Mindy Kaling’s new AmEx commercial is titled “The Unlikely Leading Lady.” She starts her day with a few half-hearted sit-ups, then gives up. She eats some jelly beans for breakfast as she describes in the voiceover how casting directors always wanted to cast her as the best friend or the sidekick. She asks, “Why couldn’t I be the star? Am I not good enough? Am I not pretty enough?” So after being one of the youngest people and only women in The Office’s writers’ room, she created her own show around herself. “I was told that they don’t put girls who look like me on TV,” she concludes. “I guess they can’t say that anymore.”

That, friends, is someone with confidence, someone with sheer force of personality (and no shortage of hard work) to make things happen. But even Mindy Kaling is not without her vulnerabilities, like we all are. As her pregnancy makes her insecure about her looks, her character Mindy Lahiri vocalizes everything she’s afraid of: that she’ll never lose those last few pounds, that Danny will just get better looking. And it’s not just the hormones talking.

Like Danny, what we appreciate about Mindy most is her self-confidence. So it’s a bit of a stunner this week when Mindy loses her mojo due to her pregnancy. Anyone who has ever wondered why she wears so many of those amazing jewel-tone dresses only has to take a look at Mindy this episode in a track suit and sad side braid to realize why she does so. Pregnancy and a fear of the future have finally diminished Mindy. It’s a crazy time, one of the few in a woman’s life when she doesn’t even recognize her own body, so as we go through Mindy’s other impending baby issues (her diet, religion), worrying about her looks makes sense in the trajectory that’s already been set up.

But in her depressive state, Mindy touches on insecurities and possible truths that she has tucked away underneath her bombastic demeanor. As she lightning-changes from the scary Spider-man outfit into a pretty pink nightgown, Mindy lists out the things that are troubling her, as a misguided Danny tells her how great she’ll look once she loses the baby weight: “Ever since I was 15 I’ve been saying I would lose weight and feel great. I don’t know if it’s going to happen Danny! It never has before.” How many women have voiced this same sentiment, pinning all their hopes on those last 10 pounds, which really don’t make a bit of difference in the long run? Don’t so many of us despair over being not good enough or pretty enough?

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To help Mindy out of this rut, we need someone like Laverne Cox, who makes the most of her guest-star role as Sheena, the superhero stylist. The show is smart to let Sheena drop most of the major truth bombs: Really, who wouldn’t take for gospel anything she had to say? Your best friend is in the mirror, and a confident attitude can help get you anywhere. Also loved her Danny takedown that left him speechless.

Second only to Sheena in the guest-star outings, Cristin Milioti shows that she’s much more than a romantic sitcom lead (“Is that garbage? You’re garbage”) as she plays a caustic character who calls Jeremy “King’s Speech.” She would make a great addition to the cast next year if there are no other dopily romantic sitcoms who want to cast her as the lead.

And it looks like Julia Stiles is on her way out to make way for Tamra and Morgan’s reunion. I wouldn’t put it past Morgan to be gaining sympathy weight for Mindy’s pregnancy; that’s just how devoted he is to her. As Mindy defends Morgan’s weight gain to his girlfriend—that he might never be perfect, but he’s beautiful and strong, even if he can’t see it—she finally realizes that she also could be describing herself.

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I appreciate this episode a lot because it addresses so many issues that come up for Mindy Kaling, actress and show creator, through Mindy Lahiri, character. She has turned what short-sighted people viewed as a disadvantage—not fitting into the extremely narrow definition of female beauty on the small screen—into an advantage that sets her apart. At the end of the episode, Mindy says, “The only person who can make you feel better about yourself is yourself,” a sentiment Mindy Kaling knows only too well. And it’s actually her confidence that Danny loves the most. Where do either Mindys get their confidence? Sheer survival instinct. Lahiri or Kaling, Mindy has to have that vital sense of self-worth because she wouldn’t be where she is right now without it.

Stray observations:

  • Mindy’s best outfit: Not many to choose from this episode, but that green dress she wears for the new staff photo above is at least as cute as her old skinny dress with the peplum. (And speaking of that photo, how hawt does Jeremy look in it?)
  • Mindy’s worst outfit: Any of those track suits with the gym socks and sandals. Just as awful as they are intended to be.
  • “You did it, Jer. Well done.”
  • Yay, Mindy’s brother is back, trying to peddle his “Ho, It Ain’t Mine” single at her fertility clinic.
  • I am taking “I think you just could have said F, then” as a shout-out.
  • “Not my old candy wrappers!”
  • Next week: It looks like the season finale will not be focusing on Danny and Mindy’s wedding, but Peter and Lauren’s. Or will it? Honestly, I don’t really know, I don’t think I’ve seen a Mindy screener since Christmas. I believe the show’s season four is still up in the air as well, although it does well in the key demographic of women 18-34. Which is awesome, because that’s an age group that needs to hear the sentiments expressed in episodes like this one more than any other.

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