The Mindy Project Recap: 4×04 “The Bitch Is Back”

I’ve come to the conclusion after this week that I was watching the beginning of the season wrong. I was still very much in the mindset of the romantic-comedy happy ending. It turns out this is more Wide Sargasso Sea than Jane Eyre.

Mindy narrates the opening, saying she’s found her perfect man. A montage of her and Leo being adorable together follows. They have so much in common, they even watch the same TV! Mindy thanks Leo for turning her on to Dora the Explorer and sighs, “I just wish the mysteries weren’t so hard.”

Danny interrupts the speech when it gets to the part about Leo loving Mindy’s boobs. Turns out Mindy’s been narrating her life out loud again! He says it’s creepy what she’s saying about Leo. Mindy explains that she’s obsessed with him and didn’t realize she could love anyone more than Danny.

Leo eats his feet

Leo eats his feet

Danny cautiously segues into being excited for her to stop by work. Mindy says she can’t miss the old gang, like “Jerem…erry.” Poor Jeremy. “You don’t have to go back to work, if you don’t want,” Danny says. Mindy thinks her becoming a stay-at-home mom would make things awkward. “What would the stay-at-home moms that I cyberbully on Pinterest say?” I wonder that all the time, Mindy. (It’s always hard to pick the best line of an episode, but that was a top contender.)

Danny argues that being a working mom is tough. Mindy jumps right back into that top-line contest by saying, “I don’t know, according to movie posters it’s just carrying a briefcase and a baby bottle at the same time.” [Janes: That might get my vote for best line of the night.] She tells him she loves working and always has, and that hasn’t changed.

Hey, Danny, here’s a suggestion: Quit your own damn job.

After the credits, Mindy is on the 1 train feeding Leo when a man with the most pursed lips I’ve ever seen starts to yell “oh God” and block his view of her breasts (which Mindy refers to as her “gorgeous cans”) with his hand. They argue about whether this is appropriate. Mindy has a great comeback: “No man tells me what to do with my body. Only women’s magazines can do that.” Pursed-Lips Man gives a rousing speech telling the whole subway car that Mindy is confusing exploitation with empowerment, and by the end, he has the whole subway eating out of his hand even though he admits to having hired women to wrestle in barbecue sauce. He gets everyone to boo Mindy off the train. After his parting shot about not wanting to see a Gauguin painting on the subway, Mindy says, “Guess what, pal, joke didn’t land. Because I don’t know who that is.” I love it.

Danny asks Tamra and Bev for advice: he got Mindy a present for “enduring the pains of labor.” Apparently it’s called a push present, which, gross. He has prepared an adorable dance for her. Tamra and Bev don’t get how much Mindy would love this and shame Danny, who walks away muttering about how he’s wasted two days of choreography.

Mindy comes in, yelling about being shamed for breastfeeding. Morgan turns out to have a weird rivalry with Leo, and grudgingly greets him with a “What’s up.” But when he follows Mindy into her office, he explains everything (including why there is so much toilet paper being stored in her office right now: apparently when Mindy’s out the office goes through TP much more slowly). He’s single-handedly been running the fertility practice, and has made a mess of it, even switching eggs. “It’s a bad situation.” He also gets in a dumb crack about how he thought Mindy was going to cut her hours “like those moms who love their kids.” It’s dumb, but I think people actually say shit like this. And Mindy starts freaking out about the idea of how much two full-time jobs will take her away from Leo. She’s obviously considering Danny’s idea, which is sad.

Suddenly Mindy hears the voice of her Subway Shamer and goes outside to find her enemy in the office. “I’m Dr. Jody Kimball-Kinney,” he says. “That’s Jody, everyone loves him,” Morgan says helpfully. Mindy freaks out when she finds out that Jody and his sister Colette, who is also standing in the waiting room, are the new doctor-and-nurse sibling team that the practice hired. I’m sorry, so Colette is a nurse too? So actually literally there are no female doctors other than Mindy? (Cue Janes telling me she’s been complaining about this for weeks.) [Janes: Let’s say years, so I don’t have to admit that it only took me three weeks to binge-watch the whole show.] It turns out Jody and Colette are childhood friends of Jeremy’s, and everyone actually does love them, even Morgan, who’s usually on Mindy’s side. Jody slickly says Mindy is just how Jeremy described her, and he doesn’t make it sound like a compliment. Mindy insults his blue gingham-checked shirt, which I actually love (it has a kicky yellow tie with it, too). Then Jody goes off to handle a delivery for “Mrs. Morrison,” he says off-handedly—but Mrs. Morrison turns out to be one of Mindy’s patients. “I invented Mrs. Morrison,” she yells, upset that he’s acting like she wouldn’t know who that was.

