Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x10 "What About Peter?" [Contributor: Ann]

"What About Peter?"
Original Airdate: December 2, 2014

"Do you want to talk about yogurt, or do you want to talk about us?" Mindy asks Danny at the end of the episode, when in response to her concerns about moving in he starts talking about how she should eat yogurt for her bone health.

That’s the small context of the quote, but to me it represents a lot of what The Mindy Project has always been and the biggest issue it grapples with in its third season. Does it want to talk about the silly things—does it want to pursue every impulse it has to be funny—or does it want to be resonant, emotional, meaningful?

As the romantic comedy it is, The Mindy Project has on basis of its definition the task to balance the romance and the comedy, the yogurt and the “us.” I would say that it has succeeded in this task more than it has not, and has succeeded in this task just as much if not more than any other show on TV (that I can think of) has*The Mindy Project can be as funny as 30 Rock just as much as it can sell to us the big moments, the emotional subtleties and beats. That’s why I fell in love with it in the first place.

"What About Peter?" would have been the last episode that I would have pegged as exceeding my expectations. I mean, I’ve never really had expectations for Peter—I don’t loathe him as much as some people do (hiiii, #teamanyonebutpeter) but to me he is a good character because he provides consistency more than because I love him. I will miss him when he’s gone for the first reason, but my reluctance to really care about Peter’s deal that much made me anxious about "What About Peter?"— not to mention how I felt about last week’s episode and that this was a Barinholtz-Stassen joint (and their humor is ineffably discernible in a Mindy script).

However, I was wrong. This was as perfect an episode as it could be—it balanced the romance and the comedy, it was rife with callbacks, it made me think about the characterization of Mindy and Danny and how their situation was paralleled with Jeremy and Morgan’s B plot and Peter’s C plot (which I don’t think the show has ever done so well), and in a lot of ways it justified a season that I’ve been ambivalent about, kind of like how “Diary” did.

Let me go through those strengths one-by-one:

The romance

I am a romantic. My tag on my Tumblr page is “Ultimately it’s about love,” a quote said by Chris Messina in response to the negative energy surrounding the Mindy and Danny breakup.

Why do I love romance in my books, movies, and TV? Why do I love to watch people fall in love on my screens? And what makes some romances more successful to me than others?

Here’s why: romance, for how many times stories have had the same beginning, middle and end (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, or visa versa), it is the characters that draw me in. It is the idea that for how frequently we see romance in all of these different forms, it is that these two specific people fit so well together. Romance is not unique, but theirs is, and seeing different sensibilities—seeing couples spar, or be best friends, or be involved in a will-they-won’t-they—is so cool to me. How do these two elements interact with each other? If your characters are good enough, the way they interact will transcend the fact that tropes are being used or that the story will always have the same ending.

Mindy and Danny have always knocked this out of the park, and their coupledom hasn’t changed the fact that there are so many opportunities for them to be romantic. In fact, it should give them more opportunities to be romantic because as time passes by they know more about each other. (Have I said this before? I feel deja vu coming on pretty strong here…)

Some episodes fell flat to me this season and here is why: Mindy and Danny have gone quite a ways since their first meeting, and for Mindy and Danny to continue to be romantic, that “quite a ways” needs to be included, addressed, observed. It just has to; their journey is what makes them unique is what makes them interact with each other in such a winning way.

This episode won in more than one respect when it came to romance. This is very subjective, and I’m sure people could argue other instances, but for one the small kiss in this episode gave me what I’ve been missing—DOUGH EYES**:

Compare that to this:

It has always been obvious—obvious, obvious, obvious—that Mindy and Danny love each other. I have written thousands of words about just how much. But it is in these little details—these nonobligatory details—that the audience can feel it, feel how much they do instead of recognizing the certainty that they just do. Coupledom has never been the be-all-end-all for The Mindy Project because Mindy and Danny still adore each other, madly, like they have in the past.

Oh, and another thing—this episode brought back one of my most favorite things and that is Danny and Mindy remembering stupid stuff about each other. I am pretty sure both of them remembered something small about the other but the one that comes to mind is Danny remembering that Mindy told him that “in [Mindy’s] culture cleaning is a man’s job.” That’s so silly and dumb a thing to remember—but it’s the act of remembering that is so sweet to me.

