Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x07 "We Need to Talk About Annette" [Contributor: Ann]

"We Need To Talk About Annette"
Original Airdate: November 11, 2014

Why did I like this episode more than others this season?

Like those other episodes, this episode featured a Mindy and Danny A-plot, and a Peter plot related—albeit indirectly—to Lauren and Jeremy. Both had similar rhythms, similar plot structures, and recurring jokes (Morgan is dirt poor; Dot is a frank and sassy BFF). Why do I like this one, penned by Alina Mankin, especially so? A part of it is definitely subjective. Week-by-week I struggle with how to watch this show; I pride myself on being analytical but sometimes let my expectations impede on my assessment of an episode’s quality. So maybe you’ve just caught me on a good week, when I appreciate this show for what it’s doing right—it’s becoming tighter by the week, and is still very funny—rather than harping on it for what it could do better.

But this episode’s merit exists outside of my subjective opinion, obviously. It is technically sound. Its characterizations are consistent with what we know—Danny’s not calling himself “Daddy,” for instance—but also ambitious, teaching us more about these characters (and their relationships with each other) without threatening their fundamental self.

Maybe it’s that this is Annette and Dot’s second time up to the plate, but this butting-heads with Mindy was much stronger because so much less time was spent on introductions and exposition. Now that we know who these people are, they can be fleshed out. What makes this interesting to me is what we learn about Mindy and Danny in the process. One method of characterization is seeing how a character interacts with someone else; in the past, that “someone else” was generally an ex.

Now it’s Annette. For Annette, we get a new adversary for Mindy to charm—in many ways filling a role that her son filled in the past two seasons. Where Danny and Mindy are equals professionally, Mindy and Annette are equals in their love of Danny; where Danny and Mindy are dysfunctional in a complementary way (they fulfill each other in specific ways), Annette and Mindy are complementary in their relationship with Danny (that is, they fulfill Danny in specific ways). They are, after all, his two favorite girls.

While this theme has been introduced in previous episodes, “long-term Mindy” is so well-executed here. Mindy and Danny are all in, and the way she interacts with Annette indicates this; an opportunity for the two to connect is equally anticipated by Mindy and Annette, and their banter—such as Annette’s passive-aggressive prayer—is not a “it’s either me or you” fight. It’s the type of fight you have with family. Which Mindy certainly has realized when she helps Annette escape from the store. Throughout the episode, she oscillates between taking the higher road and confronting Annette—she’s torn between what she must do to make people happy and what she must do, period. Neither option is absolutely right or absolutely wrong; what the episode concludes is that Mindy is growing up and Mindy is sticking around. More than “Annette Castellano Is My Nemesis,” (though probably from the foundation set by that episode) this episode proves that Mindy is not like other girlfriends. She is family, and it feels real, earned.

What we learn about Annette’s relationship with Danny is a little less overt, but what I loved about this episode was that it challenged me to think within these implications to reach a conclusion about Danny’s characterization now.

I complained in the last episode that Danny’s “Ghostbuster” anecdote didn’t do it for me because it was too on-the-nose; it was a story we’d never heard about that became the vehicle for the entire episode. (P.S., your comments on the last episode were so smart, and I did soften on this issue considerably based on the connection you all made between this anecdote and Danny at the Empire State Building; upon further consideration I think I would have liked how everything tied together if Danny had recounted his dad leaving rather than his dad leaving him at a movie—that’s the “on-the-nose” part I’m talking about.)

In this episode, we’re not really asked to reconsider Danny’s character in inventive ways; his “sometimes breaking rules can be fun” is a theme of “The Devil Wears Lands’ End,” and almost every episode (if not every episode) inevitably ends with Danny admitting he was wrong about something or another. Maybe it is the subtlety that hides behind the loud “Danger Zone” gag that I love so much; for how reliably funny Danny’s enthusiasm was, the entire thing connects to his childhood in a reasonable way. That he wanted the bomber jacket and is so excited about it now indicates many, many things: he used to use a garbage bag (and therefore always wanted to rise above his financial circumstances); he is so openly enthusiastic about it in the office (demonstrating how Mindy has helped him open up considerably from his rough childhood); how it is not “all the same” to him that Annette shoplifted it (that she thinks she’s a burden when all he wants to do is prove himself to her and, by extension, to himself—that it is not necessary for her to do this); and that family comes first.

A little bit more on the last one. In a previous episode, Mindy and Danny used one of my favorite tropes, which is to casually discuss BIG DEAL FUTURE EVENTS (“Annette Castellano is My Nemesis”). In that episode, though, it was mostly written off as a joke: Danny doesn’t understand Mindy’s religion, LOL.

Here, Mindy’s “what will you do if our son gets in a bar fight in the Hamptons” means so much more. Yes, it’s funny—and it made me imagine a Mindy-Danny son, who so would get into a bar fight based on his parents’ temperaments. But it also reminds us that Danny’s father didn’t save him in any circumstance, that his leaving made Danny into the person he was in the pilot: someone arrogant and cold and aloof not because he wanted to be, but because being otherwise would result in too much pain.

Mindy’s “what if” scenario is for both Danny and the audience a reminder of HOW FAR HE HAS COME and of WHERE HE HAS COME FROM. Danny was always a stickler for rules, but I have always felt the most fundamental part of Danny’s character is his capacity to love, which is why it was so great that those two are being put into contention in this episode in a way that is relevant to the rest of the series. (“Crimes and Misdemeanors,” in contrast, had a revelation from Danny that felt more tacked-on, a necessity to wrap the episode up neatly).

Again, this episode doesn’t do anything that previous episodes hadn’t, but it benefits from using what has previously been established to maximum effect.  The result? This episode made me think. This episode made me analyze! And what else makes a good episode of The Mindy Project than that it makes everyone the very best version of themselves?

