Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x02 "Annette Castellano Is My Nemesis" [Contributor: Ann]

"Annette Castellano Is My Nemesis"
Original Airdate: September 23, 2014

There’s a point in "Annette Castellano is My Nemesis" where Mindy, after offending Annette so much that she storms away from lunch, turns to Danny and whispers: “I think that was an A-.” The joke, obviously, is that the lunch did not go that well, but Mindy wants to pretend it wasn’t as bad as it was, so she only offers it the minimum demerit. A- would only mean light nitpicking, but the truth is that the lunch deserves more criticism than what Mindy assesses.

That’s kind of how I feel right now. I love this show, and it would be preferable for me to pretend that its faults didn’t exist. But it would be most preferable for me to have a show that doesn’t have these faults, and with that ideal in my head I have to say that I did not like "Annette Castellano is My Nemesis" at all.

Let’s start with the good, at least. First, for tackling a "meeting the parents" episode trope, I thought this one was handled creatively. I loved that Max Minghella returned as Richie, I loved Rhea Perlman as Annette, and I loved how all three of them (Annette, Richie, and Danny) made up a believable family unit. I loved that Mindy had a "fullproof, four point, mom-catching plan," especially because the companion episode where Mindy's plan was mentioned ("Christmas Party Sex Trap") was also written by Tracey Wigfield, a writer whose work I consider especially strong. I also loved that the plot’s resolution had Mindy and Annette not as progressing as friends but at an impasse: Mindy is not going anywhere and Annette probably won’t succumb to the natural resolution Danny wants so bad.

I also appreciated how both the A and B-plots were tied to the theme of men handling the women in their lives, whether it’s Danny and his mom, Danny and Mindy, Morgan and Tamra, or Peter and Lauren. That cohesion was welcome to me, because it allowed for the two divergent plots to find common ground. From a conceptual standpoint, then—the creative and realistic depiction of the family unit, the understandable conflict Mindy and Annette would face, the connection between A and B plot—this episode should have been a success.

But in execution, this episode was - personally - anything but. There are so many reasons why, but the main reason, I believe, is the pacing of the episode. I mean, within the first 2 minutes—over 10% of the limited time we are allotted per episode, and that’s not even mentioning the amount of time that must be devoted to the B-plot—the only thing of importance that we learn is that Danny didn’t tell Annette about Mindy. There are so many other, more concise avenues the show could have taken to get to that point, and maybe one of them would have been better than Annette making a surprise visit to her son’s home to drop off TV Guides.

Once we get past that, then there’s a wheelbarrow of exposition that we have to wade through, too. Danny has introduced his Ma to other girls and has she didn’t like them, and that’s why he hasn’t told her about Mindy. It’s also her - Annette's - birthday, which is why she’s in the city, and Richie is going to take her shopping, and then they’re going to brunch, oh, and Annette loves to give Danny a hard time and coddle Richie, even though Danny takes care of pretty much all of her bills and Richie barely has a job, and he just plays tennis and has a webseries about how to be gay on a budget that had its first part 8 months ago.

Thanks to this exposition and in addition to it, this episode broke a cardinal sin in telling instead of showing. Subtlety is lost in both the A and B plots as a result. Danny buying Annette a stove is awkward, so Dot will say that it is awkward. Tamra is such a demanding girlfriend that she is allergic to everything except for expensive lobster, based on the fact that she’s “manipulative by nature,” which must be stated more than once. Beverly offers to buy Morgan’s dogs: “She’s going to make a mink coat,” Peter says, after about 20 seconds of that insinuation. “That was a nice moment,” Mindy says after we witness a nice moment. “I do not like you,” Annette says to Mindy once Mindy offends her. And so on. Even that Danny has an erection is made stark clear, if his reaction wasn’t clear enough.

