Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x06 "Caramel Princess Time" [Contributor: Ann]

"Caramel Princess Time"
Original Airdate: November 4, 2014

When you come across criticism of the third season of The Mindy Project, you will generally find a consensus of praise in three aspects: one, that the will-they-won’t-they romance has not hindered the show;  two, that the guest stars are surprisingly effective; and three, that the show has never been more confident and streamlined. I agree with all three of these strongly. In the past, The Mindy Project has felt incomplete, and I can’t really say that anymore. With “Caramel Princess Time” it’s obvious The Mindy Project knows what type of show it is. It has an identity, a flavor.

But I still came out of this episode a little frustrated. Why? Because while these three statements are true, the fact remains that they could be truer, that there are very obvious steps this show could take and for some inexplicable reason are not. I have lately been having a hard time writing about this show because I feel as if I am being tugged in two different directions, a feeling I have discussed before in the past. Is it possible to still watch The Mindy Project in the same way I did before? Is it as enjoyable watching it one way versus another? As I view these three defining characteristics of season 3, this divergence is so clear to me.

For example: I am so happy that Mindy and Danny are doing coupledom right. They are maintaining their identities! They fight with each other, but they do it with ease, comfort, and security. They are ALL IN, and that means they are ALL IN with everything: the bad with the good (or the good with the good, depending on who’s asking). And they maintain their distinct personalities and butt heads even as it’s clear how much they love each other. Post-“will-they-won’t-they” is often so bad and so boring, and most of the time, the writers will hit a wall trying to stir up conflict between two characters. Lucky for us Danny and Mindy are so individual that they find conflict on their own (notice that every episode this season has been a Mindy/Danny A-plot). I will say confidently that there is no past-“will-they-won’t-they” couple that is more satisfying to watch than Mindy and Danny.

I mentioned in my last review how much I loved Mindy and Danny working together. What I love in this one is that they are working against each other in a rhythmic, synchronized way. They are equals, both in will and in wrongdoing—Mindy is as disrespectful being late as Danny is dishonest about why it bothers him so much. Unlike other episodes this season where Mindy and Danny bicker, this episode felt like an episode of escalating stakes, which lead to both of them learning an important lesson, not just Danny (and also lead to a sweet moment on a Staten Island stoop).

Where I want to see more from this show in this department is an acknowledgement of the rich history that Mindy and Danny have together. When Danny said to Brendan that being stood up “has happened before” to him, I perked up. I was so excited that there was going to be a reference to "Danny and Mindy."

“What’s the worst that could happen?” Brendan asks. My head immediately went to Danny waiting alone on the top of the Empire State Building, screaming out “Mindy!” with so much urgency that his voice cracked, and then apologizing to her with a layer of tears in his eyes. Yeah, yeah, she came three seconds later—but what about that moment just before her presence became known? I wanted to see that be acknowledged as a fear of Danny’s—that maybe one day she wouldn’t show up.

But instead we got stuff about Danny’s dad. (FYI, Chris Messina KILLED what could have been trite; as he so often does with Danny, he put the stakes on a higher level based solely on his delivery.) But unless Danny’s dad comes back into the picture—and this “daddy issues” character trait of Danny’s isn’t developed adequately—it will become a cop-out explanation for any questionable behavior of Danny’s. Danny gets mad Mindy is messy? “It just reminds me of all the cleaning my mom had to do when MY DAD ABANDONED US.” (Of course, if Danny’s dad does come back in an upcoming episode, this is good foreshadowing and this paragraph can mostly be disregarded. I will, however, always consider it a lost opportunity that “Danny and Mindy” was not mentioned.)

#2 on the list is the guest stars. We have had so many good guest stars this season, you guys! And unlike last season, which had James Franco, Alan Dale, Kevin Smith, and Dana White (in order of their uselessness), this season is using its guest stars to good effect. I loved Shonda last week; this week I am adoring Allison Tolman as Abby (and Yeardley Smith, who voices Lisa Simpson, as the margarita-loving mammagram-ist!). This is, of course, not to mention Rhea Perlman, who comes back as Annette. Everyone does well. Everyone has a good purpose, and every one of these characters—like the other strong guest stars of Mindy’s past (Tommy Dewey, Anders Holm)—is compelling enough that I want to learn more about them.

I think where my problem rests here is that 22 minutes is too short of a time period to paint a clear picture of so many characters at once. Abby got the most time of the three big guest stars this episode. I loved her; she was presented as a strong, confident woman who was clearly out of Peter’s league. It was also so cool (as a writer myself) that the show had a woman so smart and grounded writing fun, saucy romance, showing that those qualities aren’t mutually exclusive from each other. I am so excited to see more of Abby.