Back home with Danny, Mindy paces and rants that Jody is the antithesis of everything she stands for. “The freedom to hate-watch strangers’ wedding videos?” (That clinches it, Mindy and I are soulmates.) “No, like women’s rights or whatever,” Mindy says cleverly. Danny again brings up wanting her to stay home, saying she could escape the stress of work and Jody if she did. Mindy doesn’t want to let Jody win. She likes to make all of her big decisions out of spite, like becoming a doctor to spite a teacher who didn’t think she could.

She argues that she’s stressed because of Jody, not because of work. Danny says Jody is there to stay unless he gets fired. Mindy thinks she could frame him for murder, but Danny wants her to stop plotting: they’re not married, and he would have to testify against her in court. Always practical, that Danny. He does try to sympathize: he doesn’t like Jody either, because “He keeps calling me The Biscuit.” Ally McBeal reference?

Danny gives the push present another shot. He proudly tells Tamra and Bev he found it by googling “Perfect gifts for mom.” Yup. He got Mindy a cranberry turtleneck. Even Bev knows this is terrible. Morgan shows up in the cranberry turtleneck and thinks it’s all a giant coincidence, that Mindy happens to have found a turtleneck on her bed left there as a prank. Danny is like, well obviously it looks bad on Morgan! Morgan, who’s convinced the sweater is great, explains that his haircut is bad because he fell asleep on a fan.

The perfect sweater for Mom.

The perfect sweater for Mom.

Mindy sneaks into Jody’s office to find the dirt on him (using adorable Leo as a lookout), but finds Colette crying behind his computer instead. She explains that she misses their hometown, where she was head cheerleader AND captain of the football team. Mindy says she sympathizes: she was so lonely when she first moved to NYC that she started dating a statue in Central Park. Hee. Colette wants to body-five for their new friendship, but Mindy teaches her about the joys of “quick, courteous hugs.” Then Colette mentions that Mrs. Morrison’s delivery was tough, and Mindy gets super excited. Her plan is on!

She rushes over to Mrs. Morrison’s bedside and demands the dirt. At first she’s unsuccessful. She prods Mrs. Morrison to say that Dr. K was “handsy” and “inappropriate.” Mrs. Morrison is like, that’s you, actually. Then Mrs. Morrison raves happily about how old-fashioned Dr. K is: he gave the husband a cigar and a savings bond, and this was after kicking him out of the delivery room so that “my vagina could remain a beautiful mystery for my husband.” Mindy echoes, I think, all of our feelings when she decides this is both sexist and fireable. She kisses Mrs. Morrison in a very fireable way. “We talked about the kissing, Dr. L!” Mrs. Morrison protests with lipstick all over her face.

Tamra takes Danny to a jewelry shop to get the most stereotypical “push present” she can find. Danny picks out pretty diamond earrings. Tamra immediately demands, “What did you do, you son of a bitch, did you cheat on her?” Her first guess is Beverly, amusingly. Danny insists it’s because he loves her, but quickly cracks: it’s because he wants her to stay home. “You’re trying to buy Mindy’s freedom?” Tamra says. “What the hell is wrong with you?” Excellent point Tamra. She lectures Danny on how much Mindy has sacrificed.

Danny sees her point, and rushes home to announce that he will quit his job since Mindy already gave up so many weeks of her career for this child. Just kidding. He looks inspired, but the idea of actually giving something up is not really in his bag of tricks.

Mindy barges into the staff meeting and demands to fire Jody for being sexist. He owns it and declares he is a sexist, that he believes in traditional gender roles, and that it’s totally cool guys because that just means he thinks men are dirty and disgusting! He tells a long, terrifying story about setting frogs and baby skunks on fire (“He had to go back to the therapist,” Colette chimes in at the end of this) and announces that the whole apple thing wasn’t Eve’s fault, but the male serpent’s. By the time he sits down everyone is cheering [Janes: Even Tamra, who was being such a good feminist one scene ago!], and Mindy can’t believe it. “Even Harper Lee’s health aide wouldn’t publish that!” Another contender for best line. I guess Mindy’s learned a lot about literature since last week.

Mindy threatens to quit if Jody doesn’t leave. He thinks she should do that. Pissed, she rants, “You would love it if I packed up my bags, went home, took care of my baby, and hid out. Because you think I should be demure. You think I should be more ladylike.” (This also totally applies to Danny, by the way.) To prove how ladylike she is, she whips out her boob, meaning to flash him—and he ends up with milk all over his face. It’s borderline pornographic. Mindy screams that she’s sorry as we go to commercial.

After commercials, though, she’s reluctant to apologize, yelling that the breast milk facial would’ve cost $200 at a spa. Jody’s excited for the apology: “Let me get my slippers, make myself comfortable.” At this point I think most of us would have just stomped on his foot. Or his groin. But Mindy, defeated, announces she’s quitting. Danny, quivering with hope, asks if she really wants that. She says she doesn’t fit in here anymore, and doesn’t want to.

