The Mindy Project is one of those shows that I think a lot of people support in theory, but have trouble remembering when it comes time to actually watch something. There are a couple of reasons I can’t stan for the show completely (foremost being its deep commitment to the parade of plain white dudes…I realize this is a send-up of/homage to traditional rom-coms, which traditionally have featured Tom Hanks/Billy Crystal types, but can we get ONE love interest or major character who isn’t the most vanilla of vanilla scoops?)
But I am a big fan of Mindy Kaling, who is kind of but not really the same as Mindy Lahiri. I am a fan of her writing, her drive, her attitude, her outfits, and her cute face. I will always support The Mindy Project because it is one of the few (far too few) shows out there created by, produced by, and starring a woman of color. Plus, Mindy Kaling gave us this evergreen winner:
…I sort of refuse to see myself as an underdog…it’s because of my parents. They raised me with the entitlement of a tall, blond, white man.
This episode starts with an update montage! I love a good montage, and this one is jam-packed. In no particular order: Danny and Mindy are in love, Mindy has a new fertility clinic business, Mindy is pregnant, Mindy and Danny have differing stances on marriage because Danny has some baggage with Chloe Sevigney or whatever.
Also apparently Danny up and flew to India, because that is a thing you do, without telling Mindy (or Mindy’s parents, who live in India), to go and talk to them about….well, I guess we’ll find out in this episode. This is where the whole “rom-com” genre kicks back in, because going to India on a whim is romantic aka kind of dumb and impulsive.
Danny shows up at the door and pours out his problems, promising that even though he doesn’t believe in marriage as a workable institution, he will still love and support Mindy and the baby. He really gets into his backstory, even mentioning his priest. Buuuut it turns out that the dude who answered the door wasn’t Mr. Lahiri, but a servant. Oops! Silly cross-cultural mix-up! Har har. I did laugh during this part because it reminded me that Father Mike, Danny’s confessor, was played by Stephen Colbert. That rascal.
The real Mr. Lahiri arrives and briefly thinks Danny is Morgan. I (inexplicably, really) love Morgan too, Mr. Lahiri. He invites Danny to stay with them.
Back in New York, Morgan tells Mindy that Danny hasn’t shown up to Peter’s wedding, then tries to soothe her by saying, “What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe…he met another woman, fell in love, and he’s with her now.” Morgan is really like an imaginary projection of a best friend, sometimes. By the way, does anyone remember when Mindy briefly had a female best friend in season one, who then disappeared from the show forever with no explanation? In a way that sucks, because I love female friendship depictions on TV. On the other hand, it feels much more true to character that Mindy would search for, and lack, a close female friend…and have Morgan instead.
Mindy, back in the apartment she shares with Danny (“this apartment that looks like it was decorated by Teddy Roosevelt”) goes to sleep and sighs that life would be better if she had just never fallen in love with Danny.
I think you know what comes next.
My first clue that this was a fantasy-injected alternate reality was Mindy’s truly flawless eye-makeup in the next shot. She’s waking up in bed, for chrissake. How is her metallic eyeshadow so creaseless and perfectly ombre’d and yet not overdone? This is the true stuff of romance, friends.
“Did I break into Mariah Carey’s penthouse and fall asleep again?” she asks in voiceover. The apartment is lush and glitzy and looks like a reality TV set.
Then f’ing Joseph Gordon Levitt rolls over, wakes up, and tells Mindy he’s her husband Matt. This is the power of producing your own show! You get to act opposite husband-JGL. Truly amazing. Mindy is really leaning into this romcom thing HARD in this episode, like a reminder: here’s every trope of a romcom ever, don’t forget what we’re doing here, folks!
While Matt cooks breakfast, Mindy “dares” him to tell her the truth about how they first met. Matt explains that it was on a flight, about two years ago. In flashback, they meet while getting drinks at the back of the plane. Mindy wonders why “Matt Sherman” sounds so familiar—and it’s because he’s a producer on Real Housewives. This is a fantasy with a capital F for Mindy, clearly.
Back in India, a very sweaty Danny chats with Mr. Lahiri, who says that he and Mrs. Lahiri are concerned about Mindy. Sonu Lahiri makes her entrance, complete with show tunes and dramatic gestures. I don’t need to see the rest of the episode to know that this will be my favorite part of it. Mrs. Lahiri is so perfectly wonderful and dorky and unabashed, it’s easy to guess that she’s a strong influence on Mindy’s character too.
