Honesty is the best policy
This was another so-so episode of The Mindy Project. I suppose the theme of its two stories is something like “It’s hard to be honest, but honesty makes for better relationships.” Ok, that’s fine, but the message the episode really conveys is “It’s hard to write television comedy.” The first plot concerns Danny’s childhood friend, Stevie, who still lives on Staten Island and wants Danny to continue providing him with Vicodin after stitching him up after a fight. The second plot involves the unexpected return of Heather, Josh’s original girlfriend to whom Mindy was unwittingly the other woman.
The Heather business comes out of nowhere, surprising both Mindy’s character and the viewer. Heather shows up at Mindy’s door with an apology pie (yes, she calls it a humble pie) for having trashed her apartment during her Christmas party. She seems sincere and also strange, bowing as she presents the pie. Heather also informs Mindy that she may be moving into her building. Of course, Mindy can’t have this, so she writes an anonymous letter bashing Heather and ensuring her rejection for the apartment. Later, though, Danny persuades Mindy to tell Heather the truth, which results in a fight, a reconciliation, and apparently a decision that Heather will be moving into the building after all. Does this mean Ellie Kemper is joining the show? She’s a funny actress, so I would welcome that if the show can figure out how to make her character just the right amount of weird. Right now it’s too much to be believable (adding a wild temper to the ditziness of her character from The Office), and this show already has too many characters pushing the boundaries of plausible weirdness, mostly because their quirks make them neither particularly funny nor particularly endearing.
On the Stevie front, the group becomes concerned that Danny has a pill addiction, when it turns out he gave pills to an old friend. When Mindy and Jeremy express concerns about liability, Danny agrees to cut off Stevie. This doesn’t go well, because Danny feels guilty, and Stevie gives him a hard time. There are lots of problems in this plot, including this: after a semi-serious look at addiction in the group’s intervention with Danny, no one seems to notice that Stevie might be an addict. Second, it’s not clear just how rough a character Stevie is. He enters the scene due to a fight, and his response to Danny’s attempt to cut him off is to intimidate his co-workers. Those aren’t good signs. But when he attempts to scare Mindy, it turns out he’s not very good at it—or she’s not very good at determining what kind of attention a man is paying her—and they go out for ice cream instead. So then he seems kind of harmless. After Mindy, Morgan, and Danny make a trip to Staten Island, where Stevie lives in his sweet mother’s basement (again, pretty harmless), Danny and Stevie fight and resolve the situation. I guess it’s good to be honest with your friends, it just doesn’t make for good television in this case.
This show needs better writers. They currently include lines that they think will be funny but that don’t make sense or fit, like Morgan’s closing declaration that sherbet isn’t ice cream. I agree, but Morgan, Stevie’s mom just offered you neapolitan or chocolate chip—that’s clearly ice cream. Get it together, writers.
First things first – somewhere Michael Rappaport is wondering why The Mindy Project cast someone else to play his stock character. As often as this show runs out cameos and guest stars, I was frankly surprised. I didn’t really see Stevie’s character as being rough at all – he was a ticket scalper to the ice capades after all. I think he was just a harmless guy who was trying to act tough. This whole plot line felt like a harsh treatment of Staten Island – the characters we see are a Jersey Shore Italian-American stereotype (which Mindy attempts to dress for), Mindy recruits Morgan because she feels that she’ll need protection, and the health care that Stevie and his mother have been receiving are inadequate. I would applaud the show if they wanted to address inequalities in access to health care, but that didn’t feel like the direction they were going. We don’t really know why Stevie had to go to Danny for stitches and pain medication (was he ducking the police or does he not have medical insurance) and the reason for Stevie’s mother taking the wrong dosages and medication was glossed over. Perhaps that would have taken the show in too serious of a direction, but lets face it – there weren’t a whole lot of laughs to begin with.
The only thing I really took from this episode was that I liked the dynamic between Danny and Stevie because it gave us fresh insight into Danny’s character. Danny has been a strong, confident, and occasionally arrogant character in this show, so I appreciated seeing a new side of him that was self conscious about his success. Danny sees the people that he grew up with as not having achieved as much and he doesn’t want to come across as being “too big for the island,” which Stevie later accuses him of. This in part returns to an earlier theme of the show – the balance between personal and professional. All previous examples have focused on Mindy’s work-life balance, but in this case Danny is the one who blurs the lines between the two. He feels compelled to help out a friend with pain medication even though it is illegal and jeopardizes their practice. I would imagine that is a more difficult situation to deal with than trying to decide whether to stay on a date with Ed Helms or go deliver a baby (a prior situation that Mindy faced), and it could make for interesting drama… unfortunately it is a challenge to make that interesting comedy, and it just didn’t work out.
I don’t really have anything to say about the Mindy/Heather story – it was boring and only made me want to eat some pie. And then Morgan made me want to eat some ice cream (not sherbet) with my pie. I suppose that Ellie Kemper could make the show more interesting, but I’m with you – there are too many cooks in the kitchen. We’ve barely even gotten any insight into the characters that have been around in the first 17 episodes, much less formed a connection with them.