TV Time: The Mindy Project 3.02



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.

9 thoughts on “TV Time: The Mindy Project 3.02

  1. I enjoyed last night’s episode a lot too, even though I somehow completely missed that Danny’s mom was Rhea Perlman (how did I miss that?!) She was absolutely awesome! I saw the cleaning lady mixup coming, but then when she started talking to Mindy I thought that maybe, no, maybe she did know that she was Danny’s girlfriend. But then, no, clearly she did think that Mindy was the cleaning lady, and it was all so awkward, but somehow not in that awful way, because they played it so well. I don’t know if I wasn’t paying enough attention, or if they deliberately played it so that for a moment you wouldn’t know if she was thinking girlfriend or maid – anyway, just perfect.
    Seeing more of why Danny is the man he is was wonderful. (And that little bit about Mindy’s parents emailing – I also hope that eventually we’ll have Mindy’s parents on. I’m sure that’s in the works.) The ending was silly, of course, but awesome. That line “a boy’s bedroom should never have an erection in it” was so funny – Annette had some really good lines (again, how did I miss that it was Rhea Perlman?! Of course she was hilarious!)
    I love what they’re doing with their relationship. I think the big difference between Mindy and Danny and Nick and Jess is that Mindy is writing characters who are crazy and messed up, but are grown ass adults, and Mindy believes that these people in their 30s want and are ready for serious relationships. Liz Meriwether always expressed doubts that her characters were ready for something real, even while she was writing what seemed to be huge character growth into the show. I think she freaked out and got scared because she doesn’t see herself or her characters as mature adults. I wish she’s actually written Nick and Jess to be about 5 years younger – as the show goes on their lack of maturity has the potential to be kind of pathetic. They might all be about the same age (except Danny, who I believe is supposed to be in his late 30s), but these two shows are writing about very different kinds of young 30-somethings.

    • You were not the only one who went back and forth about Annette thinking Mindy was the cleaning lady. My dad watched the episode with me, and he couldn’t decide who Annette thought Mindy was until she asked her rate. And then of course Mindy responded with her perfect (and perfectly in-character) “10 in Chicago, 4 in LA” line that had both of us cracking up.

      I 10000000% agree with everything you said about the differences in how Mindy Kaling and Liz Meriwether are approaching their shows. I thought it was very telling that Meriwether recently said she’s best at writing single characters because that’s where she is in her life. And that’s fine, but it would fit better if her characters were younger. Having an entire group of very late-20s to early-30s characters that are so confused about so many areas of their lives (jobs, relationships, basic life skills if you’re Nick) feels incredibly unrealistic. Mindy, on the other hand, created characters who are very competent in their professional lives and act like adults, which made the fact that their love lives are a mess more realistic because they at least had something figured out.

      As someone in her mid-20s, I actually relate way more to the characters on The Mindy Project (especially Mindy before she started dating Danny) than I do to the characters on New Girl. I used to think it was the other way around, but with each passing episode, I find myself thinking that I wouldn’t want to be friends with most (if not all—except Jess most of the time) of the characters on New Girl because they’re so immature, but I definitely could see myself being friends with Mindy Lahiri.

  2. I love Mindy telling Annette that everyone needs someone to take care of them and I love that she wants to do that for Danny. I always like understanding more about how the Danny we currently see came to be and this episode was great for that. He’s taken care of other people since his father left because that’s who he is and it’s easy to mistake those people for being strong enough to not need taking care of in the same way (like his mother thought) but Mindy sees through that. She wants to take care of him and make him feel appreciated.

    I also kind of cracked up when Danny tried to convince Mindy that his mom was difficult and she replied that she was because of the daily gifts. These two just work so well in a relationship and I want more tiny things like that. Fleshing out tiny details about the characters that make perfect sense is something this show excels at and I’m excited to think that they’re gonna do the same with their relationship dynamic.

    • I agree with all of this (shocking, I know). I really love that Mindy and Danny both want to take care of each other. It’s a natural state for Danny because that’s what he was raised to do, but I really like that it seems to be something Mindy has chosen to do because Danny deserves it. Mindy is self-centered, and that’s okay; some people are just naturally that way. And that makes the fact that she genuinely wants to take care of Danny so important. It’s one of the million little ways this relationship is bringing the best out of them while still allowing their different quirks to make them comedically interesting.

      You are also so right about the little details. This show is so good at providing us with details about characters that we probably never would have thought of but are perfect fits with who these complex people are. It has always helped these characters branch out beyond sitcom stereotypes and tropes, and I love that it’s continuing.

  3. I will admit, this episode was a bit harder for me to get through. Maybe I still just have anxiety from having to go through that process with Sean’s estranged parents I just empathize a little TOO strongly, haha.

    But there were little shining moments. I loved part of her plan was bringing a “gift for mom…and mom’s best friend”. And, as Heather mentioned, I loved the little off handed comment about Mindy needing to get a gift from Danny everyday less she freak out. These are the things that make relationships feel real. We all have these weird little quirks that you work out at the beginning of a relationship, or when you first move in together. When you are with the wrong person, these are the things that drive you absolutely crazy until you cant stand them anymore. You complain about them in negative ways to your friends. Eventually you break up. When are are with the right person, you just kinda accept what you are getting in to and make it work. The crazy can be endearing. And I think thats what I loved about the exchange. Its an absolutely crazy thing to need a present everyday, but Danny was just like “yep” without any hint of animosity or bitterness, because He loves her, including her sometimes crazy demands.

    I will also admit I fast forwarded through most of the B-plot (Ive been busy this week, I even needed to speed watch a 20 minute show). The storylines are starting to feel more and more disjointed, which I really felt this episode since the interactions between all the characters together was so minimal.

    Still down for seeing where this goes. You are right about Mindy and Danny’s relationship feeling “mature” and healthy, especially in comparison to the mess that Nick and Jess turned into.

    • I feel like this was the one time in my life where my perpetual state of being single paid off. 😉 You’re the second person to tell me that the “meet the parents” thing made them anxious because it reminded them of what they went through.

      I absolutely adored what you said in your second paragraph. It’s what I’m really loving most about this relationship, to be honest. Both characters have weird quirks, but neither finds them to be deal-breakers. They love each other, and that means loving each other for all of the things most people would find weird (like needing a present every day or Danny making donations to the Vatican after they shower together).

      I think the B-plot suffered a lot from the fact that this episode aired out of order. (It was supposed to be Episode 3.) If we’d had another episode with them more connected to the story (which it looks like might happen next week—in what was supposed to be Episode 2), it may have felt less jarring to have such a disjointed side plot. But I will fully admit that these B-plots are still the show’s weakest link.

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