The finale of season two of The Mindy Project, which aired last night, was chock full of so many references and reinterpretations of three of Nora Ephron's most famous movies they were hard to keep track of.
The episode, appropriately titled, "Danny and Mindy" was an entire complicated homage to and mash-up of When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. It was also the ultimate expression of Mindy Kaling's (and therefore Mindy Lahiri's) long-held love for Nora Ephron/Meg Ryan movies. A warning: do not read this if you don't want last night's Mindy Project and/or some of the best romantic comedies of our time thoroughly ruined for you.
The bulk of this episode was a modern interpretation of You've Got Mail, which was itself a modern retelling of the movie The Shop Around the Corner.
In You've Got Mail, Kathleen and Joe start an email relationship without knowing that they hate each other in real life (and ignoring the fact that they're each in a relationship). In Mindy, Mindy sees a Missed Connections posting from a man she saw on the subway and decides to contact him – even though she's still dating hunky detective man Charlie, played by Tim Daly. She's warned by Danny that she's going to end up in the New York Post because Andy is secretly a serial killer – just like Kathleen's coworkers worried her mystery man could be the "Rooftop Killer."
Subway dude is named Andy and was played by Joan's rapist on Mad Men. (Sorry actor Samuel Page. I just can't think of you any other way.)
Mindy and Andy email back and forth and their emails are read out in voiceovers, in tones and phrasings strikingly similar to those used by Kathleen and Joe. Andy tells Mindy about his morning coffee ritual, just as Joe talked to Kathleen about Starbucks:
The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.
Very quickly, however, we find out that Andy is actually...Danny!
Joe in You've Got Mail: "Oh, how I wish you would." Danny in Mindy: "Oh how I hope that you are."
Mindy doesn't know this yet, however, just as Kathleen doesn't know Joe is her mystery man. In You've Got Mail, Joe figures this out after he and Kathleen agree to meet and he stands her up (or so she thinks). Since Danny already knows he's Mindy's mystery man, this part of the plot gets complicated on Mindy: Mindy has plans to meet up with Joe at the top of the Empire State Building (ala Sleepless in Seattle, which we'll get to later) but she gets gum in her hair and calls Danny to help her get it out.
During their gum removal hangout time, Mindy tells Danny she gets why he broke it off with her originally and that she knows now that they're better just as friends, a nicer version of when Kathleen is super cruel to Joe while she's waiting for her mystery man to show up for their blind date, prompting him to leave. "If I really knew you, I know what I would find," Kathleen tells Joe. "Instead of a brain, a cash register. Instead of a heart, a bottom line."
When Mindy shows up at the top of the Empire State Building, Danny's stood her up because he felt dismissed by her.
After being stood up, Mindy's over Andy. But with Andy is out of the picture, Morgan and Tamra convince Danny that he needs to give it another go with Mindy. Danny then starts to try to win back Mindy's trust by hanging out with her around New York – something Joe does with Kathleen to convince her to fall in love with him and not her mystery email man. (More on this later.)
When Mindy gets sick, Danny takes care of her in bed, as Joe did with Kathleen.
An interlude: Mindy's relationship with Charlie was very similar to Kathleen's with her boyfriend Frank.
The goodbye scene where Mindy kissed Charlie before he left for the day felt reminiscent of when Kathleen says goodbye to Frank, before sneakily running back to her computer to message Joe.
Even Mindy's very cordial break-up scene with Charlie felt like Kathleen's break up with Frank, which I will forever say is one of the best break-up scenes in movie (or life) history.
When Mindy's sick, Mindy and Danny sit in bed together watching When Harry Met Sally. Can't get more literal than that. (Danny trying to quote the movie: "I'll order whatever's giving her an orgasm.") Them lying in bed together also harkened back to when Harry and Sally would talk on the phone in their respective beds while watching the same movie.
In this scene, they're watching another classic romance, Casablanca.
When Mindy and Danny start exploring New York together, they specifically walk past the Washington Square Park arch where Harry and Sally parted after their drive from Chicago to New York together after college, a ride Sally would later call "the worst night of my life."
But eventually, it's revealed to Mindy that Danny was pretending to be Andy. At this point, Danny declares his love for Mindy, but she's not buying it, telling him, "You love me until you don't." For Harry and Sally, their conversation after they've slept together and had their own huge blow-out fight ends with Sally saying to Harry, "I am not your consolation prize."
Danny tells Mindy to meet him on the top of the Empire State Building anyway, but when she doesn't come, he leaves. Then the rest of the doctors tell him that she's just late, prompting Danny to run through the streets to Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark" to get to Mindy, as Harry did on his way to meet Sally at her New Years' Party before midnight. In Harry's case, he did so because "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
Danny's so frantic he also has difficulties with fellow passers-by.
Like You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle is yet another Ephron movie inspired by another classic movie: An Affair to Remember. In Sleepless, when Annie tries to get up to the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building, she's told it's closed, though she convinces the guard to let her go upstairs. When Mindy tries to get upstairs, she's told the elevator is broken, though it's quickly fixed, allowing Danny to take it when he comes after her.
(I mentioned Danny running to see Mindy before was like Harry running to get Sally, but it should be noted that Annie also runs to get the Empire State Building on time. True love runs.)
In Sleepless, Sam and his son Jonah return to the Observation Deck to find Annie because Jonah has left his backpack behind.
Danny finds Mindy at the top, exhausted from her climb.
ROMANTIC KISS TIME...
...plus an ass grab, giving it a nice, modern, Mindy-esque flip.
Images via Fox, Warner Brothers, TriStar and Columbia Pictures