(And, of course, that it is funny as hell. But that often is the case with this show.)

Stray Observations:
  • I didn’t mention the B-plot because I talked so much, but here’s what I have to say about it: technically competent, definitely. I wish that Peter’s epiphany would have come from a “I miss Lauren” than from the job he’s been doing for forever. Abby’s episode-to-episode characterization is a little jarring (she changes from someone who is lowering her high standards to someone who is inherently low-maintenance?) but I loved her character and am really sad to see her go.
  • Morgan is perfectly utilized, and I thought he and Tamra played really well off of each other this episode.
  • Jeremy is not perfectly utilized. Jeremy deserves so much more, as I continually say, because there is no delivery given to Ed Weeks that he doesn’t fucking demolish. “Aren’t we dreadful?” This season belongs to you.
  • Rhea Perlman is capable of making the most terrifying, intimidating face in existence. She has made it in both episodes when Mindy contests her, and I am so happy Mindy Lahiri is fictional because my sympathies would be endless otherwise.
  • Nitpick: Where is a good make-out between these two? It’s been too long.
  • "Goose, it’s Maverick. Wanna have sex tonight?"
  • Also MVP to the store clerk, who aces the “You get a fun birthday e-mail” line. And the other store clerk, who threatens the wrath of Gary. At least it’s not Jen from Appleton.
  • I think episodes succeed to me when I know characters are capable of being silly but also mature. Mindy was especially toned-down this week, which I loved. So was Danny—I mean, look at his face when Mindy talks about their son in the Hamptons.
  • P.S. - Mindy Kaling also deserves gold stars for this week. With the exception of the highly emotional episodes (“Be Cool,” “The Desert”) she has never nailed acting quite this way. Her deliveries were so good. My favorite is her “Thank you, thank you” and sip of wine when Annette concedes she stole the jacket.


  1. It's actually Annette's third episode. I love this character. Love that she's not the stereotypical mom who hates the girlfriend. She actually wants to shop with Mindy, seems to realize Danny's happy with her. I think one of the big reasons she works is Dot. So many TV moms (even younger ones like in The Goldbergs) are portrayed as having no friends or life beyond their child. That Annette has Dot makes her more real. Meanwhile Dot gets to do and say all the petty, mean things, possibly jealous of Annette and her other relationships. Alexandra

  2. I knew that she was in "Caramel Princess Time" -- I just mean that this is the second episode where the plot revolves around her, whereas CPT is about a standing conflict with Mindy and Danny where she just happens to be involved! But yes, I agree- I think they have done a great job with her and have made her a really interesting part of Danny's past (because by knowing her we know so much about Danny's upbringing. It makes me wish for Mindy's parents!)

  3. I definitely liked this episode much more after a second viewing. I'm still concerned that we are getting far too many "filler" episodes in an already short season. It's hard to trust what they would do with a 4th season. I'd say it was a stable episode. I find myself settling for the smallest scenes between Mindy and Danny. It might have been my imagination but Danny's face seemed to light up when Mindy mentioned a hypothetical son. In the absence of anything else, I'll take it ;) I loved the top gun ending though it seems like Mindy (the writer) loves to interrupt potentially romantic moments :)

  4. I don't really see where this is "filler." Every episode can't be about them making out all the time. That embrace at the end was more passion and romance than 90% of seasons 1 and 2, but them becoming integrated into each-other's lives IS the good stuff. It's AMAZING that she takes his mother to the hairdresser, for example.

    1. Yeah I'm probably just nervous that it will get canceled so I want every episode to be memorable and epic! :) I still think Jeremy is sadly underused. He can be a scene stealer when given the chance.

    2. I can see that. I really, really hope it's not cancelled. The fact is Fox's new shows aren't very good, and there's really no reason to believe that they'd be able to create something that would be any better. In good news, Mindy Project's ratings were adjusted up to 1.12/2.46. So not as good as last week but higher than any other week since the season premiere. It seems like Utopia or reruns in the 8-9 hour really was part of the problem. If only they would promote it just a little!

    3. I think I am firmly in the middle on whether or not the episodes are "filler." On one hand, it is undoubtedly true that this season is more aimless than the other two in that Mindy and Danny really haven't developed that much this season-- you could pretty much switch around whichever episodes you wanted to and the show would make sense still for M/D action. On the other hand, there is a consistency and control on an episode-by-episode basis that wasn't there in the past, which is the case with most comedies. I mean, even for Jim/Pam in the second season, most episodes were fluid (obviously not 100%, because there was tension building up to Casino Night and Roy/Pam's wedding). But because TMP has always been a romantic comedy I think it's just some getting used to that the "romantic" element isn't the driving force of the show anymore. -- I hope that makes sense, but I think it's filler in that we aren't building season-long tension but NOT filler in that the episodes are so much more controlled than they have been in the past (the first season, for example, hardly has any B-plot that works).

      I feel surprisingly optimistic about the chances of renewal for TMP, but I don't feel optimistic about a back-7 order, which sucks, because we are approaching mid-to-late season 3 (already!). I think if they get season 4 then they should get a season 5 to help them reach syndication levels (24 + 22 + 15 = 61, which means they need 27 more episodes to hit that point) Otherwise it seems kind of pointless to keep betting on TMP. -- maybe New Girl will end at season 6 and Mindy will end at season 5, enough for the 88 minimum generally accepted to be syndication level? I do not know, being just a sleepy teenage girl and not a Fox exec. We'll see.

    4. O ye of little faith -- YAY!!!!! Of course you know it got those episodes and will very likely get another season. And, after that? Well, 4 seasons is quite good. I could live with that, I think. And now, I can stop rewatching the show on my DVR AND Hulu AND On Demand, in case that helps.