Episode Review: The Mindy Project “Hot Mess Time Machine”

It feels especially appropriate that The Mindy Project, a show which unapologetically structured itself as a TV rom-com, would return to TV (well, Hulu) on Valentine’s Day by way of Groundhog Day. Yep, last season Mindy threw a grenade at her relationship with Ben (Bryant Greenberg) by kissing annoying Jamie (I like BJ Novak in the role, but I DO NOT LIKE JAMIE) and started out the new season as a single gal. Feels appropriate for the show to start out on Valentine’s Day with her dealing with a little loneliness too, learning single-life might cause adult acne on the morning news.

Just more bad news after a rough morning. First thing, she drops her phone in a cup of some brown looking liquid. What’s in that glass and why is it on the floor? And what woman, who lives ALONE in a very big apartment, keeps tampons on the bed table rather than under the sink? I know it makes for a good joke when she wakes up to discover the box is empty – but no one really does that right?! What is realistic is noticing only when you need them that you forgot to go to the store the day before and now have a timing issue. For some it means an emergency run to the bodega down the street for an overpriced box. Mindy reacts to the personal crisis by eyeing hot-dog buns (fortunately she is OBGYN who thinks better of such things).

The episode started to feel like “Put on a Happy Face” ,one of the all-time classic episodes of Mary Tyler Moore (in a good way), about her very bad day. Mindy’s day just keeps getting worse; Colette sneezes on her, Beverly stabs her with a “fruit knife” (no big deal), Tamra reveals her go to lunch order to everyone, Jeremiah’s boring, and Morgan shouts “floveralls” when she walks in late wearing overalls (I haven’t worn overalls in a long time, but I don’t know if they’d be my go-to option for period days). Then her most annoying patients, the bickering Petersons, finally have their baby. And to wrap it up, she meets still angry Ben at the elevator at the hospital.

Then the day repeats; exactly like Groundhog Day the movie. Quick detour, but why not just make this either Valentine’s Day OR Groundhog’s Day? Or even the day before Groundhog Day if you want it to happen on a Wednesday?

Mindy’s son Leo’s with unseen dad Danny (I miss Chris Messina on this show) so he won’t get in the way of her deja vu. Her period restarts, she ruins a phone, and her bad day just repeats. By the third day she knows she’s having this Groundhog Day (it exists as a thing in this world), and she knows the rules, sort of. She spends a big chunk of first days just doing what she wants (this includes eating at all the McDonalds in the city, breaking a vending machine, learning to play basketball, and going to Brooklyn – love the wish list Mindy). But as are the rules of Groundhog Day, you gotta learn a lesson.

She hurt Ben by cheating, but also by being a selfish girlfriend. So she has to reconcile, and does this by learning everything about him she should have been learning in the relationship. His love for comics, Star Trek fandom, his pension for frozen yogurt (yeah, Ben’s kinda the perfect guy). It takes months (which means no Leo and months of starting your period), but Mindy learns how to be a good girlfriend who listens. And then tells Ben not to miss the plane trip he’s taking with his ex-girlfriend. It was the right, nice thing to do for someone she wants to be happy, but she wants him back and wishes he didn’t go.

Mindy assumes she’ll have the next day to redo it and tell him to stay, but Thursday comes, much to Morgan’s disappointment who followed Mindy’s approach and lived the day like there’s no tomorrow (he joined the Navy among other bad decisions). Ben’s gone and Mindy just has pancakes to make her feel better. Until that knock on the door, Ben returns and saves Valentine’s Day for all the singletons watching at home, hoping for Mindy’s happy ending. She get him back, at least for one more day.

I’m super happy that The Mindy Project’s back, and started the second part of the fifth season on a strong note. That little spark of joy it brings to my life makes for a good Tuesday. Kaling’s a little breathe of fresh air as Mindy, and I like that the show hasn’t felt the need to get dirtier or darker on Hulu. Ike Barinholtz’s Morgan’s still a goofball and Ed Week’s still appropriately dry as Jeremiah. But the rest of newer cast all jell really nicely with the series (hard to believe how many people have cycled out of the show). And the use of guest stars has started to cycle back to recurring cast appearances (nice to see Jay Duplass’s one surprise scene this episode). Overall, The Mindy Project’s a great series to have back on the air.

Rating: 8/10

Lesley Coffin is editor and founder of Movies, Film, Cinema. A writer with a masters degree from NYU’s Gallatin School in biographical studies and star theory. She wrote the biography on Lew Ayres (Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector) and Hitchcock’s Casting (Hitchcock’s Stars). Lesley currently freelances for a number of sites, including regular contributions to The Interrobang, Pink Pen, The Young Folks, and previously wrote for The Mary Sue and Filmoria.