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The elephant in the room this entire Mindy half-season has been the near-complete absence of Danny. Apart from a few brief appearances and mentions, he does not show up with Mindy on screen any more, and the show’s efforts to replace him with other guys for Mindy (Garret Dillahunt, Ne-Yo, Jay R. Ferguson) have mostly been lacking. Last week’s episode with a new Mindy writer wasn’t even that much fun to watch, short on the overall humor we’ve come to expect from this show.

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So it’s surprising that this week, two new Mindy writers—Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller—manage to, if you’ll forgive the softball metaphor, hit one out of the park. They do this by, finally, attacking the Danny problem head-on. Jeremy kicks off the episode by pointing out that the practice is down by 15 percent in patients since Danny left, saying that the lack of stability might be causing some people to depart: just like the show. Mindy asks the question that Kaling may be asking her own writers’ room: “Did Danny leaving really have this much of an effect?” Beverly, who has no shortage of zingers this episode, rants, ”What a mess!”, which also could be applied to this show at times (especially last week).

When the episode then leaps nonsensically to an interdepartmental softball game, the analogy is clear. As the orthopedists snidely comment that Shulman & Associates is going down, Mindy protests that the practice still has three good doctors, and a “handful of colorful characters with varying degrees of usefulness,” a good description of her supporting cast. She rallies her fellow softball players to show that the practice can stand without Danny, proclaiming that “this isn’t about baseball” (or softball). Jeremy chimes in with, “Yeah, Danny’s not that great.” Again, it’s a reasonable sentiment that the cast itself may be asking among themselves: How can one person’s departure affect the rest of the show so greatly?

What’s nice is that for the most part, the episode does show the series’ Danny-less strong suits. Beverly, Tamra, and Jeremy all get some fun moments. Fred Grandy’s Dr. Ledreau returns. And the softball MVPs are the Duplasses, who always manage to add a lot to this show. Mindy’s right about Drew, he does seem to be the first guy in a while who could rival Danny for Mindy’s affections, especially since, like Danny, he doesn’t put up with a lot of her nonsense (shaking his head at her Field Of Dreams joke, for example).

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The B-plot, unfortunately, isn’t as fun as the softball, as Colette and Jody’s disturbingly close relationship manifests in Colette acting out against the annoying Courtney. Jody’s right (with some welcome continuity) to point out that Colette is the one that moved out on him, and he deserves to be with whoever he likes, even if Courtney is really annoying and leads him to forget to send their horse a birthday card. But hey, at least she’ll get her sense of smell back in a few years.

TVLine recently announced that although The Mindy Project has been renewed for another season on Hulu, Chris Messina will be dropping down to recurring status, with more occasional guest-star appearances. This seems to indicate that fans of the show, like Mindy, need to move on. If Kaling is still committed to running her sitcom like a rom-com, an MIA leading man is probably not going to work out. But an episode like this one, that smartly tackles that problem head-on, bodes well for The Mindy Project’s future.

Stray observations

  • “Maybe I should pitch; I’m an elderly woman who’s never done it before.” “It’s in the chicken family.” Beverly was on fire this episode. More Beverly, please.
  • Was “Dr. Yang” a Grey’s Anatomy shoutout?
  • I would be remiss as a Bad News Bears fan if I did not point out that all of Drew’s helpful coaching came right out of the Morris Buttermaker playbook: Buttermaker told shortstop Tanner Boyle to square his shoulders, just like Drew tells Duncan; Drew tells Dr. Ledreau to bunt, a trick Buttermaker used with Ahmad; and Mindy’s triumphant catch is a perfect replica of Timmy Lupus’ play in the Bears’ championship game. Morgan’s blocking of home plate is even reminiscent of Bears catcher Engleberg. Suffice it to say, I know way too much about The Bad News Bears.
  • “Mindy! Don’t you let that seagull get your churro!”
  • Loved Jody’s dismissal of Charles Darwin and his fanciful notions.
  • This script had a fairly high batting average (forgive another baseball metaphor), but there were still a few clunkers: Paul McCartney wanting to eat at the burger place eight days a week, sad jokes about the World Trade Center.
  • Duplasses, I have missed you.
  • Mindy’s expression after “What is more important to you: This tournament that happens once a year with a bunch of doctors you don’t know, or your son?” was perfect.
  • Mindy’s best outfit: That yellow and black print dress she sadly had to change out of to go play softball.

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