Last week, The Mindy Project decided to abruptly break up Mindy and Danny almost as quickly as it brought them together, much to the chagrin of many, including mine. But unlike other sitcoms that build a relationship, such as its lead-in and what feels like sister show, New Girl, The Mindy Project hasn’t had either Danny or Mindy behave in a way that would make their relationship make sense.
Since the beginning of The Mindy Project, both Mindy and Danny have had specific mindsets that are both as silly and antiquated, which they still haven’t grown out of. Mindy still wants a relationship straight out of a rom-com, as she even wants Danny to read her Bridget Jones’ Diary in bed. Danny however is the exact opposite, strict in the division of a personal life and a business life. Even for the few days he was dating Mindy, he did his best to balance these two, until ultimately the weight of that secrecy crushed the relationship. If last week fumbled the breakup and aftermath with both its episodes, “Think Like a Peter,” starts to get things on the right track in a way that makes much more sense.
For Mindy and Danny to be together, Mindy needs to have a more realistic view of love. After going on a date with a guy she doesn’t really care for, she gives up and continues to see him. Peter explains that she needs to start “thinking like a Peter” (aka be a dick)—date everyone and cut them loose when things go bad. Peter takes Mindy to a bar where she meets a new guy, played by New Girl’s Max Greenfield, who she has a one-night stand with. Both Peter and her fling realize it was just a one-and-done affair, yet Mindy’s idea of love and the fact that he left his scarf behind means surely he wants to meet again. When Mindy and Peter find Greenfield, she ultimately discovers that this was in fact a one-time thing and not the beginning of a new relationship.
The new friendship between Peter and Mindy is not only highly entertaining, but it also does allow Mindy to slowly change her expectations as to what every single romantic relationship in her life needs to be. It’s not a bad thing to have expectations, but to hold them unattainably high will only set Mindy up for failure in the future.
Meanwhile Danny is discovering that mixing work and personal business might not be as awful as he thought, and might be flat out unavoidable. Danny walks in on Morgan and Tamra making out in the office’s pantry, but instead of trying to avoid helping, he volunteers to help Tamra make her decision between Morgan and her current boyfriend, Ray Ron. Of course, in helping Tamra, Danny thinks more with his brain than with his heart, the exact opposite of what Mindy would do.
Structurally, “Think Like a Peter” balances all of its characters as well as this show has ever done. We get strong stories with both Mindy and Danny, each with the show’s great supporting characters backing them up, has room for a fantastic guest star like Greenfield, and liberally sprinkles in even more minor characters like Betsy and Beverly just enough to be effective.
Even though by the end of the episode, we discover that Danny is now sleeping with Morgan’s sister Sally, The Mindy Project has slightly moved Danny and Mindy closer to a middle ground. It might have been too early for Mindy and Danny to get together, but the show is placing them in a position to have their future be much smoother than their past.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.