Praise the Lord, we get two episodes of Mindy this week, and the first was definitely ascendant. Mindy met herself a cute minister in this one; she’ll go to the other extreme with a male prostitute, reverse Pretty Woman scenario on Thursday’s special episode. She certainly is on a roll, dating-wise: Perhaps they’re not all keepers to her, but we’re having a great time. I hope all those in Hollywood who are lamenting the death of the romantic comedy are taking notes here; by sending up chick flicks, Mindy might also be showing us how to save the genre, with witty banter and goofball antics and modern sensibilities and just plain fun.
As the show has found its groove (or lost it, and then recaptured it), it has also gotten a little better at creating a genuine New York feeling. Certainly it’s doing better now than any given episode of Friends, even if it’s not perfect: For instance, that’s my subway stop that she tried, and failed, to get off the train at — the First Avenue L — so I know that it had the wrong announcer voice (it’s automated). Yes, we New Yorkers are insufferably picky about such details. I also have never actually seen someone completely blocked from getting off at the right stop, unless he or she flat-out wasn’t paying attention. (But perhaps it happens, and she was reading her trashy magazine “to find out if Elin Nordegren is moving on with her life.”) In any case, this plot-finesse was in service to a meet-cute, since the person blocking her way was a cute guy with, as Mindy described them, “giant weird boxes.”
And any New Yorker had to love the bit about how she’d now be stuck on the train until Brooklyn, “where everyone is incredibly intimidating and expressive. So thanks for adding that to my day.” The very Ken-doll guy, who was rocking some suit and tie shit, explained that his “weird boxes” contained baby strollers for Haiti with all-terrain wheels so malnourished mothers could push them. But the conversation turned around when he told Mindy he was surprised she was a doctor because he thought she “was like a rapper’s publicist or something.” She took that as a compliment, he took her card, and the next thing she knew he was asking to call her. “For what? Like a date, or something weird?” Before she was barraged by quirky musicians and Hassidic Jews pouring through the subway doors at the next stop, he quipped, “We’ll see if it turns into something weird.” Nice attention to detail on those Williamsburg-ites, Mindy Project.
Cut to their bantery first date, which we knew was going well because this guy, Casey, was explaining that he used to row crew with the Winklevii at Harvard. Mindy likes herself some clean-cut, upper-crust boys! They discovered both of their apartment buildings used to be tuberculosis hospitals, and plotted out a disease tour of the city: The Upper West Side would be smallpox, and, as Mindy said, “Roosevelt Island is polio, ironically enough.” We were waiting for the other shoe to drop on this heretofore perfect dating prospect, as Danny had pessimistically predicted it would. And then it happened: Casey prayed before dinner. It was, he said, an occupational hazard for any Lutheran minister.
Panicked, Mindy asked Danny the next day to go to Casey’s Sunday service with her since he goes to Catholic mass every Sunday anyway. (Nice character reveal.) He agreed, and thank God, because we got to see Mindy’s church outfit — a black hat that could shield at least four people from the sun with its brim, with a black-and-white dress and white gloves. “Have you never seen a Tyler Perry movie?” she said by way of explanation.
Once in church, she had to remove the hat so the people behind them could see. And it turned out they had good reason to want to, since this was an aggressively hip Lutheran church, complete with Moby D.J.-ing. (I totally wouldn’t put it past Moby to D.J. in an aggressively hip Lutheran church.) Casey connected with his flock through copious pop-culture references: He wanted to watch Game of Thrones but the DVR didn’t get it. (He must have Time Warner.) “I look up at the big man,” he preached. “I go, ‘What’s up with that, G?’” And then he sang part of that Bruno Mars song that sounds like a Sting song. To many people, this would all be a turnoff, but not to Mindy. She got so starry-eyed she couldn’t wait to tell him after mass that she wanted to see him again. However, God had other plans — namely, the worst kind of backhanded brush-off. Casey told her he found himself “very attracted to you in a really interesting and visceral way,” which we should all write on a Post-It and save for the next time we have to break up with someone. But, he added, she just seemed … not as selfless as he was, not up to the high standards he holds himself to.
Naturally, this sent Mindy on her own mission: to prove she wasn’t too selfish to date a minister who lugs around strollers for Haiti. She would go on the office’s volunteer trip to the women’s prison, and she would be selfless, dammit! She would also subtly reference the Clueless plot while doing so. Like Cher in Clueless, however, she would encounter unforeseen obstacles. Unlike Cher in Clueless, this would include a prisoner who offered to buy Danny’s penis. (Morgan laughed this off: “She doesn’t have any money.”) But like Cher in Clueless, Mindy would find that her unique gifts allowed her to help in her own way: One of her patients just wanted to know what’s been happening on Real Housewives. Mindy could give her that! And a pashmina, too! (Very Martha Stewart.) And everything else in her bag!
Then, alas, said Housewives fan dropped some of the candy Mindy had given her, starting a prison riot. In the melee, Mindy got tossed around, and someone cut off a chunk of her enviable hair. Danny, in an understated scene, made her laugh afterwards and fixed up her face.
Proof of the Clueless parallel came in the cute final scene as Mindy told brother Rishi over burritos, “When you almost die, it really makes you think about what’s important in life.” (In Clueless, Tai thinks about “what’s really important” after her “brush with death” at the mall.) Then, voilà, happy ending! Casey happened by with his “little brothers” from Haiti. Rishi (“rapper/scientist”) told Casey off for making Mindy feel badly about herself. Mindy stuck up for herself, too: “We’re lame, we’re Hindu, and we used a Groupon for burritos, but that’s our lot in life.”
After he left, he texted to ask her out again, complete with angel emoji. She left it unanswered — perhaps best to allow her a date with a prostitute next week.
If you want to talk more Mindy, follow me on Twitter at @jmkarmstrong