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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Mindy Project: “Think Like A Peter”

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Mindy Project viewers have really been through the wringer over the past few weeks. One week of Mindy-Danny bliss, one week of heart-wrenching breakup and mis-scheduled episodes. We needed an episode in which everything synched back together, and fortunately Charlie Grandy, who wrote two of my favorite Mindy episodes over this past season—“Sk8ter Man” and “Danny C Is My Personal Trainer”—delivers. “Think Like A Peter” isn’t perfect, but it’s a much-needed step in the right direction.

Post-Danny, Mindy turns to her next-closest friend in the office, Peter, to help her get back in the dating saddle again. I’ve been noting over the past few episodes how much I like these two together; every single time they match up, they are solid gold. When Mindy despairs that she can’t break up with her lame coffee date Phil because she’s too nice, Peter knows that she’s not too nice: “I saw you bring a girl to tears because she asked you if you were registered to vote.” Mindy replies with possibly my favorite line read of the episode: “I’ve been asked that a million times, the answer’s always the same: I don’t know!”

So Peter gets Mindy to go out to a bar to try to meet someone new, and again, pretty much every interaction they have is delightful as he eggs her on to go hit on Max Greenfield’s Lee. Mindy observes of the hottie Lee is talking to: “She has her legs crossed under her bar stool. Who does that? If I did that I’d Humpty Dumpty right off of here.” Peter: “Whoa! Mindy, stop being a dork.” I also like the twosome’s off-camera conversation as she’s trying to pick up Lee, and somehow her spit-take when she drinks whiskey is still funny the third time she does it.

The stunt-casting of Greenfield is both hit and miss: the character he plays is not really Schmidt, his player-wannabe character on New Girl, but he’s not not Schmidt either. It’s hard to extract his persona from the equation. Still, he looks extremely handsome at the bar. And he’s charming when he tells Mindy when they’ve equaled out on the embarrassment meter, then nicely sleazy at the end (“Technically it’s a wedding band, not a ring”).

A commenter pointed this out recently, and I have to agree: While many of these sitcom setups exist just because they’re supposed to be funny, hopefully they are also still tethered to some sort of reality. Sometimes they’re not, and yet they still work: Last week it made absolutely no sense for the bus picture to feature Mindy sneezing or for a raccoon to be stalking her, and I laughed so hard I fell over.

This week, though, it seems unlikely that even someone as clueless as Mindy would go out chasing her one-night stand in the middle of the workday because he left his scarf behind. And how did the scarf contain clues for her to find him? Was there a nametag in the scarf? And would Mindy, a medical doctor, as well as a woman who has dated before, really think that crashing her love interest’s first-grade classroom would be a sane thing to do? When Peter Prentiss is your voice of reason, you’re probably on the wrong path. The whole premise seems so improbable as to even take the audience out of the scenario, which hardly could have been the intention.


Meanwhile, now-lonesome Danny attempts to build up some emotional credit with his other coworkers, but only succeeds in freaking out Betsy and alienating Morgan (he’s no longer Dr. C!).  Another bonus about Grandy: He apparently loves writing for my favorite Mindy Project couple, Tamra and Ray Ron. Danny, desperate for some office drama now that he and Mindy are on the outs, gets involved when he finds Tamra cheating on Ray Ron with Morgan. Taking a page from Mindy’s playbook, he encourages Tamra to write a pro/con list (“Morgan challenges me as a person and as a nurse. I don’t go, ‘Oh, God!’ when someone has really high blood pressure anymore!”), but he doesn’t have enough experience at this to actually read people correctly. He incorrectly assumes that Tamra is teaching Morgan, a registered nurse, how to read (Danny: “Of course you know how to read—you just have that fun, Huckleberry Finn, I-don’t-know-how-to-read energy.” Morgan: “All right, That’s a good save.”). Having recently been burned by his own office romance, he ignores Tamra’s obvious feelings for Morgan to encourage her to go back to Ray Ron of the copy shop (“Happy Earth Day! You here for the discount recycled paper?”). These developments will no doubt lead Danny to realize that he didn’t appreciate what he had with Mindy, that it’s not as easy to connect with people as he thought, and that he will have to grow as a person before the two find their way back to each other.

But here’s a crazy, random theory (hear me out!): Could The Mindy Project be setting us up for another rom-com trope, falling for the friend who’s right under your nose? After all, it started to rain on Mindy and Peter at the end of the episode, a classic romantic signifier (of course, it’s followed by her telling him to shut up). Think of all Peter has done for Mindy over the past few months: been the (almost) perfect wedding date, helped get her sex tape off the Internet, punched her one-night stand in the face. All the while he bolsters her with lines like, “You can do so much better than him. Or at least, you can do better than him.” And gets her to shut up so that he can keep talking, no small feat: “Can I finish my thought? I had a little more to say.”


I’m sure Danny and Mindy are endgame, but I can’t help loving what Kaling and Pally bring to the table, not the least of which is a lowered expectation of perfection: Even when they posed as hookups in “Be Cool,” both defended Peter as not that bad. Most likely this is just wishful thinking, but I would not be sad if the show decided to explore these two further, even for a short while. I love Danny (especially after his Christmas party dance), but let’s face it: As his brother Richie pointed out a few weeks ago, he can be a bit judgmental (about Mindy’s sex tape, for example, or all the nitrates in her freezer). While Peter just takes Mindy as she is—her high-maintenance, sometimes awkward, but always awesome self.

Stray observations:

  • Looking at the foliage in Vermont is cheaper in the off-season.
  • This week in random lines from the office staff: “I killed a spider.” “I brought a spider.”
  • Mindy Kaling somehow looks stunning lying on the floor in her white dress on top of a pink carpet.
  • Under Tamra’s pro/con list: Ray Ron having nine tattoos and Morgan being an ex-con are both in the pro column.
  • Morgan’s misread of classic clichés: “A gentleman kisses, then tells.”
  • Thinking like a Mindy mostly involves trying to remember where you put your phone; thinking like a Gwen involves this as well.
  • “I’m only on page five of my breakup letter to Phil… I have to tell him something; we promised we would never lie to each other.”
  • What’s in Mindy’s bed: “a bunch of magazines, a cookie tin, a bottle of Sriracha, a sleeping bag, my diet pills, my birth control.” This list would be more impressive if we’d actually seen any of those things in her bed after Lee left.