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The Mindy Project: “The Desert”

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No one is going to say that The Mindy Project is without its problems (most of them, unfortunately, highlighted last week), but the Mindy-Danny relationship has always been one of its strongest elements, if not the strongest. As the story built to a head in this week’s “winter finale,” things erupt pretty much as I predicted last week—with Danny and Mindy making out and Cliff now wanting her back.

Did New Girl’s “Cooler” ruin the first kiss for all of us? Nick and Jess’s initial clinch is the A+ gold standard, but I would rank Danny and Mindy’s as a solid B. Possibly even B+. (I especially like how he looks at her after the first kiss and she seems to nod, so he goes back in again. One thing that bugged me about “Cooler” is that Jess didn’t even seem startled. I could possibly be thinking about TV kissing entirely too much.) But what’s really great about the kiss is all the buildup before it; the entire episode is filled with references to how Danny and Mindy are already each other’s better half, even if their heads haven’t caught up to their hearts yet. If he gets hiccups, she scares them out of him. He knows she hates smelling her own breath on the phone. She forces him inside the house to talk to his dad; he tries to stop her from having thirds of potato-chip pie. They already seem like such a couple that it’s jarring when Mindy mentions Cliff at all. The only misstep is Mindy leaving an almost-drunk Danny, who’s clearly mid-crisis, to go to the airport so that she can see Cliff immediately. We know Dr. Mindy is overly romantic and a bit self-centered, but would she really pick Cliff over helping Danny, who is conceivably her closest friend at this point?


The California/New York storylines seem a bit disjointed, but there’s a nice throwback to “You’ve Got Sext,” in which Peter and Morgan’s fake texts to Cliff are what spark a relationship between him and Mindy in the first place. Now, trapped in the office bathroom, the two hear Cliff mournfully singing along to Jewel songs and realize that he and Mindy have broken up. After they take him out for mojitos and convince him that he totally overreacted to Mindy going to Casey’s party last week, Cliff’s back on board. Of course, most of us are still going to pull for Danny, but it’s hard not to feel for Cliff this episode. Glenn Howerton’s wailing to Jewel songs is outstanding, as is this ending exchange when he calls Morgan and Peter:

Cliff: “Morgan, I’ve thought about it, and I need to get Mindy back.”
Morgan: “Yeah you do! Who am I speaking to?”
Peter: “You tap that, Cliff! You tap that into the sunset!”

There’s so much good here that I hate to nitpick a bit at the logic. And yet:

  • Why are Peter and Morgan already back from L.A., while Mindy and Danny are not?
  • How in the world did Mindy find Danny, in the desert, in the dark, but then not be able to find their way back to the car?
  • Did Mindy and Danny stay over at his dad’s house to watch the soccer game the next day?
  • If the plane turbulence was so extreme as to be life-changing for Danny, isn’t it odd that Mindy wouldn’t even mention it?

But, eh, I can forgive some skewed plot angles when the romance payoff is this worthwhile. Dan Hedaya, who frankly has been the perfect dad since Clueless, pulls off the deadbeat-dad-makes-good, now with Danny’s half-sister, Little Danny. While Danny starts out wanting to punch his dad in the face (Somehow, his leaving the car door open just added to the immediacy of the situation. Also, I thought a scorpion was going to crawl in the car, because I believe that everything in the desert wants to kill you.), he eventually acknowledges that his dad has changed. Especially heartwarming was his dad’s recollection that Danny was a primo ballerino, and how Danny’s face lights up when his dad calls him graceful. (Those of us who have seen his Secret Santa dance know this to be true.) As we start off the episode realizing that Danny’s closed-off emotional side makes him incapable of even being ticklish, we are meant to realize that coming to an emotional resolution with his father enables Danny to finally be ready for Mindy. We also know that Danny kidnapped Mindy because he wouldn’t have been able to face his dad without her.

While Mindy and Danny’s desert standoff was a bit harsh, Danny rightfully tries to knock Mindy out of the movie fantasies she’s clung to from the beginning. In real life, your guy may spit seltzer all the over the car, just because it’s not tonic water. He’s also the guy who’s also not going to let you walk around the plane to prevent thrombosis—he doesn’t care what the Today show says. But Danny’s also right about what makes someone the perfect match for someone else: It’s when you become the best version of yourself for that person, And again, we’ve seen this, not just in this episode, but for most of the season, as the two slowly built from barely a friendship to their climactic kiss here: Danny going back to pay for the dinner her date dined-and-dashed. Mindy bringing Danny a pink friendship cake. So we know they’re fated to be together, even if they don’t yet. Apparently it takes some turbulence to shake some sense in to Danny, who then heads straight to Mindy. And even then she’s searching for his quinine water, knowing that nothing else will do.


As with all will-they/won’t-theys, now The Mindy Project is faced with a huge problem: What happens next? Do the powers-that-be now pull Cliff back into the mix to drag out the Mindy-Danny match interminably? I fervently hope not. Instead, I think it would be much more interesting to see Mindy and Danny try to pull off a real relationship, with Scrabble games, reruns, and dishwasher fights—all the day-to-day stuff the rest of us that aren’t living in rom-coms fill our relationships with. What would that be like for someone who’s pined for a romantic fantasy for most of her life, and with someone who has been emotionally closed off for most of his? After so much careful buildup, I believe The Mindy Project could pull this off.

Stray observations:

  • “I would love to be there to support you; you’ve never been this interesting.”
  • I had to look up “DTF”; I know sitcoms have used acronyms like “MILF” before, but damn. I think I need to clear my browser now. Also, “butterface.”
  • Of course Danny loves Creedence Clearwater Revival.
  • The worst thing Cliff ever did to Mindy (besides breaking up with her for a pretty flimsy reason) was to suggest that they eat healthier.
  • Potato-chip pie combines all of Mindy’s favorite things.
  • Morgan doesn’t have health insurance.
  • “Waiter! I’d like another order of ‘Yes, this guy made a mistake.’”
  • Mindy’s philosophy is that an I.D. should be aspirational, so on hers she’s 5’10”, blonde, blue eyes, 110 pounds, and her name is Silverado.
  • Little Danny’s soccer team is called the Prickly Pears.
  • Mindy’s favorite popsicle flavor: red. But blue or green will also do.
  • “I sat on an armadillo, killed it; that was not great for my self-esteem.”
  • And that’s the last Mindy Project until April 1. Except for a few bumps, that was a pretty stellar streak for the show and a lot of fun to cover. Thanks for reading.

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