High Maintenance recap: Oh fark

Ben Sinclair.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site.
Ben Sinclair.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site. /

The Guy encounters two very different New Yorkers as he begins to contemplate fatherhood.

Throughout the run of High Maintenance, the Guy (Ben Sinclair) has always been a calming presence with mad interpersonal skills. He’s a very tolerant and patient man, he’s always seeking to understand people on their level, and he’s up for anything. So he’s a prime candidate for fatherhood.

Of course the Guy’s new (pregnant) crush Leigh (Britt Lower) has triggered all sorts of paternal feelings, and those feelings make up the small but significant link between the two excellent vignettes in this episode. We’ve seen the Guy interact with kids before, most notably his niece Kate (from episodes “Matilda” and “Googie“), so it’s no surprise that he’s able to engage them in meaningful conversation.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

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As the episode opens, young Raymond (Ethan Hutchison) moves purposefully through an upscale cafe / workspace. He appears to be around eight years old, but he’s got the unflagging work ethic of an Italian grandmother. Not only does he seem to enjoy playing host, he’s also really good at it. He politely shoos working patrons away from the restaurant portion of the eatery to make room for a dining customer, he expertly waters the plants, and he offers up the bathroom code to anyone who wants it.

Turns out that Raymond has the day off from school and he’s stuck at the cafe with a woman we can only assume is his mother. All his mom wants him to do is sit and chill out, but Raymond has other plans. He chats up customers with varying levels of success, and given how absolutely adorable he is, it’s somewhat infuriating that every customer doesn’t just ask him to sit down for a chat. But workspace, I guess. So mostly they just act annoyed. Their loss.

Outside of the cafe, the Guy and Chad (Chris Roberti) chill on Steve’s roof. They’re relaxin’ all cool, catching some responsible rays by applying adequate sunscreen, when Chad spots a mole on the Guy’s back. He takes a pic of it and encourages his friend to see a doctor. We’re guessing the Guy doesn’t have health insurance, but hopefully he got in on that sweet Obamacare action before it disappeared last year.

The Guy doesn’t have much time to contemplate his potential health problem when Chad diverts his attention to a stoner kid on the street. Way to help your buddy from wallowing in worry, dude, but that was a risky little move in broad daylight.

Ben Sinclair.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site.
Ben Sinclair.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site. /

It pays off, and the Guy makes the sale. Afterwards, he treats himself to a bowl of soup at Raymond’s cafe. Since they’re parked at tables next to one another, the two strike up a rapport that’s both heartwarming and fascinating. When Raymond suggests to the Guy that Jesus is coming once again, the Guy diverts the conversation with that trademark calming charisma of his. An entitled patron yells at Ray’s mom, and the Guy takes a moment to reassure the kid that everything is ok.

Then, the two have a brief but rousing conversation about the orange polish on the Guy’s toenails. It’s a sweet exchange that feels like it’s carrying so much by helping to dissemble gender norms. By all rights, the Guy is a masculine, bearded dude, but he just so happens to dig toe nail polish. Sure, it’s a typically feminine thing, but if ya like it, ya like it. It’s so important to send these types of messages to boys at a young age, and just living life out loud in neon orange can be a revelation.

However, the moment is interrupted when the Guy peeks out the window and is shocked to see Chad leading a petite woman into the RV outside. Ah, Chad. Such a bad good friend. He jerks back over to the kid, spilling his water in the process. Raymond, being the consummate host he is, jumps up to get the Guy a refill. Instead, his mom scolds him, telling him to sit back down and wait for his dad. Raymond runs to hide in the bathroom. The code punch lock pops the door open to reveal a woman purging her lunch.

Of course lil Raymond doesn’t know what he’s seeing, so he runs to tell his mom that there’s someone in distress in the bathroom. Her dining companion overhears. Oops. At this point, Ray’s mom is furious, and demands that he go to sit back down. Dejected and deflated, Ray goes. But the Guy is right there to pick him up again, smiling at him and saying “oh fark.”

During the second vignette of the episode, we see the Guy overhear a father explaining a difficult concept to his two little girls while he waits for one of them in the bathroom. As he goes to wash his hands, the Guy turns back and compliments the dad’s parenting style. And, given the same situation, it’s easy to see the Guy reacting the same way. He’s a natural.

