Ever since The Mindy Project’s impending hiatus was announced, I’ve found myself rooting even more strongly for the show’s chances. The show itself has helped this effort by providing some fun episodes over the past few weeks. I’m as much a sucker for a holiday party as the next person, so I loved “Christmas Party Sex Trap.” Even when The Mindy Project shows its strengths by delving into other arenas, let’s remember what the show is at its core: a romantic comedy. And Mindy’s looming love triangle ignites this episode, as nothing screams “romcom” like the holidays.
The New York Times posted a revealing interview this week between Mindy Kaling and Roseanne Barr, swapping notes on being a woman running your own sitcom. Kaling explains, “I knew if I was going to have my own show, I’d have to do it myself. Because no one is going to write a show for a chubby brown woman. It’s hard enough to make it if you’re a thin, conventionally attractive woman. . . . So I just thought: I’ll do it myself.” After writing and starring in the ensemble workplace comedy The Office, when it came time to create her own show, she continues: “I knew I wanted it to be about dating. That’s just because of where I am right now. I also think the only way you date on TV is if you look a certain way. And I’ve always done pretty well, and I don’t look like anyone on TV. So, I thought it would be fun to show that, too.”
In tonight’s episode, Mindy juggles not one but two romantic storylines. One with her longtime will-they/won’t they partner Danny, and the other with her impending crush Cliff. To lure Cliff into the titular “Sex Trap,” Mindy and her officemates throw a gluten- and alcohol-free party for the whole building. One of the high points is Mindy describing to Danny how her trap should work at the party, as it perfectly does in her romantic mind: flirting with a cute guy to make Cliff jealous, pulling off a sultry version of “Santa Baby,” going out to the terrace to “get some air.” The reality of course, is far from that: Mindy has a hard time finding someone to flirt with, Cliff leaves before her song, and the only thing waiting for her on the terrace (at first) is a pigeon, which flies away.
The Christmas party also offers a chance for supporting characters Jeremy and Peter to explore the difficulties of restraining yourself around the holidays. Jeremy is back to his svelte self, so wants to avoid his old diet of sugar and fat (not sure what the point of his weight problem was in the first place, however). And Peter wants to steer clear of alcohol after he “made sex” with a Christmas tree after his party last year. Unfortunately, the female office staff is again limited to only one or two lines per character.
Everyone’s efforts culminate in a nicely played scene of chaos, after Danny’s actual present to Mindy is revealed to be a perfectly choreographed dance to Aaliyah’s “Try Again,” her former favorite song. Their lovely moment of closeness is interrupted, of course, by Peter grabbing Mindy’s booze bra for the alcohol he needs to pick up Maria Menounos, and Jeremy destroying Danny’s gingerbread version of Monticello. Morgan: “Weird energy in here. Is the ghost back?”
At this point, the push-me pull-you of the Mindy-Danny courtship seems to be mainly about Danny skirting close to Mindy, then scurrying away. He seemed almost there in “You’ve Got Sext,” but then he pulled back when Mindy talked about her crush on Cliff. He starts this episode by defending Mindy in an elevator, and then uncharacteristically dancing for her in a display no red-blooded straight woman could resist, but when she tries to lure him into her sex trap (actually, it should more accurately be called a kissing trap), he again withdraws. Danny’s bound to be a bit skittish after his marriage, but his hot-and-cold dance leaves the viewer as confused about his feelings as Mindy must be. It’s to Chris Messina’s credit that he’s able to show all these conflicted emotions without actually expressing them verbally to anyone, but a chance for him to reveal what he’s really afraid of would be helpful. Why doesn’t he join Mindy on the terrace? Is he afraid of a relationship with her or terrified of love in general? He really looks pained when he turns her down.
The Mindy Project’s stunt-casting is hit-or-miss, but Maria Menounos is a win—for dating the midwife (Mark Duplass, without his brother Jay), for subbing for Mindy’s “Santa Baby,” and for getting squired away by Peter at the end, who thanks to his alcohol avoidance, is sober enough to drive her to a Connecticut tree farm.
Although Kaling deserves credit for creating and launching her own sitcom about the dating adventures of, as she describes it, “a chubby brown woman,” these efforts frankly wouldn’t mean as much if the show wasn’t funny. But it is, so consistently: when Duplass breaks up with Maria Menounos because her singing “Santa Baby” offends him as a feminist, when Pally bodyslams the much-larger Ike Barinholtz so hard he goes flying out of the frame, when Mindy drains her booze bra: It all adds up to a show worth saving.
- I like how Mindy’s sappy voiceovers are told to random people, like last week’s UPS guy and this week’s Christmas tree salesman.
- Danny’s Secret Santa gifts: a roll of medical gauze, a stapler, excellent dance moves.
- “You know, there’s some recent scholarship that suggests Jesus was actually a black woman.”
- The midwives specialize in midwifery, scream therapy, and shriek yoga.
- Mindy’s office building has a lot of taxidermists.
- Last time Peter was sober at a holiday party was his sixth-grade Snowflake Play. No wait, he had two beers that night.
- German sugar glass is notoriously brittle and cloudy: Don’t use it for your gingerbread house windows.
- Also loved Mindy’s crestfallen expression after she catches herself doing a Tony the Tiger “Grrrreat!”
- “Monticello. There you are.”
- Watch out for the sexy mood lighting in phlebotomy.
- Happy holidays everyone! May none of your parties be gluten- or alcohol-free.