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The Mindy Project Recap: Franco vs. Kaling

THE MINDY PROJECT

An interesting trope has popped up throughout the run of The Mindy Project so often that, at this point, I daresay it has become something as high-falutin’ as a theme: the glossy sex fantasy rendered awkward, ridiculous, and nonsensical. Shower sex, one-night-stand sex, and video-chat sex have all gotten this treatment in the past, usually as the opening scene of an episode, and always with hilarious results.

This is exactly why I would want my daughters to emulate Mindy if I had daughters: She’s actually so confident in herself, sexually and otherwise, that she knows that the insane stuff Cosmo has historically loved to tell you to do in bed is so impractical as to be the opposite of sexy. You’re sexy, with or without the whipped-cream bikini from Varsity Blues.

This week’s episode begins with Mindy proving that last point, deciding to give Casey a reenactment of that hormone-stoking scene via Skype to soothe him after a tough day in Haiti (a baby bat flew into his mouth). I’m soaking up every moment of Mindy and Casey’s rapport, dreading what has to be their ultimate demise. (Right? This can’t be a whole show about her dating Casey, can it?)

But, of course, Mindy decides a bikini is too skanky, so she appears in an extremely modest whipped-cream one-piece. “Yeah, the whole point is to be skanky,” her fiancé reminds her. (Her very hip priest fiancé, may I remind you.) Her response: “I just don’t know who’s watching this, okay? The NSA, that hot Edward Snowden guy. I don’t want this to be on, like, WikiLeaks.” I love this line because it makes me think, Oh, yeah, Edward Snowden is so Mindy’s type. In any case, the whole thing devolves further when Mindy suggests she looks like a “grandma with benefits” and is then attacked by ants.

Onto the real business of the week, which is to allow Mindy to do comedic battle with James Franco’s Dr. Leotard, and then banish him from the premises by episode’s end. I’ve made a personal decision about Franco, and it is this: I’m totally over the whole Franco phenomenon, the part performance art, part comedy, part whatever else he’s decided to take up this week thing he has going. Taken apart (as much as possible) from his Franco Persona, his character here is funny as an absolute value, as is his performance. I’m trying my best to simply see him as a regular old funny actor, which, when forced, I admit that he is. Which maybe was his elaborate goal this whole time, to transition from a good-looking dramatic actor into a goofy funny guy? I don’t know. For now, I’m just going with: Dr. Leotard is funny.

Mindy arrives at the office ready to eat an entire box of doughnuts but not ready to be known as “Big L” to distinguish her from the new “Dr. L.” She’s also ready to kick Leotard out of the office that was hers before going to Haiti. “Shoot, it looks like I am busy all day not giving a damn,” he quips. She replies, “Don’t try to out-cute the cutest person in the office.” This brings on his reenactment of a cheesy puppy poster (or something), a pouty-faced, cutesy-voiced, “I wuv hugs.” The best part: Mindy genuinely trying to stifle a laugh as she shot him down: “I hated that. That was disgusting.”

Jeremy, now clearly in charge of the office — I love this as an excuse for his lack of story lines — isn’t ready to fire Leotard, though: He was profiled in New York Magazine! (Obviously, the highest honor in the land.) “So what?” Mindy snaps. “I was profiled in the New York Post! Remember, when I found that thumb in my taco?” Still, Leotard is handling her patients now, and they love him. All she’s currently got to show for herself is a UTI from discount whipped cream, so she’s banished to a sad, supply-closet office reminiscent of the one that Milton the Stapler Obsesser got in Office Space.

Danny has his own problems, which mainly involve getting over his breakup with Christina. To accomplish this, he’s been sneaking off to play basketball at the YMCA with “The Getting Over It Gang.” They even have their own cheer: “Just because we don’t have wives doesn’t mean we don’t have lives. Single and cool!” Nice bonus points for the inclusion of the actual Kris Humphries, even if his cameo line at the end did not prove his fitness for an acting career. It also strikes me here that the Mindy writers may be solving their structure problems from last season (who among these 25 cast members gets a story this week? Do we always need an A story and B story?) by relying on a standard rom-com setup: The A story is the girl’s, the B story is the boy’s, the end. We’ll see if this holds up through future episodes.

The Lahiri-Leotard conflict comes to a head that night as the office gang gathers at a bar. “Cool, he can do magic,” Mindy snipes, watching Leotard impress some ladies with a trick. “You know who else does magic? The clown who molested my cousin, and we’re not all fawning over him.” Soon, however, the solution to Mindy’s problem emerges through the alcohol haze. Morgan tries to bolster her spirits by telling her she’s way more fun than Leotard: “He’s always dieting, and you’re, like, ‘I want three pizzas, argharghargharghargh.’” [Note: That is a pizza devouring noise there.] Oh, one other thing: Leotard also can’t hold his liquor like Mindy can. Hmmm …

Danny’s hanging with his basketball buddies in another part of the bar, a scene that includes the brilliant reemergence of Bill Hader, Mindy’s dentist ex, as a now extremely depressed divorced guy. “If I wanted to be depressed,” Jeremy says of their maudlin attitude, “I would have gone with my original plan of eating a waffle in the bath.” (Is Jeremy morphing from a humorously perfect Brit into a Cathy comic strip?)

Luckily, Mindy livens things up by calling a “shots off” with Leotard for office rights. Naturally, she ate an entire loaf of bread before coming there. (So she planned the whole thing? “Nope, I just do that every night, dawg.”) He’s defeated to the point of falling-on-the-floor drunk, and all is right with the world.

Well, not exactly yet. Mindy helps him home, which right now is the apartment he’s sharing with Danny. She leaves him there nearly passed out, Christina comes by with some of Danny’s stuff, and, you know, stuff just happens. (Mindy: “That doesn’t just happen. There’s a whole process. You have to brush your teeth and pluck that one hair that’s growing out of your breast.”) Leotard’s desperate revelation to Mindy that he slept with Christina gave the final sequence a nice twist: Leotard and Lahiri now united.

He’s quitting the practice, they announce to Danny, because, um, he has joined the army. “I’m walking him to the army,” Mindy adds, escorting him away from Danny. A suspicious Danny presses them further, forcing Leotard to reveal that … he and Mindy slept together. Mindy gamely goes along, making me wonder what the implications will be for her engagement and/or her relationship with Danny. Which makes Leotard’s quick switch all the sweeter: As Danny prepares to call Mindy a name that could irrevocably harm their friendship, Leotard buckles and tells the truth. It was Christina.

He leaves them an official resignation voice recording, which includes his admission to sleeping with Danny’s ex. “And remember, I am a sex therapist,” he concludes. “So the sex was extraordinary.”

Want to talk more Mindy? Visit me on Twitter @jmkarmstrong.

Photo: Greg Gayne/FOX