This week’s title, “Proxy,” is a perfectly succinct way of underlining the complex relationships on display tonight. Arturo and Adriana (Guillermo Diaz and Rosie Perez) buy themselves a proxy infant, Erin (Christine Elmo) has become a proxy wife/mother/pal to the family she nannies for, to the ire of that family’s teen daughter, and the Guy also happens to be using Erin, and probably others, for some proxy satisfaction while his “person,” Lee, is at home upstate. Somewhat ironically, the proxy situation that seems at first the most unusual and untenable is the one which ultimately proves the most beneficial to the people involved. The situation involves Adriana, Arturo, and Baby Nico, so let’s start there.
The beginning of the episode is aesthetically surprising because we start with vertical cell phone and YouTube videos of various women and babies, which turn out to be highly realistic silicone babies. I don’t think I knew such a thing existed, but I am not a bit surprised. It turns out that Adriana is the one watching these videos and she is not disturbed at all. It’s not soon before she orders herself her own silicone mail-order baby and names him Nico. Her husband, Arturo, is by her side in all of this and Guillermo Diaz conveys his feelings nicely and subtly, letting us sense that he is not totally on board with this fake baby thing but he loves Adriana and if it makes her happy, he can deal.
Their tentative family situation comes to a head when, while picking up some auto epoxy for Nico’s “boo-boo,” Arturo forgets Nico in his stroller outside of the store for a couple of minutes. Naturally, in that time a woman comes along and calls the cops to report the abandoned child. After she does so, Arturo and Adriana come outside and the woman starts tearing into them about how they should be ashamed of themselves, leaving a baby all alone. This gets Adriana to fire back at her and it’s chaotic. Within moments the classic scene on the street has formed, with the cops arriving and passersby stopping to gawk and/or film with their phones. Arturo finally breaks with the nonsense and pulls Nico out of the stroller, flapping him around by the leg saying “this is just a silicone doll, that’s what you’re all fighting about, it’s nothing!” It works in dispersing the crowd and the drama, but Adriana is left shaken and upset by the whole ordeal. Besides having to defend her motherhood to the passing woman—who thought Adriana was some crazy nanny because I guess Latina women can’t be mothers, just nannies?—she had to see Arturo disregard her idea of Real Nico and treat him like nothing but a doll.
Arturo later demonstrates just how much he loves Adriana by silently and gently fixing Nico’s boo-boo while humming a little song. It’s the very picture of a new parent and Arturo is being genuine and is not patronizing Adriana. His effort, his simple step into treating Adriana’s gentle fantasy with respect and stepping up to join in, is touching to Adriana and to us. We see a lot of couples and families on High Maintenance and what the show excels at is demonstrating the myriad of ways people can connect to and relate to each other, but especially how they can hurt and help one another. Adriana and Arturo’s situation is not what you might deem typical, but they love each other and so they support each other and their choices. Similarly, a few weeks back in “Payday,” Doc and Ayasha’s game of paying each other for sexual favors wouldn’t be everyone’s preferred relationship mode, but they found it works best for them. Arturo has found that this “fake baby” makes Adriana happy and because he loves her and she loves him, he’s going to commit with her to taking care of Baby Nico. If any relationship advice can be gleaned from High Maintenance, it is that there is no normal and whatever works best for you and your partner is the right way to go.
The remainder of the episode is spent on something a little smaller, but which ends up revealing intriguing details about the Guy’s life at the moment. Erin is a dancer, but paid babysitter (sorry, nanny—I guess if the family is rich, you get called a nanny) and she spends most of her days amusing the family’s youngest child, Eli, who likes to act like a wolf. This family’s matriarch has either recently died or left them and so Erin has to do pretty much what the mom would do while the father works as a film producer. This results in the oldest child, a teen girl, using any opportunity to belittle or yell at Erin because she does not want this “proxy” mother.
For instance, when Erin arrives a little late to work, this girl points out that she’s late and that she is wearing what she wore yesterday. This bit of information becomes interesting later when, upon realizing that she doesn’t have her wallet, Erin calls the person she was with last night—the Guy! They meet up at the park and it’s made clearer that yeah, they slept together last night. Erin suggests the Guy could come to her dance show soon and even asks if he’s doing anything this weekend. He hedges and says oh, well, he has “a person coming this weekend.” It’s pretty clear Erin didn’t know about that, but she does manage a pretty succinct kiss-off that’s appropriate for their level of intimacy.
He asks if she’ll call him sometime, though, and she says “yeah, for weed.” I don’t know if we’ve seen the Guy act like this before, but I’d say he’s pretty close here. I am curious as to whether maybe he and Lee consider themselves in an open, or undefined, relationship, but his awkwardness around labeling Lee as anything other than a “person” signals some kind of discomfort with where he, and they, are at. At the very least the Guy was using Erin, even just for a night, as a kind of proxy for Lee who, although she’s just upstate, he is in kind of a long-distance relationship with. Briefly finding a substitute for her can make it seem like he has an uncomplicated personal life, for a moment, or he can get that feeling he had at the beginning of his and Lee’s relationship before the weight of her divorce and miscarriage and fraught friendships started pushing down on them. Erin, or other women, is a pseudo-simple stand-in for the complex, complicated woman he is actually entangled with.
At the end of the day, Erin is fired for talking back (deservedly so!) to the teen girl and she has to leave before saying goodbye to Eli or getting back the sunglasses he was wearing. Later that night, dog-Eli walks into the woods and buries her sunglasses in a special place where he’s gathered other treasured memorabilia.
Arturo wanted to let Adriana’s proxy child comfort her without his getting equally involved, the Guy wanted Erin to satisfy an emotional and physical itch without consequences, and Erin and her employer’s family wanted a nanny and maternal figure without the negative side effects. It just can’t work. You can hope that, instead of the real thing, you could insert a proxy or a temporary substitute, but when you’re dealing with people and relationships, it’s never that simple. You can’t refuse an emotional connection with the child that’s an extension of your wife, even if it’s fake, and you can’t drop and pick up your casual hook-up whenever you feel like it. You also can’t ask someone to mother your kids without expecting the kids to get attached, or even resentful. Something High Maintenance has always made clear to us is that people are complicated and to try to act otherwise only leads to failure.
- This episode was written by Ben Sinclair and William Meny and directed by Chioke Nassor.
- I did love the bit with the Guy realizing he was being used by the Polish neighbors to learn English sentences (“the man is reading the book”).
- That is a writer for the show, Mitra Jouhari, at the Casper Mattress store, telling the Guy that she is “terrified of sleeping.”
- That match cut between the fake baby and the Guy sleeping is one of the best comical edits I have seen in a long time! It genuinely startled me, too.
- I genuinely felt compelled to make this noise when Erin called The Guy.
- The credits scene is an unboxing video of a silicone wolf baby, being watched by a wolf person (because the Guy kept talking about Wolfman).
- The credits song is “Midnight, the Stars and You” by Deerhoof.
- Finale next week!