In my last post about The Mindy Project, I felt like we were hitting a high stride with great episodes. Not to say “Mindy’s Birthday” fell short – it just felt a little out of place. There are a number of episodes this season that aired out of production order, so my instinct is correct in feeling the chronology was off (i.e. crazy Beverly begging for a job at the practice this week when last we saw she’s blundering her way as a secretary) The good thing is, the jokes and pace in the episode hit the same stride as the last wave of episodes – there’s a little more focus and clarity with the gags, the smart jokes are sharp and quick, and everyone’s character seemed more or less appropriate. The big misstep this week is Mindy’s lack of confidence.
Now, this episode was originally supposed to air after the debacle with BJ Novak’s Jamie. So her lack of confidence and aimlessness in the realm of love in modern day NY is understood given her shaky foundation with that brief dating scenario. But the brilliance of Mindy is her shamelessness and confidence. Not to say that a woman in her position can never show or feel the occasional doubt. The show just happens to work best when Mindy is not pouting. She’s been in down situations before but it never played as sad and lonely as “Mindy’s Birthday.” The sad tone is set in the actually pretty awkward cold open, where Jeremy brings Mindy in under the guise of taking in his overweight patient. With a twist of rhetoric, Jeremy gets the point across to his patient that she should lose weight but at the cost of Mindy’s self esteem: the patient winds up insulted that a woman of Mindy’s perfectly normal, curvy size would dare imply she is overweight. Mindy’s usual awkward brush off doesn’t read as cute or funny – it reads truly as stunned and cold. From the onset, I was put on edge watching this episode go down.
The surprise birthday party pours more salt in the wound for a number of reasons. Again, after a little research, I realized that Mindy was so hung up on going on a blind date because her birthday happens after the Jamie incident. Getting back on the dating horse is appealing to her, and to have that possibility stripped away and not chosen for her is definitely an understood disappointment (maybe a little silly, but I empathize with her expectations being quashed) Then her friends give her gifts that, under this context of a downtrodden Mindy, are quite insensitive – a cookbook for one, an elliptical machine, and an actually rather funny Chris Evans body pillow (the call back at the end with the intern hugging it in the emergency room is actually a physical display of a well written joke – so kudos on this one). Mindy is unable to handle this and bails on her own surprise party. The fun part about the party, though, are the Mindy-esque details. Who would help coordinate the guest list? Morgan, of course. He invites everyone on her contact list – including her old and current plumber (love how she tosses this off by making a big deal of it), Mike “Accident” with whom she had some hit and run with the year prior, and even her housekeeper. Also, Mindy’s odd trio of friends actually contribute some flavor, if not provide a pathway to the B plot – Danny and Jeremy competing for Mindy’s friend, Alex. I was surprised with how quickly the birthday played out, but the wacky randomness of what happens thereafter are also wonderfully Mindy-esque.
Mindy heads to another bar by herself and happily treats herself to a sundae (which happens to be on the house because it’s her birthday). I started feeling a little better about Mindy in this act because she was only half wallowing. Another woman approaches her kindly and asks Mindy if she’d care to join her birthday party. Mindy begins with skepticism but decides to join. Of course, the sorority (literally) of this group of gal pals is appealing to Mindy, especially when she feels burned by her friends. She falls in step with the sorority sisters, and relishes when they tell her she has an amazing job and looks beautiful. When her birthday counterpart gets a text from her man, though, things go sour as Mindy interjects with her own doubts about the boyfriend being “stuck at work on a Saturday night.” Clearly, this is lonely Mindy talking here. The girls snap back to reality and remind Mindy that she has no place to comment because she’s not even their real friend (very realistic for them to point this out, actually). Mindy spirals out of control, only to get two martinis thrown in her face. I wondered if the joke would go over the top with the drink throwing, but it took a better turn with Beverly the bus boy breaking up the fight and kicking the girls out of the restaurant.
In the end, Mindy shares a heartfelt moment with Beverly, who tells her essentially the same things the girls did to boost her self esteem (basically, that Mindy’s smart and beautiful), and it finally takes hold – probably because these are comments coming from someone she actually knows. She offers Beverly the job she already had a few weeks ago, and rushes back to her friends because Danny falls through a manhole.
Alright, the B story for this episode (which involves Danny falling) actually turns out to be pretty fun. After the party breaks up, everyone decides to go searching for Mindy together. Seeing the friends and coworkers try to figure it out together is actually a great gag. Everyone tries to compete in their inner knowledge of Mindy – Danny especially since he’s trying to impress Alex. The goose chase is interrupted when Morgan also reassures Danny to be more self confident – actually good advice from Morgan, but of course, expressed in a rather unorthodox way. (That’s your grandma!) Just as Danny makes his mark, he falls through! The whole hospital scene is a fun chaotic moment, with the police ragging on Danny (i.e. calling him a young boy), Morgan giving testimonial to the local news (thereby embarrassing Danny further), Danny trying to save face from the stretcher. All of this was very fun.
The end has a double reward. First, with Mindy confirming her deeper friendship with Danny. Second, the surprise visit from Brendan, who actually gives a surprisingly romantic gift of making Mindy’s made-up constellation real. (Totally a squee moment) Of course, we got another taste of the Danny-Mindy tension with Danny hobbling toward the door unseen as Brendan plants a kiss on Mindy’s cheek. I was reading elsewhere that the praise for the Danny-Mindy relationship is that it’s not trying so hard to meet the usual trope of the two of them winding up perfect for each other romantically. Mindy gets her romantic victory, and Danny gets his when Alex reveals she’d rather go out with him than Jeremy.
Overall, the writing was still great, even if Mindy wasn’t at her best. Hopefully we turn back from topsy-turvy chronology and continue forth next week.