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The Mindy Project: “Lahiri Family Values”

Illustration for article titled The Mindy Project: “Lahiri Family Values”
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Last week, an excellent episode of The Mindy Project was marred the fact that it took Mindy’s pregnancy to make Danny realize that they were family. This week, the show remedies that somewhat when Mindy and Danny realize their family also includes a car thief and a lady who thinks she’s a paralegal.

So far the show is successfully integrating its main character’s pregnancy, with Mindy’s many asides to Little Mindy and Danny’s lessons that he tells to Mindy’s stomach, like state capitals. Mindy’s statement that “a woman can have professional ambitions and still have a family. I mean, rich women” is funny because it’s true. (I’m far from rich, but I can’t even count all the expenses have piled up since my return to full-time work, to a job I dearly love [this one]: childcare, meal service, and the most important member of our family, the cleaning person who now comes twice a month.)


The nature vs. nurture theme gets trotted out pretty easily: Morgan has a magazine featuring dads from the animal kingdom, with a penguin on the front. When we see Mindy’s brother Rishi (Utkarsh Ambudkar, in his third appearance), his outfit completely resembles the penguin’s. Mindy and Rishi are siblings, yet appear to have very little in common, as Mindy is a successful doctor with a growing practice and Rishi is a drug dealer. Her affection for him is sweet, but it’s clear that nothing much binds them together other than the fact that they happened to be born into the same family.

Contrast this to the emotional fervor that overtakes Morgan, Jeremy, Beverly, and Tamra when they think that Danny is dying. Sure, the plot orchestrations that get us to this plotline are again Three’s Company-worthy. But the players really sell it, especially Morgan and Jeremy, who gets some decent scenes for once, as they all contemplate life without Danny Castellano. When they find out Danny and Mindy are leaving the practice, their ardor turns to contempt, which changes again when they learn that Mindy is pregnant. It’s all about family, after all.

Which is probably what compels Mindy to walk into a supposed drug den, cursing herself and trying to protect her unborn child as she’s doing so, to save her little brother from a drug dealer. Turns out, the drug kingpin is the dashing John Cho, and Mindy, being family, realizes that Rishi’s only in the business for the validations he gets from Big Murder, and is able to extract him from the drug trade.

This still isn’t able to get Dr. Gurglar to hire Rishi though, and this is where the episode stumbles for me. Mindy, who at the beginning of the episode is talking about how much her new practice means to her, dumps San Francisco inside of 20 minutes. Her realization about who her family really is comes about much too quickly, basically in the span of two lines: “At my old practice everyone there was damaged goods,” and Rob replies, “No wonder you wanted to leave that place.” Mindy realizes—like a lightning strike—that she doesn’t want to leave that place, and walks right out of her west coast office. Although this is after a few times that she’s jerked Gurglar around before, this particular turnaround is so quick, it’s whiplash-inducing.


At least it’s followed by a nice scene with Mindy and her brother and her friend Neepa and Neepa’s son Neil. Neepa tells her that having a family just gives you a better reason to work than she ever had before, and again I can attest to this statement (Mindy’s brother tells her that in terms of entitlement and personality, she’s like the whitest guy he knows, which she calls the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to her). And if she really wants a practice, why not just set it up in New York?

This utilitarian episode by Tracey Wigfield (Lauren) gets us where we need to be by the end of it: All of Mindy’s west coast dreams sadly flare up in an instant (why couldn’t she have stayed and at least finished the fellowship?), and she’s angling to get the office space that Cliff has left behind (with a nice shot of her teddy bear to help give her courage). For everyone complaining about the pregnancy plot twist, let’s remember that in real life things pop up to change everything you’ve planned out as well, and it’s heartening that Mindy is going ahead with her new career trajectory along with her latest life change.


Stray observations:

  • Danny overcomes his San Francisco inhibitions: “I don’t mind wearing a fleece to a restaurant. It’s cool.”
  • If Mindy’s second trimester is still a long way away, she’s really early in her pregnancy, so I hope this doesn’t hint at a possible miscarriage, which would be pretty dark for this show.
  • As horrible as that last scene with Gurglar is, at least we get a good parting line out of it: “Mindy! Mark and Donny Wahlberg are never onto something!”
  • Mindy’s pregnancy is worse than Rishi’s drug-dealing from her parents’ perspective.
  • Danny’s offering “Do you want my watch?” would also fit in with a man who only has a week to live. Danny pretty much does act like an old man who’s dying, although one with a perfect diet.
  • “I have exquisite credit. I have 25 credit cards.” Followed by: “Do you accept street cred?”
  • We soon find out why Mindy has so much credit: She opened up another credit card last week for a free cupcake.
  • “We never use the white board!”
  • John Cho’s too-brief appearance just made me ache about the Selfie cancellation all over again. It looks like Big Murder will not a long-term prospect here, so someone cast him in something else, stat!
  • Being a rapper comes with cash-flow problems.
  • Dr. Gurglar will have to come to New York to take Peter’s place, right?
  • “Have I told Mom and Dad? That I’m unmarried and pregnancy with a white man’s baby? No.”
  • Danny’s favorite junk food is raisins.
  • Mindy cheating on him with Danny appears to have permanently altered Cliff the lawyer. He now appears to be extremely bitter, even reveling in the surge of same-sex divorces, which are making his practice more successful.
  • Maybe I don’t understand enough about medical practices (entirely possible), but couldn’t Mindy just add fertility treatment to the practice that she’s already in? And isn’t it pretty much hers and Danny’s anyway (that they share with Jeremy)?
  • Mindy’s best outfit: Mindy forgoes her usual number of costume changes this episode, spending most of it in that stunning plaid Oscar De La Renta suit, above. I wouldn’t want to change out of it either.

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