“The Mindy Project” – Mindy’s Birthday episode review 1

Mindy's birthday celebration doesn't exactly go as planned

Mindy’s birthday celebration doesn’t exactly go as planned

★★★☆☆

Maybe it’s just that we haven’t gotten a new episode of this show in a while, but “Mindy’s Birthday” felt a little off. There was a lot going on plot-wise, and it all ended up feeling rushed. There were a few choice moments, however, and I did appreciate getting to see Mindy’s non-work friends again—sometimes the show forgets they exist.

The cold open involves Jeremy not wanting to tell his favorite patient that she needs to lose some weight to avoid pregnancy complications and getting Mindy to do it instead. The only really good thing about this scene is the unfinished personalized bedazzled fedora that Jeremy gets from his patient; the rest of the bit, where Jeremy overcompensates for his guilt with compliments and the patient suggests Mindy lose weight along with her, not so much.

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We find out that it’s Mindy’s birthday through her phone conversation with her brother, who should come back for a real guest spot ASAP because he’s highly entertaining. Instead of celebrating with her friends, she’s going on a blind date with some guy she met online who looks like Topher Grace. I bet Mindy totally watches “Catfish,” so she should know this can’t end well.

And of course it doesn’t—Morgan created the fake profile to lure Mindy to her surprise party thrown by her friends. Thankfully, her friends had no knowledge of Morgan’s doings, because that’s kind of a terrible way to get someone to a party. The guests are an interesting mix of people from Mindy’s phone contacts, including her former and current plumbers, her housekeeper, and a guy she got in a car accident with in the Hamptons.

Mindy is way less than pleased with this surprise, but thankfully we don’t dwell on her initial complaints for long. Instead, we’re treated to Danny trying to awkwardly hit on Mindy’s friend Alex at the bar. He goes for the “isn’t that a boy’s name” opener, and it’s really just downhill from there. I love Chris Messina in scenes like this; he plays up the stilted discomfort thing perfectly. Naturally, Jeremy swoops in all charming and British to try to seduce Alex for himself, and boom, we’re in another contest of masculinity between the two doctors. I like watching them interact competitively, but I wish it was over something besides a woman.

For presents, Mindy receives the ultimate in passive-aggressive gifts: Microwave Cooking for One from Gwen, a body pillow printed with an admittedly attractive picture of a shirtless Chris Evans from Parker the intern, and finally an elliptical from the whole group so she can’t make the excuse about not getting to the gym. While I would not say no to either the cookbook or the Chris Evans pillow, it’s kind of understandable why Mindy flips out on her friends about the presents and leaves her own party.

She ends up singing the praises of the campiness of chain establishments to the Thor-esque bartender at another restaurant and scoring a free birthday sundae out of the deal. When the servers abruptly stop their birthday song to ask why her friends aren’t with her, a fellow birthday girl from a table over invites Mindy to join them instead. They’re a group of sorority sisters from college, and they feed Mindy’s ego when she fishes for compliments, so that lifts her spirits a bit.

Meanwhile, her group of actual friends sets out on a search for her when their texts and calls go unanswered. Jeremy and Danny naturally take this opportunity to try and impress Alex: Jeremy speaks French to the owner of a creperie they check out while Danny, well, stammers out a few more terrible questions for her.

Mindy ruins her budding friendship with the group of restaurant women by calling out the sketchiness of the guy who’s been texting the other birthday girl. To be fair, Mindy has a point—who, even stock brokers, works that late on a Saturday night? I agree with her diagnosis of douchebaggery, but it (and a few insulting comments about the other women at the table) earns her drinks in the face.

She’s rescued by none other than Beverly, the terrible ex-nurse, who’s apparently bussing tables at this establishment. Mindy recounts her sob story of a birthday to her in the kitchen, and they end up grabbing a 40 together and drinking on the street after Beverly’s shift is up. I’m not Beverly’s biggest fan (is anybody?), given her general crassness that’s never quite funny enough to justify it, but she’s not so bad in this episode. Maybe it’s the humanizing touch we get when she admits to being so broke she sleeps in a car. Not her car, just a car.

Mindy takes pity on her and offers her a job at the office as Executive Secretary, and here’s my big plot problem: Beverly is already established as working in the office as an administrative assistant. Remember the porny Aladdin fanart email debacle? Has Fox pulled another Firefly and aired these episodes out of written order? Or is this just sloppy continuity? I don’t know, but honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised by either explanation.

Meanwhile, Morgan gives Danny a weird pep talk that’s designed to get him to go after Alex but really ends up making us all feel a little uncomfortable about his relationship with his grandmother. Morgan is best written in subtly strange doses, and tonight it felt like his trademark oddness was being beaten to death. Fooling Mindy with that fake Facebook profile seems like a step too far for him, and his usual one-liners don’t land well tonight either.

In a wildly unexpected physical comedy twist, Danny falls down an open manhole while he’s trying to talk to Alex. The logic of this is not very sound—there don’t tend to be a lot of unchecked open manholes lying about—but suspension of disbelief is important, I suppose. He miraculously emerges with only minor injuries to a worried crowd and a police officer perpetrating the rumor that it was a child who fell down the well. Honestly, the joke feels forced, even more so when an old lady appears at the hospital to “pray for little Daniel.”

Mindy finally checks her phone when she goes to tell the guys she’s hired (rehired?) Beverly, and rushes to the hospital to see Danny. She’s generally dramatic, babbling about him being paralyzed and being a good friend, and her train of thought gets derailed when she starts talking about his penis. Danny finally gets a word in edgewise to tell her he’s only broken his ankle, and Mindy turns on Morgan for his poor choice of words in his text.

In the waiting room, Mindy’s non-work friends apologize to her for the present debacle. They all make up as expected, but then there’s another twist—Brendan shows up to wish Mindy a happy birthday. Her friends rightfully pelt him with fast food for being a jerk to her, but when the two of them talk in private he apologizes for his behavior. He even gives her a group of stars named after the constellation she invented, and kisses her on the cheek. Danny, on crutches in the background, naturally gets an eyeful of that last bit and can only stare, giving the Danny/Mindy shippers of the world some fuel for their unrequited fire.

The whole thing wraps up to Beyonce’s “Love on Top,” with everyone being friends again in the waiting room. Parker seems pretty content with his own Chris Evans pillow, Beverly’s pleasant, Alex tells Danny that she prefers him to Jeremy, and Mindy gazes wistfully at the picture of her new constellation. How cute. The cheese factor could definitely have been dialed down a bit here.

All in all, “Mindy’s Birthday” was not as good as it could have been. There was almost too much going on plot-wise, and we were back to that rushed feeling that unsettled me in the first few episodes of the season. The unexpected gesture from Brendan was a nice addition, and I did enjoy Danny’s attempts at being smooth for Alex. I just feel like this is a step backwards for Mindy as a character; she had been seeming more confident in herself and better able to handle some of these insecurities they played up so much in this episode. Better luck next week, I guess.

Favorite Lines from “Mindy’s Birthday”

Rishi: “How am I supposed to remember a show from the 70’s? I was born in 1991!”

Danny, to Alex: “I grew up in the tri-state area… did you grow up in any particular cluster of states?”