We’re back in sweet, safe Mindy Project territory again this week, which I’m guessing pleases those of you who didn’t like last week’s veer into “issue” territory. As you know, I liked last week’s, but I agree that there’s a Mindy Project formula that works best, and it’s closer to this week’s episode. (And it’s always a riff on the excellent pilot episode.) Namely, that’s dual, occasionally interlocking “his” and “hers” plotlines that come together at the end, à la — naturally — a romantic comedy.
Even the opening voice-over calls back to the pilot, with what seems like merely narration turning out to be Mindy talking to her UPS guy. Alas, he’s delivering a glitter-exploding invitation to the upcoming wedding of her ex, Josh. I always appreciate a chance to see Josh again, though the script, perhaps wisely, dials back the banter-y chemistry between him and Mindy. We’re clearly not meant to see this as any sort of opening to revisit their relationship.
The episode also recalls the pilot overtly, featuring the wedding of an ex, and even allowing Danny to remind us of Mindy’s disastrous history at exes' weddings. (“The last time you gave an intoxicated speech and rode a bike into a pool,” he helpfully summarizes.) Mindy tries calling Josh to beg off, citing a VIP client. (“I wish I could tell you who it is, but Jay Z would be pissed. It’s Beyoncé.”) Once that doesn’t work, she scrounges around the office for a date. Danny can’t go because his brother’s visiting. Her eyes alight on a beautiful young man, and she introduces herself: “I’m Mindy Lahiri, doctor, woman.” But, yep, that’s Danny’s younger brother, Richie.
She calls an escort service, fanning my hopes for an episode-long homage to the underrated romantic comedy The Wedding Date. Then we get a different plotline: Peter continues to try to make himself useful to the show by volunteering to go to the wedding with Mindy. Surely we’ll come out of this with Mindy liking Peter a little more, if not with sparks flying between them, right? It seems so as Mindy practices her greetings for Josh in the mirror — “I can’t believe you thought I was Kerry Washington for a second. That’s so random!” — and then Peter arrives looking great in a suit.
But this show does have a penchant for twisting up expected sitcom and rom-com plotlines. For instance, what appears to be a developing subplot — we know Danny’s brother’s gay the second he compliments Tamra’s “fun braid” — thankfully takes a sharp turn as the rest of the office gang gathers for a party at Danny’s. (In fact, Max Minghella, who plays Richie, tweeted after filming the episode that it was “like a master class in romantic comedy.”) The gay story line is dispatched within the first minute of the scene — Danny knows his brother is gay. The real story surfaces when Richie gives Danny the awesome gift of a Miami Vice soundtrack on vinyl, only to reveal that it’s from their estranged father, causing Danny to shatter the record.
Of course, they spar over their dad — Danny can’t forgive him, Richie can — but they eventually make up when Richie says Danny was his real father figure. (Awww. I can totally see this about Danny!) “You taught me how to shave,” he says. “You taught me how to shave my legs when I did Cabaret.” Richie says their dad wants to talk to Danny. “Yeah, well, I wanna talk to 1982 Pat Benatar,” Danny says in the millionth awesome eighties reference of the evening. “But that’s not gonna happen.” Which probably means it is gonna happen — that is, Danny’s dad, not Pat Benatar. (Though, note to Mindy’s writers: Please figure out how to make Pat Benatar happen.) Could we get a solid guest appearance by the senior Mr. Castellano in the near future?
The wedding, meanwhile, is perfection: as an event and as a set piece. It’s populated with real and fictional professional athletes, since Josh is a sports lawyer, including Major League Baseball player CJ Wilson. An adorable photo slide show of the couple plays to Shania Twain’s “Still the One.” Peter drags Mindy to the dance floor to interrupt, with the quality line: “I’m gonna party my nards off, and I hope that you’re going to party your O’s off, too.” The DJ switches to the next perfect tune, “All Night Long,” which continues the strange undercurrent of aggressive eighties references in this episode. Mindy and Peter lead the crowd while holding an entire bottle of open wine. “I’ve been to like fifteen proms,” Peter explains of his partying prowess. When a fellow guest expresses her admiration, Mindy brags, “That’s Mr. Wedding. And he’s with me.” And scene.
Well, not quite — we’re in for another fun turn. Mindy and Josh sort of make nice — “That dress makes you look more proportional than you are,” he sort of compliments her, and it should be noted that her dress is more spectacular than that. But then they walk in on Peter and the bride having sex. Peter’s excuse? She attacked him, and, after all, “It’s her day.” Her excuse: She just got out of rehab, where she’d met Josh, for sex addiction.
In another nice twist, Mindy cheers a glum Josh, saving his wedding by ruining it. She tells the crowd it’s off because she threw herself at Josh and got caught by the bride. A lovely little détente with Peter ensues on the car ride home, returning us to that sneaking suspicion that this could be a setup for romance between the two. (That’s always what happens between characters of opposite genders who fight, right?) “Kiss Is on My List” is playing on the radio, because, obviously, it’s the eighties. When Mindy goes a little soft on Peter, he immediately accuses her of having a crush on him and wanting to “make mixed-race babies." “Absolutely not,” she counters. “I want to make mixed-race babies with Michael Fassbender.” Don’t we all? More important, I think, though I’m not certain, this dispels the notion of any romance with Peter — discussing the idea usually means it’s a no-go in rom-com land, right?
Besides, she needs to focus on Danny, despite Mindy Kaling’s confusing attempts to lead us to believe otherwise.