The Mindy Project, “Stanford”

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New year, new turn for Mindy! I’m going to say I’m enjoying this shift in focus of Mindy’s personal trajectory. It’s a healthy jump start for the series, that has otherwise focused on Mindy being the girl to get the guy. Rom com can still revolve around the evolution of the female as her self in the pursuit of life, love, and happiness, and now that Mindy has the guy, what else has she left to achieve (beyond marriage)? “Stanford” is a fun demonstration of the next step for Mindy, and sets forth a new “trope” that it’s inevitably going to turn on its head (as it already has)

We open with Mindy moving into her new digs at Stanford for her fellowship, and we immediately enter coming-of-age comedy territory. She treats it like it’s her first day of undergrad and glamorizes Stanford as such, moving into a dorm room, putting up a Rosie the Riveter (or, to Mindy, a Taylor Swift) poster, and getting excited about the prospect of making new friends and having new experiences. We’re immediately introduced to two of the challenges she will have to face: friendship and student-teacher respect. At a first day meet and greet, an Indian woman, Neepa, tries to make a connection with Mindy, only to find Mindy is a 2nd generation Indian (as I’m in the same boat as Mindy, I’m assuming she really means 1st generation American, but the thought is there). Mindy doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t have a family, and sounds out of her cultural element. Even worse, she misunderstands the welcoming “BASH” and attends the first welcome lecture clad in party clothes, heralding in the new “type” she has to make: her new professor-faux-adversary Gergler calls her “Medically Blonde.” Hopefully this is the only episode that really treats her as the Legally Blonde type – it literally feels like a moment out of that movie, only with doctors – as Mindy appears to her peers for the first time as someone not to be taken seriously. These two incidents establish the theme of Mindy’s own self-respect needing to be reinforced and asserted, which seems to be the path of Mindy’s new trajectory.
Now, prior to the BASH, Danny makes mention of his med school friendship with Gurglar, and Mindy also establishes that she wants to prove she can “make it on her own” in the fellowship. Of course, after her first day embarrassment, Mindy immediately calls back Danny from his flight to have dinner with Gurglar and have Danny help her get in good. We get an amazing guest star in Ana Gasteyer as Gurglar’s wife, who feels up Danny with her foot, and we get a good classic misdirection dinner scene, with opposing man-woman pairs getting along, in their own ways. The dinner is great for Mindy, who Gurglar now starts to see with more respect. But, of course, Danny gets all hot and turned on during dessert and compliments Mindy on her footwork. Again, things explode as Mindy worries she’s going to have to break the news to Gurglar and thus ruin her chances again. Danny, in his good boyfriend wisdom, puts it out there for Mindy: maybe Mindy doesn’t believe enough in herself that she can get through this on her own merits.
So how does Mindy handle herself in the end, in the journey to prove her worth and value? We get a twofold reward here. She continues to blunder with Neepa before the big Act 3 turn, striking out in her attempts at camaraderie by asking Neepa to cover her while she goes to dinner with Gurglar, and then their confrontation at the fast food restaurant when she realizes what Neepa has to go through to make ends meet. She also decides, even with the risk of the result being bad, to tell Gurglar about what happened at dinner, and comes to his rescue and mends his physical (if not emotional) wounds. Realizing he’s missing a major procedure, he gives Mindy the go ahead to take it as a token of friendship, which Mindy in turn gives Neepa to take knowing she didn’t truly earn it. This chain of events gives us a great full circle turn on the “Medically Blonde” concept – we know Mindy’s smart, Mindy knows she’s smart, she just has to get around the obstacle of how others (and mainly her own self) perceive her in this new environment where she has to establish and assert herself. We also get the sweet reward of Danny making amends with Mindy by surprising her in her dorm and asserting his belief in her ability to get through the fellowship.
Back in NY, we get a fun turn for a B storyline with Morgan and Tamra. We find out Tamra’s been away on a Habitat for Humanity trip (good for her!) and she’s trying to win back Morgan. Morgan started a basketball team with the doctors (mainly Peter and Danny) but has to work through finding a replacement for Danny since he’s in California. The Julia Stiles guest star sesh is now starting to gel and make sense – she oddly really works for Morgan – and Tamra is set off on a jealousy rage to win back Morgan. While at first she gets recruited as the Danny replacement, she decides to form her own team against Morgan for revenge. Peter now takes a stab at assisting the Morgan – Tamra situation, and offers Tamra the advice to not be out for revenge, that that’s not the way to win back the person you’re pining for or make things smoother or better. Of course, we point out that Peter and Tamra are now on even ground (although Tamra doesn’t see it) so it’s perfect that these two are paired for that moment. Mindy’s male intern does ask out Tamra at the end, though, so maybe we’ll see a super love duel between the two couples. Or something.
Overall, I think this episode is a great start to a new direction for the show. We’re exploring way new territory with Mindy and I’d love to see it all come to fruition – she’s repeatedly broken boundaries writing herself as this proud woman of color who is absolutely shameless about her sexuality. Now we get to do more self exploration, and hopefully get to touch more on culture-race territory with her budding relationship with Neepa. I’d love to see a Mindy who can show us her colors without being defined by her relationship, and I’m interested to see what happens when Danny’s really not there to lean on.

Some odds and ends till next week:

-Those basketball team names are perfect: Morgan’s Best Friends and Morgan’s Worst Nightmare.

-When Mindy realizes her mistake, that one student is all like “We all had no trouble understanding the acronym (BASH)”
-Gurglar’s bike is an amazing visual gag / window to his character.
-Morgan making an off comment about telling his dogs about his day: You have 40 dogs, you think at least one of them will get it…
-The “All I Do is Win” entrance to the basketball game was hilarious. Also, holy music budget, Batman!
-Tamra commenting about her uniform: “I look hot in these children’s basketball shorts.”
-When Mindy and Danny discover that Ana Gasteyer was the one doing the fancy foot job: (Mindy) “Danny, you know my talons would’ve torn you to shreds!”
-Mindy and Danny when she discovers him trying to surprise her in her room:
Danny: “You sat on me!”
Mindy: “Yeah, I farted on you too!”

Till next week’s anticipated Lee Pace appearance…

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