High Maintenance recap: Snake Club

Episode 8 (season 2, episode 2), debut 1/26/18: Marcia Debonis, Ray Anthony Thomas.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site.
Episode 8 (season 2, episode 2), debut 1/26/18: Marcia Debonis, Ray Anthony Thomas.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site. /
High Maintenance Season 2
Episode 8 (season 2, episode 2), debut 1/26/18: Marcia Debonis, Ray Anthony Thomas.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site. /

High Maintenance delivers one of its funniest episodes to date by tying together two vignettes in a hilariously unexpected way. Spoilers. Obviously.

As High Maintenance Season 2 rolls out, it’s clear that the show is continuing to play with its original format. Back when the series aired on Vimeo, episodes ranged from 5 to 20 minutes, always taking as much time as needed to tell a hyper-specific story. Then, HBO purchased the series, and the show had to work within a half-hour time constraint. This worried some fans of the original web series, but High Maintenance has been cleverly handling that issue by strengthening the connections between vignettes that exist within the same episode.

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In Season 1, two vignettes within the same half hour frequently only shared the most tangential of similarities. (With the exception of the Guy, of course.) In fact, episodes 5 and 6 were both linked by books either seen in the background or fleetingly mentioned (Elena Ferrante’s “My Brilliant Friend” and Marie Kondo’s “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, respectively). However, instead of keeping the vignettes mostly separate this season, High Maintenance is experimenting with more solid connections between stories each week, and “Fagin” is a fantastic example of what happens when the narrative circles back to something long forgotten to deliver a delightful reveal.

“Fagin” is an episode that is split up into two distinctive threads. First, we meet Ron (Ray Anthony Thomas) and Sharon (Marcia Debonis), a couple who have traveled to Brooklyn to visit their adult daughter, Claire. The two are giddy to be spending time on vaycay in the city, and they cheerfully make their way to their accommodations. Apparently at her father’s behest, Claire has set her parents up in an Airbnb so they can save money on lodging. Oddly enough, Claire sets them up in a super shady one. Maybe it was cheaper?

All sorts of surprises await Ron and Sharon in the apartment. Even though it’s in an apartment building with units that sell for upwards of a million dollars, the place is a bonafide dump. The filth doesn’t phase them but, when Ron spies a giant snake with his little eye, he freaks out. Sharon giggles and continues to take stock of the place. She’s okay with the snake, but the bedroom is in a loft. And, according to Sharon, “there’s never a Sleep Number at the top of a ladder.” True story, Sharon. True story.

Despite the squalor and the scary snake, they decide to stay in the apartment rather than find a hotel. They head out to meet Claire and her friends, and the group decides to chill out with a weed sesh. Who they gonna call? The Guy, of course.

The Guy is dealing with a sad sack customer who has just broken up with his girlfriend. He mopes as he pays for his new stash, and then tries to get information on his ex because the Guy still delivers to her. Of course, given his line of work, the Guy has great instincts for diffusing a situation before it escalates. He offers the sad dude a hug and then goes on his merry way. Forget Miss Manners, we could all learn a thing or two from the Guy because his social instincts are on point.

After the Guy leaves sad dude, he heads over to see Ron and Sharon and sells them a few joints at $15 a pop. That seems steep, but delivery is key, so what do I know?

The Guy chats with Ron for a bit, and Ron points out the snake, mentioning that his name is Fagin. One of Claire’s friends decides to take a selfie with the thing, and Ron freaks out a little bit. Business concluded, the Guy bounces.

Once Claire and her friends leave, Ron and Sharon enjoy a series of mundane activities made exciting thanks to the magic of quality weed. Sharon cleans out the fridge, they play a game of arcade hockey, and then they head to the bodega for ice cream. On their way back, they’re confronted for a second time by an off-putting woman with a cat on her shoulder. She asks them if they’re staying at an Airbnb, huffing that Airbnb’s aren’t allowed in the building. In response, Ron and Sharon get giddily indignant, Sharon shouting that Derek’s snake is friends with their snake, and that they have a Snake Club. It’s a pretty dope and imaginative excuse. FYI, Sharon is the coolest. I’d totally hang with her and Ron any day.

That night, after the two have a little vaycay sex, Ron goes down to use the bathroom and realizes the snake has escaped thanks to Claire’s friend who carelessly left the top of the tank open. Ahhh! They rush out of the apartment in a frenzy and check in to the closest hotel.