But as I said, she’s way out of Peter’s league, especially because Peter is often the writers’ depository for frat-boy humor. (Even when he was going to apologize to her, he made some comment like, “Is this a line for the dude who wrote the Harry Potter books?”) I don’t mind this aspect of Peter as much as others might, but it is not a reasonable fit for Abby, who—out of writers’ necessity—had to accept a second date from Peter way too quickly. (And speaking of Peter, what was with Carolyn talking about missing a call from him? Did I miss something?)

I think tightness of time plays a factor in how I feel about the consistency, too, but I think there is also more to be said (both positive and negative). Let me say that this season has done the best job ever making the B-plots interesting. I’ve made clear my love of the Peter-Lauren-Jeremy triangle because it gives these characters something interesting to do, and I think the show has finally set on the perfect balance of exposure for Morgan, Tamra, and Beverly. (I can always see more Jeremy, for Ed Weeks is criminally underused.) I think the pacing has generally been good this season, and I think because this show isn’t focused on heightening the sexual tension anymore and is less serialized, these mini-arcs do service to making an episode feel whole.

The problem I have is mostly that the consistency of characters is frustratingly inconsistent when looking at the show holistically. Anyone remember in “Bunk Bed” when Mindy and Danny are arguing about The Godfather? Is anyone as annoyed as I am about the continual use of “___ city” from characters that aren’t Peter or Mindy? Would Danny ever say “kernel city”? C’mon. Or how about the weird timeline, which now has Mindy and Danny dating for 7 months? As a mega-fan of this show, I admit that my standards in this respect are higher than for a casual viewer, but I’m just saying: I never would have thought I’d see Mindy or Danny call each other “baby” and “sweetheart” unironically. It gives these episodes a weird disconnect from episodes in the past.

So what does this mean about the episode, the season so far, and the season ahead? The episode stands pretty well on its own and is definitely one of the more emotionally resonant in season 3; the one real critique of the episode was further development of Abby’s motivations. In terms of the season so far, this episode is pretty strong, too, and shows strengths and weaknesses that I might be looking on in retrospect as hints to how the third season ends up.

Seems ambivalent? Well, this is an ambivalent episode, babe. Now take a hike!

Other Thoughts:
  • I initially hated this episode solely based on how frickin’ loud the Laffaboutit guy was. His voice is still caustic, which I guess is the point (but still).
  • As others have already pointed out, Mindy’s phone background is of Danny. I love that detail.
  • I really loved that Mindy learned a real lesson, almost on her own. I love when characters face other characters or situations that don’t go their way; it normally will bring out the best side of a character, as it does with Mindy here. (P.S. - Her hair looks awesome. A+++)
  • Favorite line of the night came from Beverly calling Danny “Dr. Q.” Great throwaway.
  • BRENDAN DESLAURIER, always the best, always my favorite.


  1. Great review. This show really frustrates me. Mindy and her writers are truly delicious joke artists. I just don't think they have a good grasp on what they are trying to write about. With certain shows like Parks and Rec, there never needs to be an overall theme. Mindy and Danny are the theme of TMP but the writers don't seem to know what they want to write about. It's weirdly sexual and then suddenly sentimental. I can't keep up and don't necessarily want to. I know they must sense a possible end and really want them to aim for something. I haven't lost all hope but this show is very messy to me. So funny but so all over the place.

    1. Thank you so much!

      This show is beginning to frustrate me, too, but I think I will always love it because it has meant so much to me. It has always been sloppily inconsistent when it comes to the chaos around Mindy's life (is it a girlfriends show? A workplace show? A dating show?) and I've been able to accept that because of the strong connection between Mindy and Danny. Now that those dynamics are being tugged (as you mention--sexy then sentimental all at once) it is weirdly inconsistent in a way, even though I think this season coheres the most of the three in terms of what an actual TV show should be like, haha.

      So TLDR: I agree with you!

  2. Blogger nursetookers took Danny admitting that he had issues with this dad as an actual explanation towards the ESB scene in Danny and Mindy basically saying that Danny only wait the hour because the thought of Mindy not showing up at all would have devastated him too much like when his Dad didn't show up.

    1. I like this! And I agree. I don't think every connection the characters make and every link between storylines needs to be explicitly explained and described for the viewers.

