Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x03 "Crimes & Misdemeanors & Ex-BFs" [Contributor: Ann]

"Crimes & Misdemeanors & Ex-BFs"
Original Airdate: September 30, 2014

There are a lot of different reasons to watch a television show.

When I first become hooked on watching The Mindy Project, it was after I had watched “Pretty Man” for the first time. Mindy and Danny were in the shower together—a scene I’m sure these two characters since recreated naked—and the chemistry was out of control. And I got hooked, really, because Mindy and Danny—through the acting abilities of Chris Messina and increasingly Mindy Kaling—have spark when they share the screen together.

As I continued watching season one in disgusting binge-watching fashion, I became obsessed because of the story I felt was being told between the lines: the character backstories, the quiet character beats, the silences that the show gave Chris Messina to dish out heart eyes. If you’ve read well, anything that I’ve written about this show, I believe that the writers are smart enough and know their characters enough to construct coherent and subtle arcs with them. And the actors, in turn, are talented enough to translate that subtlety into their facial expressions and physicality.

I watched this show for other reasons, too. The great revolving door of recurring characters. The comedy. The fashion.

But the reasons I watch The Mindy Project now are different than they were before, because this show is not the same show that it was in its first season or second. Not changed—not fundamentally or entirely—but distinctively different. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but (especially with the last two episodes) it also means that moving forward my perspective on the series has had to shift.

Allow me to explain this change and my perspective within the context of this episode: "Crimes and Misdemeanors and Ex-Boyfriends."

First, let me say that it was my favorite episode of the season, so let me start off with the things the episode did well.

The Mindy Project is far more established now than it was in its first season. Does anyone miss Zoe Jarman at all? I have been loving Beverly especially this season—and in the first, that wasn’t the case. She has found a niche that is reminiscent but not identical to Creed Bratton on The Office, and her lines in the episode were some of her best ever. (Personal favorite: “It ain’t a real kiss if it’s above the belt.”) The same holds true with Jeremy, Peter, and Morgan. Now that the show has more faith in its supporting cast, there is more of a comfortable rapport between the audience and the characters, especially because Morgan is not being shoved down our throats as a faux-“breakout character.”

Same with our main stars, by the way. I feel so strongly that what makes a character great is that as we learn more about them, the writers don’t dig themselves into holes. The characters gain depth. This was half-true with Mindy and Danny in this episode (I’ll get to the other half later). I adored seeing Mindy channel her dramatic nature for manipulative purposes, and I adored seeing the common “Mindy eats a lot” joke modified as her being so cold and not eating because she was so upset. It made a joke that normally feels stale feel fresh. As for Danny, I want to meet his cousin Don! God, I hope he exists.

One last thing to note about the cast—did anyone else love the scene where everyone is in Mindy’s office? Or the elevator scene? It reminded me that, at the end of the day, The Mindy Project can be a show that is so comfortable to watch, based all on the chemistry everyone has with each other. This didn’t always exist with the cast, and I’m so thankful that it does now, because it makes the office dynamic more palpable and believable, and also provides potential for some mixing of the cast. (Again: would LOVE to see a Jeremy/Mindy episode!)

Another thing I loved about this episode was that the plots, while not logically consistent (but I’ll get to that), were interesting, at least. The B-plot was actually awesome—probably, honestly, my favorite B-plot of all time (the Mike Myers impression? Peter’s stipulations for Lauren? Jeremy’s pronunciation of Vitamin?). It utilized a lot of characters in ways I’m actually interested in seeing—vulnerable but still funny Peter, asshole but still funny Jeremy, clever one-liner Beverly. I was so thankful. Do you remember the B-plot of "Danny Castellano is My Personal Trainer," where Peter is the manager for a day, but things get out of control? What has improved since then is that a) the B-plot has actual stakes that an audience can care about (I have been loving the love triangle this season) and b) the tone was relaxed. In DCIMPT, we had an owl, a bunch of gloves, a visit to Jeremy’s apartment, and a visit to the eyebrow threader salon. In this episode, the plot moved pretty realistically for a pretty realistic situation, in response to a situation that’s been established since the premiere. Basically, it felt real, and it was funny, and it was meaningful for the development of the characters, too.

