High Maintenance recap: Violations

Jemima Kirke.photo: David Russell Acquired via HBO Media Relations.
Jemima Kirke.photo: David Russell Acquired via HBO Media Relations. /

High Maintenance brings a whole host of alums together on the set of a film reshoot as the series addresses the Me Too movement in its own chill way.

A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and causes a tornado in Texas. You’ve heard this one, right? The Butterfly Effect. If small actions can have huge, unintended consequences, then big, brash, damaging actions can be catastrophic. In the latest episode of High Maintenance, a man sexually abuses many women, triggering a Category 5 hurricane of chaos in New York.

We (thankfully) never meet this man. We’re only treated to a glimpse of him on the street, absorbed in his phone. High Maintenance isn’t concerned with his story, only the path of destruction he’s left in his wake.

This mystery man’s corona of influence stretches further and wider than we can imagine. For starters, the project he was working on – ironically named Violations – needed to recast and reshoot his part. Of course, this storyline brings to mind Ridley Scott recasting Kevin Spacey’s role in All the Money in the World following serious allegations of sexual assault. However, that specific example seemed to involve a lot of consummate professionals who wanted to get the job done with a quickness. Here, not so much.

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From the start of the episode, we follow a bored and chaotic Jemima Kirke as she preps for her day of reshoots on set. She seems like the perfect nightmare of an actress. She’s late, she asks to swap out boots in her wardrobe, and she treats the lower level staff like total garbage. Presumably Jemima isn’t like this in real life, but it’s a quality send up of how fame and attention can skew perspective in an unhealthy way.

Jemima starts her day in Gloria’s breathwork class. We’ve seen Gloria before, most notably in Season 2 episode “#goals” in which she tried (and failed) to beat the world record for most consecutive hours danced. Gloria is wantonly projecting her feels about relationships on her class, tossing out an unlikely fact that 70% of long term marriages consist of Stockholm syndrome. Oh, Gloria. Go to therapy, girl.

Meanwhile, the Violations crew is struggling to get it together after the schedule for the day’s shoot is rocked due to an unexpected death. Jed (Skittlez Ortiz) comes to the door of the planned location at the crack of dawn, only to find a grieving woman who is sobbing uncontrollably. Uh oh. Change of plans.

The creative team on the film includes Gigi (Amy Ryan), Deb (Cathy Trien), and Ken (Eric Slovin), alums from the botched orgy in Season 1 episode “Museebat”. Apparently Gigi is in the midst of some serious life changes. She’s getting divorced and she’s no longer in the fashion biz. Oddly enough, she’s not the costume designer on set, but she’s the go to for equipment in a pinch. (Sorry guys, I have no idea what the technical term for that role is.)

It’s clear that no one is taking this day seriously, and that includes the harried and misinformed dude that Gigi has hired to conduct the harassment seminar at lunch. But instead of stepping in and trying to rectify her mistake, Gigi fully checks out and calls for “safety meeting supplies”, aka: ganja.

High Maintenance
Ben Sinclair, Jonathan Iglesias.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations. /

Meanwhile, The Guy (Ben Sinclair) is seeking out medicinal marijuana at a shady outfit called NYC Cannabis Medical Health Care. A humorous but concerning scene unfolds in which a fun doc diagnoses his patient via webcam basically by asking him a string of leading questions. For people that want legal access to weed, this is definitely cool, but it’s not so cool given that some people legit need cannabis for severe medical issues. Dear sweet jeebus. Just make it legal already. Then medical can stay medical, and those of us using marijuana for recreational use can enjoy freely without impeding upon the supply for people who truly need it. Thank you for coming to my THC talk.

Everyone involved in Violations is checked out, and so the creative team haphazardly picks a gazebo on the roof for their impromptu shooting location. The Guy swings by to deliver the goods and Gigi is super grateful. Her friends seek out a place to smoke and finally find some sweet relief. In a silly moment, the group witnesses a domestic shooting, but there doesn’t seem to be any weight beyond this interaction other than to underscore the blazé and self-centered focus of every single person on set. In the midst of calling 911, the group gets called back for last looks, and they scramble back, quickly forgetting about the violence they’ve just witnessed.

Someone who can’t forget trauma so easily is sweet Lee (Britt Lower). Our friend from upstate New York is having quite the terrible day, and she’s handling it with the utmost grace. We learn early on in the episode that her body is recovering from early pregnancy loss, and those words are so devastating to hear. She’s caring for herself the best she knows how, by attending the very yoga class that we saw Jemima attend at the start of the episode, going to a session with an acupuncturist, and then a massage.

High Maintenance
Britt Lower, Mimi Ferraro.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations. /

Seems as if Lee is in town to clean out her old apartment she shared with her husband. And, surprise! The husband is the same dude that caused the reshoots on the Violations set. Butterfly, meet tornado.

Lee’s life has been set off the rails by her ex’s reprehensible actions. Everyone, including an old acquaintance Grace (Reshma Shetty), is very sympathetic to her plight, but they’re treating her more like a fragile broken bird than a warrior of trauma. Pity is not what this woman needs right now, and it’s an unspoken tragedy that she also has to shoulder the burden for someone else’s actions. Often, the women who are married to predators are marked for blame or dismissed by the media as complicit, but the reality of the situation isn’t always so cut and dry. We’re not entirely sure what Lee’s deal is, but we can certainly see a stoic woman struggling to thrive in the literal worst of situations.

Thankfully, she has the Guy to help her along. And in a lovely final scene, the two find a moment of peace as they watch the sun set over the Statue of Liberty…. while a dude fumbles against the wind to spread some ashes over the bay. This Lebowski-esque moment breaks the heavy cloud of sadness that’s been following Lee all day and finally makes some room to let a little light in.

Next. High Maintenance Recap: Oh Fark. dark

Random Thoughts Before I Go:

  • Sooooo, is the Guy just buying legal weed now and then reselling it at a premium? He’s got the hookup from that grower dude he reconnected with at Berg’s memorial back in the S3 premiere, so maybe it’s not that. It’s more likely that he’s looking for a reason to carry legally in case he gets stopped by the cops.
  • Including Kabir (Azhar Khan) and Jess (Jo Firestone), this episode boasts at least seven alums of previous episodes of High Maintenance, and this large cross section of familiar faces may be a nod to how small this world is, after all.
  • The Violations shoot ends with a swarm of bees descending upon the cast and crew, a result of piss poor planning and a lack of foresight. These bobos got exactly what they deserved.
  • HBO has been giving voice to much-needed stories about female infertility and pregnancy issues, including a recent episode of Room 104 Season 2 in which a 30-something woman struggles with her desire to get pregnant. Check it out, and then head over to our interview with director/writer/star Josephine Decker here.

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