When The Mindy Project was casting around for a flirty sparring partner and eventual love match for Mindy Lahiri, you may wonder why the show went with Danny Castellano, Staten Island Italian Catholic. Now, many Italians are Catholic (I myself am an Irish-Italian lapsed Catholic, who spent seven of the worst years of my life in a Catholic grammar school on the southwest side of Chicago, back when the mean nuns still thought it was okay to hit you with rulers). The show has certainly gotten some mileage out of Danny’s nationality and religion—cracks about the Archdiocese legal defense fund, his devout ma—but I don’t think we’ve ever had a whole episode devoted to it until now, as the joining of Mindy and Danny’s lives together gets closer.

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As someone who grew up Catholic, I really don’t think pedophile priest jokes are funny, instead a beyond-horrifying and shameful mess that the church is still sorting out. But most everything else about the religion? Sure, it’s fair game, and many of those jokes related to Catholicism landed tonight. Why? Catholicism has only itself to blame, especially from a 2015 viewpoint: The church is still so steeped in rigid rules and antiquated traditions, it seems outrageous, and hopelessly out of touch. Danny worrying that he will go straight to hell if he dies with just one unconfessed sin on his soul? A true thing that the church still believes, related to the difference between venial and mortal sins. Celibate priests (which beloved guest star Stephen Colbert’s Father Mike is obviously not)? Masses in Latin? Well, the Pope still conducts mass that way. The average age of Catholics? Definitely getting up there. In fact, the official average age of nuns is 74.

So for Danny Castellano, Mindy creators purposefully went with Italian Catholicism, but for a straight-laced man like Danny, who grew up in the same era I did, it explains a lot about him. Massive amounts of guilt, check (To be fair, most religions offer heaping doses of this). An inflexible, old-fashioned view of the world (he even has reservations about the St. Ignatius parish with the crazy guitar priest). But Danny still maintains a helpful (for him especially) side of Catholicism: A strong sense of morality.

Catholicism also offers many hilarious factors for the irreverent Mindy Lahiri to react off of: kissing the priest’s ring and calling him “your magistrate,” talking during mass, pretending that she’s not sleeping with the boyfriend she’s having a baby with. Mindy, with her bright colors and R-rated language, not to mention an uninformed Hindu who is probably immortal, is indeed an exotic sorceress that Danny has all kinds of trouble resisting. (No wonder she calls Eve one of the Real Housewives Of Eden).

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All of this gives Stephen Colbert a lot to work with too, as the reformed bad boy priest. It was so fun to see him after his recent departure from our late-night TV screens (fortunately, he will return soon). Colbert’s Father Mike is judging Danny and Mindy when he really has no moral higher ground to judge from, except for the one given to him by the church. The former virginity thief of Staten Island now offers tattoo sleeves and excellent Keith Richards impersonations, but he is also is the church’s prodigal son personified. Even Danny’s ma has realized the ship has sailed on Danny’s devout Catholicness—a divorced person who goes to a gay gym. But the tantalizing thing about Catholicism is the offer of continual forgiveness. Father Mike might have sung a happily harsh grace about all sinners burning in hell where they belong, but he was one of those sinners not so long ago (and let’s face it, by the way he grabbed those condoms, probably still is). Couldn’t Danny be up front with the church in the same way? (At least he gets there eventually.)

This is all juxtaposed against Jeremy’s Fievel-inspired one-man show (and there is a parallel, I guess, as both theater and mass involve sitting there listening to someone extrapolate). The best part is Jeremy’s half-boy-bonnet/half-Clockwork Orange costume (reflected in the half-American, half-British flag), and how Beverly smoking in the theater and Adrian’s toupee combine to start a fire. Mindy’s plan to have Morgan, who knows a lot about alcoholism and not about Catholicism, feed her religious info, seems a bit far-fetched, but hey, aren’t they all? Although this does lead to great lines like, “I think it was God that said…”

After Danny once again throws Mindy under the bus by describing his crazy ex-girlfriend (her) as someone he was never going to marry, Danny fortunately stands up for his relationship with her to Father Mike, and informs the priest that he’s never been happier about anything. Father Mike responds, “This has been the worst night of my entire life,” and prepares to send Danny his ex-communication papers (really, a good confession could probably wipe that whole slate clean). Mindy, realizing that Danny is willing to give up his whole church for her, swoops in and saves the day (and not before getting in some digs about the latest congregation being like “a crypt-keeper’s wedding,” and when she tells Father Mike that “You’ve gots to chill, amigo,” couldn’t she be talking to the church overall?). But Mindy’s decision to raise their child Catholic—specifically, to follow in his father’s footsteps—is yet another step forward for Danny and Mindy (especially if it leads to further Colbert guest spots).

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Stray observations:

  • “You killed someone, now I have to die of boredom?”
  • “The Lord finally punished us with the precious gift of life.”
  • Mindy’s having a boy! But who knows what she will identify with.
  • Mindy’s list of apostles: John, Paul, George, Bongo, Mary Margarine.
  • Jeremy sure had a huge crowd for that one-man show, didn’t he?
  • “The New Testament! There’s a sequel to the Bible and not to Gone Girl?”
  • Father Mike’s peeing song: “Walking In Memphis.” Well, it does have many religious elements.
  • “Don’t get distracted by your reflection!” And she totally does.
  • Mindy’s best outfit: Lovely and dramatic red minimalist red floral print dress for her text conversation with Father Mike.

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