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The Mindy Project Recap: Testing Patients

THE MINDY PROJECT: Danny (Chris Messina, L) gives Mindy (Mindy Kaling, R) an exam on an all-new "Danny Castellano Is My Gynecologist" episode of THE MINDY PROJECT airing Tuesday, Oct. 9 (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

Watching a show you love inch past a good pilot and into long-term life as a weekly series feels like the early stages of a relationship: You keep expecting it to disappoint you, looking for tiny signs of disasters to come. But sometimes, the show continues to earn your affection, despite imperfections that you’re pretty sure you can live with.

This is where I am with The Mindy Project, perhaps a similar place to where Mindy is with new love Josh. I wish he could stay forever, or at least a long while, even though I realize that, due to the laws of keeping a sitcom interesting, he probably can’t. Their morning-after illumination of a double-standard — girl in guy’s shirt = adorable, guy in girl’s jeans = embarrassing — cracked Mindy’s romantic-comedy lens a bit and hinted at the possibility of a real relationship instead. It also hinted at how relationships can be better than romantic comedy clichés: Josh didn’t care one bit that Mindy’s jeans were big on him; she was the one freaking out.

The Mindy Project has also settled down into a more linear, traditional storytelling style since the pilot (which featured “voiceover” that was really Mindy telling the cop what happened). But, like the settling in relationships, this may not necessarily be a bad thing — this episode was inventive without being gimmicky. The battle of wills over whether Danny felt impersonally enough about Mindy to be her gynecologist was the exact opposite of a romantic comedy cliché.

If Danny and Mindy are to develop into a will-they-won’t-they, I hope they won’t for a very long time. They have combustive chemistry in their bickery banter. Some non-gynecological highlights: “If we are indulging imaginary situations,” Mindy said as Danny daydreamed about being the boss one day, “I’d like to introduce you to my husband, straight Anderson Cooper.” Even better, their dual deconstruction of the greeting-card trope of a sun wearing sunglasses: “Take the sunglasses off the sun,” Danny advised her on her homemade card. “It makes no sense. The sun’s the only thing that never needs sunglasses.” Her quick reply: “Um, the sunglasses are the best part. That’s how you know the sun is cool.”

Less cool was the subplot about Jeremy, Betsy, and Morgan breaking into Mindy’s apartment to get Jeremy’s Bulgari watch, which he left there when they slept together. It felt like just a way to keep all the minor characters busy while Danny and Mindy tore it up in the better plot. Their comic chemistry is so good, it could end up outshining the rest of the show over time — but hopefully it will simply balance out instead of burning out. Jeremy’s accent is fun, but he needs something else to do. Morgan is funny, but hit and miss. He’s weirdly predictable for such a weird character. (He claims to be a good listener, only to immediately respond to Mindy’s friend Gwen, “Gern?”) Poor Betsy just gets to be unbelievably dumb. (“I found it in her nightstand next to a tube of really slippery toothpaste.”) Mostly, though, they felt like they were taking time away from the good part of the episode.

So, back to that part. The palpable weirdness of a guy friend — one for whom you may or may not harbor, as they said, “unlamplike feelings” — becoming your gynecologist was, of course, rife with comedic possibilities.

First, during the patient questionnaire, we learned a lot of detailed information very quickly about Mindy, throughout which we could feel the awkwardness of their relationship creeping in. She got her period at 14, “at a sleepover, best night of my life.” Her period last came “eleven days ago, just when I wanted it to … Heavy on the first day and then it peters out by day four.” When was her last sexual encounter? “Just write, ‘the last time that the moment was right.” Her rambling monologue about pretending not to know where her condoms were “because you don’t want to seem like you’re using them constantly” was spot-on and some fairly good sex ed. (Sexually active single ladies, yes, you should have condoms!) How would she characterize the nature of her sexual activity? “I’m having a great time.” Does she exercise? “There is a cluster of elliptical machines at my gym.” She took fish oil supplements until the bottle fell behind her refrigerator. “Almost takes fish oil,” Danny wrote on the form.

Danny deployed his first major bomb in their battle over who’d back down from their doctor-patient relationship when Mindy revealed that she’d like to have four kids. (Names: Jaden, Madison, Brie, and Piper.) In an imagined, but not implausible, scenario, he predicted that even if she married the guy she’s currently dating, they’d divorce by the time she was 40 and, sure, remarry by the time she was 41, but still run out of time on the four kid idea.

She retreated, sure she’d die alone and her will would remain as is: All of her money would go to Tina Fey, chosen because “I just think she would spend it in an interesting and responsible way.” She whined to BFF Gwen that they were supposed to be single roommates together in the city, but then Gwen went and met her now-husband, and “two years later, you have some random baby.”

But Morgan did come in handy by giving Mindy a pep talk and the advice that she needed a “warrior name” to go into battle. She, of course, chose Beyonce Pad Thai. Thus armed, she went into the exam room to finish her battle with Danny. He tried to scare her off by weighing her. She asked him personal questions about his parents (we learned he hasn’t seen his dad in 25 years, which didn’t seem to be a joke or a ruse) in an attempt to elicit personal feelings from him. Finally, she dropped her hospital gown for the breast exam, and he backed down.

Of course, she still needed a gynecologist. But Beyonce Pad Thai won.

If you want to talk more Mindy, follow me on Twitter: @jmkarmstrong

Photo: Beth Dubber/FOX