I found this to be especially evident in the most significant conversation between Mindy and Annette at the hotel—both when Annette says why Danny likes Mindy, and in how Mindy is different than Danny’s other girlfriends (repeating a joke from earlier in the episode that Mindy is different because she looks different from the others). I get it. Mindy is different, obviously. Her leaving the office at all makes her different. At so many points, I felt coddled by the dialogue, not allowed to make conclusions by myself. It’s exhausting, because then on the other side you have a mountain of questions that never get answered, or cuts that are not aptly explained. Like, if Mrs. Castellano hated the wisps that always agreed with her, why did she fall for Mindy’s shtick at the restaurant? How did Mindy find the hotel? What’s up with Richie? What happened between the hotel scene and the kitchen scene?

On the topic of cuts, I have to say that the beginning and the end of the episode were very awkward to watch—the continuation of the cold open into the first scene did not sit well with me, nor did the kitchen-to-childhood bedroom one. It felt like there were so many scenes that would have filled in those spaces that the short time just did not allow—not that it matters. The final product is what matters, and the final project was uneven.

Another sin of this episode is that it was not funny and/or boring. The jokes that were pulled out for this episode felt like shallow retreads of jokes that have already been made, which was disappointing, because I know they can do better. Take, for example, Mindy having the biggest cans in the city. Or the heavy-handed joke about Michael Fassbender. Weird digressions in conversation also felt uncomfortable to me, like a necessity to fill joke quota rather than a conversation that might naturally be funny (Mindy’s digression on end meat, Danny’s on Italians and wine).

And as for boring… the B-plot, which I was so excited for, was just plain uninteresting to me. There’s no reason for me to be invested in Tamra and Morgan’s relationship if we know basically nothing about it. I mentioned last week how I loved the plot because it took a common couples-argument and made it distinctly Mindy-and-Danny—impossible to replicate. For Tamra and Morgan, this was not at all the case. It was trite and bad.

I will say, though, that Mindy and Danny continue to brighten up any scene that they are in, whether together or apart. They’re big personalities who have the capability of making things novel. I went this far without mentioning Mindy sexy-whispering (or kissing, it's hard to say) to Danny over “Strange Magic,” but damn. This is a real moment, for a real couple, and in that way it feels surprisingly fresh.

But it comes after Mindy says that Danny is a good son, and before Annette barges in and loudly exclaims that Danny has a boner. An example of bad pacing in an episode that is full of it. I hope this problem is fixed in the next episode—I want The Mindy Project to be worth an A- or higher, instead of just wishing it was.

Other notes:
  • Adam Pally looked super hot in this episode, by the way. Had to say it. (So did the other guys, too.) 
  • Again — Rhea Perlman killed it in this episode with the material she was given, as did Dot. I am so happy Rhea has a recurring role this season.
  • One of my favorite jokes is that Beverly continues to wear Mindy’s clothes, this time wearing a nice outfit from "Hiring and Firing."
  • I will say that Tracey is such a queen of wordplay. I loved the various “wives” shows that Mindy rattles off to find common ground with Annette, and though it wasted time I did think the “cleaning lady” schtick was clever.
  • Mindy, what was the green thing you were wearing? God bless.
  • On the other hand, Tamra looked gorgeous.
  • I had nowhere to say this either, but another criticism I have is of Annette saying “pube city.” Not the right character for that voice, I  think.
  • I have loved the music choices on this show. “Strange Magic” is awesome and is a song I have definitely heard on Casey Kasem, so I’m gonna have to listen to that song forever now.
  • So Mindy and Danny have been dating for months—which, as I suspected, makes 3x01 come at just another random time in their coupledom. Which is a disappointment and a waste of some interesting questions and developments.
Do you disagree with me? Do you agree with me? Let me know! I was surprised at how sour I was on this episode.


