The Mindy Project: “The Desert” Season 2 Episode 14 Review

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Whoa…who saw that coming?

Sitcoms aren’t usually known for long over-arching plotlines, but since when has The Mindy Project ever been a typical sitcom? The show already has a knack for parodying hackneyed genre tropes, and now it’s taking things a step further with an episode that feels like part of a mini-saga. Picking up right after last week’s visit to LA, we see Mindy rushing home to try and win Cliff back. 

Her plans are put on hold, however, when Danny essentially kidnaps her so she’ll accompany him on his visit to his father. Things become even more complicated when it turns out Danny has a half-sister, also named Danny (or maybe it’s Danni, or Dannie….I don’t know guys, it’s short for Danielle). I really liked this added twist, as it caused Danny’s already problematic feelings toward his dad to become even more problematic.

More importantly, it allowed for a wonderfully charged scene in the desert–hence the episode’s title–where Danny goes missing and Mindy has to find him. This scene was very atypical in that it was devoid of any humor, save for a throwaway Hunger Games reference, and featured a truly emotional confrontation between the show’s two leads. Perhaps the most interesting thing was that it felt both honest and dishonest at the same time. One one hand, Danny and Mindy are clearly projecting their feelings from each of their own problems onto each other. On the other hand, their tension felt very real, like it has been building up for quite some time. Kudos to both Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina for turning in great performances.

Of course, this was nothing compared to what happened next. After an awkward encounter with a desert army base, and a hilarious description of Mindy’s license information, Danny somewhat comes to terms with his father and the two begin the road to recovery. On the flight back to New York, Danny helps Mindy draft an apology letter to Cliff and in return she goes to get him his favorite tonic water. While she’s gone, the plane experiences some turbulence. Danny seems to have an epiphany, rushes to find Mindy, and…they kiss! Yes, it seems the will-they-or-wont-they breaking point has finally arrived.

I initially saw this as coming completely out of the blue, but looking back there were some subtle hints leading up to it. The way Danny and Mindy bicker at the dinner table in front of his dad was very much like a married couple. The tension from their fight in the desert wasn’t based off of anger, but rather underlying passion. Moreover, the letter Danny helps Mindy write felt very thought out. We know from previous episodes that he’s written apology letter to his ex-wife Christina, but perhaps he’s considered writing something to Mindy as well, especially after what happened at the Christmas party.

Speaking of the Christmas party, in my review for that episode I mentioned how smart it was of the writers to continually hold out on Mindy and Danny’s inevitable get-together. Well, not to sound too hypocritical, but I think this kiss was done at the perfect time. The buildup of the previous episodes allowed it to really pack a punch, and I have faith that the show can only go up from here.

Besides, unlike with New Girl, there are still a few obstacles left to be faced. Mindy has already sent a letter apologizing to Cliff and asking him to take her back. To make matters worse, the end of the episode shows Cliff deciding he’s made a mistake. This comes after a somewhat lackluster subplot involving Peter and Morgan being stuck in a bathroom and hearing him cry/sing Jewel songs through the ventilation shaft. This episode felt very big, in that so many great character moment were happening, so maybe I was just underwhelmed by this attempt to lighten the mood. I do enjoy the dynamic between Peter and Morgan, and things really came together for me when the three men went out for mojitos, but overall it felt like a bump in the road.

Anyway, I’m not really sure why network TV needs have “winter finales” now, but this felt like the perfect place to leave off before The Mindy Project returns in April. With the Mindy-Danny floodgates now open, there are endless possibilities for where this could go. Are they the new Ross and Rachel? We’ll have to wait to find out. Grade: A-

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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