The comedy

I don’t think The Mindy Project has ever seriously struggled with humor, thank God. It’s hard to write about comedy because it’s so subjective, and really what more can I say than “this episode was funny,” but here is what I will say: this episode was the kind of episode that, on second viewing, I noticed about 50 more jokes than I had the first time. I love when the show does that— favorite joke has to be in the B-plot, when Morgan says he prefers Frasier dry, witty humor. Oh, and the sleep apnea mask.


My favorite thing about TV shows, and the reason why I started my Tumblr in the first place. I am the lady responsible for Mindy Stats; there is some part of me that is just crazy in love with little bits of continuity, little (and big) homages to the show’s past. So many of my reviews have been about how The Mindy Project has succeeded (or failed) in honoring its established canon, so this should not be a surprise.

Little things, like the duffel, the tattoo, and Nicole the mini-Pomeranian made me so happy, just as the callback to the diary did. Oh, and the juxtaposition of the final scene with a) the scene from “Be Cool,” with a similar score over it, a similar feeling of “I can’t lose you,” but with a different person walking out the door; and b) every other final scene of this season so far. I think every episode has ended with Mindy and Danny in an apartment together; that Mindy finally walks away in this one is so effective because it goes against what we’ve come to expect.

The characterization of Mindy and Danny

I have said so much about Danny, and often when I would say so much about Danny I would comment on how little we know about Mindy’s characterization. She doesn’t have daddy issues, so when Mindy is upset about something there is a far less obvious skeleton in her past.
I think this episode did the best job ever of telling me what Mindy’s deal is, and God, there’s so much to talk about. There’s Mindy’s “happily ever after” desire with her realistic understanding that time is running out; there’s the difference between Mindy’s certain commitment the relationship (she always has faith in people, she is confident in others) and Danny’s insecurities (which, in turn, makes Mindy insecure not in her feelings but in his feelings for her—I mean, this is the guy that “turns it on, and turns it off, and changes his mind a million times.” There’s so much of Mindy that is defined by people letting her down but in less obvious ways than a bad dad and a bitchy ex-wife: like her “oh no, not again” when Peter calls her a beard, and the disappointment on her face that she’s unable to hide when Danny explains the big apartment is meant for his ma and not for her. All she wants is for someone to be as excited about a relationship as she is, and when it seems like Danny isn’t, that feeds into her past in a way that’s just as valid as what Danny’s going through.

And it works so well together, that this is the way Mindy feels, because it is pretty much the opposite of Danny’s feelings. He loves Mindy! This is one of the most defining characteristics of Danny since the pilot when he is charmed by her laughing at his joke. Danny loves Mindy, but he’s hesitant to take steps because he is afraid, as his bad past experiences have taught him to be. Having Danny so terrified of change—despite a love for Mindy—and having Mindy so afraid of stagnancy—despite a love for Danny—is awesome. It’s a fundamental difference in these two characters rather than a botched miscommunication a la every trashy romantic comedy you’ve ever watched. That depth of characterization is what this show has proven it can handle and I am so happy this episode the conflict finally comes to light.

Parallels to the B and C-plot

Quick words on the B and C-plot—a little bit silly in both respects, but both ultimately about character, too, and in a way that mirrors Mindy and Danny.

If I had to put a central question that Mindy/Danny, Jeremy, and Peter faced this episode, it would be: You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? Danny told Mindy on top of the Empire State Building that he was all in with her, but can he actually show her that? Jeremy told Lauren he loves her and offered to watch Henry, but can he handle what the long-term with Lauren means? And Peter wants to grow up, but will he actually accomplish that goal?

The results are interesting, and it is that we do not know yet. All we know is that “walking the walk” is hard for each one of these characters when the alternative is much easier. And I can’t wait to see who succeeds and who doesn’t and what it means for their long-term development and their long-term relationships.

Justification of previous episodes

I don’t apologize for my feelings about previous episodes. If an episode is bad, to me it is not the responsibility of other episodes to clean up the mess left behind. It is what it is.