  1. Hey Ann, I think it's great that you objectively write about a show you clearly love; you're not going to adore every episode. For me, there are certainly episodes in seasons one and two that fall short. I actually enjoyed this episode and I'll tell you why: Mindy and Danny's chemistry and domesticity as a couple. I agree with a lot of your points about the pacing and the exposition, telling instead of showing, but I felt Wigfield did a good job writing this episode. Rhea Pearlman is a gem and I loved the dynamic between Annette and Danny. It gives Danny/Messina a chance to show more layers. How great is he and how much does he reveal in his face when Annetta insults his gift/stove and then later compliments the fan? That Mindy is a part of helping Danny's mom to show some appreciation for her son, was moving to me. I also loved watching the three of them together in the kitchen and I loved that Danny and Mindy could talk on his bed, be realistically sexual with one another, and then be interrupted by his mom, which is a classic trope, but works in my opinion, Annette and Danny giving Mindy guff for not knowing the sport's player just makes her more a member of the family. Danny and Mindy's relationship feels lived-in for me, which is the highest compliment I can give since even domesticated, they are very interesting; I could watch the pair talk nonsense and I would still enjoy their banter. Hope you enjoy the next episode more! Fondly, Jessica

  2. Ann, I think your ability to see TMP objectively even as such a huge fan of the show speaks to your authenticity and your credibility as someone who reviews and appreciates good tv. I agree with some of your points, and disagree with others, which I think is just to be expected. A few things - if I may :) I didn't mind the continuation of the cold open into the opening scene, since it cut from the interaction with Annette to the interaction between Danny and Mindy. It doesn't reflect the tendency of the show which is to jump to a completely different scene after the opening credits, but it worked for me, because it went from one conversation/interaction to a completely different one, with a different tone.

    Also - in reference to the "show don't tell" rule, I think some of your examples might be a bit of a stretch... to me anyways. I think when cited out of context they can be stacked up to make a point, but in context, I think a lot of them worked. The Morgan/Beverly/Peter interaction for example... To me it felt like Peter clarified Beverly's intentions to point out to Morgan what he was missing out on - I actually thought it was a really funny moment when he told Morgan. He wasn't saying it to tell the audience, but to tell Morgan, who clearly didn't get it (that was the joke), because this fact was to be revisited later in the episode (with Morgan not wanting to leave Beverly alone with the dogs). The continuation of that joke wouldn't have worked with the scene ending with Morgan not understanding Beverly's intentions. So that to me was just a character pointing something out to another oblivious character. Not a character blatantly telling the audience what's going on (in contrast, for example, to Jess telling Schmidt "I'm so gullible").

    Similarly, Annette's "I do not like you" was more to contrast her earlier declaration of "I like this one!" than it was to tell the audience anything, and I LOVED Dot's obvious "it made everything awkward" because that, to me, just speaks to how loud and "say-what-you-see-even-if-it's-rude/obvious" personality she has. I've known a few older women with that same personality, who would have totally made that obvious comment, only making things MORE awkward... Anyways, to me that was more of a comment to expand on Dot's personality than it was to tell the audience it was awkward instead of showing the audience.

  3. (Part 2!)

    Anywho. :) I do agree with you about the abundance of jokes that felt forced and over the top, like the "make ends meet" joke. I was very confused by the B-Plot... how we were made to believe Tamra was manipulative, how Morgan went from peeing sitting down, to then being allowed to pee standing again, then needing to sell his dogs, then being allowed to keep them.... why the whole "She only likes expensive jewelry and lobster" bit if she was actually allergic to the dog and NOT being manipulative? It just felt all over the place. I also feel like there's a missing piece between the kitchen and the bedroom scene. But that said, it's not uncommon for TMP to skip the middle part of a party or gathering, focusing instead on the interactions in the beginning and end (to me kind of like how Be Cool when from the party with everyone to just the staff sitting in the living room post party - there's obviously the whole middle part when the party ended, the guests left, someone called everyone to sit down, etc. Similarly, there's the part in this episode where they ate dinner, Richie arrived, dinner ended, and danny took mindy upstairs). I actually loved the mom/mindy/danny interaction at the end, showing how overbearing Annette is, how she lacks social skills, how Danny still feels super embarrassed around his mom, and the "you're so old" moment to me was so perfect!

