The Mindy Project Season 4, Episode 1
“While I Was Sleeping”
Posted by Sage
The Mindy Project is now a Hulu Original, and lucky for those of us who’d follow Mindy Kaling’s vision anywhere, almost nothing has changed. The only difference between Fox-Mindy and Hulu-Mindy audience-wise is a couple extra minutes of content and a very sophisticated “Mature Audiences” disclaimer. (For Fassbender threesome daydreams and several references to the “s-ing of the the d,” I assume.)
“While I Was Sleeping” picked up immediately where the season three finale left off, with Danny Castellano shvitzing on the Lahiris’ doorstep. You’ll recall that he spontaneously flew to India after a blow-up with Mindy about his aversion to marriage, a fight that left Mindy feeling hopeless about their future. (“Life would be so much better if I’d just fallen in love with someone else.”) I dig the structure of this premiere, because it leaned into the story’s soul purpose: to get Mindy and Danny back on solid ground. I miss Beverly, Jeremy, and Tamra when they’re gone, but the show is better served by Kaling’s refusal to concoct extraneous B and C-stories just to make sure everybody gets their three minutes of screentime. The Sliding Doors/dream conceit of Mindy’s action in this episode became public when Joseph Gordon-Levitt was cast as Dr. L’s “husband,” and again, I’ve got to hand it to the writers. Mindy is prone to acting out when life isn’t as she wants it to be; having her spend most of the episode unconscious was a brilliant way of avoiding the consequences of whatever crazy thing she would have done while still giving her crazy things to do. Also, there was a 13 Going On 30 reference, so you know I’m happy. Razzles are both a candy and a gum.
But back to Danny, who was being really, really brave for a minute. The “I’m in love with your daughter” bit was wasted on a non-English speaking house servant, and Dr. C backs off from the confessions once he gets a load of the machete in the other Dr. L’s hand. (Now we know where Mindy gets her penchant for sleeping with knives.) His fear is misplaced though; the Lahiris are warm and great, even when they find out that this colleague of their daughter’s isn’t the one who sent them the Rat Pack poster on their wall. (“Morgan has never once forgotten my birthday.”) Danny’s clamming up is silly, because surely they’re going to find out that he’s the father of Mindy’s unborn child eventually, but it does give him the opportunity to observe a happy marriage – the one that gave his girlfriend her faith in the whole concept.
And to be clear: Mindy’s parents? Are perfect. I’m hoping that this season gives Ajay Mehta and Sakina Jaffrey the kind of focus that season three gave Rhea Pearlman, because they deserve it. The running joke about the Lahiris is that they’re overly indulgent of their daughter and that that’s how Mindy’s staggering confidence was born. Their arranged marriage gives us a little context though. These two people were so different on paper, fell crazy in love against all odds, and transferred all their glee and appreciation for that inordinate amount of luck onto their firstborn child, who’s a perfect combination of both of their personalities. I love the moment where Danny realizes where the hell Mindy came from. He sees her ambition and professional dedication in her dad (“His office hours are poorly attended because he teaches it right the first time.”) and her flair for drama, sparkle, and getting the attention she deserves in her mom. (“I decided the part was too small and didn’t get it. What a relief.”)
Danny’s visit becomes a conference of all the people in the world who think that Mindy makes it go ’round (except Mindy herself, of course) when Morgan of House Tookers shows up, fresh from the clutches of the Taliban. He’s there to ensure that his queen gets the king she deserves, whether that be a Danny who’s sheepish enough to don a , Red Sox sweatshirt or Kunal Nayyar from The Big Bang Theory, who tbh is looking pretty fly. Morgan is most certainly insane, but his strategy of calling Danny’s bluff works like a charm. “Ohhh, my feelings. My quaaaalms,” he taunts Dr. C, and honestly. Danny’s concerns about marriage seemed so valid to him when he was in his own world, looking at his Ma, and sleeping in a bed he used to share with Christina. Once he gets out of that space, they seem ridiculous. Mindy wants to get be married, he loves her, and what, is he going to let her go so she can end up with a guy who thinks a 35-year-old pregnant lady is “a lemon”? (“Did you just call my daughter a piece of sour fruit?”)
