Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x08 "Diary of a Mad Indian Woman" [Contributor: Ann]

"Diary of a Mad Indian Woman"
Original Airdate: November 18, 2014

Before I begin—my deepest, deepest apologies for my lateness. This past week has been CRAMMED with paper-writing; unfortunately, while I will soon go home for Thanksgiving (!!!), I am only 2 weeks away from finals, which also have the potential to affect my posting schedule. This apology is especially for Jenn, who has been so accommodating of this stressful period in my life. Thank you very much for having me (as always).

[Jenn's Note: Thank YOU, Ann, for being a part of my team. It may be late, but you're always worth the wait. /cheeseball]

Whew. That kind of sounded like a diary entry, didn’t it? Which leads me to this episode, “Diary of a Mad Indian Woman,” one of the best and most ambitious episodes of this season.

"Ambitious" has not been a word I've used to describe this season very much. What makes the episode ambitious, and why is that quality so important in my enjoyment of a TV show?

Quick summary of the episode (because by this point it has been a week since it aired): the A-plot involved Mindy teaching the students at the hospital, a welcome foray into her professional life (and the introduction of Candace and TJ), and the B-plot involved Danny finding the titular diary, reading it, and other shenanigans.

Ambitious point number one: the seamless introduction and integration of St. Brendan’s. If my memory serves me, there has not been a "professional life" plot involving the politics of the hospital. There have been plots involving the midwives and plots about the politics of Schulman and Associates and plots about the dynamic between Jean and Schulman and Associates—but this episode's plot mostly took place in St. Brendan’s and focused on the operations of St. Brendan’s.

We’ve had St. Brendan’s since the pilot, and to see a little more of Mindy’s professional life was refreshing to me. In the recent SAG conversation with The Mindy Project cast, Adam Pally pointed out the breadth of the universe Mindy had created, how really any character could walk in, walk out, and then walk in again. While I wish the show would stick to this—make the A/B plots Mindy and Danny instead of trying to warm me to ensemble characters who won’t last—this plot makes me see the best in this sort of format. The same conversation compared Mindy’s use of this to The Simpsons, which I love for two reasons: these characters on the fringe are not static, and these characters on the fringe can often be used for insight for the two main characters (see: Danny in almost every episode this year).

TJ and Candace were awesome because they taught Mindy something. I don’t need to care about them, and if I do, I only need to care about them enough so that I can believe they would have any impact on Mindy. The strong personalities of Candace and TJ make them instantly endearing to the audience—as is the case with so many recurring roles—so that when TJ teaches Mindy something, it expands the universe while adding depth to the core of the show. Ambitious.

While on the subject of the show’s universe, this episode FINALLY injected stakes into the relationship of Mindy and Danny. I am curious to see what happens on Christmas, and it has been a while since this show has made me curious.

These aren’t just real stakes—they are real stakes that have been foreshadowed at for some time. Danny being anxious about going into marriage may seem to counter his “all in” remarks on top of the Empire State Building, but I don’t think they are the same battle. Just because Danny is “all in” with his heart doesn’t necessarily mean he has forgotten the past; you can see the difference between these two ideas in his conversation with Annette. This 40-year-old man literally needs his mom’s advice, but when his mom suggests he break it off with Mindy if he is so afraid, he doesn’t consider that option for a second. Same with the episode’s (brilliant) ending. Danny’s afraid enough to want to leave, but in love enough that he wants to stay. The fact that dichotomy has not reached a resolution—yet—makes Christmas all the more interesting. Will he suck it up and move forward (instead of sideways), or will his fear make him hesitate—and then it’s too late?

And Mindy, sweet Mindy. While I don’t think the writers’ treatment of Mindy’s feelings towards Danny is a quarter as good as their treatment of Danny’s feelings towards Mindy, I understand completely where Mindy is coming from. She didn’t want to rush the first relationship because she didn’t want to mess things up. Now, in this all-in relationship, she’s been equally patient, but she cannot wait forever for Danny. All her favorite romantic comedies end with the wedding, and Mindy is not wrong to ask for something more, because Danny is not being fully open with her. Marriage is so much more than an institution; it is a symbol of commitment, trust, companionship. Though it’s obvious they love each other, Danny and Mindy have had trust issues in this season, and Danny’s reluctance to propose hints at the larger problem: the cold and icy exterior might have melted, but Mindy has not yet attained the whole of Danny’s heart, because he’s so shackled to the past. Ambitious.

