As Danny Watch enters week three (Chris Messina is apparently shooting a movie with Ben Affleck), The Mindy Project struggles to find a new center after focusing on the Mindy and Danny relationship for the bulk of its previous two seasons. Garret Dillahunt and Fortune Feimster were slated to help fill this gap as Georgian brother and sister duo Jody and Colette, with mixed results. This week’s episode shoves Jody into the spotlight, and highlights all that’s good and wrong with the Jody-Mindy combo.

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Mindy and Jody fall into the age-old cliche of posing as each other’s partners to fill selfish purposes. Mindy has a momentary zeal to enter Leo in an exclusive pre-school (The Little Doorways Academy For Ethical Children, the only pre-K in Manhattan that offers study abroad, which is hilarious), while Jody is still working out his twisted relationship with his brother’s wife. And of course, as has been in sitcom history since time immemorial, everyone is found out in the end, and neither ruses work.

They’re fun while they last, though. Jody of course pulls out a tale about the apple and the Bible to win over the exclusive pre-K crowd. Mindy gleefully gets mistaken for an escort by Anne Marie, the nefarious sister-in-law in question. Jody’s plan unraveling leads to the dismantling of Mindy’s plan, and nobody hooks up with their sister-in-law or gets into the stuck-up school.

Carolyn Hennesy seems to have created her own cottage industry of playing snooty characters (unfortunately, I know this from frequent viewings of the Disney sitcom Jessie), but that turn toward non-gender pronouns was inspired. (There’s a reason our prospective A.V. Club copy desk band is called Singular They.) And there really are exclusive schools that people apply toward while they’re still pregnant. But again, Mindy leaves us with so may plot gaps: Why would Mindy leave pictures of Danny up around the apartment? (Although I did laugh at “Is he a marionette?”) Why go through all of this without finding out how much such a school would cost ($70,000), especially when we had a very similar joke only a few episodes before with the fee of the perfect nanny ($20,000/month)? We saw Jody ask Colette to the dinner, so why was it orchestrated to make it seem like he deliberately kept her out of it?

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At some point, maybe we hang it up and just focus on what’s funny on this show, because there is so much: Tamra’s “Academy Of The Sacred Meatball.” Jeremy’s school song (“Cry not for mother / Books are your parents now”). Baby Leo basically stealing the show as the little nerd, swapping his entertainment magazine for a mini-abacus. Beverly circling her screen with red marker. The gasp at the end of “I beg to differ.” “Conflict-free shiraz.” “It can never happen again, like… a sitcom with all white characters.”

But these full-circle events just take us on a road to nowhere. Mindy’s right back where she started with the public school/private school debate, although Jody may be finally be able to find love. But we’re so used to Mindy saying how awesome she is, why does she backtrack at the end to school administrator Mrs. Guterman, by saying she’s not that great? Is all her seeming self-confidence just bravado that we’ve bought into? We’ve only seen fleeting moments of her vulnerability before, and it stood out here.

Similarly in the nebulous camp: Whether or not we’re supposed to root for Jody. Over the past two episodes we’ve found out that he’s a straight-up lothario, who slept with Jeremy’s girlfriend as well as several students on the NYU campus. He has an antiquated, idealized view of women (although the hand-holding was nice) and points to his ancestors helping in the Trail Of Tears as a badge of pride. But again, Mindy sees enough glimpses of Jody’s benevolence (and isn’t he her business partner now as well?) to make him worthwhile overall, tossing him in the shower to snap him out of his Anne Marie obsession. Mindy’s now on board with him, so should we be? Or is it his temporary stand-in status for Danny (literally, in this episode) that makes it more difficult to invest in the character?

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Both Jody and Mindy want something that’s ultimately not right for them, which is a nice way to tie up the episode. Instead of doubling down on their impossible dreams, as Jody suggests, they will both accept a better path for themselves (and for Leo, this still may involve public or Catholic school). So Mindy has now checked off nannies, staying-at-home, and now early education off of her parenting checklist. But hopefully Danny shows up next week to help her with all of these huge parenting decisions she’s been tackling on her own.

Stray observations

  • Not to sound paranoid, but Danny is coming back, right? He’s down to just one shot in the quack-quack credits. UPDATE: I took another look, and Danny does have two shots (there was a yelling shot I initially thought was Jeremy). I think I was thrown off because Danny’s previous post-Mindy slot seems to have been overtaken by Morgan. So this could just be an effort to spread out the credits among the characters; Jeremy, Morgan, Danny, and Tamra all have two shots now; Beverly has one. Also, pretty sure I have just analyzed these credits more than anyone ever has who didn’t actually work on them.
  • Mindy’s best outfits: She really looked lovely in that yellow sari, great color for her. Also liked her short zip-front skirt, and that sparkly black mistress outfit she wore on the dinner date with Jody (“Hey, it’s your money, lady!”)
  • Loved Mindy’s glee over the success of the Gutter Belles.
  • Sadly, monikers like Gratitude and Sriracha are honestly not that far removed from the current crop of pre-K names.
  • Also sadly, that sexist riddle was pretty confounding to us as kids.

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