The Mindy Project tackles critics head on in its latest episode, "Mindy Lahiri is a Racist." Over the last year, critics and fans alike have pointed out the under-development of non-white secondary characters, the fact that Mindy only dates white guys, and Mindy's frequent use of racial stereotypes. "Mindy Lahiri is a Racist" deals directly with these issues when the male midwives accuse Shulman and Associates of racism.
The entire trouble begins when Danny charms a blonde mother-to-be at her first appointment, who promises to write about the office on her "mommy blog." When Danny finds the blog post, he reads it aloud to the staff before realizing that it's a "white mommy's blog." The blonde mother-to-be writes that despite the clinic's name ("Shulman" indicating Jewish heritage to her), she was pleased to find Aryan doctors to deliver her precious unborn child. The entire office is horrified, including Danny.
After learning of the "white mommy blog," the male midwives take to the narrow New York sidewalk to protest the clinic. They begin to draw media attention, concerning Shulman and Associates enough to hire a crisis Public Relations firm. The P.R. representative recommends that Mindy and Tamra release a statement about the good working conditions at their office. Mindy and Tamra make dinner plans for that evening to work on the statement.
While the clinic rushes to present a united front, it is clear that not all is well among coworkers. Mindy reminds Morgan about that time last episode when he decided to sext her crush, Cliff, on her behalf, causing all kinds of mayhem and ultimately driving Cliff into the arms of Mindy's neighbor, Heather. After a subsequent run-in with Cliff, Morgan becomes consumed with the desire to make the incident up to Cliff and Mindy.
Peter is becoming increasingly frustrated by his status as a "junior partner," compared to "senior partners" Danny, Mindy, and Jeremy. He gets very annoyed when the other doctors reject his suggestion for a monthly mobile health clinic in the local neighborhoods to better serve low-income residents. The oblivious Mindy brushes off Peter's concerns and heads off to dinner with Tamra at a fancy restaurant.
Tamra arrives with boyfriend Ray-Ron in tow. Mindy makes it very clear that she does not think Ray-Ron is good enough for Tamra, who becomes angry and leaves.
The next morning, Tamra joins the midwives' protest and twists Mindy's words to make her appear racist. When Mindy confronts her, Tamra admits that she knows Mindy isn't racist, but she expresses her frustration that Mindy is condescending to those who work under her. There's the implication that the condescension has racial and classist undertones that are also unacceptable, even if Mindy isn't explicitly racist.
Eventually, Mindy manages to diffuse the protest with a combination of earnest speech-making and the announcement of the office's new mobile health clinic initiative, which will serve low-income locals of all backgrounds. This pleases Peter, who subsequently gets promoted to senior partner.
I really enjoyed the episode, which managed to keep its humor even as the show dealt with the serious topic of racism. It may be no surprise that the episode that deals most directly with race also gave us the most character development of the main African-American character, Tamra. Tamra called Mindy out and encouraged her to think about the ways she was unintentionally hurtful. Mindy showed some real growth here, albeit while retaining her ability to say something inappropriate in just about any situation.
The only wildly inconsistent character here appears to be Peter, whose relationship with his coworkers appears to vary dramatically week to week. He's part of the bros club one week; he's competing with Jeremy the next week. That being said, he's incredibly funny, so I'm excited to see him settle into more of consistent dynamic with the rest of the cast.
Best Mindy Moment: Mindy prays for crisis-management consultant, Olivia Pope, from my other favorite show, Scandal, resulting in the most amazing tweet of the evening.
Pop Culture Mania: Speaking of Scandal, I was impressed that Mindy also managed to rerference Glee and Downton Abbey in this episode. Good to know what Mindy watches in addition to her romantic comedies.
Cringe-worthy: Mindy trying to convince the crowd that the practice isn't racist because Danny has slept with girls of all races.
Guest Star Power: Plenty to choose from this week. Most importantly: Josh Peck is back as Ray-Ron! Long live Drake and Josh. Jenna Elfman also makes an appearance as the no-nonsense Olivia Pope crisis public relations manager.
The Ex Factor: I appreciate that the show gave us some resolution to the sexting plotline from last week, although Cliff probably isn't my favorite of Mindy's suitors. I also enjoyed the fact that Mindy's love life took a backseat this episode, giving the show some room to focus on other things.