While we’re on the subject of Mindy’s character, I want to laud the show for doing such a great job this episode. I don’t know if I have ever liked Mindy more, and I wish we could see this side of her more often. In this episode, Mindy was as dramatic, narcissistic, offensive, and pop-culture crazed as she has always been—but she was also shown being a hard worker and a teacher. She was genuinely exasperated (her treatment of Candace), genuinely exhausted (when was the last time Mindy Lahiri didn’t sleep for two days because of work?), and genuinely heartbroken (by Danny’s fauxposal). This is how you write Mindy Lahiri—she deserves to be written as well as Danny. Danny and Mindy are alike in that they both have outrageous personality traits: Danny’s red glasses or the bomber jacket, or Mindy’s thinking “sexist” was actually “sexy.” I know that. But whereas Danny’s character has always been fleshed out with his tragic backstory, Mindy has always lagged. It has always been easier to talk about Danny’s emotional turmoil because Mindy’s has never been fleshed out enough.
I expressed my frustration at Mindy Kaling calling Mindy Lahiri a Michael Scott character because it felt like a lie. The frustration behind Mindy Lahiri isn’t in her offensive comments, because to me the line “Have you seen Black-ish? I think you’d like it” would be just as funny coming out of her mouth as it would out of Michael’s. The frustration is that Michael Scott, for all his (hilarious) flaws, had a tragic and beautiful heart. He was wrong so often, but you wanted him to find love. Mindy Lahiri is too often a mouthpiece for funny one-liners than she is a multifaceted character, and this episode showed me that the writers and Mindy Kaling (who has become an incredible actress!) have the capabilities to make that happen. For the first time, the treatment of Mindy Lahiri was ambitious, and I want to see more of that, both in her professional and personal life.

I have one quip about the episode, and it is that the diary—other than being a MacGuffin for Christmas—was not really interesting. With so much of the episode doing A+ work on the character of Mindy Lahiri, it shouldn’t bother me that the diary was mostly filled with things we already knew. I’m sure there were killer time constraints on this episode. However, I wish that the diary gave us some real insight into Mindy’s feelings prior to the kiss, and I wish that the diary’s contents were given more time (in place, possibly, of the wine spilling on the diary, which really only was needed so we could spend time with our ensemble*.)

Otherwise, though, this episode was great, and demonstrated how much potential this show has when it’s at its best, whether that’s through the revolving-door cast and universe or the two characters at the center of it all. Let’s hope it builds on this momentum and continues to deliver.

* If Jeremy, Peter, or Morgan’s involvement is important in the Christmas episode, I would like to revise my comments to include this:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Other Notes:
  • I liked the bangs, but whatever.
  • Beverly was aces, and I am so happy the show has found out what to do with her.
  • "She gone, Danny! And I think Ben Affleck did it."
  • Again, aces on the final scene. So much palpable emotion and subtext in that scene. Every episode this season, if I’m not mistaken, has ended with Mindy and Danny at one of their houses, and this is the only one—with the half-exception of the first episode’s fire escape talk (if you remembered it over the striptease)—where things were not goofy or butterflies and roses.
  • I said this in the review, but I will say it again: Mindy Kaling has become an actress on par with Chris Messina. These two can do so much if given the chance!
  • Re: Adam Pally’s impending departure. Maybe this will teach the writers to stop having boring B-plots that the audience invests in for really no good reason?
  • Watch the SAG conversation if you haven’t yet. It’s fascinating once you hear past Ike and Adam.
  • I don’t even care—I loved TJ. Candace was way too unprofessional in her final scene of the epi. I’m sorry, if you’re not paying attention anywhere, you deserve to get berated.
  • I am also loving Niecy Nash’s role in the show. I love when two characters don’t get along (conflict brings out the best in characters) and I love that she challenges Mindy and forces Mindy to grow up a little bit.
  • Happy Turkey Day! Remember how sexy potatoes are.


  1. Thank you for writing these! And for the potatoes call back. makes me laugh every time i think about it. hope the holiday is restful!

  2. Thanks for the good review. The one thing I think we've gotten about Mindy's backstory (and it was pretty late in the game, granted) was when she told Danny he couldn't tell her anything about her body "that I haven't heard from every single mean girl for my entire life." I suspect this sort of sums up Mindy L's backstory (perhaps because it mirrors Mindy K's). She's a girl who's been body-shamed, probably also thought of as a nerd, but she got past it and triumphed, in part because of this bravado she has. However, when you've been picked on, you also never quite get over the idea that you're not attractive. So now, she has trouble trusting the guys she dates, always thinks maybe they're criticizing. It explains how she's always the first to laugh at herself. It also explains how she'll stand up for herself, call herself hot. But it sort of makes you think maybe she doesn't completely believe Danny loves her, even now. Anyway, that was my take on her backstory. It's not much, though. Good luck on exams! Alexandra

  3. I loved how the ending had this double meaning. Mindy was giving an ultimatum without even realizing it. Danny took her "staying over" as a metaphor for marriage. They were both having completely different conversations but saying the same things. That was great on the writer's part.

  4. My fav line is when annette said "you don't string along a girl her age." It's almost as if she is on Mindy's side more than Danny's. It's obvious to her what Mindy expects from Danny without the mention of any diary.

    1. I thought that too. I think she was actually trying to push Danny not necessarily to break up with Mindy but to make a decision, possibly to realize that he does want to marry her. Actually, the note on the bed in this week's episode ("You're not married. It's a sin.") could be said to bear this out as well.