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The Mindy Project’s cold open this week shows us how things can get stale about a long-term relationship: Sometimes, all we want is 20 minutes with the nose-hair trimmer. Sometimes, more apple pie is an even better offer than a proposal. And like America’s first settlers, sometimes we have to reach for the moon, even though we may just land in the stars.

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Just like how the classic Seinfeld episode “The Contest” is about masturbation, even though no one ever actually says the word, this week The Mindy Project is almost entirely devoted to anal sex, without that particular term being uttered. Danny goes for fifth base because he and Mindy have been together for awhile, which is not much of a premise to try to craft a 23-minute sitcom episode around.

It’s disappointing because I’m usually a huge fan of writer Charlie Grandy’s efforts. Like me, he favors Peter and Mindy scenes. Mindy Kaling and Adam Pally just have a fantastic chemistry: Peter’s nod in agreement when Mindy says that she “slays dudes like whoa”; him telling her what a huge problem she has by being boring in bed; and the highlight of the episode, the sexual skeleton demonstration in the “Banging In Bed Bootie Camp” (note how the “necktie” transforms into the “ascot,” and the inherent creativity present in the tricky “bagpipes” position).

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Even this early on in their young relationship, Mindy and Danny feel the need to stretch themselves and their relationship and try something new. Just like Charlie Grandy tried to do with this episode. Problem is, sometimes it doesn’t quite work, but the important thing is to keep trying. But the bonus, and the theme for season three so far, is how Danny and Mindy still keep moving closer together. You can’t blame Danny for suspecting that Mindy was pretty adventurous in the sack (let’s not forget that she is the star of her own sex tape), especially compared to his own straight-laced Catholic upbringing. But I’m still not sure why it takes him several versions of his story to get to what he says is the truth: that guys just feel the need to push their sexual limits at all times. In a meta way, perhaps Mindy is telling us that even though Mindy and Danny are in a relationship on the show, there are still ways to push the limits, to try new things to keep it exciting, even when those things don’t work.

It’s just too bad that the whole episode wasn’t funnier overall. Even Chris Messina can’t really sell the “I slipped” line the episode is named for. Morgan has some nice moments as he Parent Traps Jeremy and Peter, celebrates his nurse practitioner graduation, and has a long-awaited heart-to-heart with Mindy in his office. But overall, the episode is a bit thin, and off, tone-wise. The Danny we know is not so clueless that he wouldn’t realize that his super-sensitive girlfriend would take offense to being compared to an old shoe, like something that Beverly would wear. And it appears out of character for our super-strong Mindy to feel the need to roofie herself just to get through a sexual situation that would make her boyfriend happy.

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Still, look at how far we’ve come. As we enjoy the Mindy and Danny relationship exploration this season, it’s easy to forget that only a year ago Mindy had recently returned from Haiti engaged to (shudder) Casey, and the show was figuring out what to do with the egregious stunt-casting of James Franco (fortunately, he didn’t last long). Since then, The Mindy Project has added an awesome cast member (Pally), streamlined some others, and really come back around to center itself on Danny and Mindy. It’s been a big transition, so obviously it’s not going to be without a few fits and starts. This week is a stumble, but even the lesser episodes have several chuckle-worthy moments (even ones that make me feel bad for laughing, like the one about being promoted to cardinal). There’s every reason to believe that Mindy will soon rise again.

Stray observations:

  • Mindy’s Best Outfit of the Week: Come on, that turquoise shortie pajama and robe set. Regular street clothes can’t even compare.
  • Mindy’s Worst Outfit of the Week: Tossup between her hospital gown and her meh blue scrubs.
  • Honorable Fashion Mention goes to: Peter in a sweater vest!
  • “If you go blind, I’m gonna get so fat.”
  • The only victims in anime pornography are the animators who get paid next to nothing in Korea.
  • “Oh cookie dough, please solve my problems.”
  • Somehow Jeremy is about thousand times easier to take when he’s playing the banjo: He should have a banjo with him at all times. Special request: “Rainbow Connection.”
  • Danny seems to have come around about Pope Francis, aka “Pope Frank.”
  • Morgan has a lot of great ideas, without even a pen to write them down.
  • Of course Danny is turned on by compression socks.
  • Not that we’re expecting Lucas-level special effects and makeup, show, but Peter’s burned-off eyebrows were clearly just covered up with flesh-colored bandaids. UPDATE: Okay, at second glance they appear to be in fact flesh-colored bandaids, ostensibly to cover up his burn marks.
  • Best metaphor of the week: “You’re like James Caan at the Playboy mansion.”
  • And this could be Ed Weeks’ greatest line reading ever: “That’s not scientifically sound and you know it!”
  • #TeamPeter

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