Colette and Mindy make friends

Mindy completely misinterpreting a friendly handshake from Colette.

Outside, Colette tells Mindy not to be too hasty. (“Is my skirt tucked into my underwear again?” Mindy says resignedly. “Every time I think I make a cool exit…”) Colette says that her brother got under Mindy’s skin because Mindy got under his skin, and he was threatened. Mindy is weirdly flattered by that. It turns out she and Jody have one thing in common: they would both freak out when Duck Dynasty is canceled. Colette says she likes Mindy, and Mindy, misinterpreting, starts to gently turn her down: “If this world was a little different…” Colette laughs in her face, but Mindy says they have chemistry and, “We’ll just see where this goes.” “Not goin’ anywhere,” Colette repeats.

Back in Mindy and Danny’s apartment, Danny arrives home, ecstatic. Mindy tries to say that maybe she overreacted when she decided to quit. Just as she says “quit,” Danny talks right over her: “I wasn’t going to say anything, cause Tamra said it was uncool… but I am overjoyed that you want to stay at home.” Mindy tries again: “Yeah, but—” Only to be interrupted again by Danny rambling about how Leo will feel “so loved and so secure” knowing that someone is at home for him all the time, which he never had. (Again I say, QUIT YOUR OWN FUCKING JOB, DANNY.) [Janes: Especially since it was his dad who left him! You wouldn’t think he’d be so enamored with stereotypical gender roles after his father did such a great job fulfilling them.] He finishes up saying he’s so happy and Mindy, loath to disappoint him after that whole speech I suppose, gives up on saying whatever she was trying to say and says she is too.

Then he reveals his push present: the tattoo of Leo on his chest. I know some people found this touching, and I think it would have been if it hadn’t been accompanied by this whole thing. She suffered pain, so he wants to suffer pain in solidarity. Cool, right? Only in this context it’s like, hey, you think getting ONE TATTOO is even comparable to carrying a child, getting an episiotomy, giving up wine and soft cheese, nursing a child, and quitting your job to take care of the child? No. I’m sorry but no. Mindy is touched by this, but melancholy. I mean, she really loves him and I think she sees the same beauty in the gesture that he sees, but she also knows deep down that she’s being guilted into not protesting all the stuff he said because hey, he made a big gesture and got a tattoo. That’s how I read it anyway.

And then they hug. And Mindy stares over Danny’s shoulder into the distance, which no character in the history of television has ever done if they were happy about their life choices.

regret

Sorry to use a photo with credits over Mindy’s face, but look at those panicked eyes!

CONCLUSION SLASH RANT

So, what’s up with Mindy quitting? What is the show trying to say about women, work, motherhood, love here?

This is what I see going on:

It is very clear to me that Mindy, the character, loves working. Part of the reason her personal life was a mess was that she was happier when she was working long hours and that necessitated the price of, say, sleeping on the couch in a serial-killer mask. That’s not the same as saying “women can’t find love if they work too hard,” which movies love to say; she did find Danny, after all. What I’m saying is that everything has a price, and Mindy has always been willing to pay the price of a stressful work life, in order to do what she loves. She’s started her own clinic and worked double-time getting it off the ground. And now she comes back and after one day she’s considering quitting? Danny is like a little devil on her shoulder, whispering, You could take it easy. You could stop having to encounter people who think women should hide for and apologize for their bodies, who think they belong in barbeque-sauce mudpits at Hooters, who sneer and condescend and belittle. You could escape sexism by entering this role that the patriarchy has created for you, this comfortable and cushy domestic world where all you have to worry about is your beloved child. Even leaving aside the fact that being a stay-at-home mom is not in fact stress-free at all, and it’s not relaxing, it’s basically like saying, “Let’s solve the problem of sexist assholes in your work life by giving the sexist assholes exactly what they want: you, barefoot, in your kitchen, taking care of the next generation of men.” Danny might not like Jody, but he’s using Jody’s horribleness to try to persuade Mindy to give up on the life that she loves.

When Danny and Mindy got together it was because they pushed each other to be the best version of themselves. It was a relationship of equals; both had flaws, and when Danny actually affected Mindy’s character arc it was usually in a direct reaction to an actual flaw she had, like when she lied to Cliff and broke his trust. It’s obvious to me that the story being told now is purposefully, and deeply, different. And so now I’m rethinking how I interpreted the last few episodes – I thought we were supposed to come out of them thinking Danny was basically a good guy with some good points to make, even if he was wrong about a lot of things too. Now I think this whole season has been the story of Danny trying to create a family romance for himself where Mindy is his vision of Motherhood: domestic, tameable, indoors, obedient, even chaste, and Mindy slowly giving in to his picture of how their life should be because his oppression looks so much like love. I think this is supposed to be sinister. Chelsea called it out last week, after all.

Maybe I should have trusted the show more. I’m very curious to see where this goes next.

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