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High Maintenance S4E7: “Hand”

Photograph by David Russell/HBO

High Maintenance S4E7 “Hand” revolves around some awkward social situations. A number of them involve hands in one way or another, but the most exemplary moment is I think when Jordan (Mara Stephens) goes to touch Martha Stewart’s face. You don’t do that.

This gets to how it isn’t just awkwardness that High Maintenance S4E7 wants to bring into view; it’s situations that involve the violation of norms in one way or another. It’s hard to pin this down precisely, but take for example the relatively short scene that occurs when The Guy takes Fomo to the vet. We’ve met Gene (Ken Leung) before in “Fingerbutt,” where he experimented with the micro-dosing of mushrooms and dealt with a cat stuck in a tuba. I suppose it’s nice to see that he didn’t lose his job.

I don’t know if he is still using mushrooms (probably not?) but he seems to have taken up painting. He is excited to present to The Guy his portrait of Fomo, but it is…not good. The Guy can’t quite pretend to like it, which if you think about it would be what is sort of expected here. But The Guy is sort of too honest for that. This leads to Gene insisting that it’s OK, he doesn’t have to like it, and so on, but there are certainly some hurt feelings in the background. It’s sort of like when a friend asks you to listen to their music and you don’t care for it. I presume we’ve pretty much all been in situations like this.

Jordan’s attempt to get people to buy Plethora products is similar in many ways. It would seem to be a fake company, but things like this are very real. I presume there is a pyramid scheme aspect to Plethora that isn’t spelled out. Regardless, Jordan has bought in to the idea that she’ll be able to make money by selling this stuff, and it’s money that she clearly needs. But like all of these things the way it works is primarily to try to get your friends and family involved as well.

Jordan talks to Alexi at the Martha Stewart shoot
Photograph by David Russell/HBO

There is something sort of rude about this: trying to push products on people in your life. Maybe they are good products, but all of the sudden Jordan’s every social interaction is colored by the way she is vying to sell Plethora. And when she gets The Guy to try a bar, all he can say is that it is chewy several times.

She learns about Plethora while working her regular job as an ASL interpreter for Rogers Relay, which does appear to be a real thing. It’s interesting that last week saw High Maintenance showcasing an app to help the blind, and S4E7 features a service to help the deaf. I think this fits in well with the general ethos of the show, which has always been to shine a light on life experiences a bit outside of what we normally see on TV. High Maintenance doesn’t pass judgment, but it also doesn’t get preachy. This is just life.

It is her job as an interpreter that leads Jordan to the set of a Martha Stewart shoot. Her client Alexi (Dickie Hearts) is in charge of the food prep. The whole thing is a bit crazy—as we see debates over crumbs on a plate and so on—but this is also something that happens in real life.

Martha Stewart doesn’t like the hands of the woman meant to be involved in the shoot, but she likes Jordan’s hands. There is a certain absurdity to these discussions, but, again, it’s not unrealistic. All of this leads to Jordan being a part of the shoot, and then the moment when she tries to sell Martha Stewart on Plethora. It is very cringe-inducing and leads Alexi to ask Jordan what she just did, but it is exemplary of what “Hand” is up to in general. This is not just in the moment when Jordan reaches to touch Martha Stewart’s face, but in the whole exchange. What are you doing trying to sell Martha Stewart Amway?

Ellen and Victor stand face to face on the sidewalk
Photograph by David Russell/HBO

The other main story of High Maintenance S4E7 focuses on Ellen (Birgit Huppuch) and Victor (Chris McKinney). It would seem that she has been dealing with cancer and the effects of a stroke, and that he has sleep apnea or something like that. But again, High Maintenance doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on these facts. They are just there. This is just life for Ellen and Victor.

The emphasis is more on her spending habits in relation to their bills, and ultimately on the fact that she has been stealing—not money, but stuff. Victor works as a doorman and they go to a party to celebrate the birthday of the daughter of someone in his building, who ends up punching Ellen in the face.

But that’s not the point. Rather, there is first Ellen’s awkwardness, exemplified in her saying that someone should get Snoop Dog to encourage people to vote (which, um…), a comment that she interjects out of nowhere it would seem. Yes, Snoop Dog had been mentioned, but her obsession with getting people to turn out and vote against Trump parallels Jordan’s thing about Plethora. She’s injecting it into conversations where it doesn’t belong.

Then there is the moment when Priti (Vaishnavi Sharma) notices that the bracelet Jordan is wearing is the one she ordered for herself but never received. Or, at least, she thinks so, but Ellen confirms this to Victor later after handing the bracelet over and leaving the party. She stole it from that building, and given that Victor is the doorman there, he is understandably pissed.

Ellen seems to have been buying a lot of stuff, from a pizza cutter that looks like a bicycle, to Game of Thrones Monopoly, but the end of the story here leads us to ask whether she has been buying it, or stealing it. She’s certainly been stealing at least some of it, and doesn’t feel bad about it because Amazon has more money than God. They’ll make it up. But that bracelet she stole Priti said was custom made. So how does that fit in?

And does the logic that it is OK to steal from a huge corporation like Amazon really hold up? Even if you think they are exploiting people and go Marxist on the whole thing, that’s at least questionable. Not to mention the fact that people aren’t getting those packages they were expecting, even if it gets made up for later.

The more interesting thing to me is how Ellen becomes happy when Victor gets mad at her. It’s easy enough to see why: he’s been treating her with kid gloves given her condition and all of that. When they argue, she feels like they are a normal couple again, at least in that moment.

It’s honest. Swallowing your feelings so that everything will be OK isn’t. And so we’re presented with this choice by High Maintenance S4E7, across situations that differ from one another wildly: should we do the thing that calms the waters, or be truthful with one another? Or where is the line where we balance these things?

Caemeron Crain

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain studies philosophy and is a writer and head of the TV department at 25YL. He is a party to a Twin Peaks podcast that then did a few episodes on Surrealism before entering an indefinite hiatus. He also has a cat.

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