Season 3, Episode 18 & 19
“Fertility Bites” & “Confessions of a Catho-holic”
Posted by Sage
Compared to the last two episodes, “Fertility Bites” and “Confessions of a Catho-holic” don’t make for a cohesive pair. But I’m still strangely glad that I’m recapping them together, if only to highlight the differences between a lukewarm Mindy and a pretty great one.
The former occurs, we learn, when a half-baked storyline butts up against subject matter that’s a little icky. The Mindy Project has never been all sweetness and light – there’s an archness and an edge that’s appropriate. At its best, the show dances that line joyfully and adeptly. But it’s a tall order to create zany comedy from fertility issues, even if the joke is on Mindy and – to his dismay – Danny. I didn’t find the episode offensive in any way – just not entirely successful.
With San Francisco long forgotten, Mindy’s Manhattan fertility clinic is almost up and running. The interior looks like an Oprah magazine spread; Morgan is prepared to open up a vein to help Mindy make her venture a success; and subway commuters are being treated to ads featuring a blue-eyed Dr. Lahiri. (“You look like a werewolf.”) The only element missing is a clientele.
Even in The Mindy Project’s candy-colored New York fantasyland, I can’t believe that neither Mindy nor Danny would be concerned about wrangling a patient base first. With no experience other than the fellowship, Mindy expects that the women will come a-runnin’. But fertility treatment is not a Groupon business. No hopeful parent-to-be wants to bet on the newest game in town, even the one with the plushest waiting room sofa. So Mindy starts to lie.
The defining rule of the comedy behind Always Sunny is that it’s always The Gang who end up looking like assholes. This way, they can set their episodes at Pro-Life rallies, welfare offices, and bath salt rampages and still boast a level of sensitivity. “Fertility Bites” proceeds in the same fashion. Mindy’s bold-faced lies about her level of experience illuminate her desperation and wonky moral compass. At no point is the show making fun of families who have these kind of issues, except perhaps Cousin Lou, whose issues may result from his refusal protect himself from radiation at the dentist because “aprons are for girls.” Danny is unwittingly pulled in to the lie when Mindy claims that her own pregnancy is one of her success stories. From there, the episode spirals into a series of dick jokes. (“How she pulled this off all on her own, I can’t even conceive,” Danny failing to pop the champagne cork.) And I love a good dick joke. Mallrats is in my top 5 favorite movies. I just think we could have done better here.
What this episode does give us in character development is more proof of the humiliation that Danny will endure for (and because of) Mindy. He’s so easily embarrassed (never forget his horror at Christina’s gallery show); “Fertility Bites” was at its best when Danny strutted around the cocktail party, totally unaware that his lack of virility was the evening’s main topic of conversation. Back at home, he sulks for exactly one hot second. (I timed it.) And then all is forgiven when Mindy declares her intention to move in. Ugh, look at this. His crooked smile, her ombre highlights. It was almost enough for me to forgive the rest of the episode too. Almost.
I was raised Catholic. The whole bit: sacraments, Catholic school, little bridal dresses for children, sex ed taught by a priest. So I will never tire of Mindy dipping into the cultural weirdness that’s inherent in that faith, especially in the hands of an Italian family with too few boundaries. I get it. It speaks to me. I came home from practice many a night to a priest enjoying coffee and a slice of panettone in my kitchen. And if I didn’t pay adequate respects before even fully in the door, my mother would demand out of clenched teeth and with a barely concealed fury in her eye, “Can you say ‘hi’?” Having a priest over for piccata was both a direct “in” to god and a social power play. (Don’t you tell me that church isn’t about winning, because I’ve been there.) For the priests? The home-cooked meals (and bathroom snooping) must be one of the perks of the job.
So last week, the comedic misunderstanding. This week, the comedic play-acting. Danny invites Father Michael, once the most troublesome kid in the old neighborhood and now a fire-and-brimstone priest, to dinner with him and his live-in yet celibate girlfriend, Mindy McPherson. (“I don’t have a Catholic bone in my body…except yours.”) Danny is convinced that his confession (bastard, mixed-faith child) killed old Father Francis, so he’s desperate for Father Michael’s blessing. He entertains the idea of switching churches (“St. Ignatius has one of those guitar priests, but I can get over it.”), but Staten oracles Annette and Dot are there to help him realize that his issues aren’t with who he’s confessing to, but why he feels this guilt in the first place. I don’t want to deride anyone’s spiritual choices here, but, in my experience, religions as regimented as Catholicism make it very easy to get caught up in the rules and forget to focus on the people around you. There isn’t any part of Danny that doesn’t want this baby or doesn’t want raise it (HIM!) with Mindy. As cute as his aging altar boy complex is, I’m anti any person or institution who makes him feel ashamed for producing a “little disciple” and being happy about it.
Mindy is down to play this game, as long as it’s only Father Michael they’re fooling. She even cues up Morgan to do some remote scriptural research from the audience of Jeremy’s one-man show. (“Oh Catholicism, I thought you said ‘alcoholism.'”) There’s a close call when Father Michael asks for a favorite verse from the New Testament (“There’s a sequel to the Bible but not to Gone Girl?”) and another when she has to Tobias Funke some condoms out of the bathroom, but otherwise Mindy passes with flying colors. The con works too well; over Scrabble, the three commiserate about Danny’s “ex,” the “godless sex maniac” and how he was never going to marry that one. (“She was more sex-positive in a way that was very on-brand for her.”) It’s not the first time that Mindy wonders if Danny would be even happier if she was more the girl his mother envisioned, but it’s the first time she hears him voice it. This fake life they’re constructing is too close to one he could have had.
- “Excuse me, everyone. I have an interruption.”
- I’m already over Bergdahl. I’ve pretended to be interested in the lives of enough schlubby, divorced, middle-aged male characters to last all of the lifetimes.
- “Wait a second, did you just use the Future Plu-Perfect?”
- So here for Morgan’s vest-over-scrubs party ensemble.
- “We’ve decided to be our most Oprah selves.”
- Let’s have a moment for Mindy being so open about gender identity.
- “I coveted my butcher’s Mean Streets poster…”
- I’m so, so sorry Jeremy, but I enjoy you so much more as a lonely, pathetic failed thespian than a human man in a relationship.
- “That guy’s a virgin? What a waste.”
- “Swami emoji.”
- “If anything, she was two pears stacked on top of each other.” “That’s a butternut squash.”
- “It ended like every love letter I’ve ever written – with the authorities being called.”