    2. I loved this connection she made, and I completely disagree with the reviewer here. Yes, it is commonplace and obvious for Danny to get angry at Mindy for being late. But it is commonplace and obvious because it actually happens an awful lot, to an awful lot of people. This is exactly what would be discussed in an anger management class situation (which is what Deslaurier was conducting, at least in Danny's situation -- and what Danny actually needs, whether he thought so or not), the fact that our childhood experiences DO affect how we interact with others, throughout our lives. Danny gets angry with Mindy (or, in the case of Be Cool, doesn't trust her to stick with him) because he feels she is going to abandon him because he has been abandoned by every significant person in his life (not just Alan but, to a lesser degree, Annette too, since she was busy raising his needier brother, and certainly by Christina). To chalk it up to that ONE movie-going experience was the only oversimplification (but to chalk it up to the one day at the Empire State Building would be an even greater one -- Danny's problems are far more deep-seated than that, as evidenced by his breaking up with Mindy in the first place because he felt he would mess it up). Danny said in prior episodes, such as The Desert, that his father was never there for him, didn't go to his dance recitals or sporting events, and very probably, left Danny sitting there, waiting for him. This, along with the other experiences mentioned above, makes him feel unworthy of love. Hence his inability to trust Mindy. And yes, this is why he couldn't stand to wait for her at the ESB. Of course, that's not all going to be able to play out to perfection in a 21-minute show that's supposed to be funny, but it was there Alexandra

    3. Hi, Alexandra!

      I think we are destined to hit an impasse, and I think a lot of the reason we are is that we differ in how much we expect the writers to connect things. Yes, things like lateness "actually happen"-- and you're right, childhood memories have a great impact on a person later on in life.

      What I don't like is that there's no reason for this message to be sent to us, the audience. I'm not doubting that it's a character trait of Danny's; I'm doubting its purpose in this episode. The writers have, as you mentioned, only a shortened amount of time to make any sort of purpose in an episode, and to me it doesn't make sense that their A-plot boils down to a problem we were already aware Danny had that was reintroduced here. While it's in character for Danny to be so bent out of shape over his dad, the writers are the ones controlling every piece of the puzzle, and IMO they *do* have the responsibility of making a cohesive story.

      I think of the second season a lot of times as a halfway done game of Jenga--you can't take out any piece of the 22-episode puzzle without the fear of it all falling apart. I do not think of the third season this way, and I think it's hard to say there is any real character development when we're drawing from familiar wells in confined spaces. By that I mean--if Danny doesn't talk to Mindy fully about his "dad stuff," and if his dad doesn't show up, that development is permanently in suspension, and that's a lot less interesting to me than what I think Be Cool succeeded at. Or: Be Cool required me to do a lot less putting-pieces-together from point A to point B than this episode is asking. *If* "Danny and Mindy" had been referenced, even in a quiet way, it would have been different, and would have tied everything together. Because it wasn't, I suspect that the writers aren't thinking as deeply into it as we are. Again, Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina had bullshit answers when talking about D&M, and when there's that lack of explanation on behalf of the characters then you start to wonder why the writers planned it in the first place. (Which is, of course, to make the homage to WHMS).

      It is increasingly disappointing to me to have to do that. I don't need my hand held to get from point to point, but if there's no clues whatsoever then the viewers are doing the work that the writers never did, and that isn't really fair.

    4. I agree and disagree with you. Of course, Danny dealing with his issues is a process. It would be unrealistic for him to have a sudden epiphany and, all of a sudden, be fixed (which is what made Brendan's joke about it so funny). He's going to have these insights, and it's going to take a while. That's what this season of the show is about, him learning to deal with the issues that have kept him from having a successful relationship in the past . . . and Mindy learning to deal with her own issues.

      That said, I'm not really remembering where Danny talked significantly with Mindy about "Dad issues." I know we both have encyclopedic knowledge of this show, but maybe you could point me toward the episode where that happened. I feel like, yeah, Mindy met his dad in The Desert, but they never really discussed it. Then, there was a small mention in the season premiere. But at no time, really, do I remember Danny connecting up his problems in relationships with his sense of rejection by his father. This was the first time, so it wasn't repetitive at all to me.

      I realize they don't have a Prince of Tides amount of time to do that in, but still, I think there could be more than one or two passing mentions.

      Of course, the most important thing is that the show be funny, and I suspect that is the most important thing to Mindy Kaling as well. There are definitely shows that have lost their edge over the years, Modern Family being a huge example, with the large number of plot threads going (possibly due to the fact that the minor roles played by the child actors have gotten larger as they've grown up) turning it into a show that really isn't laugh out loud funny anymore. Mindy still is, and yes, sometimes that does come at the expense of drama. But, having said that, drama is what I watch Parenthood and The Good Wife for. But, of course, there's hopefully room for both, if there's another season. The Office fit in all the hijinks and everything else in their nine. Alexandra

    5. Mindy has known about the dad here and there since "Danny Castellano is my Gynecologist" where she found out Danny had to raise his little brother. and then other lines mentioned in the series. Also when the brother visits.

    6. I know she's known about the dad. My point was that this was the first episode where Danny has made the connection in his own mind between his issues with his dad and his issues with Mindy/relationships. To me this was actually a significant development. It's not what we know or Mindy knows but Danny's acknowledgment of it that was important. Alexandra

  3. I like that idea a lot, too!

    I know this is obviously subjective but to me, I was never fully satisfied with the way Danny and Mindy turned out, especially because after the episode both Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina gave half-assed answers ("Love makes you hungry!" "It was cold up there!"). To me, it was such a big event in the show, and they had no real reason for it happening other than that they needed Danny to run a la When Harry Met Sally. (Or at least that is how I have always taken it--and as a show about romantic comedies, that's fine and OK, I just wanted a little something more).

