My favorite band, The National

The Mindy Project – “Music Festival”

Dammit, how could I have been so wrong?

I was genuinely excited about the prospects of Mindy and Casey’s long-term relationship, with him in Haiti and her back in New York, but The Mindy Project has another idea entirely. Before the scene between Mindy and Danny in the medical tent, I was astounded at how much of a mess this episode was. Right off the bat, Casey’s back in NYC, and in his first sermon he gives up his life as a pastor, the life he defended with pride when Mindy’s doubts were raised, to become… a DJ? And suddenly, Casey is no longer Casey, instead becoming a weird variation of Holm’s character from Workaholics, and it never quite comes back together until the episode’s final moments. We’ll get there, but let’s see what happened in between first.

Most promisingly, we’re introduced to Dr. Peter Prentiss, played by Adam Pally of the dearly departed Happy Endings. Dr. Prentiss is essentially Happy Endings‘ Max, with about 60% more “bro” and straight, but his laid-back gravity might be perfect for this show. In the office, the other characters are all pulled toward him, and he juggles the insanity as well as Max did in any episode of Happy Endings (which, for those of you who’ve never seen it, is downright impressive). His pairing with Dr. Reed later in the episode, and his subsequent hiring to the practice, should only mean good things for The Mindy Project.

And speaking of Dr. Reed, they finally get around to actually telling his story, and I’m surprisingly on board. Having spent two weeks rolling my eyes at the weird belly padding and lack of any plot or jokes, seeing Dr. Reed actually get put into an extremely stressful situation (seriously, 2/3 of the practice’s doctors, two administrators and the head nurse all leave for a day with almost no warning!) and chow down on those Snickerdoodles was satisfying. I was even okay with Tamra, whose sass played well off Dr. Reed’s British fussiness. And if Dr. Prentiss’ immersion into the show involves he and Dr. Reed becoming BFFs, all the better, as Ed Weeks and Adam Pally have a fun, energetic chemistry. When you say a character has an expanded role on your new season, this is how it should be done.

So where did the rest of the practice skip off to on such short notice? Why, it’s some ludicrously-named music festival where Casey has his first gig as a DJ and Danny’s favorite band The National is playing. Mindy plays along, but is rubbed the wrong way, metaphorically and physically, by the festival scene and a fat man’s sweat, respectively. They part ways, with Mindy promising to be at his set, but unbeknownst to anyone, Morgan has gone to town on some pot cupcakes, and is acting like a damn fool. After breaking his butt bone, Danny and Mindy take Morgan to the medical tent, where they see a desperate need for someone to step in and help these poor party people. Mindy and Danny both begin to miss the very shows they came to see, but Danny tells her to go support Casey, and when she does, Mindy’s surprised to find herself having fun and chooses to support Casey’s new career fully. But what’dya know, Casey’s decided that he wants to go into event planning instead. Back in the medical tent, Morgan, Betsy, and Beth Grant bring The National to Danny, but as Morgan gets down on one knee, he reveals that they only agreed to come because he said he was proposing to Danny. Danny begrudgingly accepts Morgan’s ring, The National play, and everyone claps with joy.

Except for Mindy. Once they’re home, Casey floats the idea of moving to Austin to get a technical degree in event planning, and Mindy’s finally had enough. She can’t keep moving and adapting to Casey’s career journey, no matter how much she cares about him, and she makes the difficult decision to call things off. He leaves a voodoo doll of himself on the bed with a note: “Don’t use too many pins.” The National plays, and everyone ponders their choices.

The strong emotional ending, the great introduction of a character that could’ve bombed terribly, Dr. Reed and Tamra not being the worst, this episode really appealed to so many things I enjoyed, but they still can’t stop everything about Casey’s decision to become a DJ feel superfluous and contrived. “Music Festival” is better than the first two episodes of the season, but it’s a real shame the show had to jump through such a bizarre hoop to get here.

But hey, have I mentioned how great that ending was enough? Casey’s gone, and the show shot for a new tonal shading and mostly nailed it, which could be the start of The Mindy Project really getting its shit together. Then again, next week’s episode could open with Danny deciding that he’s moving to Alaska and Mindy spends the rest of the season chasing his across the country, so why bother even speculating?

Stray Observations

  • Danny’s strange insistence on referring to The National as “my favorite band The National” was a glaringly obvious example of the writers wanting to put a band they love on the show, then realizing that a lot of network TV viewers might not have any idea who The National are.
  • I still have no idea why Betsy and Beth Grant went to the music festival or how anyone thought that would be a good idea for the practice.
  • On the other hand, yay for Betsy getting more lines!
  • “This looks like a Civil War battlefield. Except somehow there are more beards.”
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