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The Mindy Project Recap: Latin Lovers

THE MINDY PROJECT: Mindy (Mindy Kaling, R) meets Jaime (guest star B.J. Novak, L) at a party in the "Harry & Sally" episode of THE MINDY PROJECT airing Tuesday, Jan. 29 (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

The Office’s Ryan, longtime on-again/off-again lover of Mindy Kaling’s Kelly, showed up this episode to bring what we pray are tidings of good things. Whatever has been happening behind the scenes of The Mindy Project to render it a sometimes-brilliant, sometimes-lamely-traditional sitcom, could truly be coming to an end. That is the way we chose to read the arrival of Novak as Jamie, Mindy’s new Latin professor love interest.

And since he’s no longer hanging around Dunder Mifflin, dare we hope that he, and the spirit of resuscitation he brought to Mindy, hangs around for a while?

Jamie’s story line brought us back to the territory that served Mindy so well in its early episodes: poking fun at romantic comedies. Jamie is weirdly close to his female best friend, Lucy, but she’s not his girlfriend. This signifies not only a rom-com trope but also a genuine landmine in modern dating. We’ve all been on one side or the other of this conundrum. And we all know that Harry-Sally/Jamie-Lucy relationships never work in real life, yet it’s impossible to shake their rom-com charms.

Mindy’s co-workers said it all: “I really like them together.” She snarked back, “Well, you can be friends with them separately.” Even though Danny called When Harry Met Sally … “When Doofus Met Dummy …”, even he couldn’t let go of the fantasy that Lucy and Jamie represented. Mindy, in this scenario, was “Bruno Kirby.” Or … not even that. “You’re the lady who says, ‘I’ll have what she’s having,’” her co-workers explained. “I’m Rob Reiner’s mother?” she asked incredulously. This was the Mindy we loved from the pilot: puncturing sacred romantic-comedy traditions, and mixing real life with the fantasy of movies. Where has she been these past many episodes? Please, please let her stay.

We barely cared when Marnie from Girls broke up with Danny from Mindy: We knew it had to happen, and whatever. Let’s get back to the amazing banter between Jamie and Mindy/Ryan and Kelly/B.J. and Mindy. The real dating problem Mindy has is that so few guys can keep up with her line delivery — but any guy who can keep up is doomed, since she can’t settle down too early in the series. (See: Josh.) Example: That great dialogue between her and Jamie about men’s magazines’ obsession with abs. “Nothing is like, ‘Face Today,’” B.J./Jamie either improvised or something very close to it. Mindy countered that she’d call her men’s mag “Big Fat Slobs … Who Are Paid Well.

On the same awesome date, Jamie assured her that nothing was going on with Lucy, though Mindy was still skeptical. “I don’t wanna be, like, that rando who Gerard Butler wastes his time with before he realizes he’s in love with Kate Beckinsale.”

“Wait,” Jamie said, “what movie is that?”

“It’s not a movie, but I just think they’d have great chemistry.”

And then, the clincher: “Yeah, they would, because they can both do action, too.”

These two were meant for each other, even if Lucy sent them a bottle of wine during the perfect moment of their date, thus scaring Mindy away temporarily. Who cares that Mindy and her new wheelchair-bound friend Maggie — her latest official sidekick audition on the show — ran into her one-night stand, Brendon, with his new girlfriend? Or that Danny botched making up with Jillian by playing her a Korn song instead of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”? (Admittedly, a little funny.)

The main thing is that “Mindiana Jones” crashed Jamie’s Latin class, and we saw how a climactic declaration of affection should be done, rom-com standards be damned. Are you gonna call security on her? What are you gonna say? “There’s a sexy Indian woman. With a whip and a hat. They’d be like, ‘Yeah, that sounds like paradise.’”

Please, let this version of it last.

Photo: Beth Dubber/FOX