Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x05 "The Devil Wears Lands' End" [Contributor: Ann]

"The Devil Wears Lands' End"
Original Airdate: October 14, 2014

Finally, my recognizable show is back! It’s back! And again I am strung along, convinced after a strong showing by everyone on the cast (and by writer Jeremy Bronson) that The Mindy Project has all the pieces to be its best version of itself... if only it would just put those pieces together.

Not that this episode’s perfect. It isn’t, and it has not won Best Episode Ever (that would be "French Me, You Idiot"). But it might have won Best Episode of the Season, and I think what makes this episode especially strong for me is that it spends less time looking to make a punchline (though it does make several) and instead wants to show that there are characters behind these jokes. I know, I know; I said I was going to watch this show differently and accept that it had changed into a mile-a-minute joke generator. I am still skeptical, based on what I’ve seen from “Annette Castellano” to this point, and so I will continue to watch it with these expectations intact.

But my poison has always been when this show can mix the two together in an effective way. In a realistic way. There is so much more to analyze when there are layers, and while I love jokes and would hate if this show went without them, its heart rests in the characters. I will say that I think this is one of the most balanced episodes to date of The Mindy Project. That has been a particular strength of this season; I am beginning to care about the axillary characters now that all my energy is not invested in the will-they-won’t-they dance. I would actually argue that—for the third week in a row—the B plot actually was more interesting to me than the A-plot.

Let’s talk about why.

I have said, many times, that I have been loving the Peter-Jeremy-Lauren triangle this season. It endears me to Peter, it fleshes Jeremy out more than any fat suit could, and it simultaneously teaches me about these characters’ pasts and develops them for their respective futures. Whether or not you like Lauren, she is the romantic partner responsible for the most development in a character besides Danny and Mindy’s dual growth from each other.

Take Peter, for example. I am not a huge fan of him, but I do not hate him, and as I learn more and more about him each week I want to see him find some success. He is both disgusting when it comes to women and overeager. He’s childlike in how he perceives real relationships. He would give a woman a tiara as often as he would want to attempt the ascot, and he would tell everyone he has failed to give a woman as orgasm as easily as he would watch sex tapes at work. He’s good-intentioned but a relationship buffoon, and our best defense of his character is that his heart was broken by a girl named Becca, (who I really hope shows her face this season!).

In this episode, we get an even better defense for Why Peter Is The Way That He Is: every girl he’s been with, pretty much, has left him, and normally has left him for a friend. Like Jeremy and Lauren. That the pattern has continued with these two leaves Peter more hapless than ever, because with all his enthusiasm for the women he’s with he doesn’t know how to be the type of man they want to stay with, both romantically and sexually. All bark and no bite. That is interesting to me not for its comedic value; it’s interesting to me because it makes Peter a sympathetic character, a relatable character. Mindy Kaling has said that this season is about Peter’s quest for love, and I never thought I’d be invested in it—but here I am.

I also have not been able to shut up about Jeremy. I have always adored Ed Weeks and known that he is a funny enough guy and a skilled enough actor to pull off good material. The problem has always been that the material he’s been given was weak. With this love triangle, and the pleas for friendship Jeremy’s made, I feel like I’m learning more and more about him as a character besides “lothario” and “cultured.” He’ll play “The Sound of Silence” on the banjo, for example or, in this episode, whip out a really impressive American accent to help get in Peter’s good graces and to win a beer pong championship against Shonda Rhimes.

With these added details, I am made to care about Jeremy more, too. I love the jokes that he makes about his father—how he’d have to throw ice in his drink, or how his nickname was “Not-Mine” when he was younger—but now that he’s become compelling and not one-note, I’d love to see that relationship explored again, because it would mean more. Knowing how great Ed Weeks can act, I think he would nail it; I also think this relationship is being set up as his biggest detriment to true progress, like how Peter is anchored by his past as Lefty, or how Mindy and Danny’s “set in their ways” attitudes block their path to uninterrupted happiness. These are real character conflicts and I’m impressed by how The Mindy Project has developed them so far.

Speaking of “real character conflicts,” let’s talk about Mindy and Danny, the stars of this show.
Why did I love their plot in this episode so much? Like the others have been in this season, it’s not especially serialized, though keen eyes (not mine) have noted the increasing number of objects strewn around Danny’s house. It also followed the similar pattern of “Mindy and Danny are at odds with each other, Danny relents, Danny and Mindy make up by having sex.”