Last we see Sharon and Ron, they’re trying to hide the fact that they aren’t staying in the Airbnb any more. They meet Claire in the vestibule of the apartment, and quickly usher her away to brunch. However, the cat lady is hanging out of the building, giving them a hairy eyeball as they walk away.

Cut to…

High Maintenance Season 2
Episode 8 (season 2, episode 2), debut 1/26/18: Molly Knefel, Ben Sinclair, Brenna Palughi.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site. /

A group of women in an apartment, prepping for some sort of protest. To longtime fans of High Maintenance, some of these women are familiar. Brenna (Brenna Palughi) and Molly (Molly Knefel), were first introduced in the third episode of the web series (“Jamie”) when they were dealing with a mouse in their apartment. Back then, they were two idealistic girlfriends living in a tiny apartment. Now they’re married, living in a much nicer place, and have a little girl named Malia. They’re still idealistic though. Good on ya, ladies!

Brenna and Molly are hosting a feminist get together, and everyone is generally being really extra while trying their best to be woke about race and gender politics. In particular, Brenna is concerned about racial balance in the room because their daughter Malia is half black and she wants her to be exposed to a multitude of different cultures. So she calls up a bunch of other women to join the party.

The ladies settle in for an afternoon of sign making and revelry, and Molly realizes she needs to order in some weed. As they wait for the weed guy, we’re treated to snippets of lady conversation about a plethora of different topics. One of the women got a gun to cope with the craziness of today’s world. When challenged about whether or not she can use it, she retorts, “I have a masters, I think I can figure it out.” Turns out her masters is in literature though. Not super helpful when it comes to the operation of a firearm.

Other topics include the “benefits” of global warming, whether or not Katy Perry and JonBenet Ramsay are the same person (they totally are), and the merits of working with a familiar deck of tarot cards.

Eventually, the Guy arrives at the apartment, and some of the women have an issue with the fact that the Guy is, indeed, a guy. Brenna gives him an intense briefing on the situation as soon as he walks in, and it’s clear that he’s fully uncomfortable. It’s interesting to watch a male operate in such a feminine space, and while the Guy handles it well, his discomfort is palpable, especially when the women start in on a conversation about how they don’t need men. He promptly sells a bag to Molly and starts to leave when Brenna hands him her phone to take a picture of the group.

High Maintenance Season 2
Episode 8 (season 2, episode 2), debut 1/26/18: Ben Sinclair, Shannon O’Neill, Brenna Palughi, Molly Camp, Maddie Corman, Molly Knefel.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site. /

Given all his social niceties, he agrees to take the picture, setting it up horizontally as requested when… OMG IT’S THE F***ING SNAKE!!!

You forgot about the snake, didn’t you? Admit it. You did. I did. And his return is glorious.

The chaos that ensues is nothing short of slapstick hilarity. One of the women tries to scoop up the giant creature with her protest sign, exclaiming, “we all deserve a platform!” Of course the lady with the gun immediately whips it out like she’s going to go all Dirty Harry on the snake. Obviously the neighbor chooses this exact moment to bring the adorbs Malia back from her playdate. Molly quickly sends them away, and the gun issue resolves itself when the lady decides that a firearm might not be the answer in this particular situation.

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The Guy is gobsmacked from the events of this brief melee, but he’s got his wits about him enough to recognize the snake. He leads a parade of feminists down the hall, filming the entire thing, as Brenna gamely carries the snake down the hall to its home. On their way, they encounter the cat lady from the first half of the episode. She’s looking for her cat. Ummm….

Random Thoughts Before I Go:

  • The “SMILE” lady doing performance art on the street is mesmerizing. Her first introduction to the world of High Maintenance was also back in the web episode “Jamie”, and it’s a delight to see her back in action. Love the coda where she’s dancing but she’s replaced her pink feather boa for Fagin, the boa constrictor.
  • Yet another link to past High Maintenance episodes comes when one of the feminist party goers mentions the Cannabitches. If you’ve never dipped into the web series, you can learn much more about the Cannabitches in episode “Esme”.
  • Apparently Ron and Sharon were right, and Thai Stick is a thing. High Times says so.

‘High Maintenance’ airs Friday nights at 11/10c on HBO.