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The Mindy Project: Weight Watching

Few episodes could live up to the last one before the holiday break, "Christmas Party Sex Trap," with all of its “Santa Baby” singing, Aaliyah dancing, and happy(ish) ending. But 2014's first episode proved a worthy follow-up, with Mindy pursuing a relationship with Cliff, the guy she finally snared at the end of the Christmas party with a romantic kiss on the roof. It hit The Mindy Project’s rom-com sweet spot, advanced the plot, and, as ever, dashed off one-liners with abandon. Here, the highlights:

A Bikini in January

Women love this show because Mindy’s so much more, as we say in TV land, “relatable” than the Carrie Bradshaws of the world. To make a plot, our heroine needs no more terrifyingly insurmountable problem than the prospect of wearing a bikini in January on a weekend getaway with Cliff. (I hope we get to see the getaway — I can imagine shades of Bridget Jones’s “mini-break.”) This kicks off a series of eating jokes and visuals (Mindy walking around the office eating a leaf of romaine) that feel more grounded than your average I’m-so-fat bits:

“What? I don’t want coffee cake. I’m still full from that chia seed I had last night.”

“Guys, over the holidays, I had like five hams and a goose. I am a wolf in a children’s story.”

And my favorite: “I’m not wearing a skirted bathing suit like a woman who’s just given up on life!”

Sex Without Nudity

Though Cliff has been “like UTI-level getting up in them guts” with Mindy, he hasn’t really seen her naked. Mindy has developed a patentable series of techniques to hide her body from her lovers, including lingering in candle shadows and pretending she’s really into blindfolds. This is something of a revelation from a woman who often parades around clothed with Beyoncé-level bravado, and it’s a nice step toward cracking her façade. If I may read too much into things, it strikes me as particularly telling that by the end of the episode, Danny has accidentally seen her naked twice — which makes them more intimate than she has been with any of her boyfriends. In any case, after a fizzled attempt at hiring Morgan to be her trainer, Mindy cajoles the fit Danny into whipping her into shape: “I want to be so hot that Cliff would date me even if I had a bad personality.”

Danny’s Villain-Lair Gym

Danny works out at one of those grimy old gyms full of barbells and punching bags — which is perfect. “This place didn’t even let women in until Manhattan went Tina Fey crazy in 2002,” he explains. Mindy counters, “I don’t know how I’m going to lose ten pounds. There’re no ellipticals or TVs with Bravo on them.” Even her workoutwear is wrong for this place (or possibly any place): She's wearing what appears to be a sweater with her leggings (though the rhinestone embellishments won’t come off if you sweat!) and Fatsteps Ultrawide shoes. (“Chris Christie wears them on the campaign trail.”) Eventually, though, Danny hits on a brilliant way to motivate Mindy, by evoking the celebrities-in-peril and red-carpet imagery she most responds to. “Michael Fassbender’s trapped in a well … Anne Hathaway’s trapped under a car …” She even does a full set of pushups (not the girly kind on her knees) thanks to an elaborate story about tripping on the red carpet on the way to the Golden Globes, where she’s nominated for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or TV Movie … though she eventually fictionally loses to Stockard Channing. Of course.

Naked Steam-Room Party

Through a series of misunderstandings (the door is marked “girls only” even though it’s co-ed, etc.), Danny and Mindy end up in the steam room together with only one towel between them. Then her hair gets caught in his watch, and there is maneuvering and falling on the floor and views we can only imagine by the big crescendo, when Mindy ends up lying face up directly underneath a standing Danny. It’s all very The Proposal, and I am willing to suspend all disbelief just for this new level of sexual tension between Danny and Mindy. We even get a second shot at it when the office owl (just go with it) terrorizes Mindy while she’s checking herself out behind her closed door. (Again, just go with it.) This time, there's no steam to obscure the view when he bursts in to see why she’s screaming.

A Million Latex Gloves

In the perfectly serviceable subplot of the week, Jeremy falls ill and Peter takes over as the office manager to expectedly disastrous results. The aforementioned owl ends up in the office when he opens the window because the heat is blasting too high. Tamra and Morgan fight over the big, L-shaped desk in Phlebotomy, which is just a funny word to say. And Tamra accidentally orders a million latex gloves instead of a thousand, causing Peter to go off the deep end. Two payoffs here: One, when Peter heads to Jeremy’s apartment for advice, we see that the British playboy is fully back from his adventures in depression and weight struggle — he’s got two model types “nursing” him back to health. Two, we get another glimpse of Tamra’s rich out-of-office life when she storms away and directly to Tino the eyebrow threader. Also, she watches Sleepy Hollow. (“Who’s that main guy? Frasier Crane?”)

“You’re a Woman and That’s Good.”

When Danny kept wanting to give Mindy a few pointers on her body after seeing it naked, and she kept resisting, we could see where it was headed: He was going to tell her she’s great the way she is. It’s a testament to the character and the actor, however, that he sold it so well. Of course a salt-of-the-earth guy like Danny Castellano would go to a seedy gym and would genuinely feel it when he tells Mindy, “Don’t suck in your stomach so much. You’re a woman and that’s good. Look like a woman.” Oh, and also, he’s down with the return-of-pubes trend: “Just grow it out. No one wants a 9-year-old.”

That sound you hear is women everywhere cancelling their next wax.

Photo: FOX