Let me address this grade at the top of the order: If this episode ran in total isolation—free from the damning burden of history—I would probably give it a B+ or an A-.
In the midst of an apparent systematic reboot to the status quo, the Mindy Project sends Anders Holm’s Casey to the elephants’ graveyard of this show’s former guest starring boyfriends. And the episode offers a lot of laughs. It’s a good half-hour.
“Music Festival” integrates the entire cast into two, interlocking cohesive plots—the majority of office attending a music festival where Casey DJs, and the sorry 300 left behind at the hospital trying to make do (i.e. just Dr. Jeremy and Tamra). Within those two plots, the show distributes the joke load around like a quality point guard is running the floor. The episode introduces a new character effectively (Happy Endings’ Adam Pally as Dr. Peter Prentiss) in a way that distinguishes him from existing characters and gives him space to deliver good lines. And, in a departure from the season’s first two episodes, tonight’s episode shifts and balances the tonal swings in an appealing way. Kaling shifts to the more realistic, naturalist way she plays the character in quiet moments—something that’s always been a strength for the show—and the breakup works well without ever being too much, especially given that nobody can really care too much about Casey as a truly viable option for Mindy. The National plays on, and no one’s really a bad guy.
So that’s all great and really, what follows, is more the condition of the reviewer than a statement on whether watching this episode was an enjoyable period in my life here (it was).
The problem is Casey’s career change lumbered in out of left field. Obviously, the character previously leapt at the significant lifestyle change of moving to Haiti, but that was in keeping with the character’s defining attribute (his faith). Casey’s sudden bout of flightiness appears, then, as a sudden character flaw, rather than an impulse grounded in history—a fix to get rid of Casey. That seems unnecessary, when we all knew that Mindy and Casey would never marry and there were a number of critical differences between them—like, say, his faith. Not that the Mindy Project is equipped to act as Touched By An Angel or something, but there were available options for fissure points. “I already moved to Haiti. When it is going to stop?” is a good line and a good frame for the tensions felt by some in this Millennial era, but whether it fits here is another question. And why is everybody becoming a damn DJ on this show? Mindy’s brother did this very same thing last year! There are more stupid career decisions than this one! Which I will not get into because I know how the Internet works these days!
So this is why I can’t call this an A- episode—Casey can’t just disappear for reasons that feel false. But it’s easy to feel good about the State of the Throne here with the addition of Pally as Peter. This show doesn’t really need new characters, but I like this a lot, I have to say. The Mindy Project just inked Pally as a regular in the last couple of weeks, though this appearance was on the docket at the TCAs in July.
“I went to Dartmouth College, and until now, I’ve not been able to satirize my favorite kind of Dartmouth character, which is a kind of well-educated frat guy, who’s both congenial and ultra into his frat,” Kaling said at that time. “And Pally… has a very fun bro energy that also exudes warmth in a way that’s kind of rare.”
Pally definitely has that energy, and delivers lines like, “We’re going to go from zone to man-to-man, and we’re going to get over there and have a baby,” with the appropriate enthusiastic nonchalance or screws up his first interaction with Mindy cheerfully. This week really only has him interacting with Mindy and, primarily, Jeremy, but he fits the show’s tone and vibe well, and could provide an interesting contrast for Danny.
- The antagonism toward the music festival was great. “I love it. Nobody cares what they look like. I’m smelling all kinds of bodies… It’s like the ‘60s but without any kind of higher purpose” (Mindy) and “This looks like a Civil War battlefield. Except somehow there are more beards” (Danny on the medical tent) were the best parts.
- Beverley gets in a couple fantastic non sequiturs, and chief among them is, “I had sex with Casey Kasem.”
- Not that it’s some novel invention or observation, but I like the approach to text messaging here (with texts appearing in sort of an iOS format on the screen), and presume we’ll be seeing more of that kind of thing on TV.
- Would you rather party with Pope Francis or Pharrell? Because I think there’s some people that would say Pope Francis, and I don’t think that’s a bad choice.
- “Daniel Mussolini Castellano…”