The Mindy Project “Danny’s Friend” Recap

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Since I started recapping The Mindy Project, I feel that I’ve fought for its merits. This episode felt like a lost blunder that I was hoping could be blamed on it airing out of order, but apparently this episode falls exactly where it should within the season. There was something off, and it felt like The Mindy Project played out like a facetious version of itself, the version of itself that doesn’t honor the wit and creativity that’s been present in most of the episodes. The biggest thing I can note with more positive recognition is the characterization of Danny, which is also arguably a little off from what we know.

A surprising part about Jeremy’s character pops up when – hello, moral high ground! – he rolls into Mindy’s office to tell her he suspects Danny is prescribing himself drugs, which, if true and found out, could hurt the practice. Now, this exchange is actually quite fun – the writing here makes note of the rom-com and sitcom genre tropes in a smart, sensible way, with Jeremy and Mindy commenting on one another’s dramatization of their sentences (i.e. noting that a dramatic pause works) After this moment, everything goes a little haywire.

In Mindy fashion, Jeremy and Mindy stage an office intervention with Danny to confront him about his suspected drug abuse. As Danny walks away, Morgan finally recognizes (in true Morgan fashion) that he might have more of a clue of what’s really going on. Here, we steal another moment of clever writing and post-modern (or perhaps even post-post-modern) commentary on dramatic storytelling – with Mindy and crew demanding details and fast forwarding as they wanted. We eventually discover that Morgan semi-habitually drops into the office after-hours with possible former criminal friends and that Danny was treating someone privately in his office.

Of course, Jeremy and Mindy confront Danny, but as they did, a certain thought bothered me: Danny always came off as the hyper-professional doctor of the trio – I mean, there used to be this air of Danny trying to prove to Mindy how much better of a doctor he is. It’s a little bit hard for me to really believe he’d privately prescribe drugs to someone else under his name. The end conclusion of just treating Stevie’s mother to give her proper medication sounds like something Danny would have thought of on his own early on. Hmmm… Anyway, they tell Danny he needs to cut off his friend from the drugs.

Now here, we learn more of Danny’s inside story. I’m juggling with how this reconciles with his entire character in my mind. Parts of it seem un-Danny-like, but I suppose the point is that we’re learning more about who he is, so things that would otherwise appear uncharacteristic could be argued as actually a thing we didn’t know was part of his psyche. Like the whole Staten Island, don’t forget where you come from complex. And that brotherhood loyalty to a rather unstable, unreliable friend. Their bizarre fight at the end of the episode felt more a sad slapstick than truly funny and Mindy-esque, but nevertheless I guess we saw sensitive (and formerly fat) Danny come out.

Oh, and the B and C arcs?

The B arc involves Ellie Kemper’s return as Josh’s “other girlfriend” – man, I forgot about her. She re-emerges in Mindy’s life with a literal humble pie offering to apologize for the altercation at Mindy’s Christmas party and to announce she’s applying to live in Mindy’s building. I don’t know if I’m simply not being empathetic enough, but Mindy still felt too freshly burned from the whole Josh thing to be as super-pissed as she was. Granted, I get it’d be awkward for the woman who thought YOU were the other woman to suddenly live in your building, but I personally felt there was unnecessary cattiness and resentment. Kind of thought Mindy was getting over the Josh thing fine, but well hell, maybe she hasn’t. Mindy submits an anonymous letter to sabotage Ellie Kemper’s Heather from getting approved for an apartment, but Danny encourages Mindy to tell the truth. This launches Heather into a crazy rage where she smashes a cake she just baked for Mindy in Mindy’s face. Now this is where I fell off this episode – this felt wildly unnecessary and very one-dimensional for this crazy character who, for now, didn’t need to be reprised. It felt like forced comedy. There are off-shoots of this that are fun, like Morgan trying to get the landlord’s birds in his shirt, but it just felt strange and out of place from the grander story of the episode, let alone either person’s character development.

C story? The kind of fun thing is that Stevie’s attempt to scare off Mindy actually leads to him being attracted to her and veery briefly dating her. Their first meeting was awkward with a hint of fun – knowing what Stevie was really up to and knowing that Mindy would only see the surface interactions kind of shallowly. As soon as she discovers her “Steven” is Danny’s “Stevie” she changes her tone and brings back her sharper skepticism and wit. This affair is thankfully short lived.

Again, the episode pace feels right and fast – but there’s still some confused writing going on. Last week still felt fun and funny, whereas this felt like a tired effort to meet a deadline to shoot an episode. I enjoy the personalities on this show, and hope next week doesn’t fizzle out weakly like this did.

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