    But what stands out in the episode is Annette fantastic personality and presence, how she continues to piece together Danny's complicated history, and Danny and Mindy's relationship. It's real, domestic, awkward at times, messy, sweet, romantic... I just love it. I love the cheek kisses and the love glances and the little interactions contorted against last week's super sexy episode. It shows the reality of a multi-faceted domestic relationship, and it shows the characters staying true to themselves while still growing as a couple. They really do shine together!

    Definitely not the best episode, though I think I probably found less to critique than you did. That said, I enjoyed reading your review, and I really do applaud your ability to be objective and to give an intelligent review as opposed to the "Uh Oh is this another will they or won't they?" biased garbage from, uh, certain other reviewers.

    Look forward to reading more!


    P.S. Peter did look super hot, as did Tamra and Morgan. And even Beverly! Secondary characters are stepping it up this year! I love Beverly's increased presence and am so sad to say that I didn't miss Jeremy or Betsy's absence. Like at all. :/

  4. I thought this episode was pretty solid. Danny writing a poem called "brown orchid" was truly a pleasant surprise. Mindy was adorable. Morgan was adorable. I'm a huge Morgan fan and appreciate his character. Adam Pally does look really hot. Sometimes it's hard to watch Mindy be so cheerful when Danny is such a grump but I still love them so much. I did feel slightly unfulfilled by the episode.... maybe a feeling of dread that the honeymoon is almost over? Don't know. Those were big shoes to follow after that premiere.

  5. Ann, as always I absolutely love your input. And I love that the readers here see what I see -- an intelligent person who really loves The Mindy Project but who is also able to talk about it in a critical way. It's one thing to flail over GIFs and reblog cute moments with squeals of joy, but it's another to really be able to discuss characters and plot direction, and even - sometimes - flaws. TMP isn't a perfect show and no show that any of us watch IS. What's great is that you understand the series better than anyone else I know and love it so much that you are the BEST qualified person to discuss its shortcomings because you know the reason WHY certain things don't work. It's one thing to criticize a show for doing something you don't like -- it's another to be able to articulate WHY.

    Ryan McGee tweeted that this week: "Pro tip: knowing why a TV show is your favorite is far more important than knowing which TV show is the 'best.'" And I think this quote is so intricate and BRILLIANT. It's easy for critics and bloggers to say that a television show is the 'best.' It's more important to be able to articulate why a television show is your favorite. If you cannot -- if you can't put into words why something is great or, conversely, why something is flawed beyond 'it just IS,' then you're doing a poor job as a writer.

    That diatribe was all to say that the whole reason I brought Ann here was because I admired how in-depth she thought about television. It wasn't JUST a fan on Tumblr talking about TMP -- it was someone who saw the characters for the complex, layered people they are and saw the show as such, too. And seeing a show like that rather than just seeing it as 'the best,' is what makes her a great writer. And I'm glad she's around. :)

    I obviously am the New Girl savant at this place and don't watch TMP with the same level of depth, but I agree with most of what Ann says. For me, the B-plot was HORRID. It served little to no purpose and though I love Adam Pally and his face and his face when he's holding a dog, the whole Morgan/Tamra thing doesn't seem solid enough yet to arc anything more than a C-plot, IMO. I like both characters separately and when they're integrated into A and B-stories, and Peter can obviously hold his own in a B-story but the combination of the three made for one of the weakest plots. Plus it was confusing, as the anons above have said -- were were supposed to believe Tamra was faking her allergy? We were supposed to and then when she wasn't (... she wasn't?), I was just really confused as to what the whole moral of the story was.

    Anyway, thank you all who have been reading and commenting so thoughtfully and wonderfully on Ann's work even if you don't agree!