The A-plot in "Crimes & Misdemeanors" was not without its faults, but God was I happy to see Cliff and Brendan. As someone who’s always considered Cliff a bit of a rube and an amorphous plot device, I liked that he had grown a bit of a spine since he punched Danny in the face. He often had to play straight man to the craziness around him, but without the writers needing to sell him as the mild, pleasant counteroffer to Danny, he was able in this episode be snarkier, meaner, a little conniving (after a few rewatches, I think he knew Mindy was lying from the beginning but wanted to make her sweat—right?), and starkly honest. “You’re a perfect couple. You’re terrible people and you’re huge liars,” he tells Mindy about herself and Danny. It was a little Dennis Reynolds—as was his burning the Yankees seat—and he became 1000% hotter and more interesting as a character because of it. And Brendan, in a few lines, can improve any scene he is in. His character is dynamite.

Which I guess brings me to the best change that The Mindy Project has gone through—it is hilarious. Not that it wasn’t funny before, but within this episode I see that those involved with the show have created and established characters strong enough that these individuals can have realistic-sounding conversations with one another that are riddled with rapid-fire jokes. Joke after joke after joke landed for me this episode which, as you remember, isn’t how I felt in the last episode, so I’m happy that this show can comedically be aces. I honestly cannot even pick a favorite line. And so, as I reevaluate how I watch The Mindy Project, I have to say that first: I watch it now because it is funny, and I think that is so important, because when a show is funny, it means that you want to actually watch these people do things. With a showing this strong, I am convinced of the idea that Mindy Kaling put forth some time ago that romantic comedies needed more comedy in them. She set out to fix that problem, and I think she has. Again: this is necessary. Without the all-encompassing “will-they-won’t-they” of the second season, there is naturally less pressure for every moment to build to something in the third.

What I am saying, then, is that with the emergence of The Mindy Project as first and foremost a comedy and then a romantic comedy, I have stopped watching it with hawk-eye attention towards romance. Mindy and Danny are the heart of the show, and their love is persistent, but the pressure is off them as a couple and I’m no longer dying to see them smooch (though seeing it can’t hurt). And I love that the writers have adapted to no longer relying on the “will-they-won’t-they” sexual tension. Some shows can’t do that!

But let me talk for a bit about what The Mindy Project needs to fix if it’s going to become as great as all of the adulations I’ve given it. This show is by no means perfect, and, in its third season, I have taken off my rose-colored glasses because the youth of the series is no longer an excuse for its flaws.

First in plot holes. They were absolutely abound in the first season—remember Jeremy dated Maggie, and then didn’t, and then sort of did again? Or the (admittedly Hurricane Sandy-inspired) “ageism lawsuit” between Beverly and the practice? Or all of those times that a development happened, like Brendan suddenly feeling sympathy for Mindy in “Mindy’s Birthday,” or—again—Jeremy somehow dating Maggie, that we were asked to just accept without complaint? Well, that’s gotten worse, and as someone who watches this show critically, it is so frustrating that there’s no consistency in terms of realism. The timeline is a joke. The Yankees stadium seat was an element never adequately explained, nor was the reason Cliff had to be involved in Danny’s divorce nonsense, or the divorce nonsense at all. Also, I have to say: THE EPISODE WAS CALLED “CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS AND EX-BOYFRIENDS,” THE PLURAL. Are you really going to mislead your audience in thinking that the episode would centrally involve more than one ex-boyfriend? Based on the title, you would think that it would more directly involve Mindy dating almost everyone in the building, but it doesn’t. Like “We’re a Couple Now, Haters,” the title was badly chosen and led to some disappointment.

I have to put a red flag up also for a dissipation of subtle emotional beats in conjunction with exaggerated behavior, mostly from Danny. I never thought that we would hear Danny call Mindy “baby” or call himself “Daddy,” I hated that he said that he “owned” her, I hated that he wanted to make her dinner because “she deserved it”—it sounded so condescending—and I actually think a lot of his behavior this episode was condescending, and that bothers me. For the first time ever I didn’t buy Chris Messina’s acting. Because the episode was so fast-paced, the conflict between Danny and Mindy was solved with one on-the-nose comment from Cliff and a beat of Danny looking around his apartment. We weren’t given any insight into why Danny felt the way he did about Mindy moving her stuff into his apartment, which made his character feel a little less rich with internal conflict. I am not desperate to hear that Mindy and Danny are going to have sex on the washing machine or in the closet, and I think this is just one writer’s style over another, because Mindy’s premiere script excelled most in that the conflict had depth that reached back into previous seasons and made the characters emotionally compelling.

