Title Annette Castellano Is My Nemesis
Two-Sentence Summary Mindy’s plan to win over Danny’s mother goes awry when she feels Danny’s generosity and love for his “ma” isn’t appreciated enough. Meanwhile, Tamra is dangerously allergic to Morgan’s dogs, but Peter doesn’t believe it, which leads to disaster.
Favorite Line “I know this great frozen yogurt place nearby. I myself can’t go. I’ve been banned for sample fraud.” (Mindy)
My Thoughts I know it’s only two episodes into The Mindy Project’s third season, but I’m already incredibly happy with where this season seems to be going and what it’s doing for its main characters. Of course, there’s still time for me to be disappointed (like I was last season when New Girl’s handling of Nick and Jess’s relationship crashed and burned), but—in typical Mindy Kaling fashion—I’d rather keep my hopes high and risk getting disappointed than never feel excited or openly optimistic about anything. And there have been plenty of signs in just these first two episodes that my hopes are lining up perfectly with what the writers are doing.
Kaling said she wanted Mindy and Danny to feel like a modern Lucy and Ricky, and I think “Annette Castellano Is My Nemesis” highlighted why this couple could be exactly that. Mindy’s plan to win over Danny’s mother and her later attempt to confront her felt like schemes that Lucy would have been proud of. And Danny’s reluctance to play any role in these shenanigans felt very much like Ricky’s reactions to most of Lucy’s antics.
What’s impressed me most so far about Danny and Mindy’s relationship and the way the show has dealt with it is its centrality to the story. There’s no shying away from the fact that the conflicts that have driven both the season premiere and this episode—in terms of comedy and character growth—are conflicts that could only exist now that Danny and Mindy are in a serious romantic relationship. This is The Mindy Project laughing in the face of the “Moonlighting Curse” and showing very astutely that sometimes the laughs can be bigger and the stories can be deeper because the main characters on a show got together—not despite it. Many stories can only exist within the context of an established relationship (such as meeting the parents), and this show seems to be finding a lovely burst of creative energy from telling these kinds of stories instead of believing that all people in serious relationships are boring.
There was nothing boring about the clash of strong female personalities that came from Mindy meeting Annette Castellano for the first time. In fact, I loved everything about it. Casting Rhea Perlman as Danny’s ma was a stroke of genius, and the Cheers fan in me is still smiling because Carla and Nick are Danny’s estranged parents. Perlman brought just the right touch to Annette—she’s as “old school” as it gets, and I completely bought that this was a woman who was tough enough to raise two boys by herself. The little details made her character come alive in a way most guest characters on TV shows don’t—from the old TV Guides and the love for Castle to the slightly racist view of the world that many women like her still have. I laughed so hard at Annette confusing Mindy for Danny’s cleaning lady; it was the kind of awkward humor that could have gone so wrong if it wasn’t written and delivered perfectly. However, in the hands of those three actors, that scene had me shaking with laughter and not squirming in my seat.
The best thing about Annette was the fact that she felt like a real person. (Honestly, the best thing about her was probably her crazy friend Dot, but the first reason is more interesting to analyze.) And in making her feel like a real person, it helped us understand Danny even better. It’s easy to see where Annette’s flaws shaped Danny into the character we’ve watched struggle to become less proud and more emotionally open since the pilot. Watching her refuse to accept Danny’s generous new stove while she cuddled Richie’s teddy bear broke my heart. As the older son, Danny surely carried a lot of responsibility for his family, but he carried it without ever believing it would be acknowledged because of his mother’s pride. Hearing Annette tell Mindy that she wasn’t very open in showing her emotions towards her son was another “Eurkea!” moment—like learning about Danny’s dad leaving when he was a kid. Suddenly, Danny’s intensely private nature and difficulty expressing his feelings made perfect sense. They’re still things he has to work through to grow as a character, but they’re things we now understand more than ever. And—more importantly—they’re things we now know Mindy understands.
We also got a nice little look into how Mindy’s parents have shaped who she is, with her revelation that they send her a daily email filled with compliments. (I hope this means we’ll be meeting them at some point.) That one line helped paint a picture of exactly where Mindy’s self-confident nature and ease at expressing her every thought and feeling came from. And both of those traits were essential to her arc in this episode. Mindy is strong, but she’s not stereotypically “tough.” Instead, Mindy is emotional and open about how much she cares about the people she loves—including (and especially Danny). When Mindy told Annette that everyone needs someone to take care of them, I couldn’t help but smile because that’s exactly what she did for Danny in this episode. Mindy stood up for him when no one else would, even if it went against her innate desire to make everyone like her.
As Annette said, Danny has never been with someone like Mindy before. Mindy knows who she is; she’s strong, and she’s confident. And that’s good for Danny. She challenges him, but she also defends him in a way no one else would.
A strong relationship was also at the center of the B-plot, which I liked much more than last week’s. I don’t find Jeremy a likeable or entertaining character at this point, so it was nice to focus on my three favorite ensemble characters (Peter, Tamra, and Morgan). I like that both Morgan and Tamra may be very exaggerated characters, but I completely believe that they care about each other. And while I can’t suspend my disbelief concerning Morgan’s 40 dogs, I will always love seeing Ike Barinholtz interact with furry friends.
While the B-plot was better than last week, it still wasn’t great. But I still don’t mind. The Mindy Project has grow into a story about Mindy and Danny, and as long as they’re the focus of the episodes, I can handle subpar side plots. The writers seem to know what the heart of their show is at this point, and that’s reassuring for me as a viewer.
Because the heart of The Mindy Project is the relationship between a woman who’s been banned for “sample fraud” at a frozen yogurt place and a man who writes erotic poems like “Brown Orchid.” (Can someone please make that a real poem that we can all read somewhere?) And that heart will continue to beat strongly as long as these characters continue to grow together, finding humor in the struggles and successes of relationships (and finding plenty of moments for sexy little scenes along the way). It’s reassuring to watch a show where the two leads are comfortable making jokes about what’s going to happen when they get married instead of playing coy about their feelings on the subject. Mindy and Danny are adults, and they are mercifully allowed to act like adults.
But even adults sometimes get caught mid-foreplay by their ma. While that may not be the most original ending to an episode ever, it’s a trope that will make me laugh time and time again. And it’s just another reminder of the way that putting Mindy and Danny together has made this show better and funnier than it’s ever been.