The first season of The Benefits of Gusbandry seemed to come out of nowhere. Created by Portland director Alicia J. Rose, the web series follows the relationship of Jackie (Brooke Totman) and her best friend/gay husband River (Kurt Conroyd).
Season one debuted on YouTube in 2015, and was entirely crowdfunded and self-promoted. Now, the filmed-in-Portland show has accumulated a national fan base and glowing reviews from the likes of NPR and the A.V. Club.
Season two of Gusbandry is still full of lovable slacker antics and Jackie and River's platonic devotion. But this time, it's arriving with a national reputation and in a much darker political climate.
The new season rises to the high stakes. Every scene is an amalgamation of Portland references, social commentary and Rose's own experiences—whether it's a night of jigsaw puzzles and tequila shots fraught with sexual tension, or a Planned Parenthood waiting room complete with pamphlets titled "Keeping Up With Chlamydia."
Even though the episodes are all under 10 minutes long, it's easy to miss all the details. So with Rose's help, we annotated the new season's second-to-last episode. In "Wake n Break," Jackie photographs a wake-and-bake brunch while her phone blows up with texts from her ex, Lance (Andrew Harris), who thinks he may of given her an STD.
The episode starts with a shot of a Lance's black goldfish in Jackie's bedroom. "That's a detail from my friend's life," says Rose. "She told me, 'I went on a Tinder date with this guy and all he had in his house was a bunch of jigsaw puzzles, a black goldfish and a dirty bowl. I still slept with him, but it was one of the weirdest experiences.'"
Jackie wakes up late to a phone call from River. When he asks her if she's getting paid to take pictures at the brunch and she replies, "Yes, and not even in weed this time." Rose has in fact photographed several wake-and-bake brunches where she was paid in weed.
Andrea White, who teaches at Portland Actors Conservatory, plays the brunch's chef. White has worked as a chef and is wearing her own chef's coat.
The brunch is hosted by Charlie, played by comedian Caitlin Weierhauser, who hosts the comedy showcase Lez Stand Up and placed in WW's most recent Funniest Five comedy poll. Rose met Weierhauser when they were guests on the same local comedy show. "She had never acted in anything before," says Rose. "It's her first screen thing she ever did."
The grower supplying the weed for Charlie's brunch, Lotus Family Farms, is a real grower from outside of Portland. All the strains mentioned in the episode are strains they actually sell, including the Indubious Kush that's served at the brunch with curry deviled eggs.
Jackie gets a series of texts from Lance, who blacked out from tequila shots when they had sex the night before and woke up in her backyard. "We've all had some hard nights and woken up in some strange places," says Rose. "Let's just say there is some true life experience in that. I'm in my 40s, so I've seen a lot."
Charlie's partner Max is played by Darius Pierce, who performs Portland Center Stage's annual production of The Santaland Diaries. The cat T-shirt and zebra bathrobe he's wearing are his real pajamas. "We're going to bring them back in another season," says Rose about Charlie and Max. "They're sort of an unlikely couple. Who knows exactly what the basis of things are, who they actually sleep with or not—you just don't know."
River and Jackie talk about a jigsaw puzzle that depicts River's revenge fantasy: Paul Ryan in a tank top doing a bicep curl. The puzzle is used as a prop in the previous episode. "We came up with a GOP revenge fantasy and it was a slippery slope from there," says Rose. "We had to custom order that. There's so much blue in those puzzles that they were the hardest puzzles to put together. It was hell."
The Benefits of Gusbandry season 2 will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime on Tuesday, Nov. 7. It also screens at the Laurelhurst Theater, 2735 E Burnside St., as part of the Portland Film Festival at 9:15 pm on Friday, Nov. 3. See portlandfilmfestival.com for passes and individual tickets.