When it comes to prisons, I’m the gynecologist
This week The Mindy Project goes to church… kind of. More accurately, they superficially touched on the topics of religious differences in dating/relationships and the motivation behind people’s altruism and selflessness. These are rich and complex subjects that entire seasons or even series have been dedicated to exploring, and wisely The Mindy Project didn’t delve in too deeply. This is supposed to be a comedy after all, and these issues could threaten to take the show in a serious, dramatic direction. That being said, if the show is going to give topics a cursory treatment to keep things light and preserve a comedic element it’s important to actually have a funny episode! The episode opens with Mindy meeting a handsome young man named Casey on the subway after they have a brief argument about proper train car exit etiquette. It is a strikingly familiar encounter, reminiscent of Mindy meeting Josh at a nightclub earlier in the season – mainly because I immediately disliked Josh’s character back then and I found Casey very off-putting in this episode. Out of nowhere, the conversation shifts and the two of them seem to hit it off – mostly because Casey finds Mindy attractive and Mindy is flattered by the attention – and they agree to go on a date. During the date, Mindy is surprised to learn that Casey is a Lutheran pastor. However, instead of providing the spark for further conversation, it only makes Mindy suspicious of Casey and she decides to go to his church service that Sunday to be sure he’s “not a weirdo cult leader.” Because Danny is Italian (and naturally as a consequence Catholic), Mindy enlists him as her Sunday morning wingman and she puts on her best Tyler Perry-inspired church clothes.
It turns out that Pastor Casey is the over-the-top “awesome” youth minister who got his own church – complete with using youthful vernacular and singing Bruno Mars with DJ Moby’s musical accompaniment. Mindy is very impressed with hip Pastor Casey’s performance and approaches him after the service only to find out that he sees her as being too selfish and materialistic for them to be together. Mindy doesn’t recognize the obvious: that Casey has just put on a self-centered one man show masquerading as a church service during which he makes reference to putting on his UGGS and trying to watch Game of Thrones on his DVR. Instead, she internalizes his criticism and decides to accompany her coworkers to do service work at a women’s prison in order to prove Casey wrong and make her feel like a better person. This serves to tie together the two storylines from this episode, which is something that the show has struggled with in the past. More importantly though, it links back to one of the more interesting themes of the show regarding the differences between Mindy’s professional and personal sides. As a doctor, she is confident and successful – when Danny criticizes her work or says he would have treated a patient differently, she easily dismisses him because she is confident in her professional abilities. However, when a selfish, materialistic pastor criticizes her, she is embarrassed and ashamed because she isn’t confident in her personal attributes.
Despite the prison service outing turning into a disastrous riot, Mindy seems to come away from the experience a little more self-assured and willing to embrace who she is. With the help of her brother Richie (who is inexplicably on Spring Break even though he dropped out of Stanford to become a rapper), she gives Pastor Casey a “this is who I am” speech. For a moment we get a glimpse of Mindy’s personal side having the same degree of confidence as Doctor Lahiri at work. I like the idea of Mindy slowly learning through experiences such as these that she can be competent and confident in her personal life and is not destined to be (as the original show title stated) a mess. Of course her confidence is short lived and we are left with the distinct impression that Pastor Casey will be back, which I am not particularly looking forward to.
The secondary plotline in the women’s prison was uninteresting and implausible. Are we to believe that prisoners are really crazed lunatics (like Morgan makes them out to be) who start a riot over an Almond Joy candy bar? While it might not make good comedic television to give an accurate depiction of what volunteer medical care at a women’s hospital actually looks like, if you are going to exaggerate scenarios make them funny! I don’t expect them to deliver the high-quality prison based humor that Arrested Development provided, but at least make me laugh.