Mostly, though—and whether or not this is a flaw is entirely up to you—I realized that, in this third episode, The Mindy Project has no clear arc and is not really serialized for its third season. It is not aimless, not exactly, but Mindy and Danny haven’t grown emotionally at all since being together, and—as someone who wants to see a proposal—I need to remember why Danny loves Mindy so much in the first place and visa versa. I need them to share a quiet moment like they did on the fire escape in the premiere, one that screams how far these two have gone with each other and how they have matured and continue to mature. Just seeing them as a couple is not satisfying (and that's coming from a diehard rom-com lover). The beats in this episode felt too sitcommy—character 1 offends character 2, character 1 rectifies mistake, happy reconciliation—instead of progressive, and I know that Mindy and Chris have the talent to deepen what exists between my favorite couple on TV.

But now that we are firmly 20% done with the season—gulp—I think the tone for the season has been established, and I’m starting to think that’s okay. Times change, and what we choose to garner from the TV shows we watch changes, too. If The Mindy Project continues to be as funny and utilize its characters like it did this week, that’s fine—because no matter what place it chooses to hold in my heart, it’s not going anywhere. It’s just redefined.

Observations and Strays:
  • Just saying—the Cliff dabbing his pizza was such an Adam Shapiro-as-Phil move. (I, of course, loved them both.)
  • I mentioned that I loved the fashion and that was a reason to watch. That is still a reason to watch. Mindy picked some good ones this week, especially the pink outfit.
  • I love the practice’s lawyer! For those at home watching, he was in Two to One—a two season callback, geeze.
  • Peter still looks like a dime. So does everyone, obviously. 
  • On that note, Danny in a T-shirt!
  • So Mindy is Danny’s Batmobile?
  • I think my favorite line is Cliff’s: “You’re a perfect couple. You’re terrible people and you’re huge liars.” I adore when characters on TV shows dislike the main characters. Oh, his “well, well, well, well…” was awesome, too. Seriously, this episode is one of the funniest.
  • You know what would have been better, by the way? If Cliff asked Danny if kissing Mindy on the plane was really worth it. And then Danny, hot off an argument about keeping stuff at his house or something, would have done his little look-around-the-apartment. It would have brought out some history.
  • Okay, because this is the "ex-boyfriend episode," here are my favorite exes of Mindy’s in order: Graham, Brendan, Cliff, Josh, Casey. That seems fair.
Join me next week for my review of "I Slipped"!