    This explanation is fine because it's been established again and again that Danny has daddy issues, but I'm mad they had the choice to tie it directly with such a huge event and just didn't. It felt like a missed opportunity, especially in a season where Mindy and Danny's "how did we get here" history really hasn't come up that much at all or at least enough to where I am satisfied.

    I am someone who loves to make connections that are behind-the-scenes--which is why I started writing in the first place--but I think there is a danger of being disappointed by the cognitive dissonance that needs to happen when the writers don't give you a lot of fodder in the particular direction that makes the most sense. There are countless examples of the writers here doing things and then just dropping them at a hat, leaving it up to their viewership to pick up the pieces or to just accept things at face value (such as Morgan and Tamra's courtship, which happened in bizarre spurts, or Jeremy's fatness, which was there one episode and gone in the first 3 minutes of the next episode).

    Does that make sense? It's not that I need my hand to be held while I watch a TV show, but that sometimes either the writers depend too much on the viewers to make sensible conclusions for them and sometimes let really good opportunities pass them by to make a more cohesive story. (Another one: I will always be upset that there wasn't more reaction from Shulman & Associates when Mindy and Danny were revealed to be a couple). I just think leaving those gaps can be hard to follow when there is little to no further hint or anything--which is why I think that this dad stuff is less about the past and more about the future. Or about nothing at all--just drawing from a familiar well.

    1. Totally... I'm forever disappointed by the bevy of missed opportunities! I worry that Mindy is taking network pressure too seriously. There's a small chance for renewal and I don't want the show to be unrecognizable if there is a season 4. It defeats the whole purpose of campaigning for a show if the best traits get stripped away in favor of penis jokes and far-fetched hijinks. I didn't buy Danny connecting Mindy's lateness to his dad issues. That seemed absurd. Mindy is a flake... Danny knows this and I really didn't find anything interesting or progressive about it being about his dad. Like you and others have said, it's overall a pretty aimless season. Every episode is a clean slate and nothing happens with Danny/Mindy even though they are central to every episode. It feels like such a terrible waste of good opportunities. People hate to hear this but I'm not super motivated for a season 4 if it stays like this. I was really jazzed about ep. 6 until I realized that nothing from the sides would happen. It wasn't the worst episode but didn't fit with most of the other episodes. Danny being vulnerable after at least 4 straight episodes of not being that way even when he could have been was odd.

  4. I think from reading your review, I now understand what your disappointment is because for awhile I was confused about it :P.You wrote what I liked about the episode and everything of the season. But, I think you have really high expectations of the show or it's higher than mine. I think that's cool because it shows you really love this show and you want what is best for the show. I guess I just don't have those high expectations as yours because I see some other shows really lacking on the character developments, continuity, arc, or whatever. I do think TMP is one of the gems. :)

    Anyways, I think you want a more clear Dandy arc for this season and see how it would go. I guess for s1-s2 it's really easy to know what the arc is, it's will they or won't they. The show put out connections too with Danny's closure with his ex-wife and his dad. Then, I think they did a really great job with the "break-up" and "I love you" arc. Now that it's s3, it's like what is the arc now for s3? I think this arc is subtle. Probably like s1 and early s2? I think based on the spoilers/sides, this arc for Danny and Mindy, the heavy stuff, will come up probably starting around Xmas episode or earlier than that. I think the episodes leading to Xmas ep. are hinting to us about it.

    Yeah, it would be a nice connection to have Danny mention his fear of abandonment from Mindy not showing up at the ESB at 8pm. But, I feel like it kind of doesn't work to me... Mindy did show up later on. Same with Mindy showing up at the movie theatre.(i just wanna say that's why Dandy works. Mindy is the kind of person who always shows up eventually and cares for bf or friend.) So, it's like what's the real root of the abandonment fear that Danny had? It's his dad that for sure didn't show up at the movie theatre. Maybe we will see his dad again or the fear of abandonment will come up later on in the season.

    About the part of Danny leaving after an hour at the ESB, I know a lot of people didn't like it. But, it didn't bother me so much. Yeah, it did seem like the writers wanted the office gang to support Dandy and show Danny running like WHMS. I guess I was fine with it because Mindy flat out said no that she's not going. Also, what Danny said that he'll stay there at ESB all night, I kept thinking he's a realist(and Mindy's a dreamer.) So, Danny being a realist, and Mindy saying no she's not going to meet him there, it kinda make sense for me that Danny left after an hour. I guess it also goes with his daddy/abandonment issues.