The Mindy Project
One of The Mindy Project’s finer qualities is its willingness to commit to lifelike surprises. I’m not sure Mindy Lahiri & Co. initially planned it as a show about Mindy and Danny, but when they finally realized it was and leaned into it, the show hit a new high. Similarly, I can’t imagine they meant — even as recently as a few months ago — the show to be about the pair having a baby. But it seems like it will be now — unless we head in an extra-depressing direction for a sitcom. There’s something special about the way this all feels, as if it’s really happening, because it’s so unusual for a sitcom to keep shifting its premise. I can’t help feeling like I’m watching a real couple’s relationship unfold.
The show snatched away any doubt about last episode’s pregnancy reveal in the first scene, with Mindy testing positive 30 more times. (The only one that was negative was the Popsicle stick, on which she drew a minus sign.) There have to be some sitcom-style obstacles, however, to keep things interesting, so Mindy must now struggle to tell her “Justice Scalia–level Catholic boyfriend” about the pregnancy.
From here, she does try to force herself to break the news: She travels back to New York from the West Coast — presumably, we’re going to be done with the West Coast bit now, given the pregnancy, right? — and plans a weekend getaway, where she’ll definitely tell Danny “after a day of pretending to enjoy reading and fresh air.” Her plans are scuttled, however, by a surprise visit from Daddy Castellano and Danny’s half-sister, Dani Castellano. (Though it would be some sitcom if they were, as Morgan guesses, “your old scout leader and a little girl robot you built.”) Mindy accidentally reveals that Danny’s dad is in town when his mom calls. When Ma hears of Daddy Castellano’s presence, however, she invites everyone to dinner at her place and insists it’s not a guilt dinner. “Guilt dinners,” she tells Mindy, “are only for you.” Danny is skeptical, but Mindy insists: “She seemed really sincere, like when she tells me she hates my makeup.”
Danny says Mindy doesn’t have to go, that the dinner should be “only family,” which hurts Mindy’s feelings for obvious reasons. Peter joins us via advice call: “Family doesn’t wait to be invited. It just shows up, like HPV.” Mindy makes like a sexually transmitted virus and throws herself in front of Danny’s car as he leaves for the dinner, thus winning the right to attend.
I’ll never stop loving Rhea Perlman as Danny’s Ma, and she brought all of her gifts to this episode, plus a Stepford-ish blonde wig and pearls. Dot never disappoints, either, hinting with just a line or two at the complicated history of her and Annette’s friendship: She hates Daddy Castellano like only a friend of a scorned woman can, and mentions casually that she had to pick up the pieces when he left, which was why she never got married. (I believe her.) Annette emphasizes just how fine she’s been without him — so happy that her hair turned blonde! (“You got brown hair on Facebook,” Daddy Castellano grunts.) She even invited her fabulous new boyfriend, Dr. Ledreau, to dinner. I love that she’s still dating him. She kinda does have a fabulous life.
Mindy, eager to prove herself as a Castellano, even wrestles some bathtub eels into submission to help Annette prepare the meal. (Don’t ask. It’s a family tradition. Just go with it.) But in doing that, she misses out on the critical conversation of the night: Little Dani is having trouble, and Daddy wants Danny to take her in for a while. Dani’s mom is always off selling turkey legs at Renaissance Faires, and Daddy knows he’s not a good dad. Danny, on the other hand, raised his brother after Daddy left. Mindy is having none of this, for lots of good reasons. She’s stepped up to mentor young women before, and she always has a tough-love approach that belies a potentially great mom beneath her superficial-fluff exterior. This proves no exception: She explains to Danny that Dani’s no different from any other moody teenage girl. She shouldn’t just get what she wants. After all, Mindy wanted to audition for The New Mickey Mouse Club when she was a teenager, but her mother just hit her with an encyclopedia, and now she’s perfect. When Mindy confronts Dani about all of this at the dinner table and Dani slaps her, Mindy slaps her back. (“You do not slap a slapper!”) This, however, leads to Danny sending Mindy home early so he can deal with this “family matter.”
But Ma proves once again that she’s on Mindy’s side when it counts. She knows Mindy’s right about Dani, and she’s not letting her get in that one taxi she somehow found on Staten Island. Mindy ends up telling Ma she’s pregnant, and even though Mindy takes off back to the city, Ma breaks the news to Danny. We are treated to a fair amount of Beyoncé’s “XO” while Danny looks for her throughout the city, then finally finds her in the hospital lounge eating the prepackaged apple pies she’s been craving. They’re a family now! With that definite assist from Bey, I cried a little.
Some extra observations:
- “Can I run upstairs and make a mix tape? Your music sucks.” At first I wondered if this was an anachronism on the part of the writers, but then I realized Danny is probably the one person left in America who does still use a tape deck. And I can totally imagine Mindy obtaining the proper equipment to make mix tapes for it.
- Danny’s dad has been “sober six weeks. I only drink beer.”
- Danny’s brother wanted to run off and live with Bret Easton Ellis when he was a teenager, but Ma wouldn’t let him. Mindy loves “hearing the origin stories of gay men.”
- Mindy’s family’s Thanksgiving tradition is that they watch her put on a fashion show after dinner. When are we going to meet her parents? Soon, presumably, with a grandchild now on the way.