“The Mindy Project” – Mindy’s Brother episode review 3

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Mindy takes the stage with Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) and her aspiring rapper brother Rishi (Utkarsh Ambudar).

★★★★☆

The opening theme of this episode is “New year, new Mindy, and while that doesn’t pan out so well for her character, I’d say the first Mindy Project episode of 2013 comes out a win overall.

Mindy’s opening monologue (which, okay, they’re still happening, but at least they’re getting funnier) focuses on her New Year’s resolutions. After a messy year shown through clips from the season so far, she has resolved to pull herself together. She wants to meet a man to get over Josh, and the guy on the subway who smiles before showing her a knife in his waistband and disappearing is the most hilarious part of this montage. Her third resolution, to get a new look, backfires when her arguably trendy suit ends up matching an old man’s in the elevator, and she fails at getting into shape when everyone else knows the Zumba choreography but her. Mindy, I feel you on that one, Zumba is no joke.

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Her friends have essentially ditched her for each other, and tell her over the phone that they’re sick of her burying herself in her work and her apartment and being all alone. She asks if they’ve been hanging out without her, and before that self-reference to her book can go much farther, she discovers her apartment has been ransacked… by her younger brother Rishi (Utkarsh Ambudar).

While it would have been nice to know that Mindy even had a sibling (or did I just miss an earlier reference?), Rishi is a welcome addition to the episode. He’s crashing at Mindy’s uninvited to before returning to college because he’s bored at home with their parents. Mindy’s fairly terrible Boston accent comes out when she talks to him at first, but thankfully that goes away fast. I don’t know what I would have done if this had turned into a Julianne Moore on 30 Rock situation.

Rishi accompanies Mindy to work the next day, where he instantly charms the staff with his ability to freestyle rap. Well, except Danny, but that’s because Danny isn’t easily charmed. Plus, Danny and Jeremy are this week’s B plot, which involves nursing home shenanigans in the quest for a lower rent. The office’s landlord has been replaced by his son, who has jacked the prices up double since taking over. Mindy almost stress-vomits (because that’s a thing she does now, apparently) at the thought of relocating to Staten Island, so the guys resolve to take care of it.

The new landlord, Mike, is a fairly terrible person. He put his dad in a nursing home, took over the business, raised everyone’s prices, and spends his days hardcore Nerf-gunning his office. Meanwhile, Mindy is dealing with the more stressful situation of her brother wanting to drop out of college to pursue his rapping career. Danny’s advice is to cut Rishi off, while Brendan (Mark Duplass) the midwife from upstairs, suggests a stress-relieving hot stone massage during their elevator ride together.

After Mindy catches Rishi writing rap lyrics in her bubble bath and unsuccessfully attempts to convince him to at least graduate first, she actually kicks him out. Then gives him a hat because his hair is wet and a metro card with a couple bucks left on it so he can get around. Kaling and Ambudar have really great sibling chemistry together. They easily interact with each other exactly the way an overbearing older sister and her younger brother would, and their surprisingly natural relationship is one of the highlights of the episode. I hope he’ll be back for more episodes later on.

Over in B-plotsville, Danny and Jeremy have struck a deal with their former landlord. He’ll help them get their old rate back if they help him win the heart of Esther, his nursing home crush. Jeremy handles charming Esther away from her over-attentive usual partner Manny, while Danny distracts him with insults towards the British and a desire for food. Never has Danny’s personality been so clear to me; he has already become a grouchy old man. All he needs is that suit Mindy was wearing in the opening montage, and he’ll be ready for the nursing home himself. Jeremy successfully sets Esther up with a beaming, bouquet-bearing George, and all seems well until Manny returns, angry about his wife seeing another man. Oops. George agrees to try and fix their rent problems anyway, and Danny and Jeremy get the hell out of there before Manny starts using his cane-sword.

At the office, Mindy stress-vomits after confronting Rishi (who crashed with Morgan last night; or rather, with Morgan’s grandmother) and decides to get that hot stone massage after all. She and Brendan quibble a bit about the stones and their temperatures, but ultimately he gives her some good advice about being there for your siblings no matter what. Speaking of siblings, I’m a little surprised Duncan (Jay Duplass) wasn’t in this episode too, but that might have been too much plot to juggle. As it is, the resolutions feel a bit rushed in the end.

After her hot and cold stone massage, Mindy decides to go support Rishi at his rap battle. His backup singer isn’t there, and he asks Mindy to do it, but she stress-heaves when she sees the size of the audience. Morgan valiantly steps in, but his terrible free-styling nearly gets Rishi booed off the stage. Mindy steps up because she’s being a supportive big sister, but can’t sing much of the lyrics since they get a little sexy and weird to sing to your brother. Unless you’re Cersei Lannister, I guess (obligatory Game of Thrones reference, check). The whole performance is a little awkward, but it’s touching to see Mindy and Rishi on good terms again. Plus Mindy’s face when Rishi sings “Bitch, what’s my name?” to her is absolutely priceless.

In the end, Rishi decides to go back and finish college like the good son/brother he is, and their relationship is repaired. It’s a little predictable and a little squeezed in at the last second, but the episode is strong enough to make up for it. The humor was consistent, and the cast (especially the guest stars) were in great form. Here’s hoping this becomes the norm for The Mindy Project.

Favorite Lines from “Mindy’s Brother”

Rishi: “Massachussetts is the worst! Name one exciting thing that ever happened in Concord.”

Danny: “Stones are just baby rocks.” Brendan: “Pebbles are baby rocks, actually.”

Mindy’s rapper names for Rishi: Lil’ Bro, Nice Cube, MC Smartypants