  1. I thought Danny was the sweetest in this episode. He is obsessed with Mindy in a good way.
    1) He called her sweetheart and babe which I think are the only nicknames he can pull off. (the Baby Daddy's here I think is the writers messing with Messina but I loved Mindy's face like "wtf did you just say?"
    2) He wants to be around her all the time. He wants her to stay over and be in his apartment. He just doesn't realize that having Mindy around would mean she needs her stuff too. I feel like this is GUYS ARE OBLIVIOUS 101. "there is no place for Mindy's brush. What to do? I know! I'll give it back to her. but Mindy won't be able to stay over as often because her stuff is at her place. I know! I'll give you a suitcare" Danny you dumb dumb.
    3) He gets excited about her. "I just got a shout out." [she is talking about me!]
    4) He got mad when Mindy said they were broken up. "why did you do that?!" [but don't tell people we broke up. i want you.]
    5) He wanted her to join him watch JAG and fold socks. "Get in here JAG is in a bit of a pickle" [come! i want to share this with you!]
    6) When he looks at Mindy after Cliff said Danny cheated [what?! i wouldn't do that!] Also "we're not broken up" to Morgan was almost a declaration [we are together. she is still my woman. back off]
    7) Danny is very attracted to Mindy. He wants her to do some role playing because it's her. He admits he looks at her tush when she works out. Love is important but it's nice to let your partner know that they turn you on regardless of body type or whatever.
    8) Mindy says she is going to the gym. "I'll come with you!" [you're going to the gym? i like going to the gym. i'll go too! with you!]
    9)The "You deserve it" I took it as "you are going through tax problems, dealing with an ex-boyfriend. you got a lot on your plate. let me make you dinner." since when is a man wanting to make his girlfriend dinner not a sweet gesture all of a sudden? OR the "you deserve it because you're awesome"
    10) him pulling her onto his lap and kissing her cheek. it's cute. be worried when he doesn't do things like that.
    11) "you know you can borrow my boxing trunks"
    12) one thing I haven't seen mentioned in any blog is the fact that Danny finalized the divorce FOR MINDY!!! who knows why he hadn't done it already if it was for religious reasons or something he basically ignored and avoided. whatever. But the second Mindy found out, it was his push to get it finalized.
    13) Danny knows Cliff is a divorce lawyer but throws his cousin in as if to say "i don't care who you are. i am capable and fixing this myself" Cliff offers with the price of a Yankee Chair since Danny is a yankee fan he knows it would hurt him. Danny does it! He gives up a valuable possession for his other valuable possession, Mindy!
    14) Cliff pointing out "there is no sign of her" was sort of a wake-up call for Danny who realizes what it really means when Mindy leaves her stuff at his place. Her presence doesn't only rely on Mindy but also her things around his place.
    15) "wanna stay over tonight? you can eat all the chocolate casings off all my ice cream bars" [i want her to stay. what can i do to get her to stay]
    16) "My work, faith and you"
    17) He gets Mindy a pink nightstand that doesn't match anything else in his place. When she mentioned the closet, he refused but Mindy was like "yeah right." I'm sure in time she will have closet space.

  2. Danny has always been the person to not understand his actions. Season 1 and 2, he would do stuff for Mindy and not admit/realize he was in love with her. Here he wants Mindy around all the time. The last time he had woman's stuff all around was probably with Christina. So once she keep more stuff at his place, he'll realize that all he really wants is for her to move in with him. But that's just my theory but the point is Danny is oblivious to a lot of things and even his own actions. Danny, if you want Mindy over all the time let her keep stuff at your place you dumb dumb. 2/2

  3. I love these points! I totally see your point.

    I guess for me it boils down to the question of "what did the writers intend? What did Chris Messina intend?" IS it a grand statement of characterization or is it comedy for the sake of comedy? When I look at an episode like this with the scenes it has versus the fire escape scene (and, by extension, the stripping scene) I have to say the latter, because I've seen these writers really hone into the nitty-gritty of these characters' lives. They are capable of putting in the subtle undercurrent, and the most I saw of that in this episode was the way Danny looked at Mindy when he said "and you."

    I think I also just kind of miss... I miss these two teaming up together. Not fighting, but working towards a common goal where they both have a reason to deeply appreciate each other. Does that make sense? A lot of this is just personal gut feeling, but in this episode we're more often given "Danny appreciates Mindy" than "Danny appreciates Mindy BECAUSE," and I want to see that side more.

    1. I see what you mean. Like when Danny says "you are my best friend. i need to have you in my life" in Be Cool. Danny is telling Mindy what he thinks of her and why. For me, I wish we could have seen a lot of the firsts but I guess for now it's just the different crazy stuff that couples go through instead of having a specific aim towards something. Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen wrote "Be Cool" so hopefully they will solve your doubts.

  4. We have gotten a super sexy moment at the end of every episode but the same spark is definitely not there. Proving that maybe TV couples go stale even when the writers are desperately seeking to be raunchy.I find Mindy & Danny pretty boring since ep 2. I don't know if it's on purpose but they are holding back with Danny and Mindy in an obvious way. He was head over heels in love last year and now he's acting hesitant to do what most "all-in" couples do. It might be for a different reason than you but I don't get excited for kissy scenes either because they haven't been hitting the mark. I'm convinced that someone decided to have them stop making out and only kiss foreheads :) I almost miss when they weren't together because I wasn't distracted by wanting more lovey scenes. I could focus on the comedy with no other expectations. Now that they are together, I want to see certain things explored and there's no time or effort. It makes the finale from last year look like a gimmick.