The Mindy Project
Honestly, I know my rating for this episode is scrambled by my massive feelings about Mindy and Danny, so take it for what it’s worth. Danny and Mindy make me so nervous when they’re together. They make me as nervous as I would be about my own precious relationship if I ever allowed myself to think about the possibility that it could end. They make me nervous because I have dated in New York, and I know how brutal it can be; they make me nervous because everyone on TV right now is breaking up and getting killed.
And holy crap, by the end of this double dose of episodes, the worst has already happened. I hate the Golden Age of Getting Real on TV, Even in Sitcoms. I miss the days when it was all will-they-won’t-they until either a finale or someone left the show, and then there was just a big wedding, and, yay. This is really emotional for me, and I’m not sure I like it. But, hey, we’ve also seen happy, but still complicated and realistic, endings to sitcom relationships in the modern era, right? I mean, Mindy Kaling learned her trade at The Office, where a couple of couples were allowed to ride off into the sunset together. Surely we could see that here … eventually.
I have to believe that to go on, anyway.
So, a few steps back: It all starts when Danny wants to keep his new relationship with Mindy a secret at the office. But life conspires against this. Mindy’s apartment is burglarized, and she needs someone to stay with her. “What was the point of me living in a gay neighborhood if I can’t leave my door wide open?” she rails. Morgan immediately agrees to be her temporary roommate, despite her and Peter’s hints that Danny would be better for the job. (Peter, you may recall, is the only one who knows about their liaison.) Even though Mindy would prefer Danny stay with her, she accepts Morgan’s sleepover as part of the overly intimate atmosphere at their office. (“Morgan knows my menstrual cycle, and I find it very helpful.”) She also works hard to prove to Danny that she’s fine with their secrecy, fine with him not staying with her. She’s so fine with it that she beatboxes to prove how “cool” she is. Danny, bless his heart, sums up the appeal of Mindy’s character after witnessing this particular display: “I don’t know why, but I still wanna hit it.”
Confusion ensues when Morgan discovers Danny’s scrubs wedged underneath Mindy’s living-room sofa, thanks to his adorable dog sniffing around. (Just go with it.) But he thinks they’re Peter’s scrubs, because a pen with Peter’s name on it is in the pocket. (Again, just go with it.) Further complications show up in the comely form of Jenna Dewan Tatum playing a drug rep Danny once slept with. She’s peddling a new kind of birth control with which “any woman can sync her menstrual cycle with her friends’ or a list of endorsed celebrities’.” One of this show’s unsung benefits is its continued discussions of reproductive health in prime time.
Perhaps my favorite part of this otherwise perilous story line for our fair couple is how helpful Peter turns out to be as Mindy’s dealing with Danny’s lack of total commitment. Peter’s addition to the show felt forced and gratuitous to me at first, but I’ve come to love him, most clearly through this ordeal. (Could we lose some of the show’s other less-central characters? Absolutely.) Peter pulls Danny aside at the climactic party to try to talk some sense into him. That having sort-of failed, Peter helps Mindy through her despair, convincing her to use him to make Danny jealous. She worries this will involve pushing too many boundaries with Peter, but he assures her that appearances are everything: “If I saw my girlfriend go into a bathroom with Andy Cohen I’d freak out.”
They do exactly that (sans Andy Cohen), then proceed to feed each other grapes left over from Mindy’s Breaking Bad party. (Luckily no one falls ill.) She eventually straddles Peter on a chair at his behest, only to break the damn thing, because that’s the way seductive moves go on The Mindy Project.
Of course, all of this plays into Morgan’s, and thus Jeremy’s, false belief that Peter and Mindy are having an affair. Finally, Jeremy lectures Peter: “Mindy deserves a man who will make an honest chubster out of her.” Betsy randomly declares her own love for Danny at this point, to zero reaction from her co-workers, though my reaction was: Oh right, she’s still on this show. She’s one of those who is a lovely actor whom, nonetheless, we could totally do without. This scene points out one of The Mindy Project’s great comedic bits, though: wildly insulting and then wildly overpraising Mindy within seconds of each. Case in point, Morgan admonishing Mindy about Peter: “He’s using you for your perfect body and your cover-girl looks.”
The absurdity only slightly cushions the blow of the devastating next scene, in which Mindy, finally alone with Danny, issues what she calls a “false ultimatum.” He takes it, anyway, and says they should break up instead of going public with their relationship. He gives a soul-crushing speech that hits a little too close to home for me and, I suspect, anyone else who has spent some time in love with people who were their “friends” first: “I need you in my life,” he says, sincerely. “I have to have you.” This, of course, means the opposite of what it appears to; it is his explanation for why he can’t actually date her.
I’m happy for Mindy that she holds the line, even though it sucks: “Don’t tell me you want to be my best friend, because I have friends.” He protests, because these “friends” always do, that he and Mindy will fight and eventually break up and he can’t live with that because he likes her too much or whatever. “Or we fight, but we make up,” she says. “And I change a little bit, but you change a lot.”
After this, after he leaves instead of staying with her, I can’t believe I have to watch another half hour of this show, but here goes. Things are, as one can imagine, awkward at work for Mindy and Danny, but Mindy has career issues on her mind: She meets Sheila Hamilton, OB/GYN to the stars (and Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn … nice consistency among allusions, Mindy Project!). Dr. Hamilton drops some dirt on Mindy about delivering North West, wowing our little gossipmonger, whose closest brush with celebrity clientele was the time she briefly had the mom of The Real World’s Trishelle as a patient.
After the tightly plotted romance of the last several episodes, this return to normal sitcom form is slightly hard to take, and, honestly, a touch messy. There’s a bit about a new mobile-clinic bus for the practice that pays off a little, but not totally, and a confusingly brief appearance by the lovely JoAnna Garcia Swisher (late of Once Upon a Time and Royal Pains) as Peter’s sister. I am further flummoxed by Danny’s sudden romantic interest in her, given that like three seconds ago he was breaking up with the love of his life and then looking longingly up at her window. I adore JoAnna Garcia Swisher, but I can’t get behind Danny having a new romantic interest already. See what I mean about my feelings interfering with my ability to judge these episodes on their merits?
I do love the glimpse at Anna Gunn’s delicious OB/GYN practice to the rich and famous. There are warm cookies and silk robes and 3-D-printed uterus models. There are chances to turn down the Golden Vulva award because one is just too busy. There are assignments to fly to Washington “to give Sasha and Malia the talk.”
It turns out, however, that this posh practice doesn’t accept insurance, so Mindy can’t accept their job offer. It also turns out that they sought her out mainly because they needed to shoot a billboard ad and had a problematic lack of color among their staff. Or, as Mindy says, “Your millionaires need a slumdog.” Anna Gunn points out (lampshading one of the criticisms leveled against The Mindy Project) that Mindy’s clearly the token woman at her current job. However, when Mindy then rescues her fellow partners from a crowd angry that the all-white-male crew is offering free breast exams on their bus, we see that her womanhood is useful … or something.
Honestly, I can’t concentrate on anything except Mindy and Danny. So let’s just all brood, breathe, have a little wine, sleep on it, read this slightly hopeful BuzzFeed piece about the couple’s future, and pray to the sitcom gods for the best.