The Mindy Project
Welcome back, Pastor Casey! Instead of keeping him out of town for a while and reenacting more scenes from Varsity Blues with Mindy via Skype, the show fast-forwards to Casey’s return. Everything about the opening scene is excellent. Pastor Casey as a rock-star pastor reminds me of Saved! I love that he calls his heart “Sir Thumps-a-Lot” and that Mindy is already standing up when Casey goes to tell her to stand because “that’s her style.”
And then! And then Pastor Casey announces that he’s decided to leave the ministry to pursue a music career. This leads to some solid punch lines involving Casey wearing huge headphones while Mindy’s apartment almost catches fire (“Gotta make cheddar to make cheddar!” “What is that sick beep?”) but solid job prospects seem like they’re going to be hard to come by, seeing as how Casey probably doesn’t want to take over for Danny’s tollbooth guy, who’s leaving to spend more time with Barb. Just when it looks like Casey’s D.J. career is about to be as nonexistent as Dr. Reed’s sex life (zing!), he lands a gig at a music festival.
Shortly after arrival and the festival, Mindy sums up the experience like so: “I’m smelling so many different kinds of bodies. It’s like the sixties without any higher purpose.” Even though this festival looks vaguely temperature-controlled — how is Mindy not sweating her face off in that Thriller jacket? — they mostly nail the deliberately disheveled look of those Free People–wearing festivalgoers: It’s all sticky shirtless dudes and girls with hula-hoops, cutoff shorts, and headbands halfway down their foreheads. (Like, hello! It’s not going to hold your hair back if you wear it that way! The only acceptable way to don a headband is Blair Waldorf style.)
Sidebar: I understand that this show isn’t supposed to be documentary-level realistic, but it’s a little distracting when all these doctors who supposedly have a medical practice to run can just up and go to an off-brand Coachella on a moment’s notice. Even someone with the most rudimentary understanding of the medical profession (a.k.a., me) knows that doctors have these nifty things called “call schedules” and “office hours.” And “responsibilities.” And “patients.” What’s the point of making this a workplace comedy if they’re never in the workplace? Just a thought.
We get some delightful Mindy and Danny banter in the medical tent, where apparently there are no sober doctors because, sure. Danny tells Mindy she has to go to Casey’s set, even though they got in a fight: “Don’t be a dick.” Excellent advice, Danny. Mindy says you shouldn’t call girls dicks, but I think this was fair use.
Casey’s pastor-infused D.J.-talk is ridiculous and wonderful: “In the beginning, there was the beat. And the beat was goooood. And the D.J. said: let there be dance.” He and Mindy are all set to kiss and make up when he announces he’s realized his true passion, event planning, and Mindy realizes she’s accidentally gotten engaged to a man who is the post-grad equivalent of an undecided liberal arts student, and … they break up.
Let me just recap the recap for a second: Casey quit his job as a pastor and, out of absolutely nowhere, transformed from someone with a purpose and moral center to someone who has no idea what he wants to do. Is that arc working for any of you? Because it did not work for me. Casey’s defining traits — his selflessness, his depth, and his interest the world around him — contrasted with the traits we’d come to know and love/hate in Mindy: her self-absorption, her materialism, her fixation on celebrity culture. That is a huge part of what made them such a compelling couple to watch. Nothing about Casey actually had to change for their relationship to not work; everything the show needed to break them up was right there in their characters’ DNA. We saw hints of that last week when, in a moment of stellar self-awareness, Mindy admitted to Danny that she “just got good at pretending to like things I don’t like.”
But instead of letting that breakup happen in a way that felt organic and true to the series thus far, the writers decided to make Casey, who had just returned from a religious mission in Haiti, ditch his life’s work as a pastor to become a D.J. And then an event planner. Or a grad student in Austin. Basically, to become someone who doesn’t jibe at all with the character we’ve come to know. (And what’s with this show and D.J.’s, by the way? Isn’t that what Mindy’s brother wanted to do when he was crashing on her couch?)
This inability to really get characters, I think, is the biggest weakness in a show that I really, really want to love. Because I love Mindy Kaling! She’s fantastic. Mindy Lahiri is a great character. But — and is it cool if I cup your actual butt when I say the word but? — she and Danny are really the show’s only fully developed characters. I think Morgan and Beverly are hilarious (Beverly, as usual, is pitch perfect in her strangeness; if Morgan’s “oops, I ate a pot-laced baked good” story line felt familiar, that’s because it is), but what is going on with the rest of the cast? They’ve yet to emerge as interesting, three-dimensional people. I’m looking at you, one-note Betsy. You’re not off the hook, either, Dr. Reed. If Betsy is going to be there, she needs to do more than stand around with her eyes all anime-wide. Dr. Reed cannot just be British. His weight gain isn’t really doing anything story-wise, either. Eating Snickerdoodles does not a character change make. Also: Tamara. She gets in a good bit asking if there are any black performers at this festival (“The Black Keys? Nah, they’re all white.”) and I can see her becoming the Ceri to Mindy’s Liz Lemon, but she’s still got miles to go.
I do see lots of character potential, however, in Peter, new series regular Adam Pally. (A moment of silence for Happy Endings, please.) He runs away with some of the best material of the half-hour: “I like to exude the masculine, party-ready energy that everybody expects from their OB/GYN.” “The Hippocratic broath: A way to live your life to the broest.” “What do you do here? … Manicurist? A plus-size model? That’s a compliment.” In a plot that is essentially the same as the one that helped Morgan get hired after Mindy and the gang deemed him unhireable, Peter earns a tryout with the practice by coming through in a crisis situation, talking down a “cry-daddy.” Pally wins all the points for his delivery (labor pun!) of the line: “What’s your dad do? He builds sick-ass pools! What’s your dad do? I don’t know, he’s some dumb astronaut.”
At the end, Morgan and Danny celebrate their fake engagement with some help from the National while Mindy and Casey’s real engagement falls apart. Even though Mindy does a great against-the-door cry, it’s hard to feel wrecked over a breakup that doesn’t feel like it’s based on the history of the relationship we’ve been watching.
But maybe I’m just being a dick. Tell me what you think on Twitter @jessicagolds and in the comments! Just don’t use too many pins.