The biggest difference between those episodes and "The Devil Wears Lands' End" is that this episode is so much more character-driven. Cliff isn’t guilting Danny into doing something. Not even Mindy is. Its focus is on the passive listening of Danny as Mindy follows his advice that convinces him to get involved. She’s willing to do the thing she hates most—no, not that thing, the telling the truth thing—because she loves him. She’s willing to go against her dramatic nature, at professional cost, because of how much she loves Danny.

I loved being the passive listener, too. I loved seeing Mindy throughout this entire episode not be a complete doofus, or have her character be melded to the writer’s desire for the sake of a joke. Instead, she was working from a place that made sense of her character, whether it was in defense of her practice or her determination to get Jean to like her at whatever cost. Even her histrionics made sense—when she’s in a corner, she uses that sort of manipulation to assess a problem and then wiggle her way out of it (consistent with her behavior in "Crimes and Misdemeanors," and any time she’s been lying on her floor). So I loved that “love for Danny” took precedence over such an established character trait.

Likewise, Danny’s love for Mindy took precedence over his love of being right, of being righteously truthful, of being simple and straightforward. This episode isn’t meant to promote lying to your superior; it’s not seeking to address that issue. Jean’s involvement in this episode is a far more subtle means to a (Lands') end than what we’ve seen in previous episodes in regards to exploring the dynamic between Mindy and Danny. And Jean’s role in this episode is really twofold: what would Mindy do for the practice? (lie and be dramatic) and what would Mindy and Danny do for each other? (anything, even what lies outside of their conventional behavior).

I adored seeing drunk, dramatic Danny. I loved that he used “ex-squeeze me.” And I loved that he would do that for her. Unlike other episodes, this development wasn’t pushed upon him by a third party; this compromise came from a genuine place in his character. I missed genuine, didn’t you?

Other Notes:
  • Mindy’s hair was on point this episode.
  • I didn’t have a great place to mention this other than here, but with my love of the Peter and Jeremy stuff this season, I have to say that I am not excited about anything Morgan is a part of. I mean, think about it: Morgan’s “Magic Morgan” was a more poorly-executed tread of Peter’s “Lefty” plot. Peter, to me, serves the same purpose that Morgan does. Neither will ever be my favorite character on the show but Peter has better reason to be at that conference table than Morgan’s “shadowing.”
  • With that said, I really am appreciative that Morgan has been given the same treatment as Tamra. I think they are both pretty shallow characters and they’re funniest when the writers aren’t trying to dig up some deeper story about them. (I mention this  because I’m bracing myself for disappointment when the B-plot inevitably will be Tamra-Morgan related.)
  • Like Jeremy, Danny has daddy issues! And has slept with Mindy. GOD, I hope they have an episode together soon.
  • I never had a chance to mention that I loved Niecy Nash as Jean Fishman. Firm without being icy, and she sold every line her character said. I’m so excited she’s a recurring character because I think she did excellent revitalizing what could have been a tired trope (boss is a stickler). Again, she’s less important than what she does for Mindy and Danny, but enough has been put in place for me to be happy she’s playing Jean in upcoming episodes.
  • I loved “Deb-Deb,” too. On my third re-watch I finally noticed Deb-Deb’s “BYE DANNY” and it was one of my biggest laughs. 
  • AND SHONDA AND THE SPLODERZ BOYS! Every guest star so far this season has been spot-on. Shonda could have been so gimmicky and instead it felt necessary (because she really did go to Dartmouth and it made the plot feel more realistic for having her). And I will always love those gross pervs.
  • You also meet some of Peter’s frat boys in this episode, and I’m pretty certain they appear in upcoming episodes, so stay tuned!
  • A nitpick about this episode, or maybe about this show in general: CAN MINDY LAHIRI GET REJECTED, LIKE, ONE TIME? I get that everyone’s got Mindy Fever, but her batting average is ludicrously high. For a show about a girl who had arrested development when it comes to romance, she is basically the elevator pitch of getting someone to hook up with her, and that makes her less relatable (compared to Lefty Peter). Maybe it’s just having that pop up again with a “new love interest,” but I am so in the camp of “you know your characters through breaking them” that I would have loved to see Mindy be a part of an unreciprocated chase but once. (Though I guess she has gotten her heart broken a handful of times. I stand by what I said!)
FOX shows are on hiatus until after baseball (boo) so check back in November for more of Ann's thoughts about The Mindy Project. Orrrrrrr you can stick around the blog and wait for her thoughts about other television shows (like ABC's Selfie) soon, too! :)


  1. Mindy has gotten rejected a few times, by the black politician last year, the guy in the club before she met Josh, and of course Max Greenfeld's Lee. That episode gave us some insight into why she doesn't get rejected more, though. She seldom approaches guys who seem too attractive. She initially got rejected by Cliff before he got to know her. The only time I ever thought she picked up someone who didn't seem attainable by her was Jason.