In New York, Mindy goes into work (“even though I’m rich, I’m still slumming it with these nobodies. How noble.”) She has the same job, but apparently she and Danny are on the same prickly terms they were on in season one. Maybe even a little bit less friendly than that? Danny immediately tells her to get out of his office, after all.
Leaving this frosty meeting, Mindy decides that the lesson of this alternate universe is: without her, Danny’s life is worse. Without him, her life is better! How pat and satisfying.
In India, Mindy’s parents ask Danny to help them choose a husband for their daughter. Danny scoffs at arranged marriage, but then the Lahiris reveal that they were an arranged marriage, and that it was the “happiest day of their lives.”
Meanwhile, Mindy is in her office, looking at a framed picture of Matt and sighing with satisfaction about how great her life is. In comes that one midwife dude with the snake-like face she used to bang. I need to look up his name. Brendan! Ugh Brendan, really? This guy looks like a potato. Apparently she is having an affair with Brendan, so her life with Matt isn’t that perfect after all.
Danny and the Lahiris look through a binder full of men for Mindy, but Danny keeps insisting that none of them are right. Suddenly, Morgan bursts in. The Lahiris are really happy to see him; Danny less so. Morgan and Danny go off to whisper about the situation, and Morgan argues that Danny should just get over his qualms.
In their beautiful kitchen, wearing a black dress that makes her look like a stunning awards-show princess, Mindy tries to bring up her affair with Matt. He is totally nonplussed by it, because surprise! They’re in an open relationship. This is really upsetting news to Mindy. Matt goes on to say that they agreed not to have kids, opting for a recording studio. (In the course of this argument, Mindy also turns down an opportunity to have a three-some with Matt and his college roommate. Like…really, Mindy? Would you honestly turn that down?)
In India, Danny’s cooked Italian food for the Lahiris. At dinner, Morgan says he’s not eating because the food “looks disgusting, like it was cooked with ulterior motives.” Then he reveals that he’s invited over one of the men from the binder, a bachelor named Sendhil (who, with his round face, stubble, and nice gray suit, looks kind of like Aziz Ansari for real.)
They interview Sendhil, who’s a hip-hop dancing hedge fund manager. Morgan declares him perfect. Danny stands up to protest, and in a fit of the moment, declares that he’s the father of Mindy’s baby.
Mr. Lahiri gets angry, but is interrupted by Sendhil’s disbelief that Mindy is pregnant and therefore “a lemon.” The Lahiris jump in with an impassioned defense of their daughter and their family. This, besides Mrs. Lahiri’s entrance, was my favorite part of the episode and actually brought a sentimental tear to my eye (I know, ew, why). These lines are so specific and yet so quotable. On his wife, Tarun Lahiri proclaims, “she is the best undiscovered Bollywood character actress in the greater Boston area!” Of Tarun, Sonu proudly notes, “he is the best chemistry professor to walk the halls of Lesley College!! His office hours are poorly attended because he teaches it right the first time!” That’s love, for sure.
Sonu tells Danny that he can call his relationship with Mindy whatever he wants, but he should go and take care of her.
Meanwhile, Mindy finds Danny in an Italian restaurant…on a date with Freida Pinto. Lol. Mindy comes in and makes a scene, trying to get Freida to leave so she can talk to Danny. She then drops the bomb that she’s pregnant. She and Danny go out into the rain, and she tells him that this life is all wrong, and that they’re meant to be together. Danny doesn’t believe her, and though they kiss in the rain, he walks away and tells her to go home. Mindy, following him, gets hit by a truck…
…and wakes up in Danny’s apartment, hyperventilating while he tries to calm her down. She tells him in relief that she doesn’t care about getting married, she just wants to be together. “Me too,” he says. Then he gets down on one knee and proposes.
It was a sweet episode, and a smart way to begin a season in which The Mindy Project migrated from Fox (boo, hiss) to Hulu. This alternate storyline set-up really allowed the show to play with the romcom conventions it so loves. And the conclusion of the episode, in which a successful marriage / relationship is the result of investment and hard work rather than showy exterior trappings, felt satisfying. I’m looking forward to the show’s exploration of Mindy and Danny’s relationship, especially since so many shows falter after their characters finally get together.