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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Mindy Project stumbles over women’s issues in a confounding episode

All photos: Hulu
All photos: Hulu
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The Mindy Project’s Doctor Mindy Lahiri might be a lot of things, but she’s probably not a misogynist. A little demeaning, sure. Dim, maybe. Full of contradictions and double standards? Definitely. A misogynist? No—at least, not intentionally.

That’s the message behind this week’s Mindy Project episode, the aptly titled “Mindy Lahiri Is A Misogynist.” A mainly work-centric episode, “Mindy Lahiri” finds the staff of Schulman & Associates hiring a new doctor now that Dr. Reed is laid up from his “heart incident.” Though it’s likely the doctors, the nurses, and life in general will probably still run Jeremy (aka Dr. Scoot) into an early grave, the idea is that a new doctor will at least take some of Jeremy work off his plate, not that anyone at Schulman ever seems to be working anyway.

Jody and Jeremy put together a whole slew of candidates, all of whom are women. You know, so Mindy has “a gal pal to watch Bravo with.” It’s never really addressed why they go for all women, other than Jody’s general horniness, but Mindy acts out in turn, bringing in her own interview candidate: Robert, a former cruise ship doctor with a M.D. from the Universidad De Juarez’s El Chapo campus. That goes about as well as expected, and Mindy is thus persuaded to wrangle up another candidate, Dr. Anna Ziev, a stone-cold ice queen played by Blood & Oil’s Rebecca Rittenhouse. She’s great—and beautiful, to Jody’s delight—and she quickly gets hired, much to Mindy’s slight dismay for some mysterious reason. Jody and Jeremy then accuse her of being misogynist, saying that since she just can’t handle having another woman around the office she must either be jealous or anti-woman, an argument that’s dubious and specious at best.

Flash forward to Mindy’s latest date with Nurse Ben, who apparently lives in the mysterious region known as New Jersey. Mindy takes the PATH train out to meet him, and she seems to like New Jersey, where she learns that corn kernels come on actual cobs. On her way back to New York in the morning, though, she takes a wrong turn and ends up on the express train to Philly, thus landing her in hot water with her very favorite patient, Robin, who has an 8am appointment.

Illustration for article titled The Mindy Project stumbles over women’s issues in a confounding episode

When Mindy arrives back in New York a mere 90 minutes later, she discovers that Dr. Ziev has taken over Robin’s case without Mindy’s consent, a fact that—shocker!—Mindy’s not exactly down with. She fires Dr. Ziev, only to find out that—double shocker!—she doesn’t actually have the authority to do that. Jeremy asks her to apologize the next day, and Mindy is understandably reticent, because while even though Dr. Ziev was doing Mindy a favor and Robin has a right to choose which doctor she wants to be with, it still seems a little shady. Later, some minor shit with Ben goes down, but they work it out, because it’s The Mindy Project, and that’s how things go. Mindy also has a meet-cute with Ben’s daughter, Lindsay, who has some sort of backstory we’ll probably learn eventually. Or not.


Ultimately, Mindy apologizes to Dr. Ziev in front of the whole office, noting that she wasn’t actually scared of Dr. Ziev because she hates women, but because she “was taught to believe that men could only handle one woman at a time.” She blames “the patriarchy” for putting all this pressure on her, and while that’s totally justifiable if she got that message, the show’s feminist messaging just feels a little muddled. While it makes sense that Mindy would fear being replaced by the shiny, smarter, and better-connected version of herself, that the show somehow tries to tie it to feminism just feels like a stretch. Jody and Jeremy have all sorts of issues with women—including pitting Mindy and Anna against each other in a catfight—but allowing only one woman doctor in the practice has never seemed to be one of them as far as we know. Beyond that, the discussion Mindy has with Lindsey about women’s issues is even more confusing. I’m still not sure what it was, really. Something about how if women don’t help women men will think all women are bad at something? Or stereotypes will be perpetuated? Please, explain it to me in the comments if it made sense to you.

Overall, “Mindy Lahiri Is A Misogynist” just felt like a big old mess. While The Mindy Project has had some success landing jabs and points about women’s lives and rights, this episode could have benefitted from a little more conscious structure, and an even clearer plot. I don’t know if I would have called out something a little more stereotypically centered around “women’s issues,” but at least I would have recognized what the show’s writers and creators were going for there. One or two of Mindy’s summary points made sense in a whole earth sense, but the road we had to walk to get to those truths was rocky at best.


Stray observations

  • One other nitpick about this week’s episode: Wasn’t Danny from Staten Island? I know he lived in Manhattan, but it seems like both Mindy and he and Mindy solo took frequent trips to his Ma’s house, and, frankly, Staten Island is not unlike New Jersey in both distance from Manhattan and its suburban essence. That Mindy would be so mystified and confused by New Jersey is inconsistent, to say the least.
  • I like Rebecca Rittenhouse’s Dr. Anna Ziev. She’s icy and confusing, and I look forward to seeing what she brings to the show.
  • Morgan, when the subject of the practice’s potential sexy doctors calendar is brought up: “I have a very weird body. People will be interested.”
  • Ben suggests New Jersey is responsible for Tony Soprano, Kevin Smith, and Chris Christie, or most of the nation’s “male husky celebrities.”
  • Mindy figured out a way to put Instagram filters on ultrasounds.
  • “Do you know how brave and confident you have to be to sit in an interview and just fart uncontrollably?”
  • Nice Nate Berkus cameo in this episode. I’ve missed him post-Oprah.
  • “You’re Mindy? You’re the one dating my dad? And the one who ate all my pudding cups from the refrigerator? “
  • “I think I could really be with a bridge and tunnel guy. I mean, if you’ve got the bridge, I’ve got the tunnel.”