High Maintenance recap: Karma Sutra

Hye Yoon Park, Margaret Cho.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations.
Hye Yoon Park, Margaret Cho.photo: David Russell. Acquired via HBO Media Relations. /

A bunch of Brooklyn night gangsters change the Guy’s stance on Venmo in the latest High Maintenance.

Venmo seems like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea for all drug dealers. Why would anyone want an itemized, time-stamped, government-accessible verification of a purchase of illegal goods? Honestly, you’d think it would be a no brainer. Forget the online app, and use cash. Anyone who’s been to Burning Man knows that you leave no trace. Same thing applies to buying drugs.

And yet. Over the course of two interactions in this episode, entitled “Payday”, the Guy (Ben Sinclair) breaks down and decides to start accepting Venmo as payment. As a result, I’m kind of super worried for him and his future. Given that High Maintenance is generally a light-hearted series that’s primarily interested in seeking to mirror all facets of society, I don’t think the Guy is going to jail anytime soon, but his attitude toward facing any sort of legal pushback is getting increasingly laissez-faire. And that’s concerning.

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The Guy’s outlook on safety precautions has probably changed mostly because he’s a white male in a city that has already loosened its restrictions on marijuana, but also because he kind of doesn’t give any f*cks since his divorce was finalized. Weed is working its way to becoming legal, but the Guy doesn’t seem too interested in attempting to snag himself a sweet slice of the burgeoning market. At present, he literally lives in a van (RV) down by the (East) river. The ambition that was briefly sparked back in Season 2 is waning, and he’s just settling in to a life of wandering. And that’s ok. But it’s also disheartening, especially since we know the man has a whole garden of untapped potential.

Now, back to Venmo. Personally, I don’t use Venmo, and I’m so glad I don’t. It sounds horrifying. The app has a live stream feature that broadcasts every payment and memo to followers. In fact, there’s a Twitter bot that scans the public Venmo feed and tweets out every interaction that appears to involve drugs. Again, it boggles the mind that people think it’s totes chill to tattoo drug purchases onto their digital footprint. Yes, cash sucks, but it’s not traceable. What is this, amateur hour? It’s like these people have never seen a mobster movie. Ever. (Insert eyeroll here.)

And literally everyone is doing it. We meet two very different couples in this episode, and both duos use Venmo to pay the Guy for his wares. They both also get down and dirty in very different – but very NSFW – ways.

High Maintenance
Bre Northrup, Margaret Cho, Lena Einbinder.photo: David Russell Acquired via HBO Media Relations. /

First, we meet Doc (Margaret Cho) and Ayasha (Hye Yun Park), a committed couple who are delightfully living out all of their BSDM fantasies. They belong to a tightly knit community of people who all seem open about their sexual escapades, and things appear to be going well. On the night we pop in on Doc and Ayasha, Ayasha has orchestrated a kidnapping / gang bang scenario for her girlfriend’s 50th birthday. Doc calls it a “ravishing” and it appears to have come as some sort of a package deal through a group close to their circle.

While Ayasha and Doc engage in all sorts of sex fantasies from role playing to voyeurism to acts of erotic humiliation, they have a shared agreement of consent between them. In order to even be allowed to participate in a ravishing, we learn that one must sign a huge stack of paperwork first. Makes sense, and their understood precautions also validate consent as a verbal or written contract one must get in order to engage in any kind of sexual activity.

While the two are in agreement about all things sexual, the couple has an age difference and, with it, an income disparity. And, after a brief visit from the Guy, complete with Venmo convo, the truth comes out. Doc – a successful writer – uses agreed-upon Venmo sex play to give Ayasha more money so that she can afford what she needs day-to-day.

Funny thing is, we’ve met Ayasha before in the “Namaste” episode of Season 2. Back then, she was excited about starting a new life with a partner at the table of a Brooklyn housing co-op. The two announce that they’re moving to a farm upstate and – surprise! – they’re pregnant. It’s odd to think of what crazy turns Ayasha’s life has taken to get from there to here, but they can’t have been super pleasant.

But at least she has Doc. And in the final moments of their vignette, Ayasha at least temporarily solves their money problems by requesting cash from her girlfriend just because.

No money changes hands for sex in the next vignette, but it does involve two familiar faces. Karen (Jenn Harris) is a disillusioned high school teacher we met back in webisode “Genghis”, and Ezra (Micah Sherman) is the real-estate rube from webisode “Sufjan”. The two are working at a summer school and hating every minute of it. Well, working might be a strong word. Karen is showing movies to her class, picking the M&M’s out of her morning trail mix, and contemplating starting an affair just to feel alive again.

It’s not too long before she singles out Ezra as her prey. Unfortunately, Ezra is also married to a spitfire woman named Regan who featured prominently in their episode of the webseries, but she’s nowhere to be seen here, so he frees his balls up for some world-class cheating. Regan, girl, run.

Karen, Ezra, and a group of burnt out teachers head to the bar for happy hour that afternoon. Like everything she does, the get-together is Karen’s lazy way of getting what she wants. She has a drink or two, is real obvious about her thirst when she shoves some tater tots into Ezra’s mouth, and then heads out to bang this near stranger.

The two manage some seriously acrobatic sex for two people who lost their souls to the public school system years ago. After, they call the Guy and grab some post-orgasm delights. They puff, snack in bed, and then arrange their next date before their respective spouses get home from work trips. Ew. With the exception of Lainey and Max, these two might be two of the worst people to ever grace an episode of High Maintenance.

But karma comes to bite them in their cheating asses the next day. In the break room before work, Ezra and Karen find out that their co-workers chipped in on a lotto ticket the night before and won big. Twenty thou, each. It’s a delicious dose of karmic retribution for the two dummies who unknowingly just forfeited $40,000 for a night of cheap and dirty affair sex. Hope it was worth it. (It definitely wasn’t.)

Next. High Maintenance Recap: Violations. dark

Random Thoughts Before I Go:

  • Looks like Chad has a bit more entrepreneurial spirit than his buddy because he’s been advertising for the Guy on tourism message boards. This, like accepting Venmo, also seems dangerous, but at least it’s bringing in the bizz.
  • The Guy is Banksy. Pretty pretty cool.

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