'The Mindy Project' recap: 'Harry and Sally' is a tip of Indiana Jones's fedora to movies of the 1980s

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'The Mindy Project' recap: 'Harry and Sally' is a tip of Indiana Jones's fedora to movies of the 1980s
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Mindy meets Jaime, a Latin teacher at NYU

In the "The Mindy Project" pilot episode, Dr. Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) used her encyclopedic knowledge of romantic comedies to describe her troubled love life. "Harry and Sally," the latest episode, revisits that cinematic passion and quickly becomes a mini-homage to some great 1980s movies.

The story opens with Mindy and Brendan (Mark Duplass) talking in her bed. Evidently, Brendan made a surprise appearance at her apartment because her sheets contain items like a kitchen knife and a Ronald Reagan mask (Mindy uses it to eat popcorn when all her bowls are dirty). The good doctor finds out that she and the midwife are on different romantic pages, though, when he dismisses the idea of dating.

Mindy later flies solo at a cocktail party hosted by one of her friends. She makes a connection with Jamie (B.J. Novak), a Latin teacher, but he apparently is in a relationship with Lucy (Eva Amurri Martino). Like the title characters in "When Harry Met Sally," though, both Jamie and Lucy say they are just best friends.

At the same party, Danny (Chris Messina) and Jillian (Allison Williams) discover they are not quite compatible. The former Eyepatch Girl then breaks up with Dr. Castellano over spicy cups of Mexican hot chocolate. Mindy, Morgan (Ike Barinholtz), and Betsy (Zoe Jarman) advise Danny to make a grand, sweeping gesture to win her back like the romantic leads in "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Goodfellas" did.

With Morgan in tow, Danny does his best "Say Anything" impersonation for Jillian at the Oceanography Institute. Like John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler character, Danny has Morgan blast a Korn song for Jillian while she's working with sea lions. Danny evidently wasn't listening when she had said her favorite song was actually "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia.

Jillian ends their relationship once and for all by explaining to Danny that he really is just a jerk.

Mindy has a solo dinner date with Jamie, but Lucy is still there in spirit, if not in body. Jamie's best friend sends a bottle of wine to their table with a note congratulating them on their date. Jamie gets on the phone with Lucy, prompting Mindy to leave the restaurant and head straight to Brendan's bedroom. Later on, Mindy confronts Brendan at the movie theater when he shows up with a honest-to-goodness date.

This episode of "The Mindy Project" shows how the series has matured. Embracing the best aspects of her character, Mindy Kaling uses pop culture references and costumes to good advantage. When asking Jamie for a second chance over the closing credits, Dr. Lahiri rocks a fedora and whip in her guise as "Mindiana Jones" (Morgan even shows up as Nazi interrogator Toht from "Raiders of the Lost Ark).

With episodes like this one, "The Mindy Project" is proving that its freshman season is strong.

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