As 2015 dawns on The Mindy Project, Mindy and Danny are in California, the rest of the staff is playing basketball back in New York, and a promising episode gets derailed about midway through due to a nonsensical, Farrelly-brothers-worthy plot twist. Still, “Stanford” offers some valuable glimpses that hold some promise for Dr. Mindy Lahiri’s eight months on the west coast.

Let’s start with the good: I’ve had problems with some of TMP’s B-plots, but I loved this one, basically because I’m a fan of comedic sporting events set against hip-hop backgrounds like DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” (see also: the beer pong tournament and “Turn Down For What”). Morgan’s devotion to the basketball team he started two days ago leads to a showdown with his ex Tamra, and everything in that particular three-on-three is magic: Yeardley Smith’s three pointers and aggressively fouling people for no reason, Jeremy’s inability to grasp the rules of “basketsball” (traveling!), Peter falling down in the middle of the gym floor. And, fortunately, it looks like the showdown will result not in an automatic (and trite) Tamra-Morgan reunion, but Tamra going out with Mindy’s cute intern (Andrew Bachelor), and Morgan and eccentric hoarder Jessica (Julia Stiles) staying together. Again, Peter turns into the office’s sage when he counsels Tamra about letting her ex get at least one good shot in.

Also valuable: Mindy Kaling touches on the difference between first- and second-generation immigrants this episode, as Mindy faces off against Neepa (Gita Reddy), who has to work a fast-food job to support herself and her son during the fellowship, as her husband stays behind in India to work at a chemical plant. Neepa and Mindy’s perspectives are wildly different and I fervently hope that Kaling spends more time exploring these variances over the course of the fellowship, as the gap between the first and second generations in the U.S. could offer some roads relatively untraveled, sitcom-wise. Mindy tries to bond with Neepa, at the same time flaunting her privilege (like getting to have dinner with the professor), but at the end she knows she hasn’t really earned her surgery. Just like when Mindy started blossoming as a teacher, here her decision to hand the surgery over to Neepa is immensely gratifying, because we know how selfish she can be otherwise.

Mindy’s growth is even more valuable this episode because it’s not spurred on by a pep talk from Peter or a lecture by Danny, but from her own damn self. She and Danny have a relationship showdown this episode over whether either of them believes she can actually make it through this fellowship on her own. Yes, of course it’s ridiculous that she would be the only doctor in a giant classroom to misread the BASH (Beginning of Academic Scholarship Hangout) flyer as a party instead of a lecture and show up in a pink bandage dress instead of a white lab coat and scrubs, but hey, that’s our Mindy! I get that these ludicrous lapses of logic are vital parts of our usually entertaining main character. But this season has been developmental in showing flighty Mindy’s hidden depths in her strengths as a doctor: She’s a helpful teacher who has excellent stitchwork. Danny is a formidable force as a boyfriend (part of the reason that makes him such a great match for her, as we’ve seen her steamroll over lamer suitors like Cliff and Casey). So Mindy, on her own in a new setting, would be likely to lean on him when he has an in with the professor that she’s pissed off (Tate Ellington), even though she brushes off Danny’s attempts to help her at first. Their fight after the foot job (shudder) was a bit harsh, however: He really thinks she can’t do it on her own? She doesn’t either?


Either way, the waste of Ana Gasteyer and the completely illogical adulterous foot antics were unfortunate. (Look at the photo above: How would she be able to reach Danny’s crotch without Mindy noticing?) Yeah, I’m not going to squawk about the bandage dress, but I am going to squawk about this. It was just painful, and so uncomfortable I could barely watch that scene on my second and third viewings. And I don’t really get why it was so integral to the plot, except to get Professor Gurglar so upset that he gets into an accident so that Mindy can show off her gorgeous stitches? No: I know The Mindy Project is better than that.

I know this the same way I knew that Danny wasn’t going to get on the plane after the fight (let’s face it, he always comes back). So much of The Mindy Project’s 2014 was focused on Mindy and Danny’s chemistry-laden dynamic, both before and after they got together. Like I said, he’s a powerful force, and Mindy needs to prove to him and herself that she can get through the fellowship on her own. So it should be extremely interesting to see how these two get along without each other for awhile. Sure, we’ll miss Mindy’s interactions in the office (although west coast guest stars like Lee Pace loom on the horizon), but in favor of more steps toward her eventual maturity. She may not know what Alcatraz is, she may mistake Rosie the Riveter for Taylor Swift, but she’s on her way to becoming a better doctor, and person, and every unselfish act she does indicates that growth.

Stray observations:

  • What’s Beverly up to this week?: She’s in charge of all the gambling on the hilarious basketball game.
  • Mindy’s Best Outfit: Instead of the pink bandage dress, I much prefer the black-and-white dress she wore to the gross dinner, with the black gold-studded heels we saw in that unfortunate view under the table.
  • Mindy’s Worst Outfit: The combo of the pink faux-leather jacket with the red skirt with metallic accents hurt my eyes. Nice pieces, just not in the same ensemble.
  • Mindy’s adherence to pink clothes, especially at the beginning of the episode, highlights the Medically Blonde theme (another Reese Witherspoon shoutout after last episode’s popular Wreath Witherspoon).
  • Lest you think I pay too much attention to The Mindy Project’s fashion, many items Kaling wears on the show sell out online soon after.
  • I like Mindy’s fervent nodding and facial expressions backing up Danny’s anguish over having to switch airport gates.
  • Mindy and Danny’s pop-culture references swirl around each other but never actually intersect: “Rosie the Riveter” “Who? That’s Taylor Swift.” “Who?”
  • The students in the lab are already eyerolling when Mindy comes in.
  • “What’s more important, your relationship with Dr. Lahiri or this basketball team I made you join two days ago?”
  • Proof that we could have used more of Ana Gasteyer’s wit, less of her foot: “We have no children.” “We have a rabbit, and that’s harder, because it can’t tell you what it wants.”
  • Mindy does exactly have the energy of a p.r. woman for an alcohol brand.
  • Morgan’s game tape = a VHS copy of Space Jam
  • Trash talk from Tamra: “Man, you shoot like my cousin Sheena and she has mad carpal tunnel from her keyboard!”
  • Okay, the “stepping out on you” and “if the shoe fits” puns were pretty funny.