Who would have thought the best thing Last Man could do is double our dose of Phil Miller? Last night’s episode introduced us to a new character with a very familiar name, and this guy is exactly the person you’d want to be stuck with at the end of the world.
“Moved to Tampa” kicked off with things looking up for Phil No. 1. Now that he’s divorced, he gets asked out by Tucson’s two swinging single ladies in quick succession, double-booking the dates on the same afternoon. (It’s no surprise that these people have nothing better to do.) Gail is interested in “debriefing” him on how to have “a little fun”; Erica wants to go hiking. Phil claims to be an “enthusiast” of both pursuits.
Meanwhile, Todd’s feeling insecure about his relationship with Melissa. He makes her heart-shaped pancakes to symbolize his love; she sees the shape as an upside-down butt instead. He confesses he loves her in a heartfelt if cliché speech. She thanks him, immediately chowing down on the romantic breakfast.
Later, Todd admits his fears to Phil. Mel Rodriguez is endearing even in his insecurity. He states the obvious: “If we all showed up, what’s to say other people won’t show up?” Phil points out that he’s got much more to lose than Todd and therefore should be more nervous — then follows his own advice. In an attempt to steer any new survivors away, Phil sets off to spray-paint “MOVED TO TAMPA” over his “Alive in Tucson” billboards. Forte gets to play with his physical comedy skills when the ladder he used to climb up to the sign falls over; we almost feel bad for him as he bakes in the sun, and his pants, which he’d removed in an attempt to shade his face, fly away in what’s the only gust of wind all afternoon.
Of course Carol, Erica, and Gail all run into each other back at Phil’s place. Initially, Carol scolds them for seeking out her “sloppy seconds — and they were sloppy!” then realizes that her ex-husband would never stand up a date. “Phil Miller missed out on the chance to have sex with two women? Oh my God, Phil’s dead!” she screams.
Before she has the chance to assemble a search party, a savior shows up in a pickup truck (played by the square-jawed Boris Kodjoe, last seen brooding sexily in Nicki Minaj’s “The Pinkprint Movie”), and his name is the same as the man he saved. Phil Miller No. 2 is gorgeous, charming, and strong, a born hero. Phil No. 1, burned to a crisp and recovering from a blistering nightmare of a day, can only mutter his name to himself while the women learn about Phil No. 2’s stint with Habitat for Humanity. When the new guy asks why they’re all moving to Tampa, the gang realizes that Phil has already broken his honesty pledge. “He was finally gonna have a chance to sow his oats, and he didn’t want anyone else to come in and ruin it for him,” Melissa spits.
If anyone’s more perturbed than Phil by new Phil’s presence, it’s Todd. Despite Melissa’s earlier insistence that “I don’t take saying the L word lightly,” her boyfriend’s worried that she’ll seek out a more attractive mate. “Can you imagine how gorgeous your babies would be?” he asks, through nervous laughter. Melissa tells him to be himself and everything will be fine, but we can’t help but fear that he won’t take her advice to heart.
Watching the Phils interact — or, rather, watching the women interact with Phil No. 2 as Phil No. 1 stands by slack-jawed — Last Man settles into a great ensemble groove that felt hidden under sex talk and poop jokes in the season’s earlier episodes. Despite its noble ambitions, the show seems stronger when aiming for simpler laughs, such as Forte’s Phil’s claiming every compliment directed at the new guy. When the women point out how confusing it is that two sevenths of the country’s population have the same name, they’re happy to recognize their hunky new neighbor as the one and only Phil Miller. Divorcé Phil reluctantly offers up his middle name —Tandy — which manages to be funny without referencing bodily excretions. The Millers play the name-claim game over an epic round of Jenga, and of course Tandy loses just as he’s delivering a rousing speech about his presumed skills. The episode ends on a bittersweet note, with Carol dressing up to hand-deliver a fresh apple pie to Phil Miller while her ex realizes he’s all alone again, despite everyone around him finding well-deserved companionship.
By now The Last Man on Earth has strayed so far from its namesake concept that Will Forte’s character isn’t even the last Phil Miller on Earth, let alone the last man on Earth. And as relieving as it is to see Tandy get what he deserves after being a skunk to every person in his new society, as the first season draws to a close, it’s difficult to parse where the show is going to go from here. Phil Miller wants to develop wind and solar power, and we’ve lost sight of repopulation efforts in the past couple weeks — perhaps the show is transitioning into a construction/parenting ensemble comedy. Either way, we’re promised more shirtlessness for next week, so it’s bound to be a must-see.