Whenever I run into a certain friend of mine, the meeting soon dissolves into a barrage of mutual insults and wisecracks. The goal, I think, is to crack the other person up as much as possible. I usually lose: I always crack first. But we’re both in there rattling off so many possible punchlines, every so often one of us (again, usually me) spits out a perfect clunker of a joke, one that absolutely refuses to land. The author of said clunker usually receives a sort of pat on the back, as if to say, “You tried, man. At least you’re in there swinging.”

The Mindy Project feels like that friend to me. Last week’s season-three opener was totally fine and fun, but some episodes, like this week’s, contain so much frantic energy I feel like I’m just hanging on for dear life. In a good way, for the most part. A few times this week, I had to pause my viewing to pick myself up off the floor from laughter: The double barrel of Mindy’s “Happens all the time. One Thanksgiving a little boy thought I was a Dora The Explorer balloon,” followed by her admitting that she is no longer allowed at her favorite frozen yogurt place for “sample fraud,” was pure genius. (Honestly, I don’t fall on the floor for no good reason.) The ill-fated brunch is also a perfect execution of Mindy’s successful Mom plan (I also could not get over the t-shirt pair of “Here Comes Trouble” and “Trouble”) and downright hilarity, with a swift and sudden kick into awkwardness. Then the episode (again, with a tricky B-plot) goes off into such insanity, with Morgan’s 40 dogs and Tamra’s frantic allergy attack, that even when I believe it fails—and I believe the B-plot was kind of a clunker—I just have to give it so many points for trying. At least both plots had the same theme: Standing up to the bossy woman in your life, with varying results.

Also deserving of many points: The brilliance of the Castellano family casting continues with Rhea Perlman as the matriarch: Not only is she dead-on perfect as Danny’s mother, she also played Dan Hedaya’s wife decades ago on Cheers. Sitcom history continuity! Still, when I saw the episode title, I wasn’t hoping for much, as the trying-to-win-over-the significant-other’s-parent plot goes all the way back to The Honeymooners, but again, here The Mindy Project surpasses all expectations. Perlman’s bite hasn’t lessened at all since her days as ornery waitress Carla, so Mindy needs all four steps of her plan to win her over. What we love about Mindy is her constant confidence—rates herself an eight, a 10 in Chicago, only four in L.A.—so that she can even stand up to someone as terrifying as Danny’s mom. When killing her with Castle-loving, Regis-replacement bashing doesn’t work, Mindy lets Mrs. Castellano know that she’s on to her, keeping all the housekeeping tips while she’s at it (although how Mindy found the exact hotel room where Danny’s mom was working remains a mystery; TMP is sadly no stranger to the occasional plot pothole).

Speaking of things that don’t make sense, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that these people are actual medical professionals. I know, The Office wasn’t really about a paper company either. But two subsequent scenes of frantic medical inappropriateness—Peter not knowing what to do when faced with Tamra’s allergic reaction, Mindy manhandling Mrs. Castellano’s hip back into place—was at least one too many. In the TMI category: Did not need to hear Mrs. C’s remarks about her son’s erection or see Morgan in a bathroom stall. See what I mean? It’s up, it’s down, it’s back, it’s forth, it’s inconsistent, but it’s a wild, crazy, mostly extremely enjoyable ride.

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One element that is thankfully solid and stable so far this season, however: Danny and Mindy. I could not be happier about the relationship between these two over these past few episodes. Because they were friends for so long before getting together, they understand each other on a much deeper level than most, so that their casual comments about their future wedding don’t even seem out of place. Chris Messina, I think we can all agree after last week, is a national treasure, and brings so much to even his minor asides: his grateful look when Mindy wins his mom over at brunch, his grudging admission that he knows that he has to buy Mindy presents every day, his acknowledgement that she’s different from his other girlfriends because she doesn’t work out and she steals his change. Danny is all-in, and it’s obvious. After last year’s finale, we all might have wondered how The Mindy Project was going to pull off these two in an actual relationship; now I’m actively looking forward to seeing what else the show cooks up for my favorite TV romance so far this season.

Stray observations:

  • No Jeremy this week, but compared to previous episodes it was practically Beverly-centric. Loved her wink, her pencil sculpture, and this exchange: “This cake is terrible!” “It’s a dog biscuit.” “I know.”
  • What happened to Richie Castellano? He was such a dreamboat before; is there anything to indicate why he turned into a slacker who bought his mom a teddy bear from the airport? “I got you a snow globe too, but I kept it.” That black plastic bag was so sad.
  • Danny’s love poem for Mindy that she showed to her waxer: “Brown Orchid.”
  • Oh, Coffee Crunch addicts, I feel for you. I have also purchased a few of those hammers.
  • I am taking Mindy’s rating of the brunch—“I think it was like an A-”—as a shout-out. Also, many meta TV comments, about the fall lineup summaries in the TV Guide and Castle having a good premise for a series. And the list of TV shows that Danny’s mom could be interested in was pretty funny: “Basketball Wives? Army Wives? Sister Wives?”
  • “I’m sorry she bit you.” “I’m sorry I bit her.”

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