How To with John Wilson is taking a more hygienic path in its exploration of everyday life’s oddities with its third and final season. Burning Man has also become a recurring concept. Perhaps next week we’ll be investigating the hygiene at Burning Man. (I’d rather not.)
After spending last week’s premiere desperately seeking a public restroom, John Wilson returns for Episode 2 looking to mend more bodily issues. Once more, it’s a problem most of us face: His ears have become clogged with earwax. So, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of Hannah’s Q-Tip injury in Girls, Wilson heads to his local urgent care clinic to get the earwax removed. Problem solved! We see all that pesky brown guck eking out of Wilson’s head, which, if you’re a pimple-popper/ear-cleaning video lover like me, is a real treat. (For anyone normal, maybe not so much. But does any normal person watch this show?)
In solving one issue, another dilemma presents itself to Wilson. He can now hear too much. New York is a loud, loud place, filled with cranky horn honkers, thwomps from construction sites, and Chatty Cathys spilling beans over happy hour drinks, all with the constant rumble of a subway under foot. Maybe earwax has been protecting NYC residents from this all along.
To soothe his overworked ears, Wilson shares his trauma with NYC residents who also deal with too much noise. He interviews a couple of guys who have to sleep through the rattling of the above-ground train in their apartment next to the Myrtle-Broadway subway stop. One girl is moving out of her apartment after only a month because of a rowdy outdoor club nestled between her building and the neighboring one. The best apartment horror story, though, comes in two parts: the complainer and the noise-makers.
A small family in Brooklyn lives above some of the loudest people they’ve ever heard. The quieter residents say that these folks who live beneath them threw a party for their 1-year-old baby at midnight on a weekday. Sounds like a nightmare. Since nightmares are his natural habitat, a fearless Wilson decides to confront the noise-makers.
Yes, he learns, the downstairs neighbors really threw a big midnight party for their baby Skylo. They see no issue with that. In fact, being annoyed by the sound, the family argues, is worse than making the sound in the first place.
“I just want the world to be more full of people who sleep through noise,” the mother tells Wilson. “This is Brooklyn!”
The mother then references Burning Man, a place where she can express her loudness as freely as she wants. She and her husband frequently attend the festival. (Presumably, this is where Wilson met the couple, since he was just there in the last episode.) Will the couple be returning next year with Skylo? No—it’s too loud for a baby.
Wilson then has a prophetic monologue about noise-making—it seems as though anyone who makes noise has all the fun, but those who are quiet are never rewarded for their silence. In true John Wilson fashion, the conclusion comes in a self-effacing monologue about his personal life in relation to the bizarre subjects.
“When I make love, I barely make a sound,” Wilson narrates as he washes his hands in the bathroom. (Bathrooms are really front and center this season.) “This is because I lived with at least five roommates for around a decade. I trained myself to become completely stealth, because I knew how well they could hear me through the walls.”
Then, as he uses duct tape to cover a glory hole in the public restroom: “Even though it felt good to be considerate, my romantic partners were always the ones to pay the price. I always wished I could’ve cared less and made the sounds my body wanted to make.”
So, to counteract that sentiment, Wilson sets out to find a reason why loud noises are actually bad for the body. He encounters a man who uses a device to read how much noise is in the air (I rewatched this scene several times to try and understand the science and still have no words to adequately explain), which leads him down a winding path to a community of people who believe 5G and other frequencies are polluting the air.
Wilson treks out to the world of silence in Green Bank, West Virginia, where a giant telescope has made a plot of land a “National Radio Silence Zone.” There’s no cell service and no radio. Wilson struggles to figure out where he’s going, it’s so remote. Perhaps this area would normally be a no man’s land. Instead, a handful of folks who claim that internet and cellphone lines give them headaches have set up camp.
But even the National Radio Silence Zone isn’t enough for these people, who claim that a passerby with a cellphone can set their whole mind on fire. Some are planning to move out of the National Radio Silence Zone to houses that are secure of all frequencies. Perhaps they’d be better off making a tinfoil hat.
The conspiracy theorists, however, have a bigger enemy than the frequencies: their landlord. Their landlord is a common man with—gasp!—in-home Wi-Fi set up. (Yes, even though no cell service or radio connection is permitted in this area, Wi-Fi is good to go.) Wilson meets the landlord, who scoffs at the 5G theorists. The bigger question, though: Why is the landlord’s Wi-Fi password protected? No one in a 50-mile radius wants to steal it.
Wilson concludes that sound, albeit disruptive, is a powerful aspect of being human. That’s a good place to land, because How To certainly makes a rumble.