THE MINDY PROJECT Debriefing: “When I’m with you, it’s enough,” as well it should be.

mindy cast

If you had told me last year that The Mindy Project would bring women’s sexual empowerment to the forefront of the audience’s attention and in some ways pioneer the discourse on network TV, I would have scoffed and told you to get out of town. Yet, once more this season, Mindy skirts around sex taboos and does exactly that.

This week, Mindy (Mindy Kaling) is surprised by one of Danny’s (Chris Messina) moves in the bedroom, and it leads to a surprisingly frank discussion about the pressures women feel when it comes to their sexual prowess. While it may be masked behind the laughs and the witty one-liners, this episode becomes a soapbox for the issue of consent and comfort when it comes to sexual relationships.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

The episode opens with Danny and Mindy gettin’ busy (off-screen), when their romp comes to a screeching halt at Mindy’s insistence: Danny “slipped,” which is one of the many euphemistic terms employed throughout the episode to indicate that he tried anal sex with her. While the fact that he didn’t even ask her before “slipping” is irritating (more on that later), it’s the catalyst for an exploration about what women (and men) face when it comes to pleasing their partner.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Mindy is taken aback by the incident, especially since she is convinced Danny is much more experienced sexually than she is — why she’d believe that, I don’t know, because Danny’s always seemed like more of a prude than she is to me, but that’s another story — and she wonders if his slip was deliberate or not. Peter (Adam Pally) assures her it was on purpose, but Danny continues to insist it was an accident, claiming his eyes are so bad that he couldn’t tell what he was doing. Mindy buys it and ushers him to their ophthalmologist friend to get his eyes checked, but when it’s revealed that his eyesight is just fine, Danny is forced to admit he knew what he was doing that night; he just wanted to try it.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Mindy decides she wants to give anal sex another try, because she thinks she has to to keep Danny interested in her. Throughout the episode, he reassures her that he likes her the way she is and doesn’t want her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. However, Mindy is convinced Danny is out of her league, and wants to stay on top of things (no pun intended) to satisfy him. So she gets newly-graduated nurse practitioner Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) to prescribe her a sedative so she can relax in bed — unbeknownst to Danny — and prepares to do something with which she obviously isn’t comfortable. Her plan goes sideways, though, when she mixes the drug with liquor and starts hallucinating. (Seriously, Mindy, didn’t you go to med school? First rule of sedatives: don’t mix with your scotch!)

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

She ends up in the hospital, and it takes a visit by a social worker (who thinks she’s been roofied), along with bickering Jeremy (Ed Weeks), Peter and Morgan, to finally get her to admit her fears to Danny. Danny, in turn, reveals that he only tried “slipping” because he’d never done it before, either, and got carried away trying to keep up with Mindy and her supposed prowess. He reiterates that he doesn’t need to do anything like that, and likes what they have as it is. On the other hand, Mindy tells him she’s fine with exploring her more adventurous side when it comes to sex, but that he needs to ask her beforehand when he’s going to try stuff like that.

What I thought was pretty brilliant about this episode, despite all the hijinks, was how it brought the issue of consent to the front line. While I’m surprised the writers made Danny so clueless about asking Mindy before trying the “second entrance,” because he’s been penned as being extremely considerate and deferential to the women in his life so far, I liked that the end result was that we examined the hurdles women go through when it comes to their preferences and their interactions with their partners during sex.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Mindy talks a good game, but as she admits to Peter, she’s rather prudish when it comes to her sexual preferences — and I loved that she told Danny that that doesn’t mean she’ll stand for any slut-shaming about the number of partners she’s had, either. Yet she’s so used to dating men who only want something from her, that she feels like she needs to do something she’s not really ready for just to keep Danny, even though he’s given no indication he would leave her over the issue. Which is why she resorts to roofieing herself just to get the act over with, when we later learn this is unnecessary, because Danny doesn’t want to do anything she doesn’t want to do, either.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

It’s a revelation to Mindy, but a particularly sad commentary on what women are faced with on a regular basis. (Admittedly, not all women are quite as neurotic as Mindy is.) It’s the double-edged sword: Mindy is supposed to be a freak in bed, yet she’s chastised for having been with several men in the past. Especially in Hollywood, women are treated as the means to male pleasure, but rarely are their own desires discussed in the public forum. Here, we actually focus on what the female character is comfortable with sexually, and how she comes to a decision with her partner about what she feels safe practicing within their relationship. For a show that is often vapid, this story is remarkably layered, and even poignant, given that the lead character feels like she needs to eschew her own comfort zone for the pleasure of her male partner. Until, of course, Danny reassures her that he wouldn’t want that anymore than she would.

In the end, Mindy and Danny decide to take baby steps in exploring their sexual adventurousness — with a can of whipped cream and some accidental biting — and it’s obvious they’re both much more comfortable. (Well, other than Danny’s tongue, apparently.) They’re also happier, and working together for their own enjoyment. Just like last week’s episode, this week’s plot seems like it’s taken straight out of Sex and the City, which is sad only because a decade later these issues still plague the modern dating scene, and are still as taboo in popular culture. (In fact, Kaling herself admitted on Twitter she was surprised this made to air.) Between the discussion of oral sex in the season premiere, and of anal sex here, Mindy has become an unexpected champion for women’s sexual rights this season.

In this respect, Danny and Mindy getting together is the best thing to have ever happened to this show, in my opinion. I’ve enjoyed the first four episodes of season three far more than I enjoyed any episode in the first two seasons, and it’s like this new relationship has given the show a focus and even a depth it rarely displayed as it found its footing earlier on.

How did you enjoy “I Slipped”? Did Mindy let Danny off too easy for his, um, bait and switch? Did Mindy get her medical degree out of a Cracker Jack box? (Who doesn’t know not to mix sedatives with alcohol? 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.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: