Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Mindy Project 3x13 "San Francisco Bae" [Contributor: Ann]

"San Francisco Bae"
Original Airdate: January 13, 2015

Before we go any further—my feelings about this episode, like my feelings about last episode, are a firm “meh” out of 10. You know my reasons why; you know that I feel like this season is in a bit of a rut in terms of making me emotionally invested. I’ve explained to you all where the show is going wrong and how it can be fixed, how my expectations have shifted significantly since the season premiere. If I say it again it will be as common an occurrence as Peter Prentice being a sage.

Not to say that this episode was bad, or even that I have that much technically to complain about. Actually, this episode far exceeded my expectations going in, and a lot of the things that have repeated throughout the season—Mindy and Danny having a dumb miscommunication or one or both of them being tone deaf, or Peter being a sage (which, despite my hilarious zinger in the previous paragraph, didn’t really happen this episode), didn’t repeat here. Written by Chris Schleicher (who, according to Wikipedia, has only penned one other episode: “Girl Crush”), taking place pretty much entirely outside the workplace (and in San Francisco!), and featuring dynamics not frequently played with—Morgan/Danny and Mindy/new boy Rob—this episode felt like it broke the tired formula of season 3 in a lot of ways. It was fresher. To me, it was funnier. And I got to see Lee Pace. My problems with this season remain, but this is the wrong episode to pick on—for being “meh,” it was a pleasant “meh,” and in this new version of The Mindy Project (as I talked about last week), it is a solid episode.

What I want to talk about here is less a review and more an analytical post about some things this episode featured. One of them is highlighting something fantastic; the other is highlighting something problematic. One is in relation to previous episodes of this show (a pastime of mine), and the other is a television phenomena that I vented about on Twitter I have noticed not just in this show but in other shows/movies/books.


One of the slogans of The Mindy Project is “You know you’re right for someone when they force you to be the best version of yourself.” I love this idea because I think it is so true to life that so much development happens as a result of our interactions with others. We want to be better for ourselves, but being better for ourselves normally means that we have to be better for the ones around us, too.
When The Mindy Project plays with this idea, it is at its strongest. When it brings up the idea that self-betterment is connected to our relationships with others, the relationship dynamics of the show are strengthened.

Within the episode, you have a lot of examples of that: Peter wants to be more responsible so he can be someone Lauren may consider again. Danny hangs out with Morgan after work in a way he would have never done before Mindy opened him up, and Mindy understands that love is bigger and better than an opportunity to hook up with a billionaire. Both Mindy and Danny, as a result of their relationship, are mature, which I wish the show did more: Danny doesn’t care about a “skanky” email because he knows he can trust Mindy, and Mindy, despite her whistle and her many many calls, is having less of a trust issue and more of a loneliness issue. She misses her boyfriend, and Alex is more of a curious “one that got away” rather than a real temptation. (Thank God.)

As I was watching this episode I kept thinking of “Be Cool,” the episode where Mindy and Danny break up. It’s an episode where Mindy is insecure and manipulative and Danny is jealous and dishonest (by not telling the office about their relationship). While the source of the pettiness comes from real places, it’s still pettiness.

I have mentioned eons of times that what would make Mindy and Danny a great TV couple despite the diffusion of the “will-they-won’t-they” tension is a feeling that their relationship was deepening. Although this show, unfortunately,  prefers the joke (think “Daddy’s got you” from ”Crimes and Misdemeanors”), I felt satisfied by Mindy and Danny in “San Francisco Bae.” They were acting as if they had grown up from “Be Cool.” Something about this episode reminded me that Mindy and Danny aren’t a couple just because; there is something about these two that makes them especially suited for each other.

Can you believe I forgot that? In previous episodes it was easy to forget, because there were so many shenanigans and so many guest stars and so many misunderstandings made by Mindy or Danny, or so many stupid fights between Mindy and Danny. It was as if Mindy and Danny were making each other worse instead of better; I’m happy this episode reversed that trend by showing Mindy and Danny acting like adults.

Also—though I don’t like to dwell on Peter much—given that this is his penultimate episode, isn’t it great to see that he’s grown up so much since “Music Festival”? I’ll always be kinda sad we never got to meet Becca and I’ll never be enamored with Peter Prentice, but as far as arcs go, his wasn’t so bad. Lauren (for whatever reason—dying to know what makes her so desirable) helped make Peter into a better lover, and S&A helped make him into a better person. This isn’t hard, because when we met him, he was having sex with Christmas trees. But still.


Do you watch How I Met Your Mother? You should watch it. (Stop watching it before the ninth season, but watch it.) It’s fun and great and was a very comfortable, romantic, well-thought-out show. (Stop watching it before the ninth season, though. Did I say that?)

One thing about How I Met Your Mother: even though all the characters had distinct personalities and interesting problems and the show didn’t tire until... let’s say the ninth season, there was Lily Aldrin. She had a purpose as mother hen of the group, and (like Morgan and Peter) was often the “can’t keep a secret” plot device that caused misunderstandings. She was useful in this way.

But SHE WAS AN AWFUL, AWFUL PERSON. I won’t get into episode details (you can ask me about them on Tumblr or on the comments here if you are intrigued), but Lily was manipulative, selfish, narcissistic, arrogant, drove her husband into debt—well, a bunch of things. A bunch of things.

I love when characters suck. Hannibal is the worst human being, but he is one of my favorite characters. Jaime Camil’s Rogelio in Jane the Virgin doesn’t suck, but he’s narcissistic and shallow (yet these are qualities that I, like many, love about him). I may hate Lena Dunham, and her Girls character Hannah Horvath is insufferable, but I respect the creation of a character like that.

What makes Hannibal and Rogelio and Hannah Horvath different than Lily Aldrin?* All four characters are flawed, but here’s the difference: in 3 of the 4 shows, the characters and the audience are in on that secret. Hannibal is a deplorable human being, but he has to face consequences for what he does. Characters don’t always bend to Hannibal’s whims. Rogelio is narcissistic - #GoRo - but that trait is exaggerated so much and addressed by the characters (Jane not immediately taking a liking to him, for instance). And Hannah Horvath—well, nobody’s blind to her faults. Just ask Marnie or Shoshanna.

But Lily Aldrin, despite being one of the most selfish characters EVER, is never called out for being the worst. EVER. In a season nine episode (which you will hopefully never watch, because I have warned you against allocating your time in such a wasteful way), Lily tells Robin to find a female friend that isn’t her. Robin finds a female friend that isn’t Lily. Lily sabotages their relationship and tells Robin that asking Robin to find a female friend made her realize that she can’t accept Robin having any other female friends besides her. Instead of acting like any human would in this circumstance, Robin gives her a (tearful?) hug.

The Lily Aldrin Syndrome is this: a character who has flaws but those flaws are meant to go unseen by the audience. In fact, the audience is supposed to adore said character, because the other characters adore said character. Meanness or wrongdoing is never adequately confronted or handled as it would be in the real world. Other examples include Dexter Morgan and Sheldon Cooper (DO BETTER, AMY FARRAH FOWLER! DO BETTER!).

It’s a long preamble to get here, but I bring that up because in this episode, my biggest annoyance was that Mindy was demonstrating the Lily Aldrin Syndrome. Chrissy Teigen didn’t like her, but a billionaire devoted himself to becoming the sort of man she would want to be with. In fact, often-shown-as-insecure Mindy approached a guy who looks like LEE PACE with: “Yeah, he’ll do.” But Mindy wasn’t just the inspiration for Alex’s self-betterment; she was the inspiration for a billion-dollar idea. In the show’s canon, Mindy is worth a billion bucks.

I know, I know—Mindy has a lot of flaws; she is geographically challenged, eats a ton always, and is the kind of girl who would drop all plans for her boyfriend. But nobody dislikes her in the lasting sense. Her success rate with guys, though filled with foibles, is pretty much a 1.000, and anyone who is meant not to like Mindy warms up to her pretty damn quick: Rob, Niecy Nash, Annette. (Even Tamra was meant to be indifferent towards Mindy—remember “Glob”?—which was something I was so excited for, until she all of a sudden wasn’t that way anymore). Other sources of conflict—Dr. Leotard, Shauna, some potential of Betsy—all left before the show could explore the friction. Cliff Gilbert, the guy who punched Danny at his grandma’s funeral, had residual interest in Mindy.

I’m happy this episode didn’t press too much on Alex’s adoration of Mindy (he had a girlfriend, after all)—but c’mon. God. Like the last episode, the treatment Mindy got from those around her felt unearned. I think Mindy Kaling is doing the best acting work she’s ever done this season, but I just want to see her character treated like a real person who has substantial flaws and doesn’t mesh with everyone she meets. Please!

Stray Observations:
  • * What a mix of characters I have mentioned here!
  • I mentioned it briefly when discussing Lily Aldrin, but THREE TIMES this episode had a character do something impulsive/blurt out a secret to keep the action going: Rob sending the email, Morgan making the call, and Peter confessing to Danny about the email. The first one was justifiable but the second two were not.
  • "He’ll do" for LEE PACE?! I don’t care if he has a ponytail! Sheesh.


  1. "you know that I feel like this season is in a bit of a rut in terms of making me emotionally invested." yes we know. stop mentioning in every review. just comment on it as a show and stop comparing it to what it used to be. i liked you're christmas review where you analyzed it as an episode and not a comparison to previous episodes. i know you get angry but jeez

    1. Uh, Ann is kind of allowed to say whatever she wants to. It's HER review and she's been given the space and freedom here in order to express her opinions and thoughts regarding an episode, whether you like it or not. If you don't like what you're reading, there is a very simple solution: don't read it.

      And don't have the audacity to tell someone who writes for me here HOW they should write. Please and thank you.

    2. Hi Anon!

      I don't get angry. This is a TV show so I don't really invest that much in it. (which is what the quote you pulled was saying, actually). As I mentioned, this episode was a meh episode, and what I talked about in this review was the most analyzing that I've done so far this season (which is why I opened by saying I wasn't really going to review it). To me it is just so weird to get angry about me saying this season is in a rut when I literally echo your thoughts in subsequent sentences. Like, get with the times. Get angry about "I Slipped" or something.

      PS - *your

  2. I don't think the previous anon is annoyed that you said the show is in a rut. This is a review afterall and it could either be positive or negative. Recently these reviews start either a dilemma. Should I look at this episode as just an episode or compare it slightly to season 2? It's fine, I struggle with it too. One thing is struggling with it and another is mentioning it in the beginning of every review. I don't mind but honestly I have been skipping you're first paragraph of explanation lately and going straight to the review/analysis. You could say TMP is the worst show and I would still read it. If we comment it's because we care and we know what type of insights you bring.

    1. Hi, Lina!

      This is so strange to me that this is the review where this issue is coming up, because I think increasingly I've shown how uncomfortable I am in mentioning it over and over again. There is no review more than this one that makes it clear how much I haaaaaate being nebby and "how to view the season" etc, because as someone who loves talking about the different parts of TV, it sucks to have to tread over and over them again.

      This is the first review that I compartmentalized that feeling into one paragraph in case anyone was interested in my actual review of the episode, which some people are. (Also, thank you for saying you care!! I hope you don't think I'm angry or anything, and I'm not angry at the anon earlier either--just so so confused why this is coming up now!) To me, giving my judgment on the episode--and saying "this is why I feel this way"--is necessary to a review, because I have to a) state my opinion and b) back it up in the same way. Like the show, I am also in a rut of having to state that same opinion again and again and again because my reaction is pretty much always the same. (I also feel v guilty for feeling this way, because people have told me they think I hate the show, when it is and forever will be a darling of mine).

      Does that make sense? I am just SO confused why this is the one, because I think this one more than the other ones make it v clear that I am aware of how boring it is to say the same things again and again--and in this one, I wanted to do some TV analysis and discussion instead of saying "I didn't like this episode and here's why."

      This is not proofread so I don't know how much I repeated myself, but I hope you understand where I'm coming from here. I can't imagine a way to better my writing without forgoing the inclusion of an opinion, ya know? But hopefully I can do better in the future, somehow, because it makes me v happy that you read what I write regardless of how I feel about each episode!

      - Ann