Mindy Kaling is gorgeous, a snappy dresser, and, unlike many female stars of their own TV series, not a size zero. Part of the personality of her character Dr. Mindy Lahiri (and, one assumes, Kaling herself) is that she has always maintained that she is in fact a hottie, flaunting her curves, declaring herself to be an “8, 8 ½,” even when someone like Peter calls her a “5,” or when Danny’s neighbor says that she is “clearly, very pregnant,” or when Kevin Smith identifies her as a fellow “chub”. These comedic barbs at her weight always seem to point out how ludicrous it is that there are so few normal-sized women on TV, as Kaling is clearly not pregnant and about half the size of Kevin Smith.
In “Danny C Is My Personal Trainer,” Mindy focuses exclusively on her figure, unsurprisingly arriving at a fab message of body acceptance. Faced with her first getaway trip with new boyfriend Cliff, Mindy realizes that she’ll have to wear a bikini in January (due to a series of elaborate tricks, her suitors never actually see her naked), causing her to look for a personal trainer. The conversation in the breakroom, where Mindy unsuccessfully avoids a homemade coffeecake, contains the following collection of comedic gems:
- “I’m still full from that chia seed I had last night.”
- “Over the holidays I had five hams and a goose like I am a wolf in a children’s story.”
- “I’m not wearing a skirted bathing suit like a woman who gave up on life!”
- [From Danny: “Just exercise and eat less.”] “Okay, serious suggestions only, please.”
After an aborted training session with Morgan that ends with him spitting at her, Mindy trails Danny to the gym, where he reluctantly takes her on, although he warns her the training will be hard, not like on Dancing With The Stars, “but like a Marine movie where a guy kills himself during basic.”
It’s helpful to compare this episode to the show’s similarly named fifth-ever episode, “Danny Castellano Is My Gynecologist.” In that early effort, Mindy needs a new doctor, and Danny says that she can be his patient because they don’t have any kind of a relationship. Of course, he doesn’t want her as a patient, so he pummels her with the world’s longest sex questionnaire and torments her a bit on the scale. She wants him to admit they have a personal relationship, so she creeps him out during the breast exam, and he has to take a week off.
The two were almost adversarial then; how far they’ve come in a year and a few months. Now, Danny knows that the only way to get Mindy to train at all is to invent scenarios involving celebrities that she has to save through her strength, like pushing a car off of Anne Hathaway or saving Leonardo DiCaprio from the collapse of his greenhouse. These motivations are not only funny, they also perfectly depict how much Danny “gets” Mindy now.
And look at how much Mindy progresses; even when she’s ready to give up (This made me laugh and probably shouldn’t have: “Danny, I can’t do this anymore. I’m just going to get on Scott Peterson’s boat”), she holds that plank for a hella long time. Even though she loses the Golden Globe to Stockard Channing.
The steam room setup where both see each other in the nude gets predictable with the slapstick, unfortunately. Mindy has already seen Danny naked in “Weiner Night,” and he almost once gave her a breast exam, so I’m not sure why there’s so much screaming (Okay, it might be a little more daunting to see him naked in person).
The “cool guy as-boss who finds out that managing staff is harder than it looks” in the B-plot is also pretty tired (my favorite version: Gravity Falls’ “Boss Mabel”). Still, at least it gives Adam Pally (when Peter takes over office management from Jeremy) a chance to scream at people and explain to a medical staff how to open a window. And it’s nice to see Ed Weeks’ Jeremy officially get his groove back with his sex vacation, although the cow costume idea is gross.
The plots dovetail when the owl that flies in through that open window arrives in Mindy’s office, just when she is going a fantastic positive appraisal of her nude self in her full-length mirror, and she screams. So Danny runs in and sees her naked again, and says he has some notes. Their (clothed) confrontation later kicks off the classic Bridget Jones “just as you are” conversation. When Mindy rattles off a laundry list of possible body improvements: “Lose 15 pounds… and get a boob job… and get rid of your cellulite,” Danny only says she should stop holding her stomach in, words every female longs to hear. “You’re a woman and that’s good; look like a woman,” he shrugs, and Mindy now knows the only person who has actually seen her naked likes what he sees. But there are lots of ways to reveal yourself to someone, and it’s fun to watch these two strip off more emotional layers every week.
Actually, though, the high point of the episode may be Mindy’s nude self-appraisal. Accepting the full-on version of herself (and why not, she looks great) is not only helpful for Mindy, but for everyone who has the tendency to body-shame themselves. Especially in January, after we have all overindulged and weight-loss ads seem to seem to pummel us from every side. Although it shouldn’t be this revolutionary, it’s downright uplifting to see a normal-size woman celebrate her curves on TV.
This is the second Mindy script by Charlie Grandy, who also penned “Sk8r Man,” another entertaining episode from this season (the thought of Timothy Olyphant and his pregnant mermaid tattoo never fails to crack me up). Although this script also contained a surprisingly high number of brilliant one-liners, there were a few over-the-top moments. Did not need to know that Mindy and Cliff’s new sex life was “UTI level,” and while the Scott Peterson joke was on the line (also there: Peter threatening to “Jim Henson” the staff into apologizing to Jeremy, complete with Kermit hand movement, which still made me laugh), the one about Danny repressing being molested by a priest when he was an altar boy crossed it. Still, I’ll look forward to Grandy’s future efforts, as the many high points this week outweighed the unnecessary low ones.
- Little sad that Mindy’s introductory voiceover isn’t told to a random person this week.
- Satin sheets are apparently an overrated bedroom accoutrement.
- If you don’t count Glenn Howerton (who’s really more like a recurring guest star at this point), no stunt casts this episode.
- Love Pally’s forcing Mindy to high-five to “Oh no, do you have a yeast infection?”
- “Oh, you got jokes? All of a sudden you’re the King Of Queens?”
- Nitpick: Tamra threatening to bill her eyebrow threading to Shulman & Associates; the next scene shows the practice’s sign as reading “Shulman Woman’s Health Associates.”
- God, eyebrow threading looks so incredibly painful, and I have actually had that done to myself.
- A few more lines from the office staff! I vote for more scenes in the breakroom.
- The Mindy Project actually has posted a few dating profiles of its characters on Tinder in what is viewed as a “guerilla marketing ploy.” No pictures of Rihanna, however.
- Meta: “That’s my hilarious line from Weiner Night. Get an original zing for once in your life.”