The Mindy Project’s season-three focus, the Mindy and Danny relationship, finally hints at a stumble this week, but after seven months (and eight episodes) it’s about time. A possible future issue—more damaging than his mom’s approval or the concept of tardiness—could spell real trouble for one of the current sitcom world’s most successful romances.

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But the honeymoon era ends for everyone eventually, let’s face it. Danny and Mindy, even as a couple, have maintained their awesome chemistry, their sparring, their spark for this entire season so far. Since they’ve not only dated for several months but, as Jeremy wisely points out, known each other for seven years, the time to make a decision about the permanent future of their relationship may be closer than either of them realize at the moment. Valuable revelations like these abound this week, as we find out exactly how long Mindy’s been pining for Danny, and how his past may soon become a romantic roadblock.

So many good things this episode: It was great to see Mindy back in a hospital setting (did anyone else get a Scrubs flashback, one of only other sitcoms to wring humor out of med school training?), stretching herself as a teacher (she now gets summers off!). Her comment to T.J. (Andrew Bachelor) that “If you’re a doctor that doesn’t know how to get along with other people, you’re a bad doctor” might have seemed a bit outrageous coming from someone who throws things at nurses. But we saw over the past few weeks how Mindy helped out Danny with his mom (Rhea Perlman, who appears to be a now-permanent fixture: next week’ episode is titled “How To Lose A Mom In 10 Days”). This week Dr. Lahiri tries to help her shy intern Candace, and when that doesn’t work (and under orders from Dr. Fishman), reaches out to T.J. instead. It’s a different and welcome side of Mindy; she’s even removed from her regular cast of characters except for her too-helpful sidekick Peter (“Peter, you’re making my ear hot!”).

Candace’s callout to Mindy as a “bossy stressed-out spinster” near the end of the episode is the perfect link to Danny’s B plot, as his ruining of Mindy’s diary leads to Jeremy having to recopy all of it (thank goodness for his calligraphy license!) and the discovery that Mindy might be expecting a proposal soon. It’s understandable that this would freak out divorced Catholic Danny, causing a possible slow-down when things between the two have been moving really quickly so far. But when Danny almost left Mindy’s apartment at the end of the episode, who among us did not curse our TV sets, having horrific PTSD flashbacks to season two’s “Be Cool” breakup? Fortunately, Danny came to his senses in a nanosecond, and the two end the episode arguing over sides of the bed, as it began.

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All of this would make this an excellent episode of your average sitcom, a sweet, character-driven exploration toward a possible bump in the relationship road. But this being The Mindy Project, it’s frickin’ hysterical. And many callbacks for the hardcore TMP viewer (Morgan’s turndown service, Danny wanting to be a fisherman) that just add credence to the show’s (usually) careful continuity. Nearly all our supporting players get some valuable moments in: an aside from Beverly; Tamra posing as a doctor; a few lectures from Dr. Fishman; Morgan gets to be part of a scheme for once; we’ve seen Jeremy’s office for the second time in two weeks; and Peter tries to coach Mindy’s students about what working with her will be like (“Agitated and calling it a day workwise. This is going to happen a lot.”). “Diary Of A Mad Indian Woman” fortunately lacks any of the missteps that have knocked a few season-three episodes slightly off-kilter, while setting up some future drama for the rest of the (now full-length) season. I’m not looking forward to a contrived push-me/pull-you Danny and Mindy breakup over commitment issues, but I am hoping the show continues to spotlight areas of Mindy’s life we haven’t seen much of lately, like her career. When Mindy rails at Candace: “I believed in you, and I believe in nothing!” could she possibly referring to what her romcom-obsessions and various relationships have taken from her own career? (Or, I could be reading too much into this. Entirely possible.)

After all, the show’s not called The Mindy And Danny Project, but The Mindy Project, just the way we like her: Wearing a sparkly eyepatch, punching the treadmill for rudely asking her weight, hitting more than one food truck on the way home and adding her own toppings, failing to see how her apartment resembles Grey Gardens (and if it does, Danny should never see my apartment). When Dr. Fishman points out the one thing she really nailed as a teacher, while saying there were so many other things wrong, Mindy, of course, will just remember the right. She admits tonight that confidence can even lead to fatality (“found that out the hard way”) but it is easily her most admirable quality, and makes her a perfect romantic heroine. Danny’s bound to see that eventually, so that his commitment fears will eventually subside.

Stray observations:

  • “Oh you hate steam, but you’ll watch a four-hour documentary on Old Faithful?”
  • Mindy says “Damn it,” a lot this episode.
  • Disturbing: Prince George’s hottest diaper poses. Also, Mindy’s race rankings (actually, “chilling”).
  • T.J.: “I will not be bulled by the oppressive matriarchal establishment…” (falls off treadmill)
  • Sexist/sexy: Mindy is on the Nigel Tufnel scale.
  • Mindy’s best outfit: Honestly, I wasn’t really crazy about any of Mindy’s outfits this week. Probably my favorite was the red V-neck nightgown at the beginning; I completely want that in at least three colors. But how do we feel about the bangs?
  • As mentioned above, The Mindy Project just picked up a full-season order, and will soon be featuring Lee Pace of Guardians Of The Galaxy and Pushing Daisies fame.

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