Two-Sentence Summary Mindy starts her fellowship at Stanford off on the wrong foot, which prompts her to try to win over her professor, who is a friend of Danny’s from med school. Meanwhile, Tamra tries to channel her complicated feelings about Morgan after their breakup into a charity basketball game.
Favorite Line “What’s more important, your relationship with Dr. Lahiri or this basketball team I made you join two days ago?” (Morgan)
My Thoughts “Stanford” was a solid—if slightly formulaic—return episode for The Mindy Project. However, I don’t mind formulaic if the formula works, and this pattern that the show’s developing of episodes ending with Mindy making huge strides in terms of her personal growth is a good example of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Another pattern I hope this show continues to run with is crafting really fun B-plots. I enjoyed basically everything about the basketball storyline. I loved that Morgan’s game tapes were just VHS copies of Space Jam, because any Space Jam reference is a good Space Jam reference. I loved Jeremy’s total confusion over the rules of basketball. I loved the use of “All I Do Is Win.” And I loved Tamra’s confidence in her child-sized shorts (which—let’s be honest— Xosha Roquemore looked amazing in).
I loved Tamra in general in this episode. Roquemore is such an underrated comedic talent in this cast, and I especially love any time she gets to play Tamra’s reactions to people discovering she pays no attention to the details of their lives. (Her inability to realize that Peter is in the same situation as she’s in with Morgan reminded me of her total confidence that Mindy’s name was “Glob” back in Season Two’s premiere episode.) Roquemore is also underrated in terms of the hints of softness she gives what could be a one-dimensional character. I really believed her feelings for Morgan, but I also really liked that they aren’t getting back together right away. Seeing her hit it off with Mindy’s intern was nice, and I hope it leads to more fun places for this character.
Sometimes watching characters develop apart from their relationship is a great thing, which I’m thinking it will be for Morgan and Tamra. It’s also a great thing for Danny and especially for Mindy. This was another really strong outing for Mindy as a character, and it makes me hopeful that the growth that landed her on my list of best character arcs in 2014 will continue into 2015 and beyond.
One of my favorite things about Mindy in this episode was her general Elle Woods vibe. I love Legally Blonde for many of the same reasons I love The Mindy Project. Both are about women who people judge as incompetent airheads because they wear bright colors, watch E!, and are stereotypically “feminine.” Both also turn that stereotype on its head, showing that women who read gossip magazines, love shoe shopping, and are immersed in pop culture can also be smart, successful, and damn good at their jobs. So when Mindy was called “Medically Blonde” at the BASH, I smiled because it’s so true; Mindy is TV’s Elle Woods, which is probably why I love her so much.
But like Elle, Mindy had to go through some moments of self-doubt before finding her footing. Speaking of footing, what did everyone think of Ana Gasteyer’s friendly feet in this episode? Part of me thinks it was a waste of a great comedic actor, but part of me found Chris Messina’s reactions so good that I didn’t mind. It was certainly cringe-worthy, but I actually thought Messina was able to make that scene stay on the funny side of the “funny/embarrassing” divide. However, I would like to see Gasteyer come back and have more to do, because her line about having a bunny being harder than having children was perfection.
That awkward dinner led to some brutal honesty from Danny about Mindy’s self-doubt, but he wasn’t wrong in saying he couldn’t believe in her because she didn’t believe in herself. It’s romantic to think there are people out there who believe in us even when we don’t, but we can’t live our lives letting someone else’s belief in us fuel our fires. Eventually, we have to do that ourselves. We have to be the first ones to believe we can do something; we have to learn to rely on ourselves instead of on validation from others—even validation from loved ones.
Mindy may be confident in her “ass that won’t quit,” but she’s less confident in herself as a doctor, especially up against the best of the best in this fellowship program. However, that’s slowly starting to change, and I love seeing her come into her own in terms of her sense of professional self-esteem. Giving the surgery to another member of the program was such a confident move; she knew she’d have another shot to earn a surgery, and it was another example of Mindy doing the right thing instead of the easy thing, which has been a very nice development for her character.
Mindy’s confidence in her relationship is also such a beautiful thing to see. Yes, I loved the fact that Danny came back, but that wasn’t the point of their final scene. The point was Mindy wanting to have him by her side but not needing him there—and feeling strong enough to say that to him. This is a new Mindy Lahiri, so different than who she was with past boyfriends and even different than who she was earlier on in her relationship with Danny. This is a Mindy who doesn’t need a boyfriend to feel good about herself, which is what makes the fact that she still wants Danny all the more special.
By verbalizing that she doesn’t need a man but still wants one, Mindy as character did something really wonderful for women on TV. She showed that there’s nothing wrong with wanting a relationship—that wanting love doesn’t make you weak or incapable of functioning without a boyfriend. However, she also showed that it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t feel like you need to be in a relationship in order to feel whole, successful, or complete. Believing in yourself independent of a man’s opinion is important, but it’s also okay to want the support of your boyfriend in life’s big moments.
Mindy saying she doesn’t feel like she needs Danny by her side but she still wants him there was wonderful because she’s choosing Danny even though she knows she doesn’t need him. That’s far more romantic than someone loving their boyfriend because they feel they can’t live without them. And Danny’s perfect little smile after Mindy tells him that showed that he knows how special it is for her to want him there despite finally believing she can stand on her own two feet. She’s made a choice to love Danny just because she loves him—not because she feels she needs him (or a relationship in general) to be complete. And it’s written all over his adorably smitten face just how honored he is to be loved like that and how proud he is of her for growing stronger and more confident.
“Stanford” followed the basic formula of Mindy gets Danny into hijinks → Mindy and Danny fight → Mindy and Danny make up and one or both of them grows in the process. However predictable this formula may be, the show can follow it forever if the character growth that comes out of it continues to be as grounded and beautiful as it’s been lately with Mindy. It’s amazing to watch a romantic relationship on TV that’s actually turning a female character into a more independent version of herself. The best relationships give us the sense of stability and support we need to grow as individuals, and that’s exactly what Mindy’s relationship with Danny is doing for her. It’s a true pleasure to watch, and I sincerely hope it continues.