The Mindy Project: “Mindy Lahiri Is A Racist” 
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The Mindy Project: “Mindy Lahiri Is A Racist” 

Just when we (I) might have despaired that The Mindy Project was limiting itself to romcom boundaries, up pops an episode like this week’s that goes seemingly haywire. I wasn’t prepared for anything in “Mindy Lahiri Is A Racist”: When I saw the episode description about Danny hooking up with a p.r. specialist, I immediately worried that this was going to make Mindy realize her true feelings for Danny, or some similar old sitcom trope, which was going to be disappointing.

Fortunately for everyone, the storyline exceeded those expectations. Co-penned by Ike Barinholtz, who plays Morgan, this episode went off the rails from the completely insane cold open, in which Barinholtz apparently wrote himself a scene where a dog attacks his crotch and he gets shot by a bunch of tranquilizer darts. Can’t accuse him of not being a team player.

This mania sets up the rest of the episode, expertly directed by Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks And Recreation). A positive review on a white supremacist mommy blog (I was afraid to look to see if those actually exist) leads to protests against Shulman and Associates by their new-agey upstairs neighbors, the midwives. The crowd rage reaches a crescendo with the midwives’ rally, basically a platform for political correctness, with an appearance by a young African American political candidate named Tracy Whitfield (Larenz Tate). (Some noteworthy lines from the midwives:

  • “He counts his black friends, everybody, that says it all right there.”
  • “Come on Duncan, let’s go back upstairs to the 21st century.”
  • “Sister Tamra, you work at Shulman and Associates. Tell us how much it’s like 1950s Birmingham,” and
  • “I never thought I’d live to see a second black president.”)

Apparently this episode is a bit meta, as The Mindy Project has been critiqued for Mindy only dating white guys, for example, and the show takes it head-on here.

Besides Daniels, another masterstroke this episode: giving more screen time to Xosha Roquemore, who basically owns every scene she’s in from the moment she shoots Morgan full of darts. As the midwives wink at her and comment that being black is cool, her unreadable expression is priceless. And her relationship with deadbeat boyfriend Ray-Ron (can’t believe that’s Josh Peck of Drake And Josh) continues to offer both sweetness and tear-inducing hilarity.

These B plots still are just not holding up: Morgan spends the episode trying to make amends for his fake sexts last week. Blessedly brief, it at least offers the information that Cliff and Mindy are into each other, which we kind of already knew.

But there is a very-special-episode message hidden within “Mindy Lahiri Is A Racist,” and it’s that we should rise above our preconceived notions about people. Throughout the episode, Peter offers ideas and attempts to help, but is continually dismissed because of his frat boy party image, even as he’s trying to change. Eventually, his mobile medical bus idea saves the day and stops the protest by letting the doctors offer care to lower-income neighborhoods. The doctors dismiss Whitfield as a political candidate without knowing anything about him because the midwives like him. Mindy thinks Ray-Ron is a deadbeat, but Tamra loves him because he redefines her universe spiritually and gets disability because of his neck. Tamra (again) sums up the whole problem when she points out to Mindy that she “can be condescending to people under you at work. Sometimes you get a little Downton Abbey.” “You’ve seen Downton Abbey?” “See?”

Mindy’s speech that eventually wins over the crowd is both too short and too easy. Still, with this episode, The Mindy Project shows it can tackle subjects other than Mindy’s constant search for romance, while continuing its exhaustingly dense comedic dialogue. It makes me hopeful for what Kaling et al. will take on next.

Stray observations:

  • Why Tamra couldn’t shave her legs at home: Ray-Ron turned their bathroom into a recording studio. I pretty much love everything about Tamra and Ray-Ron.
  • Danny’s rank of pointless jobs: male model, mugger, p.r. person, nothing.
  • Ray-Ron does not do played-out whale (calamari).
  • Mindy is pushing Katniss as a baby name to her patients: There will probably Katnisses all over the high school graduation class of 2030.
  • Loved Mindy’s look after Jenna Elfman’s consultant told her everything she just said was racist.
  • Jeremy just gives up and joins the protesters.
  • Somehow Kaling’s self-deprecation humor gets funnier every week: In this episode, Whitfield says that Mindy reminds him of Winston Churchill with the way she speaks and the way she walks. I think it’s the combination of awful comments like that juxtaposed against Mindy’s consistent confidence in her own hotness.
  • “Peter, I’m really busy with work right now, I don’t have time to listen to your Borat impression.”
  • New Cirque de Soleil show about the history of video games: Joystique
  • I really want to know what Trailer Trash Thursday is.

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