The Mindy Project’s basic premise has always been that she’s a doctor in love with the romantic comedy. Even as her actual dates fall short of Hollywood endings, as when her fiancée decides to become a DJ or a handsome skateboarder reveals himself to be woefully (yet hilariously) immature. Throughout, her male mainstay has been her friend Danny (Chris Messina), whose pragmatism makes him an ideal counterpart to Mindy’s pie-in-the-sky romantic ideals, and their frequently barbed banter has been one of the series’ highlights, even as it veers toward will-they/won’t they status.
Unfortunately, the will-they/won’t they conundrum is a tough hurdle for a TV show to get over, with the Sam and Diane saga in Cheers still holding up as the gold standard. Newsradio bravely avoided it by having Dave and Lisa hook up almost straight out of the gate. Gilmore Girls irrevocably messed up its later seasons by throwing ridiculous obstacles in the way of Lorelei and Luke (like his long-lost daughter). This season, New Girl is using Nick and Jess’s relationship to expose other facets of their characters, without losing momentum. The jury’s still out on where The Mindy Project will fall on this scale. Her stunt-casted dates bring a lot to the show, but so does her chemistry with Danny. In Mindy’s beloved romantic movies, we know that the couple will end up together at the end of two hours. In a romantic sitcom, with 26 weeks per season to fill, the stakes are a lot trickier.
Last week, I hoped that the Mindy-Danny relationship would be resolved sooner rather than later, and this week the show delivers. Kind of. It’s Mindy-Danny centered, with a different romance possibly brewing on the horizon. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a come-down after the great comedic momentum the show’s had going on over the past few weeks. Here’s my bar for comedy: Did I laugh? Apparently, it's a high one. Last week, the answer was “Yes, loudly and often.” This week, unfortunately, not once. But the episode still offered a lot of romantic puzzles to ponder.
Our premise: Mindy has to spend the night at Danny’s after she loses her purse with her keys, wallet, and phone in it. Through a Three’s Company-worthy miscommunication, Danny suspects that Mindy has a crush on him, so starts wigging out as she pokes him with her feet or wants to watch the nature channel with him at his apartment. Their state-of the-friendship conversation is interrupted by Danny’s crazy neighbor he’s hooked up with and is now trying to avoid (Sarah Burns), so Mindy has to pretend to be Danny’s pregnant girlfriend. The scene is notable for Mindy’s ability to construct an elaborate romantic backstory on a moment’s notice (which apparently begins when the two are on vacation in St. Bart’s). And Mindy’s eagerness to hear all the details about Danny’s hookup with his neighbor.
The B plot features the engaging pair of Morgan and Peter, but quickly steers into pointlessness: The two find Mindy’s phone and are texted by cute lawyer Cliff (Glenn Howerton). So, posing as Mindy, they engage in a texting flirtation that escalates into “What are you wearing?” The show does a nice job of portraying the mechanisms behind text etiquette (and the gravity of sending a winky-face). But when Cliff says he’s coming over, Peter and Morgan throw an impromptu party at Mindy’s apartment, which is just dumb, as Cliff’s bound to figure out that she’s not there eventually. Cliff even tries to leave the party, but Peter drags him back in to talk to Mindy’s arch-nemesis Heather (Ellie Kemper, always welcome)—for what purpose exactly? The whole setup stinks of madcap-for-madcap’s-sake, because of course Peter and Morgan confess in the end.
Slightly more interesting denouement in Danny’s apartment: When the crazy neighbor doubts their relationship, I was all ready for her to demand that Mindy and Danny kiss to prove that they’re together, which would lead to both parties being shocked by their own romantic tension. (Maybe I’ve been watching too many rom-coms myself.) Fortunately, instead, the two try to hold her off just by holding each other, which still stirs Danny into possibly being interested in Mindy. But her real crush is Cliff, who has now hooked up with Heather. Let the romantic high jinks begin!
Mindy complains that she’ll never actually find anyone in this episode; as she walks to Danny’s apartment, she notices a senior citizen couple, and young parents with a baby. But her view of relationships seems almost warped by the movies she loves, as no couple lives in a perfect Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks bubble. While Danny is able to consider the two of them being a couple, Mindy is seemingly too dazzled by Cliff to notice the possible partner right there on the couch next to her. Dragging a romantic idealist into an actual relationship, full of realistic problems not normally found in rom-coms: that might be an interesting future path for The Mindy Project to explore.
- Favorite Morgan quote this episode: “My favorite hobby is also activities!”
- Favorite Peter quote: “This nerd is horned-up.”
- Best quote by crazy neighbor: “Did you lose your phone, your computer, your ability to hear your doorbell?”
- Hoping this is just an error in my screener, but Peter and Morgan send a text that Mindy is giving “this loofah the workout of it’s life”: “It’s” is a contraction for “it is”. “Its” is a possessive pronoun. Get it together, sexy fake texts! I am plagued by excessive apostrophes.
- Did anyone miss Jeremy this episode? Thought not.