Title Caramel Princess Time
Two-Sentence Summary Mindy and Danny’s long-simmering argument about her chronic lateness comes to a head and leads to some moments of revelation for both of them. Meanwhile, Peter is set up on a surprising blind date.
Favorite Line “I’m giving you the silent treatment, by the way. That’s why I walked right by you and didn’t respond.” (Mindy)
My Thoughts Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or at least that’s how I felt after watching “Caramel Princess Time.” The last couple of episodes of The Mindy Project before the show’s little hiatus weren’t my favorites, but I thought “Caramel Princess Time” was the show’s way of coming back strong. This episode was firing on all cylinders: Its B-plot was solid, its humor wasn’t just one-note, and its handling of another Mindy/Danny conflict felt very true to these characters while still managing to surprise me in a very good way.
Let’s start from the outside and work our way to the episode’s caramel center. (I know, I know…Lame pun is lame.) I would like Allison Tolman’s Abby to stick around for as long as possible. I didn’t watch Fargo, so I had no preconceived ideas about her, but I loved her instantly. The self-confidence and sense of self-respect that she brought to Abby are such perfect counterpoints to Peter’s insecurity and immaturity. Tolman and Adam Pally had a very natural chemistry in that final writing group scene, too, and I’d like to see more of that. I’d also like to read more of Peter’s fiction because there was too much perfection in “A Titanic Mistake: A Sunken Romance” for me to outline properly in this post. (Although I will make special mention of Peter’s ridiculous “old pirate captain” voice that he gave to the captain of the Titanic.) There was something really adorable about Peter falling for Abby through her writing and wanting to connect with her in her element. But maybe that’s just the writer in me talking.
Peter’s interactions with Abby highlighted an important theme in the episode’s A-plot: Sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone in order to leave bad patterns of behavior behind and grow. Peter, Mindy, and Danny all were put in new situations this week, which forced them to examine how they treat the people around them, leading them towards real moments of character growth.
I was incredibly annoyed with Mindy at the start of the episode. Punctuality (especially at a movie or event that requires reservations, like the comedy act) matters. It’s just bad manners to keep people waiting more than a couple of minutes. I was also furious with Mindy for changing Danny’s watch because I knew how upset I’d be if someone changed the time on my phone to purposely make me late for work. It was a very in-character action for Mindy to take, but that didn’t mean I liked it.
All of that annoyance led to happiness when I saw that this was going to be an episode where Mindy actually learned that her self-centered behavior was wrong. And she learned it in the best possible way—with some help from Annette and Dot. It was great to see Rhea Perlman back, and I think Mindy and Annette’s dynamic has become one of the best on the show in only two episodes. I love that these two women keep each other honest. And, in this episode, Annette’s behavior helped Mindy see that she’d been behaving selfishly by constantly being late for things Danny wanted to do. We often see Danny grow and develop, so it’s nice to see Mindy have those moments of becoming a better person and better relationship partner, too.
Just because Mindy experienced a lot of growth and self-awareness in this episode doesn’t mean Danny didn’t, however. That was my favorite thing about it: Both Mindy and Danny ended the episode better people than they were at the start of it. Neither one was a blameless party in their conflict. While Mindy shouldn’t have changed Danny’s watch (or been late all the time), Danny’s “finger gun” reaction was way over-the-top. It was nice to see him actually face consequences for it (which were hilariously related to his behavior in the previous episode—nice continuity, writers!).
The counseling session started out very funny, with Morgan talking about being a cookie addict (Aren’t we all?) and the failed partner exercises between Morgan and Danny. However, the writers decided to go for emotional impact when it came to why Danny was so upset about Mindy being late, and it worked. I love that they know what a gift they have in Chris Messina, and they try to use his talent for giving a moment real depth and resonance wherever possible. Nobody can turn on a dime from hilariously grumpy to heartbreakingly sincere like Messina.
Danny’s confession about his dad never showing up to take him to see Ghostbusters was devastating. It was the kind of memory a kid like Danny would hold onto forever, a wound made when he was young that left one heck of a scar. The writing of that confession was so good; it was achingly specific, which allowed us to believe that Danny replays this memory whenever someone he loves is late to meet him somewhere. No matter how much faith Danny has in his relationship with Mindy, there is still a part of him that fears the day she stops showing up. And that’s so sad but so believable.
