The one that got away
This episode delivered what the show does well: it used Mindy’s passion for romantic comedies as a frame without making her seem obsessed, it featured a fun guest star (Seth Rogen), it chronicled a mostly believable challenge in Mindy’s dating life–the problem of bad timing, and it showed Mindy getting through the ups-and-downs rather than staying down.
Thank goodness for the return of snappy dialogue and good chemistry between Mindy and a romantic interest. Mindy Kaling and Seth Rogen are both fun comedic actors to watch, and fortunately this episode gave them many of the one-liners they deliver so well. I thought the summer camp backstory was cute and familiar without feeling overdone, especially because of the way they reconnected (Sam liked a picture of a hot dog Mindy posted on Facebook). Sam was not only funny but also, it seems, a good guy, which is why the show won’t let him stick around; it’s far too soon for Mindy to find a real relationship. He observed that Mindy is a great doctor and that she’s doing what she loves, and that’s why he’s redeploying to Afghanistan–because it’s what he cares about. I was glad that felt like a good lesson about vocation rather than army propaganda. (Plus Sam’s unfinished tattoo that just reads “arm” is funny PR for the army.) If The Mindy Project is around in a couple of seasons, I hope they’ll bring Sam back to the US for a longer story arc.
I could have done without the Danny-as-potential-sperm-donor storyline, which felt ridiculous. When Mindy suggests to a colleague that she sometimes takes home Z-packs, he seems shocked at the ethics breach, but no one seems to notice the ethical ambiguity of Danny donating sperm to a patient. His friends are rightly concerned that he’s making the decision too hastily and because he’s still depressed about his break-up with Eyepatch, but they don’t object to the weird circumstances of his relationship to the recipient couple. This whole story was bizarre without telling us anything new about whether Danny is a sensitive guy who wants to be a dad, which I suspect is what it was meant to address.
Fortunately, most of the episode was devoted to Mindy and Sam. Since Sam won’t be back for the remaining episodes of the season, I hope the laughs don’t leave the country with him.
I’m not entirely sure what it was… maybe it was his characters in Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, or 40-Year-Old Virgin… maybe it was his reputation as a fun-loving stoner… maybe it was the fact that he lied about being blind in the first 45 seconds of his cameo this week in The Mindy Project… but I spent the whole episode waiting for the reveal that Seth Rogen’s character, Sam, was lying about having to go back to Afghanistan and/or not really being in the Army. It ended up being a little distracting for me, because at no point did I really buy him as a soldier on leave (something they gave a subtle nod to with Mindy’s comment about his hair being too long). That being said, I do agree that his character was positive PR for the Army. Once I got past the expectation that it was all a ruse, he came across as a down-to-earth, funny, good guy who felt his life’s work was building wells and providing clean water to people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Interestingly, the only references to combat made in the episode came when Morgan commented on Seal Team 6, though that undoubtedly is a part of his military experience that he (the writers) chose not to include. I’m very curious what resources they drew on in developing Sam’s character for this episode, because he offers some interesting insights into a soldier’s life away from home: noting upon his return the preponderance of singing competitions on TV, amazement at the self checkout line, and really missing the way women smell. As someone who has never served in the military or spent any time removed from popular culture, it made me wonder how accurate these observations are.
The other notable thing about this week’s episode was the narrowed focus onto a Mindy plot line (which turned out okay) and Danny plot line (which I agree was out of left field). The secondary characters were really moved to the background and limited to one-liners. I don’t necessarily disagree with this strategy, since they aren’t particularly interesting characters. However, I’m not sure that Mindy and Danny are strong enough to carry this show, particularly since they just don’t seem to know what to do with Danny right now. This was a funnier episode, due mostly to Seth Rogen playing his standard Seth Rogen character (only in an Army t-shirt this time) and good chemistry between him and Mindy. But at some point they are going to run out of cameos and will need to build a show around these characters if this is going to be a successful program. I don’t think that they can get away with just letting Jeremy, Betsy, and Morgan become wallflowers. Just look at the way Parks and Recreation (another show that I felt got off to a very rocky start in its first season) developed an incredibly rich cast of characters around Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones. I find myself tuning in to see what April, Ron, and Tom are up to just as much, if not more, than Leslie and Ann. If The Mindy Project can’t strengthen its peripheral cast and make me interested in the non-Mindy/Danny characters I have doubts about whether the show can make it.