However, this episode made a good case for what the point of the first 9 episodes of the season were, however aimless they were: they established a relationship between Mindy and Danny where Danny was constantly fumbling and in a position where he had to apologize or change his behavior in a small way. A litany of small mistakes. And as I already mentioned, this is the episode where the stakes are highest—that is, the stakes that aren’t the diary’s ultimatum—and when Danny fails to move forward, it is enough for the cycle to finally be broken, for Mindy to finally speak up.

In some ways it actually kind of mirrors season 2, but instead of the build-up being in service to establish Danny and Mindy’s feelings for each other, these episodes establish that after seven months of dating, it’s not their feelings of love but their feelings of frustration that are coming to a head.

And holy shit, you guys—Christmas is next week. LET’S DANCE!

Stray Observations:
  • *How I Met Your Mother, Gilmore Girls, You’re the Worst, and (to a far lesser degree) Selfie do this, too — I’m sure there are others, too — I clearly have a type of show I look for…
  • **"Dough eyes" appears to be a typo for "doe eyes," that is, the eyes of a deer, which I guess is the correct phrase. However, it is a tale as old as time that I associate Danny’s eyeballs with the Pillsbury dough boy.
  • Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina knocked it out of the frickin’ park this episode—truly, the entire cast did.
  • I am excited for Christmas because a) both Christmas episodes are in my top 10, maybe 5 and b) Tamra and Beverly will be back to witness the shit going down!
  • One thing about the comedy that is iffy to me: food jokes. Zzzzzzz.
  • Jeremy saying “I love you” is really strange to witness. I wonder if he does.
  • SO MUCH GRATUITOUS SHIRT-TAKING-OFF. It’s almost like I tuned into Arrow. [Jenn's Note: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.]
  • Danny looked extra hot this episode—more grey in his hair, I think, which is weird for me to enjoy, but whatever. I do, I do.
  • "Summer Breeze" is such a frickin’ jam. I love the music on this show! I love the old-timeiness of it all, how Mindy is secretly an old fart like her pollen watching boyfriend (in her 30s, not 24 as she would have you believe)


  1. I was starting to become a chronic complainer about Season Three but I'm back in!! I have generally enjoyed the last three or four episodes. Bravo to the writers of Episode 10. I feel like it was solid for all core characters. It's also nice to have angst that doesn't necessarily threaten the basic love between M & D. I admittedly needed to have something interesting between them and this is good stuff. I feel and hope it will come to a great conclusion. I know many people don't like Peter but I have mixed feelings. I have a fondness for him when I least expect it. I loved how excited Peter was to watch TV with Mindy. Awwww.... I'm going to miss him :)

  2. My favorite Danny moments apart from the dough eyes in the gif. Did you noticed how Danny smiled when Mindy complimented his Borat? "She like it. I'm happy." I absolutely loved Danny's expression when Mindy was embarrassed and the way he said "Don't be embarrassed" It's like he was trying so hard to fix the situation. In terms of relationship, I think Danny was in a i'm-not-worried stage where he never thought he was going to lose her until this episode.

  3. I always liked season 3 and I figured those subtle little things will come up again with a bang like later in the season. I guess that's similar to season 2. So far, I think there's these arcs. They are: Dandy(moving in?-Cliff), Family/Marriage(Annette), Career (Dr. Fishman), Peter(Plot B).

    It sounded like you wanted the show to be this certain way when TMP is not going that way. I think TMP is more like Parks and Recreation, where the show is more comedy than romance. They have a couple together since s3(I think) and on their 7th season. We see them get together, married, and have kids.

    The lovely dovey moments, maybe the writers didn't put them a lot because it wouldn't make sense to have Danny holding back about marriage now. Maybe it's like a couple development thing. Or, the writers don't want to go in the trap of making it too will-they or won't they/drama. I don't know.

    " Having Danny so terrified of change—despite a love for Mindy—and having Mindy so afraid of stagnancy—despite a love for Danny—is awesome. " I like this. That is what I saw it as and it was like pointing at us that Mindy and Danny are opposites. The ending scene made me think of the quote "You know you're right for someone when they force you to be the best version of yourself."