    1. I would say that practically every guy she's been with, on virtue of being a movie star in real life, is pretty attractive. I mean, Glenn Howerton? Anders Holm? Seth Meyers? Anders was so close to rejecting her... until the end of the episode, when he decided he better not.

      I don't count the 30-second politician appearance as a rejection, nor do I count Greenfield's Lee, because he ended up coming back to her. It's definitely nitpicky that I bring it up, but it just seems like for a show about relationship foibles, everyone else seems to get rejected more than the main character, who is supposed to have gone through the most and is supposed to have experienced some level of heartbreak. It's obviously unfixable now, but I wanted to bring it up in light of Jean Fishman, who didn't love Mindy initially, wanting to kiss her five minutes later--not because that was the most egregious example but because it's something that I wish the writers had spent more time on.

    2. I meant Lee rejected her in the end. Any reasonably attractive woman can get laid any day of the year. It's not an accomplishment. But when you wake up to an empty bed, THAT is a rejection!

      By that token, she was really also rejected by Jeremy. I mean, he said he wouldn't want to sleep with her in her 40s. That's REALLY insulting.

  2. Thanks again for your analysis, Ann! I always love and look forward to reading it. I thought this episode felt the most like season 2 to me, as I think you did too (based on your comments). I loved Mindy's swoon-look to Danny when she realized he was going to go along with her lie in order to help protect her. I loved how they mimed to one another (Kaling and Messina are so good when they are on the same comedic team/side- the Lucy and Ricky dynamic with Ricky participating in the scheme). I rewatched the show and laughed aloud when Danny calls back to Mindy's excuse in the episode's opener that he "can't have a baby." It's true to his character that he would be a horrible liar who needs Mindy's inspiration. I liked that after last week's "controversial" episode, this one opened with Mindy asking for some tongue action and getting it, thereby emphasizing these two are in fact sexual equals. I do not think the show can keep track of which sexual acts Mindy does or doesn't like, which I suppose is fine (we only seem to be sure that Danny is "good with (his) mouth").

    I still enjoy the A plot with Mindy and Danny more than the B plot and I think I always will. This week's show was more balanced than usual, but I will never care too much about the other characters as compared to Messina and Kaling.

    I really hope the show continues to improve. I really want to know what you think about the Christmas episode sides too because I hope we are building to hints of wedding bells! I know Kaling has said that it is difficult to write where the characters will be because the show's future is so uncertain. I just hope that this uncertainty doesn't stop them from moving forward. Sorry for the lengthy response! Thanks again!

  3. I loved the episode and LOVED Jean and DebDeb. I think Niecy Nash will be a female character who, like Tamra, really works well with Mindy in a way that some of the other females really haven't. I loved their energy together, loved that she's basically so similar to Mindy. I thought it was a great portrayal of a gay couple (I love that the show just casually had Richie be gay without making it a big issue too). I hope Deb is coming back too because this actress just has one of the best faces I've ever seen.

    That said, I MISS MORGAN. To me, Jeremy and Peter do not equal Morgan. He was the heart of the show for most of the first two seasons, and I wish he had more to do.
    I love how this show keeps growing and changing. However, I hope they'll never lose Morgan.

  4. I agree that Mindy is less relatable this season. I find her confidence amusing at times but definitely didn't understand why Dr. Fishman kissed her. It was all a bit much for me. I'm not particularly fond of this season so far. It has been such a dramatic change in rhythm. I feel like they glossed over the most charming aspects of a couple finally being together. I can't see how they can organically create a romantic atmosphere this far into a season. This show is simply all over the place even though the comedy is so very good.

  5. Love your blog and your reviews. You are so unfailingly sincere and gracious in your comments even when you don't agree, and I admire that. I loved your review of this episode and agree that this reminds of a season 2 episode. But like you, overall, i am disappointed that they have not explored Messina's silent acting skills or his 'love eyeballs' as you call them more this season. That's what made this show unique. Episode 1 made room for it, but they have been focussing on his comedic chops since, which are great, but changes the tone. I am hopeful that the speaking eyes will be back, since this episode is a step in the right direction, and since MK has frequently said that she is a fan and would love to accommodate him more. Would love that.

  6. "I would have loved to see Mindy be a part of an unreciprocated chase but once." I took Danny breaking up with her as a type of unreciprocated love. I think it's worse for someone to say "i like you, i don't like you anymore" than "i don't feel the same way." Mindy loved and lost. That hurts a lot more than having a crush on someone who didn't like you back.