Louie. In that season, Louis C.K. incorporated episode-to-episode continuity for the first time, so the Louie who appears here is a guy who experienced everything that happened over the course of the season. He had a rough year.

The episode opens with Louie’s daughters opening their Christmas presents and thanking Santa for each one. Louie just looks defeated, and with each gift we see a little flash of him fighting crowds at a store or somehow going above and beyond. There’s a long scene of him having to fix a doll because the eyes came loose inside the head, and it’s absolutely agonizing. It runs almost four minutes and thinks keep going wrong until he eventually has to take apart and reassemble the doll and them melt crayons to repaint its face. It’s such a great scene of a man who’s just pushed to his limits.

He reads his daughters the story of Ping (the Chinese duck who doesn’t want a spanking – you’ve read it), and then his ex-wife and her new boyfriend show up to take the girls on Christmas vacation for three weeks. All alone, Louie ends up going to bed at three in the afternoon. His sister invites him to join them in Mexico, and he packs up. But then on the bus he runs into Liz, the woman with whom he went on one amazing date before she disappeared. Just before they embrace, her nose gushes blood and she collapses. She dies in the hospital shortly thereafter. Louie spends the night in the airport, but instead of getting on the Mexico flight, he heads to Beijing (inspired by Ping). There, he tries to find the Yangtze River, and when a kindly local brings him, it turns out to be nothing more than a puddle in a field.

Then a nice man invites Louie into his home for dinner, and despite the language barrier, the whole family accepts him and it ends on this really beautiful scene of Louie and this Chinese family laughing and enjoying a meal together.

There’s a reason I picked this episode. I mean, I love Louie but this isn’t entirely a Christmas episode. The fact is, I had a tough year. I don’t want tolouis ck get into the details, but it took everything I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There’s an episode of Louie earlier in this same season where he buys a motorcycle and he gets in an accident almost immediately. When he tries to return it, the guy who runs the place gives him a pep talk to the effect that yeah, you’re gonna fall. You’re going to get hurt, but you have to keep riding. My favorite line is “I have a permanent limp, but I’m still walking.” And that means a lot to me. This episode puts a nice button on the season, where no matter how bad things get, there’s still kindness in the world. And if you’re willing to accept it, happiness can come from almost anywhere.

This time of year, that message means a lot to me. A message that will be undercut by the best line immediately below.

Best Line – “Sh*t on my father’s balls!” — Louie issues a creative epithet


Holiday Tropes

Christmas Presents – Louie buys plenty of gifts for his daughters, many of them with a backstory.

Gift Wrapping – In a moment I love, we see Louie struggling with wrapping a present and finally just using a wad of tape to hold the end together. I can relate.

Christmas Decorations – After the girls leave, Louie takes down the decorations. He shakes the ornaments off the tree and eventually just tosses the tree itself out the window of his apartment.

Celebrity Guests – Amy Poehler appears as Louie’s sister, while Parker Posey reprises her role as Liz.

Holiday Cheer-O-Meter – I have never watched this episode without tearing up, so I have to give it a 10. Merry Christmas, everyone!

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