On Tuesday (Minday?) The Mindy Project finally made its debut on Hulu. Cancelled by Fox in May, the series was quickly picked up by the streaming site, much to the relief of the show’s dedicated fans, myself included. Now, after a six-month-long Hella-tus ™, the show is back and possibly better than ever. I have to preface this entire piece by saying that there is no way I can be impartial. This episode quickly won my heart and it would not be hyperbole for me to say that it’s my favorite of the entire series. If I could, my assessment would be nothing more than a heart eyes emoji followed by 1,000 exclamation points. As a result, this is going to be more of a recap than a review, with some errant thoughts thrown in. I have far too many feelings and emotions about this episode and I am nowhere near the gifted writer that would be needed to unpack the entire thing. So let’s talk about While I Was Sleeping, shall we?
The episode, written by Mindy Kaling, picks up right where the show left off in the finale, with Danny in India to meet Mindy’s parents. While we were previously ignorant of Danny’s motivation in travelling to India, we quickly learn that his intent is to profess his love for Mindy and their baby, while at the same time explaining that he does not intend to marry her: “I’m the father of her baby, and I need you to know that I will love them and take care of them until the day I die,” he says. “But I don’t believe in marriage, due to some personal experiences that I’ve had, which I won’t get into now.” In a comical twist, this declaration is lost on a servant who does not speak English, and Danny quickly backtracks from the sentiment when Mindy’s father comes to the door wielding a very large knife (don’t get the wrong idea, he’s just using it to cut a mango).
And so we are finally introduced to the Lahiris. Mindy’s father Tarun (Ajay Mehta), a chemistry professor whose “office hours are poorly attended because he teaches it right the first time!”, and Mindy’s mother Sonu (Sakina Jaffrey), “the premiere undiscovered Bollywood character actress in the greater Boston area.” Concerned that their daughter is an unmarried and pregnant 35-year-old with a Bart Simpson tattoo, they have decided they will take it upon themselves to find Mindy a suitable husband via an arranged marriage. And so they enlist the reluctant Danny (and Morgan, who arrives shortly thereafter) to assist.
We’ve been waiting for the show to introduce these two characters for a long time. The wait was worth it, because Mindy’s parents are perfect! Knowing how tough it was for Mindy Kaling to cast someone to play her mother, I am overjoyed at the addition of Sakina Jaffrey as Sonu Lahiri. I cannot wait for the inevitable episode in which the Lahiris meet Annette Castellano.
Back in New York, we find Mindy, unaware of Danny’s whereabouts and concerned about his motivations, reflecting on what her life might have been like had Danny never kissed her on that plane from L.A. “My life would be so much better if I’d just fallen in love with someone else,” says Mindy, as she drifts off to sleep. In a twist inspired by the movies Sliding Doors and 13 Going on 30, Mindy wakes up in an alternate dream reality wherein she is married to a rich Bravo producer, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It is seemingly the life she’s always dreamed of – apartment on Gramercy Park, a ring the size of a small ski chalet, a South Park pinball machine – yet, as the episode proceeds, it becomes clear that in Mindy’s alternate reality, the life she thought she wanted is all wrong: her friendship with Danny has fractured, she’s decided that she no longer wants children, she’s in an open relationship with her husband and having an affair with Brendan DeLaurier, and the fertility practice that she worked so hard for has been replaced with the company Delectable Desires – “making slutty girdles for the sexually active obese”. AU-Mindy realizes quickly that she must find Danny and right her life. She finds him on a date with Frieda Pinto (they met in spin class – but I don’t believe for a second that there is any universe in which Danny Castellano takes a spin class), and after some good ol’ fashioned physical comedy, AU-Mindy confronts AU-Danny in the rain about the missteps that led them to this point. In one of my favorite scenes of the entire show, we see Mindy and Danny’s first kiss for the second time, as Mindy tries to convince Danny that they’re meant to be together despite the fact that they’re both living the “wrong” life. Danny can’t be convinced however, and just as Mindy runs after him (“I don’t want a husband, I want you!”), she is hit by a truck. Startled awake by this nightmare, Mindy find Danny at her bedside, assuring her it was all just a dream.
Finally Danny and Mindy are re-united. Mindy, relieved that Danny has returned, confesses that she doesn’t care if they are married, and that she just wants to be with him. In response, Danny explains that he went to India with the intention of explaining his qualms about marriage to her parents, but that his time in India has made him reconsider: “I’d like to be wrong,” he says about the institution of marriage, as he kneels on one knee and finally proposes. (Don’t get me started on how Chris Messina kills this entire scene – the tears, the line delivery, that crack in his voice? Swoon.)
The episode ends with the rain that had been prevalent in both this episode and the previous one, Best Man, coming to an end, as the sun shines on the newly-engaged Danny and Mindy. Of course, there are still 25 episodes left in the season, so I anticipate that their road to the altar will not be without missteps. But, for the time being, Mindy and Danny’s relationship has been re-booted, just as their show starts fresh on Hulu.
My favorite one-liners:
I’m Mindy’s coworker. And I’m here just sightseeing. You know, Taj Mahal, Temple of Doom, greatest hits. – Danny
I don’t hate him, I just think he’s an ugly cheater. – Danny (about Tom Brady)
Did you just call our daughter a piece of sour fruit? – Sonu
“Probably see you guys during Brahmadon?” “That’s not anything. Now you are not getting a farewell song.” – Conversation between Danny and Sonu
I would never cheat on you, Danny. ‘Cause you’re the one I’m supposed to be with. – AU-Mindy
Oh no, did my mom sing? – Mindy
The Mindy Project returns Tuesday with the episode C Is For Coward. Be sure to follow @TheGameofNerds on Twitter and join us for our live-tweet Tuesday night at 6:30pm PST/9:30pm EST!