Once our sitcom characters are all set up, it’s nice to knock them around a little. In this episode of The Mindy Project, rule-follower Danny becomes a bit of a rule-breaker while schlub Peter has a moment of epiphany and turns it around. Maybe it was his side part.

The Mindy Project is making the most of its genius Rhea-Perlman-as-Annette-Castellano casting, so she returns yet again this week to go shopping with Mindy. Annette is definitely not without her charms, especially when she’s in a bathing suit that’s like something “Rihanna would wear to hedonism.” But she steals her son Danny a Top Gun bomber jacket, and therein our sitcom conundrum lies. How can Mindy rat out Annette to her own devoted son, who calls her his “beating heart”?

I’ve never seen Top Gun all the way through (or Passion Of The Christ, for that matter), but the ’80s nods were the episode’s high points, with awesome synth soundtracks, aviator sunglasses, and Danny’s dance moves, as we all know, are never a bad thing. But yet again, The Mindy Project’s plot points don’t really follow: Why would Mindy wait so long to confront Annette about the jacket (for example, why wouldn’t she just do it at Annette’s house in the first place when she went to talk to her about Tamra’s bracelet)? Allison Tolman seemed like a perfectly mature professional writer last week: This week she’s someone who doesn’t care if Peter puts on pants to go outside? Peter must deliver lots of babies, so why would one night of staring at a newborn and doing the dishes be enough to toss his previous partying dreamgirl (who he tried so hard to win over last week) and his entire frat boy persona? As happens so frequently with The Mindy Project, frustration arises when the various plot point just don’t add up.

But here’s what does work: Jeremy stopping the world to discuss etiquette. The mean asides about how little Morgan gets paid. Although we may be approaching visiting the Perlman well a little too often, I can see why the show goes there, because Kaling and Perlman are formidable foils for each other. I kind of love the framed receipt, and the way that Mindy always talks about her children with Danny as if their future is all a done deal, because their relationship continues to be the captivating focal point of The Mindy Project.

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I did enjoy seeing Peter mature a little; I just wish it could have been alongside Allison Tolman, who was way too awesome for a just a two-episode spot. Mindy, as we know, is continually trying to get away with just about everything, including illegal movie and music downloads set up in the cold open. But this means she knows how to get away with a shoplifted jacket, and is the only one who realizes that the three need to hightail it out of the store immediately; her slapping of Danny may have been my favorite moment of the episode. It was nice to see Danny not only embracing his Top Gun side but getting a “tingle” from doing something on the opposite side of the rules for once. This was episode writer Alina Mankin’s only second time out for The Mindy Project, and it’s certainly a positive effort, but not on my usual falling-down-laughing TMP scale.

We all need to take the occasional risk. For Peter that risk involves giving up a great girl so that he can go out to brunch and strive to wear pants outside. Danny errs on the wrong side of the law for one of the first times in his life (although he will write the ominous-sounding “Gary” a check), and Mindy just paid for her first Internet song. The danger zone means different things to all of us, but it’s still worth a visit once in awhile.

Stray observations:

  • Mindy’s best outfit: That yellow jungle print dress was amazing.
  • Water aerobics = Synchronized seniors aqua disco
  • Apparent lame things to do on a Sunday: Putting up shelves, visiting your sister, going to spin class, meeting your friend’s new baby, sample sales, mani-pedis.
  • Allison Tolman’s mouth was not synched with the sound in her Peter bed scene, when she says she’s the “Matthew McConaughey of the romance novel world.”
  • Anyone else believe that Peter’s Lauren feelings are unresolved, given his aggression toward Jeremy? “I got a million black Bics in this mug!”
  • We could use some more little-seen duo scenes like Pally and Messina in the locker-room. Also the cupcake on Peter’s vest. He did look like the male fashion version of Mindy.
  • Love how excited Jeremy was to discuss etiquette, the point of hanging up on his patient: “You’re two months pregnant, goodbye!”
  • More welcome Jeremy: “Mrs. Martin is in labour. Sorry, labor.”
  • “If you ever want to get baked and go to a Renaissance Faire, then I’m your m’lady.” I miss her already.

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