So, we just had the second annual Comedy Fest here at The A.V. Club, and I was talking yesterday with some A.V. Clubbers about the various performers. Some of comics went to an area they used to call “blue” in the Catskills, with various degrees of success. The consensus was this: If the material is funny, you can forgive anything.

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This has always been my m.o. for The Mindy Project, even as this season has suffered due to the Danny and Mindy breakup. The efforts to craft Jody as the new Danny just aren’t working, despite Garret Dillahunt’s best efforts as an out-of-touch Southern gentleman (I think my favorite part about his delivery may be the cadence: “We had a breakfast-lunch. I had eggs, she had a burger. The same meal, can you imagine?” Or finding some Germans to pretend his place was a bed-and-breakfast.)

But there were a lot of moments that just didn’t land: the coach’s apparent excitement about Mindy stuffing a sock in her mouth during sex, or Morgan having orgasms after getting his hair swept off his forehead. The poop emoji and descriptions of Morgan’s toenail were grosser than Mindy usually gets. Lang Fisher described in an interview how The Mindy Project writers’ room works, which sounded somewhat collaborative. Still, when a new writer enters the writing pool, as Guy Branum does here, the results are obvious. The Mindy Project straddles an extremely tricky line, and I can only imagine it takes a while for writers to be comfortable with the absurdist blend of heart and humor that Mindy Kaling herself has crafted. This rookie effort doesn’t have it.

But it still has moments: the purchase of The Lovely Bones from the Austin airport, Mindy’s parody song “Ain’t Too Proud To Egg,” Mindy and Morgan’s driving fight in the car, and some meta commentary from Beverly: “Finally, a couple we can all root for!” But the plot—a trip to Princeton, with some sniping about Jody’s obviously not-long-for-this-world new girlfriend Courtney (a game Maria Thayer)—just seems threadbare following the solid effort of the previous week. Peter and Mindy are absurd, but their friendship makes sense, and they’re there for each other. Mindy’s realization at the end of that episode that maybe she should take a break from random hookups and instead spend time with her friends, giving up what would undoubtedly be an unbelievably hot night with the landscaper, resonated. This episode undoes all that growth and goodwill by having Mindy instantly go off with Princeton football coach Jay R. Ferguson (although the jokes about Ivy league athletes were pretty funny). But why is the coach’s sex suggestion super-hot, where the same invitation last week was met with further contemplation? Although Mindy announces at the start of the episode that she’s been on a journey of self-discovery, she seems to be exactly back where she was pre-Texas. Meanwhile, Jody is up in arms about the derailment of his romantic weekend with his girlfriend of approximately 10 days tops. Instead of a solid progression, the viewer feels not unlike a pinball, being knocked around from week to week.

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There are four episodes left in the season. It seems unlikely that Mindy and Danny, who have barely seen each other this season, will come to some sort of resolution by the end of this stretch. The more likely ending appears to have something to do Mindy and Jody, which is struggling with the previous comparison to the Danny relationship. Because we’ve seen this dating-go-round on The Mindy Project before. The sniping at other’s dating partners was done better in episodes like (say it with me) “Sk8r Man,” when the chemistry of Danny and Mindy smoldered across the dinner table, no matter who else they were with. It’s an intangible thing, and not to say that Kaling and Dillahunt aren’t trying their hardest, but it’s just not there. Also falling short in the intangible category is the chemistry necessary to tie this episode together, a lesser effort that unfortunately follows a much better one.

Stray observations

  • Kind of cringed here just like the coach: “Heyee, where all my Jewesses at?”
  • Did love Morgan’s Tim Gunn impression.
  • Mindy’s outfits: Did not love the lemon dress or the beige outfit with the weird strings at the beginning. I think it was the headband. And the strings.

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