Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Mindy Project: “The One That Got Away”

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I’ve definitely been enjoying these last few episodes of the revamped Mindy Project, but even though this was another fun jaunt, I don’t know how long the show can sustain this kind of material. The show’s writers clearly recognize that the biggest problem is everything that’s not Mindy (and to a lesser extent Danny). That’s not to say Mindy is a completely captivating character, but this show does best when largely focusing on her and dropping the workplace stuff. So this week, it does that again, showing us one crazy day Mindy spends with her old sleepaway camp crush, Sam (Seth Rogen).

Now, we’re not stupid. We know Rogen’s a movie star, and he’s probably not about to become a recurring character on this show. It was cool for Mindy to pull him in for a week, and it was a lot of fun to see him to his easygoing thing in a very low-concept setting. (Had he not hit in big in the movies, he would achieved great success as a TV star coming out of Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared, I’m sure.) So the real question coming out of this episode is: Will there be any lasting impact? Mindy and Sam have a whirlwind day straight out of a romantic comedy, with tattoo parlors, a screening of You’ve Got Mail, a trip to the hospital, and, of course, an eventual tumble into bed together.

Does Mindy just forget about it and continue on with her misadventures? If so, then this episode just comes off as a bit of stunt casting, an effort to boost flagging ratings, and I don’t have much use for it. If there are any lasting repercussions at all, I’ll be a little more intrigued. Mindy assures Danny that she’s okay at the end of the episode and settles in to listen to him read the vending machine options to her. It’s a nice moment, but I hope there’s at least a little character development as a result. Things don’t have to move quickly or escalate into some crazy situation (the show’s done enough of that already). But for me to stay interested in this show, Mindy’s going to have to grow a little.

One thing that was particularly odd about this episode is that Seth Rogen plays a military veteran who’s about to ship out for another tour in Afghanistan. Now, of course, the men and women of the armed forces come in all shapes and sizes, but it was still implausible enough that I kept waiting for a corny, lame twist where Sam was revealed to be faking the whole army thing. He’s introduced as the nerdy funny kid that she met at Jewish sleepaway camp! He’s played by Seth Rogen! At no point did I 100 percent buy in to the conceit, especially since the army thing was largely deployed as a convenient excuse for Sam to have to irrevocably depart in a day.

The writers did wring a few good jokes out of Danny’s instant deference to Sam and Morgan’s insistence that he was part of Seal Team Six and killed Bin Laden. But my wondering whether there would be an episode-ending reveal that Sam was making it up (although I realized that was less and less plausible as things went on) muffled the blow of him leaving a little bit.

Largely, though, I very much enjoyed myself. Rogen was funny, he had very nice chemistry with Mindy, and he was chock full of observational humor about being in the army and away from America for long periods of time that seemed accurate enough to me. “There's even more singing competition shows now; that spooked me out,” he notes. His whole vibe also calmed Mindy’s character down a little bit, for the better.


Of course, the Rogen show meant that everyone else was almost completely backgrounded. There was a subplot where a couple seeks a sperm donation from Danny; needless to say, it’s instantly forgettable stuff that doesn’t really tie into the main plot at all (despite the show's best attempts to make it so). Beth Grant managed to sneak in maybe one line total, and Jeremy and Betsy barely got more than that. Like I said, this is not a long-term solution to Mindy’s problems. But in the short term, the show could be doing worse.

Stray observations:

  • Sam has a lot to catch up with. “You ever get your period? That was a big thing last time we talked.”
  • The self-checkout scene was a funny, observational, irrelevant little interlude.
  • Danny insists he's seen Sex And The City. “All four of them were… walking down the street.”
  • Danny's flaws: He has sweaty hands, he's stingy, and he's scared of Game Of Thrones. “Also, he has tiny ears, and he's a selfish lover.”