In another part of Brooklyn, resident High Maintenance nudist Arthur (Arthur Meyer) is interviewing Barbie (Annie Golden) as a potential roommate. Barbie has lived on the fringes of New York for decades, most recently in the storeroom of an eBay store. She’s looking for a new place to live, and she’s totally cool with nudity. Since the nudist thing is probably a deal breaker for most potential roomies, Arthur invites her to stay even though her income stream is questionable at best.

Red flags start to pop up immediately. While carrying a plant into the apartment, Barbie starts muttering about doctors poisoning her. Over the course of a few weeks, Arthur begins to realize that Barbie is an avid conspiracy theorist with serious boundary issues.

All the while, Arthur is doing his nudist thing. The embrace of casual nudity on this show is always great, especially when it focuses on male nudity. Unlike Seinfeld of years past – you know the one, where Jerry’s girlfriend does everything nude, and he rates whether her actions are good naked or bad naked – there’s absolutely nothing sexualized about Arthur’s penchant for the buff. He exudes an easy comfort as he surfs the internet naked, watches movies naked, and even cooks naked (well, almost, he’s got a very well placed apron).

Barbie’s nonchalant attitude towards the nudity helps normalize the situation, and Katja Blitchfeld’s direction never shies away from Arthur in all his glory. His bits are often on screen in all sorts of poses and situations, desensitizing us to it all in a way that serves not only the story but viewers as well. Just like the Guy modeled his embrace of femininity to the world with his orange nail polish, Arthur is telegraphing an ability to be comfortable in one’s skin without shame. And that is ultimately beautiful.

Annie Golden, William Jess Russell.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site.
Annie Golden, William Jess Russell.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site. /

Other than her neutral attitude toward Arthur’s nakedness, Barbie doesn’t have a ton of merits as a roomie. She’s generally just a nervous wreck who has stockpiled an apocalypse-sized supply of Jergen’s lotion, and she freaks out when she sees the Guy at the apartment.

It’s odd that Barbie – a self-professed lover of punk – would be so adverse to having some weed around, but maybe she’s in recovery? That’s the only thing that makes sense given the fit she proceeds to have. She and Arthur get into a big fight in which she invokes the horrifying idea of bringing up a case against him in small claims court, and then they both go hide in their respective rooms.

Later that night, Barbie comes to apologize for her actions, but she’s awfully chill. She’s so chill it’s suspect. Soon it’s revealed that she ate a small portion of a mild edible that Arthur had left out on the table. Instead of getting Barbie riled up, Arthur stays mum about the ingredients in the cookie, and the two have a lovely little evening eating pizza while listening to some Phish slow jams.

Barbie wakes up at sunset, tucking Arthur into his blankets on the couch, and then she heads up to the roof. Staring out at a beautiful sunset, plane soaring out overhead, she whispers a single word: “Chemtrails.”

High Maintenance Recap: Craig. dark. Next

Random Thoughts Before We Go:

  • When Barbie meets with Arthur for the first time, she quizzes him on what band Richard Hell was in. It’s Television. Television is awesome. Television is hands down the best punk band of all time. How do I know about Television? I read the seminal oral history of punk, “Please Kill Me” by Legs McNeill and Gillian McCann. Go get it, and then download “Marquee Moon” into your earballs from wherever you get your streaming media. Thank me later.
  • Actress Annie Golden is probably known best for her role as the mute Norma in Orange is the New Black, and it’s a lovely change of pace to hear her character talk at such length here. Equipped with that expressive face, Golden can do anything, but her dialogue was wonderful.
  • I do believe this is the first time Phish has been played on High Maintenance, which is mind boggling given the likely overlap in audience.
  • Arthur briefly looks on Craigslist for another roommate. Wonder if he crossed paths with Darcy or Marty from last week’s episode. Come to think of it, Darcy might make a good roomie for Arthur, rogue boob and all.
  • There’s a brief cameo by actor Kyle Harris – aka: Mark from episode “Selfie” and webisode “Heidi” – in the cafe. And, spoiler, he’s still a dick.

High Maintenance airs Sundays at 10:30/9:30c on HBO.