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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Mindy Project: “The Girl Next Door”

Illustration for article titled The Mindy Project: “The Girl Next Door”
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This, my friends, is a maneuver episode, a device merely to move pieces into place before the season two finale. “The Girl Next Door” had some satisfying moments, but overall just feels like a setup for next week. As adorable as Tim Daly’s curmudgeonly Staten Island cop is, there’s not much chance that he’ll be around in season three, as Danny and Mindy inevitably steer their way back to each other.

In the meantime, Mindy is taking care of some things in her man hiatus, like an inspired sax solo to “Baker Street” and getting her webbed toes fixed. Somehow she’s able to leave the hospital while still sedated, and somehow in all of New York, Tim Daly’s cop finds her and takes her home. As the man he described himself as last week, he’s the best of both worlds: able to fix Mindy’s plumbing and outlets (and a window she breaks in a funny moment of spider panic) but also wanting her to be able to do things for herself (he’s no feminist, but has printed out enough Jezebel articles for his daughter to know better).

But does she? Of course not, because here comes Danny Castellano, who becomes Mindy’s shadow this week in a confused, passive-aggressive way. What’s so effective about Chris Messina’s portrayal is how Danny himself doesn’t seem to be aware of what he’s doing, unable to extract himself from Mindy’s life, and unable to control it: perking up when she just says the word “marriage,” insisting on real-estate shopping with her, moving her in next door, and bringing her groceries and sundries in a massive Target product placement. We’ve seen him miss Mindy over the past few weeks, and it’s almost as if he’s hoping that the two will just seamlessly slide back in to their old relationship again. There’s a nice throwback to “You’ve Got Sext” while the two watch a scary movie. In the earlier episode, Danny was so afraid of his feelings he could barely sit next to Mindy on the couch, and now the two are able to enjoy each other again.

Maybe too much, as, in the episode’s best scene, he goes in to kiss her again in pretty much the same move from “The Desert,” but this time, he is rebuffed. And rightly so. Mindy could be speaking for us all when she blasts Danny for his on-off behavior (“You change your mind a million times!”) and takes control of the situation by saying, “I get to decide.” Hear, hear. And what she decides on is Tim Daly.

But still we know he’s not end game. Seeing Charlie and Danny together in Mindy’s new apartment shows just how much they’re cut from the same cloth, right down to the Staten Island accent that keeps getting thicker they longer they converse. (I now want a ringtone that just consists of Tim Daly saying, “Sauce.”) But Charlie seems good for Mindy, making her put out her kitchen fire herself, and forcing her to realize what’s up with her over-attentive next-door neighbor. While Mindy’s been single since the Danny breakup, we’ve seen her chase down a one-night stand and flirt with a cop; it would have been nice to see her actually come to terms with herself as a single woman.

Which is what makes her standing up to Danny so gratifying. While she probably still loves him, she knows she deserves better than someone who only makes a move when his grizzled doppleganger is in the picture. At least this setup week does leave lots of room to ponder how Danny will win Mindy back over next week. This show has a way with  one-liners that is downright breathtaking, but sometimes has a hard time crafting credible plots around them. And sometimes pulls it off, like in “Christmas Party Sex Trap” or “Indian BBW.” Let’s hope this season’s big payoff reaches those kind of Mindy heights.


Barely overlapping B-plot: Peter may have an actual girlfriend, played by Mindy Project writer Tracey Wigfield. She’s awesomely perfect for him; as we’re introduced to her she’s making up English names for Jeremy’s predominantly British game of Celebrity. So Ed Weeks kind of gets a long-lost storyline, and Adam Pally gets a chance to stretch his frat-boy character. He also, building on his friendship with Mindy, is the one to clue her in that her “friendship” with Danny is not as simple as it seems on the surface. After all he’s gone through for her this season, wouldn’t it have been helpful for him to have a scene with Mindy about dating a smart girl? When she could offer him help for once? Missed opportunity, but still a B-plot we can get behind, a rarity for this show. Morgan’s there pushing the romance, darning Mindy’s jeans, and calling her, “My queen,” as usual. But I am intrigued about what not-normal wine could be.

Stray observations:

  • Maybe I’m just sensitive to this because I go to Target so much myself, but there were a ton of the house brand’s bathroom items in addition to the lavender laundry detergent, and Mindy even pushes that her outfit was from there.
  • Mindy likes exclusive things like handicapped parking permits. She also sounds like the Zodiac Killer.
  • Charlie doesn’t like bologna sandwiches. “Well then, what do you like!?!”
  • What do we think of Richie’s boyfriend Ramon? I’m on the fence, probably just because I don’t think anyone’s good enough for Richie.
  • Random facts from Mindy’s office staff: Betsy sleeps in a bed in a hotel for sick women, while Beverly does her own dental work. Perhaps the practice is underpaying its staff.
  • Danny’s still not down with Pope Francis: “Why’s that guy so chill?”
  • Mindy might like astronomy because “One time someone thought I looked like that black lady from the old Star Trek.”
  • “Scared! Baby! Need man help!”
  • “Firefighters. They don’t even carry guns.”
  • “They shouldn’t refurbish barns! Leave them rustic!”
  • “I’m from Port Dogkill.” “On the river side?” “No, the garbage dump side.” Port Dogkill might be one of my favorite fictional place names.
  • Of course Danny wears undershirts.