The last two weeks of The Mindy Project have been entertaining, but there’s definitely something lacking. I guess that’s to be expected with the lack of spark between Mindy and Danny. As an audience member, I almost feel like I’m reeling from the breakup with Mindy. Yes, the charm and fun is still there, but it’s still a bit harder to engage with everything going on, knowing there’s underlying heartache. Well, at least until Tim Daly as the officer showed up.
So across the two episodes, we’ve watched Mindy and Danny cope with the new status of their relationship, all the while putting Peter in the middle to help mitigate their separate crises. The thing with the most recent developments is it’s really marginalized the ensemble cast. I love the comic use of some of these characters when they’re used, but so much more focus has been put on developing the Mindy-Danny-Peter relationships that it almost feels too out of the blue when we’re reminded there’s a whole office of other people we were supposed to keep track of. Like Betsy, who set up Mindy on a blind date (the comedy here being Mindy looking to awfully awkward Betsy for dating recommendations), and Tamra as a surrogate Mindy for Danny. All in all, in the last two weeks we’ve watched an ebb and flow of Mindy and Danny figuring out how to act around each other and communicate.
In “Think Like a Peter,” Mindy largely ignores Danny, of course still fresh from the break-up. She doesn’t fail to make it obvious that their stance has changed – when she’s distressed and lying on the floor, she insists she’s fine to Danny, but draws in Peter to come into the office, close the door, and gossip. We watch Danny pine for Mindy a bit – at least, for what he and Mindy used to have before they kissed. He is hungry to fulfill that “man” role for a woman in the office, and he clearly has no other female friends. He forces himself onto the non-issues of the other women in the office until he catches Tamra and Morgan in flagrante (I’ve been waiting for this moment of fulfillment and it was totally comically satisfying). Tamra astutely points out that Danny is trying to offer advice but treats the situation the way Mindy would, but he of course projects his own problems onto Tamra, discouraging her from pursuing a relationship with Morgan because “it wouldn’t work.” The best part about this whole interaction is we find ourselves with another Rayron cameo – Rayron thanks Danny for convincing Tamra to stay with him, to Morgan’s chagrin.
Meanwhile, Peter tries to coach Mindy to approach dating the way he does – by being a cold player. He assists in her ignoring texts from Betsy’s friend, allowing the relationship to dissipate before it got started. He wingmans for her to meet and snag a guy at the bar (way to crossover a la sweeps, New Girl!) – which starts out fumbling, but becomes successful. Until, of course, Mindy over-interprets the one night stand – the guy, Lee, leaves behind his scarf, and she thinks it’s his way of communicating continued interest in seeing her. A confrontation in front of his 1st grade class instead reveals that he is married, and throws the one night stand mentality in Peter’s face. The great thing about Peter is he does have a softer heart – even before he met Mindy since he was so bent up on his last ex – and he tells Mindy he wants to try her dating approach in the future because he sees how crappy guys can be when they “think like a Peter.”
In the next installment, we see Mindy and Danny drifting back together a bit – still awkward, but at least the ice is thawing between them. Danny performs an act of subway heroism, convincing punk kids to stop messing around with a rabbi. Taken by the act of kindness, the rabbi mistakes Danny for being THE Schulman of Schulman and Associates. He entices Danny to dinner by mentioning he’d love to refer the practice to the female members of his congregation, of course believing Danny to be Jewish. Danny enlists Peter’s help, as the sort-of Jew of the office, and off they go to a night of comic unraveling. Peter charms, as usual, up until the rabbi’s son catches Peter, pants down and uncircumcised. Though upset by the lie at first, the rabbi reveals he thought the night made for an incredible memory. And of course, the wise and observant rabbi – having overheard Peter confront Danny about using Sally to avoid his feelings for Mindy – points out the true chemistry between Danny and Mindy (mistaking her for Sally of course). Danny helped Mindy untangle herself from her scarf and earbuds on the subway, in a bittersweet moment of friendship and flirtation.
But… of course … we also see brighter prospects for Mindy again. Mindy begins a mentor of sorts to a young patient, looking to get birth control. Mindy parlays some “young independent girl” wisdom, encouraging the girl Jennifer to take control of her life from men, having sworn off men herself at this time. Jennifer, knowing her father’s traditional stance on birth control, decides to crash Mindy’s place as refuge. Mindy is immediately confronted by Jennifer’s father, a dashing Tim Daly, who uses his cop toughness to semi-intimidate her about helping out his daughter. As the episode goes on, he continually finds a way to bump into her, riffing back and forth with Mindy and giving her ridiculous tickets. When Jennifer takes Mindy’s hospitality too far and uses Mindy’s place to host a college sex party, Mindy immediately calls Jennifer’s father to break it up. He clearly finds Mindy endearing, smiling as he hears Mindy give proper advice to Jennifer. I love the red herring joke placed here – we end with Mindy somehow bumping into Jennifer’s father again (let’s ignore the fact that he kinda stalked her by just rolling up right outside her subway stop) and he teases her about dropping her bearclaw. He asks, “are you asking me out?” and you’re kind of hoping that since he’s on friendlier terms with her, he’s really scribbling down his number on that ticket pad. When he drives away, after an all too sexy delcaration that he’s “not a guy, [he’s] a man,” she exclaims how ridiculous the jaywalking ticket fee is. Maybe next time? It was a wonderful mislead, immediately following Danny presumably taking Peter’s sister Sally aside to break up.
If the turn we’re taking is a cat and mouse game of Danny and Mindy not being readily available at the same time, this could make the progression toward the end of the season a little more fun and interesting. Dating Mindy is always more fun anyway. What will also be interesting is if Mindy turns the tables on Danny. We know she’s hung up on him, and dating has been significantly more difficult for her to jump back into because she so clearly recognizes Danny is a match. If she decides to really move on and work her way back into the dating game, and Danny tries to pursue again, it could make for a fun game changer. Especially with the way “An Officer and a Gynecologist” ends, it seems like the ball may be back in Mindy’s court.