Two-Sentence Summary When Mindy is offered the chance at a Stanford teaching fellowship, both she and Danny are faced with difficult choices. Meanwhile, office Christmas party shenanigans abound, including a case of mistaken identity for Morgan.
Favorite Line “Doctors tend to think of compassion as a liability, not an asset, which is what makes Dr. Mindy Lahiri so truly exceptional among her peers. Her passion to help is a constant reminder of why we all first wanted to practice medicine. Of all her skills, her most impressive is her single-minded devotion to those in her care. Her only flaw that I can think of is that sometimes she doesn’t realize what a great doctor she really is.” (Danny’s letter of recommendation)
My Thoughts Don’t you just love it when shows can still surprise you? No show zigs when I think it’s going to zag like The Mindy Project, and I love that about it. I went into “Christmas” with a lot of reservations about what could happen in this episode, especially with so many previous episodes hinting at this as a make-or-break moment for a proposal. Never in a million years could I have guessed that my reservations would have been addressed as well as they were in this episode, with a romantic gesture far more satisfying than a rushed proposal and a Christmas gift perhaps even better than the one Danny got for Mindy last year. (Although I’m still not sure anything could ever really top that.)
The Mindy Project’s Christmas episodes are always fun, and this was certainly no exception. Even though Morgan’s mistaken-identity subplot was straight out of the clichéd-sitcom-plot handbook, the presence of the always-charming Julia Stiles made it more entertaining than it had any right to be. And Peter was fantastic in this episode. Yes, he still had his blatantly (though perfectly in-character) sexist moments of telling Danny Mindy’s Stanford dreams had to be a proposal trap (instead of an actual professional goal), but otherwise he once again showed remarkable growth, which was pointed out by the character himself in a way I found just meta enough to be fun.
My favorite Peter moment, though, came when he gave Lauren the truck for her son. After an episode that showed Jeremy wanting nothing to do with Lauren’s son, it was sweet to see Peter care so much even after they broke up (in such a bad way, too). Adam Pally made that moment resonate with a very genuine sweetness, and I like when we get to see the softness behind Peter’s frat-boy exterior.
Ultimately, though, “Christmas” was all about Mindy and Danny (and Wreath Witherspoon, naturally). It was about a woman who’s grown so much thanks to the stability this relationship has provided for her, as well as the challenges she’s taken on as a teacher and mentor at work. And it was about a man learning to love a complex, passionate woman like Mindy as she needs and wants to be loved.
I’ll admit it; I was ready to write scathing things about Danny after he convinced the other doctor not to write Mindy’s letter of recommendation. Danny has done some questionable and even downright indefensible things before (it’s what makes him feel like a real, messy human being and not a one-note “perfect boyfriend” character), but this was possibly his lowest move ever. I know he was scared of losing Mindy in that moment, and I know Mindy doesn’t have the greatest track record of sticking with things. But to go behind her back like that and destroy her dream was all kinds of wrong.
Thankfully, the show made it clear that Danny’s actions were problematic, and he ended up rectifying the situation upon learning how sincerely Mindy wanted that opportunity. The scene between the two of them after she found out she wasn’t getting that letter of recommendation was another fantastic acting moment from Mindy Kaling. As Mindy Lahiri has grown as a character this season, Kaling has grown as an actress. She’s been able to tap into very grounded, honest emotions in a way that makes a larger-than-life character like Mindy Lahiri become someone who is suddenly very relatable.
Mindy’s desire to apply for that teaching fellowship showed just how far this character has come from who she was in the show’s pilot. That Mindy would have used it as a proposal trap or would never have considered it because she was that desperate for love. This Mindy, however, sees her own value beyond her relationship while still trusting the foundation of that relationship to last through eight months that would be spent apart. Being in a mature, stable relationship has helped Mindy grow into someone who is confident both in her relationship and in her life outside of that relationship. And it’s been such a pleasure to watch that growth take place right before our eyes.
It’s been interesting to watch the subtle but very clear change in relationship dynamics, as Mindy has grown more confident in her relationship while Danny has grown more anxious. That was even evident in the way they approached giving the “perfect gift” in this episode. While last year was Danny’s year to know exactly what to give Mindy (and the rest of the world), this year was Mindy’s year to give Danny the most creative and beautifully personal gift imaginable. I loved that all of the references to Danny’s Ken Burns obsession paid off with this fake documentary. But more than anything, I loved watching Danny watch it.
No one does reaction shots and quiet moments of realization like Chris Messina. As he watched Mindy read his letter to her while she was in Haiti, it was gorgeous to see him come to the realization that he was done being scared, that he loves her enough to take risks and step out of his comfort zone for her. She’s worth it; she’s been worth it for him since he wrote her that letter—and long before that. To have that moment paired with Mindy’s adorable statement that his words went to her head was just perfect. It was the kind of romantic moment this show does better than any other.
However, the most romantic moment in this episode was still to come at that point. First, Danny need to learn a lesson only his Ma could teach him. Yes, he’d finally reached a place where he felt brave and sure enough to propose to Mindy, but Annette was right; Mindy didn’t want a proposal anymore. She wanted Stanford. She wanted what Danny took from her because he was too afraid to lose her. So the best way for Danny to show how much he loved Mindy and how committed he was to her wasn’t proposing; it was letting her live out her professional dream and loving her enough to wait eight months for her to come back home to him.
Of course it was funny to watch Danny deal with the all-female nativity scene, but there wasn’t a lot of humor in the episode’s last moments—just a lot of heart. I didn’t think it was possible for Danny to outdo himself as a gift-giver, but he managed it. His letter of recommendation for Mindy was beautiful not just in the meaning behind the gesture but in the actual words themselves. I have a bit of an obsession with men who admire and respect the women they love for being really good at their jobs (Ben Wyatt, Richard Castle, Michael Vaughn, etc.), and now Danny Castellano has joined those illustrious ranks. You can write me all the flowery romantic speeches in the world, and I will certainly swoon over them. But nothing gets my emotions going like a man simply looking at a woman and saying that he believes in her abilities and will support her as she chases a new dream. Those kinds of moments—like Danny’s letter—speak to relationships founded on mutual respect and appreciation for the whole person. Danny doesn’t just love Mindy because she’s beautiful and funny; he also loves her because she’s great at her job in a way only she can be, with the single-minded devotion she has towards everything she loves—from her job to Danny.
It’s not often that I compare any relationship to Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope, but Danny’s letter reflected all of the things I love most about that relationship—the support, encouragement, understanding, and love for everything that makes your partner who they are. The joy on Mindy and Danny’s faces as she found out she was accepted by the program mirrored the joy I felt watching those last minutes unfold. And it’s a feeling of joy I plan on holding onto for as long as I can.