Monday, December 2, 2013

The Mindy Project 2.09: "Mindy Lahiri is a Racist"

“I already ordered for us and ate all our appetizers. Should we order more?”

“Mindi Lahiri is a Racist,” co-written by Morgan Tookers actor Ike Barinholtz, tried to accomplish a lot. It tried to address critics who have questioned how the show handles issues of race, it tried to deal with how Mindy treats her subordinates, it tried to briefly touch on Mindy’s love life drama, and it tried to service a number of bigger name guest stars. All in the space of thirty minutes. It was fifty pounds of episode in a ten pound bag. There were definitely some funny moments, for sure. There’s a great dinner scene between Mindy and Tamra, and the cold open was hilarious, if a bit self-serving on the part of Barinholtz. The disparate threads of the episode mostly came together at the end, except for the whole Cliff the lawyer plot. Although I guess if nothing had happened on the Cliff front after the bombshell of the previous episode, I would have been disappointed. So there’s that.

I’m specifically calling out the cold open from this episode because it was confusing, hilarious, and skepticism-inducing all at the same time. Morgan wants to test out this device he made to protect his arm from dogs if he’s carrying a steak. Betsy’s got a kind of intimidating dog, and Tamra’s armed with a tranquilizer gun in case anything goes wrong. Of course something does go horribly wrong. The dog goes for Morgan’s penis instead of his arm, and the dog, of course, won’t let go. Tamra tries to diffuse the whole situation with the tranq gun, but she accidentally shoots Morgan instead. Twice. Morgan goes down, the dog still locked on to his nether regions. I had to laugh because how can you not laugh at something like that? And I’m not actually thirty years old – more like twelve. The only thing that seemed wrong to me about the cold open was that it wasn’t at all connected to the plot of the episode. In the next scene, Morgan is walking into the office, none the worse for wear. Since Ike Barinholtz co-wrote the episode, it feels a little self-aggrandizing.

A bunch of little things happen early in the episode, which, except for the Mindy and Cliff stuff, all come together by the end. Danny has a patient named Nancy (Missi Pyle) who is really happy with Shulman and Associates and promises to give a great review on her “mommy blog.” The practice also has a surplus, which the partners are all debating how to use. Peter things they should invest in a mobile women’s health clinic, but because he’s the “junior” partner, nobody really wants to listen to his idea. Cliff, Morgan, and Mindy all meet up in an elevator, and Cliff realizes that Morgan never deleted his racy texts to Mindy, and Mindy has seen said texts. Finally, the midwives pay a visit to ask if they can hang up a poster for a man named Tracy Whitfield’s congressional campaign. Peter mentions that he sort of knows Tracy from Dartmouth, but again, nobody really listens to him.

Things blow up, as they do, when Nancy’s blog post is published. Danny starts happily reading it to the rest of the practice when he realizes that Nancy’s blog is called “White Mommy,” and it’s actually a white supremacist mommy blog. The blog basically says that despite the Jewish-sounding name, the Indian doctor, and the African American nurse, there are plenty of solid, Aryan people there to deliver your baby. All the partners are mortified, and they immediately go into crisis mode (despite hoping that not too many people read White Mommy). They hire a crisis PR lady named Priscilla, who is played by Jenna Elfman. Priscilla is supposed to be an Olivia Pope from “Scandal” type of fixer (Mindy even name checks Olivia at one point), but she’s pretty ineffectual, really. Well, she’s ineffectual at everything other than sleeping with Danny. They had the kind of stereotypical hate turns to sex thing when Danny got grumpy at Priscilla when she was trying to coach him.

Priscilla smartly has Mindy and Tamra work on a statement to give. They’re minorities who work at Shulman after all. For some reason I didn’t quite understand, the work on the statement had to take place over dinner at a fancy restaurant. Tamra, not so smartly, brings RayRon along with her to dinner. Mindy tries to shoo him away, saying that she and Tamra have work things to do, but RayRon has his heart set on expensive lobster. Mindy calls RayRon a deadbeat, and she tells Tamra that she should be with somebody more like herself. Tamra automatically interprets this as Mindy having a problem with her dating a white guy, so she storms off.

The already bad situation escalates when the midwives decide to stage a protest outside of the building. It’s a pretty elaborate set-up with a big truck, megaphones, and everything. The Shulman crew all try to fight back, of course, and they only make themselves look worse in the process. At one point, the midwives bring Tamra up on the truck to talk about how disrespected she is at Shulman. Of course the crowd responds to her story about Mindy dissing her boyfriend. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that the midwives aren’t in this for great justice. They simply want to direct business away from Shulman and Associates and towards their own practice.

Meanwhile, Morgan is really torn up about the fact that Cliff is mad at him. Morgan knows he did something wrong in not deleting the texts, and he really wants to make it up to Cliff. Morgan is told that what Cliff probably really wants (more than Morgan’s Betamax tape collection) is to beat Morgan up. So Morgan offers just that opportunity to Cliff. He rightly figures that Cliff won’t necessarily want to do the beating himself, so he brings a burly wrestler dude friend to do the job for him. Cliff tries to stop the wrestler dude from beating up Morgan, but he ends up taking punches to the face himself. Morgan and Cliff talk about the Mindy dilemma while Morgan patches Cliff up, and Cliff seems determined to stay with Heather, even though he’s happy to hear Mindy has feelings for him too. Whoever said people were rational when it comes to relationships?

Anyway, the whole protest situation reaches a climax when the midwives have Tracy Whitfield give a speech. At that point, Mindy has had it. She asks the take the microphone, which the midwives allow, because they figure she’ll probably just say more offensive things. She does indeed say some offensive things (like informing the crowd that Danny has slept with a woman of every race except for one), but she comes up with a save in the end. That save is mentioning Peter’s mobile health clinic idea. Tracy wants the mobile clinic for the people of his district, so he lays off Shulman and Associates and says that they’re “hardly racist.” Peter is finally given a little respect for coming up with the idea that saved the practice. He’s made a senior partner, although everyone still makes sure he knows that he’s the “junior” senior partner.

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