High Maintenance is not often interested in serialized storytelling, but they’re easing into it this season with this episode, “Googie.” It acts as a second part to last week’s “Scromple,” and parallels it in a few ways: The Guy is largely high most of the time, he’s mostly alone, and the episode title comes from a nickname someone has for him. Outside of those similarities, the episode addresses the fallout from the Guy’s disruptive bike crash. Unable to work like before due to his arm sling as well as his broken bike, we have to see who the Guy is outside of his business. This episode asks why he is doing this, what does he get out of it besides money, and who is he really when he’s not working?
I don’t think we’re totally able to answer all those questions – and I don’t think we should. The Guy is always going to maintain some level of mystery to us – but I do think we understand some of what the Guy enjoys about his work. In a slightly meta notion, it seems that, in the way that we enjoy watching High Maintenance because of the characters we meet and stories we see, the Guy enjoys selling pot not because he’s so crazy about the product or about becoming a leading service, but because he likes the people he meets. We learn he’s basically been doing this since he was in college (Vassar, class of ’06 – perfect) and his extroversion and almost total lack of competitive ambition is the perfect recipe for keeping the same job for the past 10-plus years.
Abdullah (Abdullah Saeed), who we last saw in “Derech,” is temporarily partnering with the Guy this week and delivering product via car instead of bike. Abdullah prefers the delivery method that has him stay in his car as customers meet him outside. The Guy is kind of disappointed by that, because he half-jokingly says the “insides of the apartments” are the best part. Abdullah also represents a more modern, business-like approach to the weed business as he suggests other ways for the Guy to improve his product so he can “compete with these other services.” The Guy immediately looks disinterested, and says as much that even though more money would be good, he isn’t really “into competing.” That aligns completely with what we know of the Guy and all of his interactions we have witnessed. Just like High Maintenance, he isn’t drawn to the business aspect of his work, but instead the people he meets and lives he gets to glimpse.
His impulse to socialize and the energy he gets from it becomes evident when we see him alone, at a pretty big loss as to what to do with his time. He tries doing “lazy day” things: hammocking, binging The Wire, and smoking. But even through that we hear him have a phone conversation with his father, because he probably finds he needs to talk to somebody. And, continuing a thread from last week we see that he and Beth are barely seeing each other at the moment. She doesn’t even respond to his messages until a day after they’re sent, and only then to get her friend a referral for his business.
The Guy does eventually leave his apartment, but before doing so ingests a mushroom. It doesn’t hit until he’s at the bike shop discussing what needs to be done for his ride, and then we get a lengthy sequence of the Guy wandering the city and being the archetype of Someone on Shrooms. The production employs some creative sound design and extreme close-ups of nature to effectively convey his state of mind, and most hilariously does so when we see the Guy get psyched about a tree trunk and take a few pictures (“yeah, yeah, yeah!”). Then, of course, his experience goes a bit haywire as he runs madly through the woods, away from the mother of a kid he thought was kidnapped, and for a moment into a cab he randomly decided to get in. There’s nothing much to this sequence except humor, but it is effective at that.
While we see the Guy out and about, we occasionally check in with Abdullah and his subbing for the Guy. We see two repeat customers, one who I mention in the “strays” section, and the other who I wouldn’t even have recognized if not for HBO’s captioned press photos. The Head Clown guy, trying to convince Abdullah to get into David Lynch, is Abir (portrayed by Azhaar Khan, most recently of Mr. Robot) who has popped up in the past in webisodes “Dinah” and “Sabrina.” This got me thinking about the abundance of returning faces from past episodes this season. I don’t recall as many in the first HBO season, and I think the show is trying to subtly hint at something that the Guy kind of acknowledges this episode: his business might be shrinking. The Guy basically says as much to Abdullah, as part of the reason why he doesn’t want to partner up – it isn’t really necessary. But it also indicates that his primary customers are ones that have been customers for years, and remain loyal to him because they likely also appreciate the personal touch he brings and the experience of letting this guy into their lives for a bit (a key example being the Guy’s sauna evening with two customers in “Namaste”). In comparison to Abdullah and his ideas to compete with other services, and to increase efficiency in delivery, it appears that the Guy is a more old-fashioned kind of Weed Guy – and his loyal customers are fans of that old-fashioned style.
The Guy owns this by the end of the episode, resolving just a little bit some of his inner conflict about his situation. He declines to partner with Abdullah, and therefore also to explore new ways to approach his business. In this way he kind of admits to himself that he likes doing it the way he does, the way that gets him into people’s lives and apartments. He also finally texts Beth the old “can we talk?” hopefully bringing the relationship to a merciful end.
We end with the Guy finding another friend or family member to talk to: this time, his niece, Kate. Since we last saw her in “Matilda,” she has stayed super-smart, is in her senior year of high school, and is still the cutest. It will be interesting to view High Maintenance going forward, now that we know a little bit more about how the Guy operates as “businessman” and what he is getting out of all of these interactions. Like the Guy, I think I also prefer less alone time with him and more instances of his life inside other people’s apartments.
- This episode was written and directed by the OGs Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair.
- “Googie” is a nickname given to the Guy by his customer Chauncey (Kevin Mambo) – who we met last season in “Meth(od)” (a wild episode all-around, you should see it if you haven’t).
- The credits scene this week is the Guy dancing around in his underwear and new poncho in front of the park fountain.
- Abir’s summations of Twin Peaks and Eraserhead are pretty perfect. For the former: “You’re not supposed to understand it, you’re supposed to experience it” (I’m pretty sure I’ve said this) and for the latter: “You’re like ‘where am I? What’s going on? Why am I here? I don’t like being here. It’s uncomfortable to be here,’ but you remain there. You know what I mean?”
- That same scene features yet another meta reference when Abdullah says “What a bunch of janky clowns.” Janky Clown is Sinclair, Blichfeld and Russell Gregory’s Production Company.
- This week also saw the announcement that the show has been renewed for a third season! A lot of this season has kind of felt like writers writing for the end, so it’s nice to see that they were gifted more time to stay in this world.
- Next week sees the return of the couple portrayed by the Katja Blichfeld and Dan Stevens (yes, that one!) and lots of YUTES.