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The Mindy Project Recap: Culture Flub

THE MINDY PROJECT:

This week’s tacit celebrity endorsement of The Mindy Project via cameo comes from Kevin Smith. Of course, it makes some sense, riffing on Smith’s much-tweeted difficulties with airplane travel with a joke about him almost sitting next to Mindy on a flight ride home from “an enemy’s wedding.” Sure, the guest-star situation might seem a little Love Boat (or Will & Grace, for the young’uns), but I do see the endless parade of notables as a statement on the power of Mindy. I hope the efforts of Smith, James Franco, and the National aren’t for naught.

If this episode is any indication, Smith & Co. are backing the right show. As usual, Mindy is at its best when it’s tackling romance. A meet-cute on a plane — what could be more perfect? (This has happened to me twice, and while I hardly married either prospect, they were more fun at the moment than an in-flight movie.) Even better, the man in question is Ben Feldman, the love interest here who also played Fred the Angel on Drop Dead Diva and Ginsberg on Mad Men. Here, his character is spending his airplane time reading a book about “the epic struggle to bring the telegraph to Australia in 1872” — The Great Connections, which appears to be fictional, which makes me love it even more.

Turns out he’s one Jason Richmond, who writes about arts and culture for The New York Independent. (It’s “mostly sex ads,” so it’s the Village Voice.) He also has beyond impeccable taste. (So beyond that it’s actually questionable; see this close-up of a prop copy of his latest scourge against Breaking Bad.) Naturally, he asks Mindy out (just two hours into their flight, a wait that may have given her a UTI, but it was worth it). So it looks like we’re moving on from Casey without a lot of dramatic blowback right now, in the name of comedy.

When she gets to the office to brag of her conquest, Morgan is holding forth on his recent run through Battery Park, “looking for batteries, which I don’t find.” Jeremy is countering, “Now, Morgan, this is fribbledy frou,” thus constituting the best use of Jeremy in some time, if not ever. Adam Pally as the new doctor is still being basically useless, though not awful or anything. Jeremy’s the one to drop the news that Mindy’s new beau has “incredibly high standards. … If anything, it should be me hanging out with him.”

Danny grabs the paper, however, and runs off to his office, making me think at first that he’s jealous of Mindy’s new love interest. But it’s actually better than that (better for the moment and for a fun story line, anyway): There’s an ad for Christina’s upcoming art exhibit featuring “private naked photos of him.” If anything’s going to come back from the Christina plotline, this is a fine choice.

Mindy’s date with Jason, meanwhile, isn’t going horribly, but it’s not going well. She sums up the movie they saw thusly: “I thought it was very real. I thought they looked like people who would be in line behind me at the bank. I’m not sure why we paid money to see it.” His rejoinder: “So you want to see a movie where, like, Rachel McAdams is the ugly duckling who’s always the bridesmaid because she can never find Mr. Right?” We know where this is going with Mindy: “When does that movie come out? That sounds amazing.” She has a Google alert set for Rachel McAdams’s name, after all. How did she miss it?

They have great physical chemistry, however, during the kiss good night, and she invites him up. He’s surprised because, he says, they have so little in common, what with her, you know, total lack of culture. (Way to score, buddy. But also, hey, points for honesty.) This reminds me a lot of Mindy’s initial interactions with Casey: She falls for him, we can tell he’s falling for her, but he doesn’t think she measures up in one way or another; then she sets out to prove herself. Not unrealistic, though I want better for Mindy, who’s otherwise so confident. Then again, I can’t help myself; I like both Casey and Jason as much as she seems to. And it’s possible I’ve been guilty of trying to prove my worth to a culture snob in the past as well. You know Jason’s totally one of those guys who would say he doesn’t have a TV or he only listens to NPR or whatever. “I saw Mamma Mia on the West End,” she attempts, “before it transferred to Broadway.” On the up side, she’s insulted that he doesn’t respect her culture level. But they’re not meant to be, at least this night:

Him: “I’d be happy to listen to One Direction while we do it.”
Her: “The documentary or their album?”

Wiener Night to the rescue. Adam Pally contributes to this episode by telling the whole office about Danny’s impending artistic debut and inviting everyone to attend after eating hot dogs. But, to be clear, as Danny says, “It’s not called Wiener Night. If anything, it should be called Injustice Night.” Nonetheless, Mindy will be inviting Jason to Wiener Night to prove her cultural cachet. And if he could see the amazing sea green dress with navy striping that she’s wearing when she calls to ask him, he’d say yes. Maybe he can, because he says yes.

At the show, she can only keep up her cultured act for so long (almost zero time, that is). But she’s wearing another great dress, a little black number with leather insets. And she attempts to prove her critical worth by praising how the light “is reflecting off his nads.” The confusing is-he-or-isn’t-he-a-character lawyer returns now to possibly help Danny litigate against Christina’s show. He grows on me, mainly because his mere presence gives Danny occasion to use the words urethra and flummox.

But the lawyer can’t save Danny as well as Mindy can: She gives a dramatic speech about the worthlessness of the exhibit as well as her own worth as an intelligent person, whether or not she likes Katy Perry. (She does.) “You know when I was very well-read? When I was in medical school becoming a doctor.” In the process, she also accidentally Instagrams her boobs, but whatever.

We get a very Mindy ending, with Danny kissing her on the cheek before running off with a new female admirer, Mindy noting the lawyer as a possible love interest for later (right now he has a girlfriend attending the Daughtry concert without him), and Jason coming to Mindy’s doorstep for an apologetic serenade. This is the Mindy I’d guest-star on if I were Kevin Smith, the National, or James Franco.

Photo: Jordin Althaus/FOX