THE MINDY PROJECT Debriefing: Mommy Dearest

THE MINDY PROJECT: Danny's mother, Annette (guest star Rhea Pearlman, L) gets upset when Danny (Chris Messina, R) gives her an extravagant birthday present in the \"Annette Castellano Is My Nemesis\" episode of THE MINDY PROJECT airing Tuesday, Sept. 23 (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Also pictured: Mindy Kaling (C). ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jordin Althaus/FOX

This week, Danny and Mindy cross a huge relationship milestone: meeting the parents! Well, his mom, at least. It’s no small feat, because you haven’t met a real foe until you meet your boyfriend’s Italian mother, especially when she raised him by herself and is none to pleased with his usual choice of paramour. Predictably, things go haywire the more Mindy tries to endear herself to Annette Castellano, but lucky for us, it mostly entails hilarious results.

Even a cynic like me can admit that Danny (Chris Messina) and Mindy (Mindy Kaling) are pretty adorable together, being all domestic in their morning routine in Danny’s kitchen. However, it’s no shock to discover, once she makes a surprise visit, that Danny’s mother (Rhea Perlman) not only has no idea Danny is dating someone, but assumes Mindy is his housekeeper, instead of his girlfriend. Talk about awkward.

 

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Danny is forced to fess up about his new relationship to his mother when she meets him at work to go shopping in preparation for her birthday brunch, and Mindy is there being all doctorly. Even in this comedy of errors, it’s clear how much Danny cares for his family, and takes care of his loved ones. We all know how much of a screw-up his little brother Richie (Max Minghella) is, but Danny is generous to a fault, and there’s no way he’s letting his mother in on that secret, because he doesn’t want her to worry about her boys. So he lends some money to his brother on the sly so the latter can buy their mom a nice present himself, and she goes on believing he’s a successful artist. (Is that what we’re going with these days?) Meanwhile, Danny himself is busy doing things like buying his mom a new oven and having it installed in her home, or paying her bills, or generally making sure she’s provided for — without bringing any of it to her attention. Sigh, Danny, you really are too good to be true sometimes.

Meanwhile, Mindy is determined to endear herself to Annette Castellano, even though she has an uphill battle: Danny maintains his mother has hated every one of his girlfriends, and doesn’t think this is going to be any different. Mindy enacts her foolproof mother-winning plan, which works without a hitch… until she takes Danny’s side over the oven gift. All bets are off, and she’s persona non grata. In a rare moment of sympathy, I actually felt for Mindy: yes, she has a personal stake in getting on Mama Castellano’s good side, but for once she focuses on someone other than herself, and loses any brownie points she earned because she sticks up for Danny and his generosity. She was a good girlfriend here, and a good person to boot.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

By the end of the episode, Mindy finds Annette to make amends — and then has to help her relocate her hip when it pops out as she’s cleaning hotel rooms. Then back in Staten Island, the three of them make their peace over dinner; things aren’t perfect, but they’re on their way, so that’s a start. Of course, since this is Mindy, the episode can’t end without Danny and Mindy trying to get busy in his childhood bedroom (heh), only for his mother to barge in on them and pretty much destroy any goodwill they’d just earned. Between this and the earlier incident in his apartment, I think it’s clear Danny needs new locks on his doors!

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

I have to say I found this one of the more enjoyable episodes of The Mindy Project I’ve seen in a long time, and I think it might have to do with the fact that it focused less on Mindy’s (or Danny’s) more superficial qualities, and instead teamed up our lovebirds to fix the total mess they find themselves in with Danny’s mother. They’ve obviously made strides since last week’s confession on the fire escape, and I’m surprised at just how much I enjoy them as a couple here — if only because I’m conditioned to being jerked around by the writers and it’s refreshing to see these two making progress together. Danny was heartbreaking in his childlike desire to keep his mother on her pedestal, and Mindy was sweet trying to back him up, even though it was a thankless proposition. If the writers can stay on track like this, I’m going to stick on board for the rest of the season.

Other random thoughts:

  • I’m not even going to touch Morgan’s subplot with his dogs. Well, I will, a little: I’m glad he kept them! It bugged me when Robin on How I Met Your Mother got rid of her dogs for Ted, so I’m glad Morgan got to keep his, despite Tamra’s allergy. On the other hand, Tamra’s got cojones for offering to take allergy pills so he can keep his dogs. Aw!
  • Rhea Perlman as Danny’s mother? Inspired! Okay, so I grew up watching Cheers and she’ll always be Carla to me, but it totally works here.
  • Did Peter really make a joke about pretending to be allergic to latex so he doesn’t have to wear a condom during sex? Seriously?
Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

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