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The Mindy Project: “Triathlon”

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As The Mindy Project winds down its first season, it seems to be spooling up a bit of romantic drama, perhaps just to give its season finale a bit of oomph (the show has already been renewed by Fox). The only problem is that it’s tough to buy any of these couples as long-term prospects. Mindy is still with Casey the pastor, a friendly presence whose defining characteristic is his passivity. Danny will perhaps rekindle the flame with his ex-wife Christina (Chloe Sevigny), a guest star too big to be on the show for more than an arc or two. And Mindy and Danny continue to have moments of sexual frisson, although I’d be shocked if anything significant happened on that front anytime soon.

“Triathlon” is largely another madcap hour that features a lot of Morgan and the Duplass brothers, two elements Mindy has heavily relied on in its first season for no good reason. Ike Barinholtz is funny, and in this show’s early episodes, he was providing most of my big laughs. At this point, I’m so frustrated that things revolve around him so much, I don’t even get enough of a kick out of some of the absurd gags, like him summoning a dog from nowhere when he’s fired at the top of the episode.


That’s a great gag, but a lot of Morgan’s material is in a silly, surreal vein that the show doesn’t operate in and needs a lot less of going forward. Mindy is much better at setting up rom-commy character gags like Danny borrowing Mindy’s shoes at the end of the triathlon, finally acknowledging the shameful truth of their shared shoe size. That was cute stuff, it was probably the sweetest Mindy/Danny moment of the episode, and it was set up nicely in act one. More of that, less of Morgan being a buffoon.

Chloe Sevigny is the latest in a long line of excellent pieces of stunt casting for this show, but so far the character of Christina seems to be “pretty lady.” There’s not much to explain what drew Danny to her aside from that, and her behavior is a little intense, sending him endless letters even after he’s made it clear he did not mean to send his love letter—that was Morgan’s doing. What her behavior isn’t is funny—I don’t know if Kaling and her writing staff wanted to shy away from any kind of ex-wife stereotypes with this character, but as a result Christina is a big flat nothing and I have no sense that she’d be much of a presence in any love triangle, real or imagined, with Mindy.

Mindy and Casey are even more dramatically inert. At the beginning of the episode, he casually mentions that he always imagined ending up with a Christian, kind of a crazy thing to casually mention to your new girlfriend. He can barely believe how upset she is by the end of the episode (Mindy decides converting isn’t in her future), and he assures her not to worry about it. I think Casey was upset and passionate about keeping Mindy in his life during this exchange. It’s hard to tell because Anders Holm’s performance is way too relaxed. Mindy tells Brendan, right in front of Casey, that she might be about to break up with him, and he has no reaction to that news. It’s hard to be invested in a character so obviously built to fail.

The triathlon played out exactly as one might expect, although there were some surprising jokes I enjoyed. I already mentioned Danny taking Mindy’s shoes—also, Chris Messina breaking away his pants to reveal a Speedo underneath worked every time. My favorite was the simplest of all—Mindy running over, at record pace, to join the race and immediately vomiting from the stress. That’s not a sight gag that always works for me, but it was tonally disruptive in a really good way here. What was much more obvious and less interesting was Brendan freaking out when he lost, even though he was casual about the whole thing beforehand. Ha ha.


So what’s next? Danny calls Christina and manages to keep her in New York City just as she’s getting on a plane. We have two episodes left in the season. Any hope for a Mindy turnaround, at this point, has left my mind. It’s still a wildly inconsistent show. But we’ll see if it can stick some sort of landing, at the very least.

Stray observations:

  • The gang meets Christina. "Your boobs are smaller, I pictured them bigger, but they're better." "Danny used to call them his plums."
  • Danny wrote Christina his love letter when he was "all pumped up about the Chinese drums at the Beijing Olympics."
  • Danny is in favor of Mindy converting. "Our religion needs more people from the emerging world." "I'm from suburban Boston."
  • The less said about Betsy’s bible study subplot, the better.
  • Mindy understands Christina’s intensity. "I used to write Christian Slater letters, until his publicist wrote back saying Mr. Slater was no longer accepting hair."

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