Or maybe she’d end up with a guy like Matt: lover of group sex, best friend of Andy Cohen, possible victim of marriage blackmail. When Mindy and Danny got together, Kaling promised that the show wouldn’t get bogged down by their relationship. One of the great joys of being a Mindy Project fan is watching Mindy interact with new dudes, preferably well-cast famous friends of the showrunner. The show has found plenty of ways to bring in those new elements, from Lee Pace as a college ex to John Cho as a sophisticated drug dealer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role is another excellent example of cute-guy integration as Mindy’s potential fate if she’d kept on looking for outside jerks instead of just picking the jerk in the next office over.
Mindy and Danny both learned in this premiere that sometimes your desires lie to you. Even if Mindy has some mild wish to have stayed on the path she was on before she and Danny became so close, her subconscious will have none of it. Dream Mindy is horrified to find out that she and Matt have an open relationship (and that she’s using those privileges to continue sleeping with Brendan, of all people. He hasn’t even heard “Big Ol’ Cheekies” yet!), and he reminds her that it was her idea. “You’re not supposed to agree with everything I say!” Mindy counters, because Mindy doesn’t even believe everything she says. The only thing good about this AU life that her anger has cooked up is that she can finally resume her regular lunch pattern of sushi and a 40. But she’ll give up even that to get back on track with the guy who makes her a better person.
Guys, I forgot how stupidly sexy mean-Danny is. It was nice to have him back for a while. Mindy and Danny’s season one antagonism returned in her dream, only this time, it’s worse. Everything leading up to that pivotal moment on their flight in “The Desert” happened; Danny fell for her and lost her because he was too afraid to make a move. She didn’t invite him to her wedding and they haven’t spoken in two years. Now he’s got 10x more hostility for his co-worker; he’s not even placated by the possibility that there might be 69-ing with his spin class pal Frieda Pinto in the future. He thinks Mindy is a bad person, and maybe she is. But it’s not just because she isn’t showing up to mass every week to wait in line for a chip. She hasn’t been asked to compromise. No one has told her “no.” It’s made her kind of a monster, just like 30-year-old Jenna Rink. Mindy doesn’t care for this scenario at all. Danny is her Matt Flamhaff, and she must win him back.
I feel so spoiled by this episode. Every romantic comedy fan knows that the love confession is the moment you wait all movie for (second in importance only to the montage, maybe); The Mindy Project just gave us a bonus one. (“This life is wrong.”) Chris Messina and Mindy Kaling acted the shit out of that scene in the rain, and I don’t think I need to tell you what I thought about that kiss.
I picked Danny’s line, “I’d like to be wrong,” as the title for this recap, because it really broke down the whole episode for me. He doesn’t leave India feeling 100% gung-ho rah-rah marriage, but he leaves knowing that Mindy is worth taking all the chances for. It worked out the first time, when he got tired of not being the guy who got to hold her hand during unexpected turbulence. Even better, Danny goes through with the proposal even when Mindy hands him a way out. We don’t want him to feel trapped, and neither does she. But this is huge stuff for Danny. He’s so set in his ways and sure of his values that “maybe I’m wrong” is a monumental statement. Nearly as monumental as the question that comes right after.
- “Meanwhile my beloved South Park pinball machine rots in storage.”
- “Want me to help me build something for you? Spice rack? I’m sure you go through a lot of those out here.”
- “Go back on that side of my desk, this is a very intimate space.” “No kidding, I spend half of my life kneeling on this floor.”
- Those cherry PJs though.
- Morgan’s wheelchair story was THE gag of the episode. I had to pause for oxygen.
- Danny’s instinctual reaction to hearing Manny Ramirez’s name is to grasp onto his chair so he won’t slide out.
- “I hope he likes the outdoors, cause Mindy’s going to push him right off a bridge.”
- That black deep vee dressssssss. I’d dream about it too.
- “It was just me by myself at the Rain Forest Cafe. A parrot laughed at me.”
- “It says here you love to dance. I myself couldn’t walk till I was 12. Could you speak to that?”
- How dare anyone shade Danny Castellano’s passion for dance. I will not have that man discouraged.
- “I had a cameltoe in coudoroy shorts, so she’s not the only famous Indian woman here.”
- “See you at Ramadan? “That’s nothing. Now you’re not getting a farewell song.”
I want to know what you thought of the Mindy premiere! Did you pick up on any essential Hulu differences I missed? Let me know in the comments!