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Despite how well the Danny and Mindy relationship is faring, this may be shaping up to be a rough season for The Mindy Project. Even my favorite episode writers are faltering: Last week, Charlie Grandy struck out, and this week, Jeremy Bronson, the genius behind “Indian BBW,” has given us an episode with a title I don’t even understand (Update: Okay, apparently the Devil in the sportswear is Jean) and a misfire. I actually liked the B story better than the A story. The B story!

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Several reasons why the A story doesn’t hold up: We don’t need to see in the cold open how Mindy gets everything she wants in life from lying and crying. She does it practically every week, with Danny usually standing by to urge her to try to tell the truth for once in her life. Earlier this season she told Cliff that she and Danny broke up so that he would help her with her taxes, for example (at least those events get a mention this episode). Of course, one of Mindy’s deceptions goes horribly wrong, Three’s Company-style, when the married new hospital administrator (Niecy Nash) at the hospital goes Mindy-crazy (and we all know there ain’t no cure for that!), with no possible explanation as to why this person would cheat on her wife. This is such a major leap of faith we viewers have to take: That Jean would just automatically be so interested in Mindy, after a single evening out, to the detriment of her entire marriage, and I just can’t get there. Honestly, I’m sitting here wracking my own brain: “Why are you such a stickler? Why does it matter? Why can’t you just go with it?” Because it makes no sense. So why would Jean be spending every night alone at the Statue of Liberty? Or how about just tossing in a line about how they were trying an open marriage?

Unless we’re shifting The Mindy Project to Marx Brothers-level of absurdist comedy, but it has too much actual heart for that. As evidence of this heart: See how much better things fare at Peter and Jeremy’s Dartmouth beer-pong tournament. Almost everything in this story is great, from the breakroom tryouts (As a child, Jeremy had to throw ice in his father’s drinks without getting too close to him; Peter responds by calling him “Oliver”) to the slow-mo “Turn Down For What”-scored tournament finals. Shonda Rhimes needn’t quit her day job just yet, although I like that she just writes (three shows) to pay the bills and her real passion is beer pong. The story behind Peter’s nickname is poignant and Jeremy’s continued attempts to bolster Peter back up again are admirable, as is his American accent: amazing. The show benefits from playing up these secondary characters more (who knew how glad we’d be to see Ed Weeks coming more into play this season?), and shifting settings: the whole Dartmouth party was a blast, with some fun with Ms. Rhimes (“Scandal’s my jam”) and the welcome reappearance of the Sploders porn brothers, where Peter learns that Jeremy can speak frat. Sure, “Diarrhea” isn’t a great new nickname, but at least Peter has shaken off a little bit of his romantic train wreck persona.

The Peter story’s so good, Mindy’s plot suffers by comparison due to its inherent lack of logic. The episode still features some of those outlandish lines we love so well: Mindy was named New York It Girl according to a magazine cover she created at a carnival; everybody has shared the work toothbrush; and the reappearance of “Whoa, Nelly.” Danny and Mindy have indeed rebounded back after Danny’s Manifest Destiny creepiness last week. In fact, Chris Messina’s attempt to salvage all of Mindy’s various untruths may be the saving grace of that particular plot. He’s also off the rails, but in the best way, describing a prospective three-way in terms of a biscuit, screaming “exsqueeze me,” unexpectedly throwing wine right in Mindy’s face. Danny and Mindy still play off of each other so well: her telling him, “You’re very well taken care of,” and his inability to decipher her charade-like antics to help him craft a decent crazy cover story.

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It makes sense that Catholic Danny would have a strong moral code, and the show often plays that up as well: His belief that second marriages don’t deserve presents, that masturbation is worse than suicide according to the church. The dynamic works because he of all people would be the most horrified by Mindy’s frequent falsehoods, although he seems to be at peace with her own hole-punches on her yogurt card. Their interplay is fine; they just need an actual plot that is worthy of them, because this one was a bit stale.

I’m not asking for the stars. I just want a logical, cohesive progression from point A to point B, and I didn’t feel that this week. Not to say that The Mindy Project still doesn’t have a lot to enjoy, but I am still waiting (patiently, but waiting) for the season-three episode that’s going to hit it out of the park.

Stray observations:

  • Mindy’s best outfit: It’s a tie between the sleeveless two-piece red and blue plaid dress with the peplum and the pink and purple floral dress before her date with Jean.
  • Mindy’s worst outfit: I’ve never been a fan of the black sheep sweater.
  • Best makeover: Jeremy as an American.
  • Beverly’s also getting some well-deserved spotlight moments this season, like her reveal about the communal toothbrushes.
  • I am clutzy enough to wonder about the camera and editing tricks involved in making all those beer pong shots happen.
  • The Mindy Project and I are taking a break for a few weeks: See you back here on November 4 for “Late, Actually.”

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