Mindy Kaling as Mindy, Chris Messina as Danny.
If we want to continue loving the best parts of The Mindy Project — its endless supply of one-liners and random references, quirky characters like Morgan and Tamra, send-ups of absurd New York life and romantic comedies, as well as Mindy herself — we’ll have to accept its mercurial nature. The basic premise of the show slips and slides beneath us. The characters are, at times, wildly inconsistent. (Is Mindy good at her job or not? Does she understand obstetrics or not?) The show itself is even more inconsistent: sometimes a clear parody, sometimes a silly-wacky sitcom, sometimes a dramedy.
It seems wise for us to take heed of the major downer of a lesson at the center of this week’s episode, which was dramedy bordering on straight drama. We watch because we love Mindy. If we want to keep watching and loving, we can’t keep griping about Mindy’s faults at every turn.
Let’s get into specifics. The season finally seems to be heading toward a resolution of the very serious issue that’s haunted everything — Danny and Mindy’s differing views on family versus work. “The Parent Trap” begins with Danny obviously trying to get Mindy pregnant again. They’re having sex without protection or birth control. He recites the Lord’s Prayer after ejaculation. He wants to go a second round, but only penetration — he’s too tired for oral. Then, they have a pretty confusing (if semi-realistic) discussion about how they’re “trying but not trying.” Or, as Mindy points out, definitely trying. They also mention that they had unprotected sex all the time before Leo, which we can add to our list of “things these two do that are extra-frustrating because they’re supposed to be OB-GYNs.” But we’re not keeping lists anymore, so let’s just rip that one up. At least this explains how they ended up with Leo.
(Sidenote: I get so tired of the “pill is only 99 percent effective” story line. Though that premise, as used in the 1995 Hugh Grant/Julianne Moore rom-com Nine Months, did pretty much scare me into two decades of neurotically consistent pill-taking.)
We’re now in the questionable position of needing Morgan, of all people, to point out that, oh, maybe Mindy should just put herself back on the pill and take the damn thing. Or she should get a patch. Or a NuvaRing. Or an IUD. The point is, she has options. Thankfully, Mindy takes Morgan’s advice and gets a pill prescription from Jody.
Then, lo and behold, an actual patient shows up! This makes me miss the early days of the show that revolved around the office. Those patient story lines usually demonstrated what a kick-ass doctor Mindy is. It’s also nice to see that this patient is in her fertility clinic, which means the clinic is actually still functioning instead of just being words everyone throws around.
The gulf between Mindy’s professional and personal life widens when Danny proposes a date night. He pretends he’s just trying to be romantic. “This isn’t a way to use a coupon, is it?” a surprised Mindy asks. But it is not! There is wine and dinner and more wine and a carriage ride! He just wants to focus on her, he assures her. (“That’s my favorite thing to focus on!” she replies.) They (almost) have sex in the carriage — we later learn that the driver took them to the nearest police precinct before they could finish. This is obviously a ploy for Danny to knock her up, which is confirmed when she notices that the most fertile days in her cycle are marked on his calendar, and they are this very week. Yes, he has been tracking her menstruation, just like Prince Henry once tried to do to Tamra.
And yet Mindy (sort of) falls for this again the next night, after Danny says he wants to take her to a special showing of When Harry Met Sally. (This, even though he once called the movie a “fantasy that undermines the dignity of men.”) Before their date night, Morgan gives Danny a bit of a talking to: “I find your lack of support for Dr. Lahiri appalling.” Yes, me too!
This story line makes me despise Danny more each week. I can’t figure out what the show is trying to do. Is this a gritty, realistic depiction of how romantic and sexual chemistry can lead people astray, making them think that they’ve found their soulmate when all they’ve actually found is a disturbingly conservative Knight of Columbus who happens to be walking around in a very cute, toned, dance-trained body? I guess the answer is yes. Morgan suggests to Danny that “maybe it’s time for you to want something else.” That doesn’t really sound like the right advice. I don’t like where any of this is headed. That’s not to say it’s wrong for the show to go there; it simply bums me out.
Naturally, Danny finds out that Mindy is on the pill. He discovers the birth control in her coat pocket after they accidentally wear each other’s white coats. Somehow, this causes him to be late to their When Harry Met Sally date, I suppose because he takes ample time to stew. (He is quite late, showing up when Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby do the wave at a football game while discussing Harry’s recent divorce.) I’m vindicated when the entire theater audience boos Danny during their movie-interrupting fight.
The fight really erupts when they get home. Mindy levels a devastating claim: She says Danny uses everything she does as “evidence that I’m a bad person.” She complains that he always gets to decide what’s right and wrong. (“You get to choose all the definitions.”) Of course, this would be fixable if it weren’t for their massive disagreement about having kids and caring for them.
In the middle of their meltdown, Mindy gets a call that her patient is in labor, then the show kicks me in the gut by playing M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” which was also used during a first-season labor sequence that showed how awesome Mindy is at her job. I love when Mindy is good at her job. That’s the Mindy I signed up for.
Of course, if we get keep this Mindy, we might have to let something else go. When she returns home, Danny suggests they hold off on the wedding.