High Maintenance recap: Dance dance (tech) revolution

Ben Sinclair, Alex Auder.photo: David Russell
Ben Sinclair, Alex Auder.photo: David Russell /

In the penultimate episode of High Maintenance Season 2, three individuals engage in various activities in order to feel connected to the universe.

Three short vignettes make up one of the final episodes of High Maintenance Season 2. While they aren’t necessarily connected in a conventional way, the series steps away from the longer-form stories that they’ve been telling this season to focus on multiple people trying to drown out the noise and live their lives with meaning.

First up, Jasper (Neimah Djourabchi) is a dude who works from a cafe in Brooklyn, but he’s incessantly distracted by the siren song of the internet. He mainlines podcasts, devours social media, and is basically just a walking, talking embodiment of internet addiction. But he wants to change. One day, Jasper sees another guy outside reading a real book and using a flip phone. From Jasper’s vantage point, the other dude looks free.

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So Jasper tries to unplug himself from all the noise. He unearths an old flip phone and installs app blocking software on his Mac Book. This works for a short period of time, but not for long. It’s too tempting to return to the world of quick and dirty dopamine rushes, so Jasper does.

Frustrated, Jasper orders up some weed from the Guy. The Guy sees the flip phone and realizes what’s going on. Instead of trying to go cold turkey from everything, he suggests that Jasper have a tech-free night once a week. Jasper likes this idea (me too!) and he tries it out, lighting candles and – except for an episode of This American Life – seems to be making a go of it.

That is, until one of his tapered candles wobbles over and falls into a trash basket, starting a fire.

I’m not too clear on what the message is here. Try to disconnect from the internet and your apartment will catch fire? We’re so dependent on technology that even a single night away from it can be deadly? I’m gonna say that’s it.

Comedienne Reina (Kate Berlant) is also having trouble with technology, albeit in a different way. Via a few minutes of mostly visual exposition we see that she’s being harassed online as a result of something she tweeted. It’s not revealed until later, but Reina happened to make a joke in poor taste about murdering the president and his family.

In Law & Order fashion, it’s a story ripped directly from the headlines. Reina’s plight mirrors that of ex-SNL writer Katie Rich. On Donald Trump’s inauguration day, Rich tweeted a joke that alluded to Barron Trump becoming “this country’s first homeschool shooter.” The wrath of the internet quickly rained down upon her, and she apologized, followed by shutting down her account. Yet, the comedy community rallied around Rich, quickly coming to her aid.

Kate Berlant, Aparna Nancherla.photo: David Russell
Kate Berlant, Aparna Nancherla.photo: David Russell /

Social media can be a double edged sword, for sure, and High Maintenance follows Reina as she deals with both ends of the love-hate spectrum.

The abuse of women on social media is definitely no joking matter, and Reina first develops a mild case of PTSD, jumping whenever she feels unsafe. She smokes more to make up for her anxiety, and calls the Guy for supplies. When they’re buying weed, she tells her friends – including the amazing Aparna Nancherla – that she’s not going to perform that evening. They’re bummed, but Reina stays in to record an apology vlog. Within minutes of the video going live, Reina notices that her follower count is skyrocketing, and decides that an apology isn’t necessary after all.


Finally, we catch up with Gloria (Alex Auder) who we briefly met last season as Jim’s (Peter Friedman) girlfriend. Gloria is attempting to beat the world record for hours danced continuously, and she’s quite confident that she’s going to achieve her goal.

At first, it looks like she’s got this. Her friends have rallied around her, and she’s got a ton of energy – and coconut water up the wazoo. But by the end of day one, almost everyone is gone. Her doctor makes a brief appearance to pump her full of anti-swelling meds, but then he ghosts her completely.

Over three days of dancing completely alone, Gloria starts to lose it. The sequence in which she records herself dancing over those days is at times hilarious, but it quickly devolves. Gloria is clearly hallucinating by the end, talking to people she can’t see, urinating freely on the floor, and smacking herself repeatedly in the ole vagina. Anything to stay awake.

Concerned, Jim sends over the Guy to help out. Why Jim would send the Guy when he could just GO OVER TO GLORIA’S HOUSE is beyond me, but whatever. Jim is a terrible boyfriend. Gloria, girl, you should dump his ass.

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The Guy comes with some sweet jeeba called Amnesia Haze, and with that name it’s very clear what Jim has asked of him. Within minutes, Gloria gets so absorbed in a story she’s telling that she stops dancing. Once she’s realized that her feet are no longer moving, she wails out in an angry scream, collapsing to the ground.

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