High Maintenance recap: Family matters

Jessica Hecht, Ben Sinclair, Josh Pais.photo: David Russell
Jessica Hecht, Ben Sinclair, Josh Pais.photo: David Russell /

Boundary setting and family issues take center stage in an emotional episode of High Maintenance.

We can’t choose our biological families, but we can choose the types of relationships that we cultivate. High Maintenance is no stranger to examining the ideas of family and belonging, but this episode explores two completely different ends of the parenting spectrum, with ultimately heartbreaking results.

Meet Laurie (Jessica Hecht), a high-strung helicopter parent. When we’re introduced to her, she’s staving off advances from her husband Ira (Josh Pais), while diligently working on a lengthy Google Doc. Her iPhone rings. It’s Face Time. Her daughter pops into view, demanding to know if her edits are ready for her class tomorrow. Damn, girl. Right from the jump we can see that this family is rocking seriously unhealthy levels of co-dependency.

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Once Laurie finishes her (daughter’s) edits, she heads to bed, but her hubby is still in the mood. He sidles up to her, offering her up some weed to help her relax. She protests, saying she’s just too tired, but Ira insists. Finally, she agrees to take a puff or two, but Ira’s not prepared. He can’t find his bowl, and proceeds to dump out his entire dresser drawer in desperation, but all the while Laurie is softly chanting, “please don’t find it, please don’t find it.”

Ira doesn’t find it, and the moment passes. He goes to take care of himself in the bathroom while Laurie drifts off to sleep.

The next morning, spoiled daughter Maddy (Molly Brown) Face Times her parents yet again. Her printer is out of ink, and she doesn’t have any more because her dad didn’t order it for her, so obviously it’s all their fault. Ira sighs and lets her know that not only did he order it, he has the delivery confirmation on his phone. There’s some back and forth about whether or not Ira picked the right cartridges, but we all know he did. Maddy is just a whiny jerk. But neither Ira nor Laurie can complain about it, because, in true helicopter parenting style, they created this monster, and now they’re forced to live with a constant, soul-crushing stream of faultless need.

As the story of this family continues to unfold, it’s clear that Laurie is the bigger offender when it comes to enabling her daughter’s continued bad behavior. She’s a Type A personality who can’t stand when things aren’t done her way, and clearly this translates to her offspring as well.

Jessica Hecht.photo: David Russell
Jessica Hecht.photo: David Russell /

At work later that day, Laurie roundly and rudely dismisses some design work in a team meeting before taking yet another call from her daughter. Maddy has a UTI from all the sex she’s having with her boyfriend, and she needs help. It’s worth noting that this open flow of conversation between mother and daughter about sexual activity is actually incredibly healthy, but the idea that Maddy still can’t make her own doctor’s appointments at age 18+ is somewhat disturbing.

Also, worthy of note is the fact that Laurie tells Maddy that she always has to pee after sex to prevent UTI’s and yeast infections. This is amazing advice, and I wish all women knew to do this. If y’all take nothing else away from this recap, please know that women should always try to pee after having sex. It’s just one of many important life lessons hidden inside High Maintenance, but it is one of the more straightforward ones.

Later that night, Ira calls the Guy (Ben Sinclair) to grab some more aphrodisiac herb so he can maybe get it on with his wife sometime this century. He asks for something that’s “like a Corona”, and I’ve gotta admit that sounds like a pretty amazing strain of weed. The Guy tosses over some Greek Crack and tries to get paid, but Laurie comes home in a cyclone of negative energy. There’s an awkward moment where the Guy has to explain what ghosting is, and then he splits faster than a UCLA gymnast.

Ira finally gets Laurie to take a few puffs, and it becomes immediately clear that the weed helps to alleviate her impossibly high levels of anxiety and stress. Of course Maddy calls at that moment to ruin everything. Kids these days. Even when thye’re out of the house, they’re still cock blocking their parents like champs.

Despite her chilled out state, Laurie checks in with Maddie about her UTI and her boyfriend’s uncircumcised penis. Ira is a bit surprised to hear this frank conversation between his daughter and wife, but he tries his best to roll with it. He cuts in and tells Maddy they have to go. And like a true brat, Maddy thinks that the sun rises and sets with her, and wonders what her parents could possibly be doing. Ira follows through with the frank tone that Laurie set and tells the truth. “I’m trying to have sex with your mother.”

Maddy is appalled, but she hangs up. And, in a truly twisted but seriously hilarious bit, a frustrated Ira turns to role playing as their needy daughter to try and get his wife’s attention. It works.

Ben Sinclair, Stan Carp.photo: David Russell
Ben Sinclair, Stan Carp.photo: David Russell /

In an interesting coda to the episode, The Guy leads us to a story about a lonely old man who seems to have been abandoned by his family. When we check back in with him, he’s delivering to a dude who won’t stop rambling about the Secret of Monkey Island, but eventually manages to extricate himself from the weed brain situation. Upon leaving the building, an older gentleman (Stan Carp) requests help getting into his apartment. The Guy has a big heart and a love of interaction with strangers, so he agrees.

The man hands over a comically large key ring and asks the Guy to try all the keys. He begins to balk at the task, but then he follows through. Once they get the door open, the older man walks right in, expecting the Guy to follow. He does, and in a few minutes he gets drawn further and further into the sad tableau of the apartment. There’s a pile of old newspapers next to a gas burner, a teeming colony of cockroaches in the sink, and disorder everywhere. In a moment of panic, the Guy toggles between feeling responsible for this man’s welfare and wanting to bolt from the situation. He ends up doing a few small things, but then he starts to leave.

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As he walks out the door, the man caresses the Guy’s face and calls him, “my funny guy.” It’s clear that a form of dementia is setting in, and the man believes that the Guy is his son. It’s heartbreaking for myriad reasons. If this man’s “funny guy” is still around, why isn’t he caring for his father? Does he not care? Were they estranged? What happens to families over the years?

The Guy can’t quite bring himself to contemplate all of these things at the moment, so he bolts, the ghost of a potential future looming over his shoulder.

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