It’s also why it was so sweet to see Mindy waiting for Danny on those porch steps where his dad never showed all those years ago. No matter how ridiculous she acts sometimes, she loves him, and she’ll never stop showing up when he needs her. That final scene between them was filled with such unforced sweetness and easy chemistry. Messina and Mindy Kaling have a real handle on how a relationship between these two feels now, and it’s beautiful to watch.
I especially loved the moment when Danny explained that he gets so upset at Mindy because of his dad, and she made a point of telling him she wasn’t going to press him to tell her more. It was an interesting choice to have Danny simply thank her for that and not actually tell her, but I liked it. Danny had just figured out how much of a hold that painful memory still had over him, so it would make sense for him to not feel comfortable sharing right away. Even in the most stable relationships, it takes time to share wounds from our pasts. What was important was that Mindy was true to her word; she didn’t push him for more. She took the openness he was giving her in that moment and appreciated it for what it was instead of asking for more, which was another sign of growth from her.
Ultimately, the best thing about “Caramel Princess Time” was that it was about both parties in a relationship working through a conflict to be better partners and just overall better people. It was another example of The Mindy Project using Mindy and Danny’s relationship as a way to facilitate real growth for these characters. And it was another reminder of why this couple is one of my favorites on television.
What a great way to come back. For me at least, this episode was the best of the season so far because we actually had solid A and B plots (and partially for Allison Tolman).
I like that Peter has been interested in women who challenge him lately. It’s some nice growth for his character and he can still make a mess out of these relationships but they make him try to be better. He’s a little crazy if he doesn’t think Allison Tolman is an adorable human being but I love that he fell in love with her work and what she did. She’s starting to become impressed with women for their abilities which is huge for him.
Chris Messina is just so good at switching between comedic and devastating. I really love seeing and learning about those moments in Danny’s past that made him who he is because Messina just sells the hell out of them. That little bit of fear that he learned in his childhood about someone he loves just not showing up made me want to give little Danny a hug and it made me proud that adult Danny could make that connection and admit it.
So of course, I love that he found Mindy waiting for him. She may be late, no matter how much she tries to work on it, but she’ll show up. Now that she’s experienced a day of errand-running with his mom and how frustrating it can be, I think she really will make the effort to be on time (at least more on time). And that’s important for this relationship. Danny has done so much of the changing and adapting and I like that Mindy is doing that too for him.
I think you might be right on calling this the best episode of the season so far. I loved everything you said about Peter starting to gravitate towards women who challenge him. It’s a nice bit of growth for his character. Also, Allison Tolman is completely adorable. 😉
Little Danny seemed to need so many more hugs than he was given, so I echo your feelings about wanting to go back in fictional time and give him a hug after hearing the story about his dad.
“Danny has done so much of the changing and adapting and I like that Mindy is doing that too for him.” – This is exactly what I loved so much about this episode. Watching Danny grow is always wonderful, but it was time for Mindy to show some real growth, too. Relationships are about compromise and both parties becoming better people, and I love that we’re starting to see how Mindy is becoming a better person through this relationship, too.
I can’t believe it’s been so long since we had an episode!
I enjoyed both stories and appreciated that they used Chris Messina’s dramatic skills so well, giving us a look at why Danny feels so sensitive about Mindy’s lateness. (I would find it very annoying too, and disrespectful, but I didn’t expect them to take in the direction of why Danny gets SO upset about it).
I loved that Mindy changed his “digital” (that’s what he said, right?!) It was a totally Mindy thing to do, to the point that I knew as soon as she turned towards him that she was going to do that. Terrible! But very funny.
And that hairstyle and the way Danny was turned on by it!
I love that they’ve been together for 7 months now, and there’s still that very solid sense that, no matter what they might disagree about, this relationship isn’t going anywhere. The obstacles are there for character development, not to tease us with “will they break up over this?” And because time is being stretched there’s potential for them to move in/marry/talk about kids at some point in a season or so (perhaps) without that’s unrealistically fast for their characters.
I laughed at the sea captain voice too! I like Abby a lot.
And Annette and Dot… they’re delightful, but I would want to wring their necks… Danny taking those two out to run their errands every Saturday? oh my goodness… the man has patience. No wonder he can handle Mindy and her crazy. He’s well practiced.
I absolutely love what you said about the solidity of Danny and Mindy’s relationship. It’s so nice to watch it without worrying that the “conflict of the week” is going to break them up. I love when shows don’t play games with their audience, so I have a lot of respect for this show’s writers for not wanting to jerk viewers around like that. It’s refreshing and makes for a much more enjoyable show.
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