Earlier this season, my biggest gripes with Last Man on Earth regarded its flippant gender stereotypes and aggressively simplistic sex jokes. But in its penultimate episode, the show finally seems to be rewarding us for sticking around, sending up those very tropes by reversing them completely.
Phil Miller is Tucson’s new Melissa, the object of everyone’s obsessive affection. And because the town’s female population has tripled since Melissa’s arrival, the Phil infatuation is all-encompassing. The women throw themselves at him shamelessly. The men conspire against him. “Friggin’ Phil,” they mutter under their breath throughout.
“The Tandyman Can” opens with Gail, Erica, and Carol batting their eyelashes and pouting their lips at Phil, curious as to where he’s planning to roost in Tucson. They’re thirsty as hell, and flirt with all the subtlety of a used-car salesman. Tandy, meanwhile (who seems to be embracing his new name, so we will, too), is still trying to wrest attention back on himself. As the three ladies moan about how lonely they are, Tandy sees an opportunity to keep closer tabs on his rival, and offers his own house as a bachelor pad. “Don’t you wanna be my friend?” he asks affably. “Choose this Sophie!” Somehow, Phil deems it a good idea and agrees to move in.
And Phil Miller proves to be a model roommate: His first addition to the Tandy Mansion is a hot water heater he’s casually rigged up after one too many cold showers. Oh, Phil, you make the apocalypse look so easy. Tandy stands hypnotized as Phil doffs his shirt for shower time, and his pecs literally wink at us while he leaves the water running, which seems pretty wasteful considering their limited resources.
Phil’s striptease makes Tandy even more jealous, prompting some body insecurity. So he goes where he always does when he needs to reconcile his emotions and plot his next move: to the bar. After some dainty push-ups, he explains to his ball friends that his body isn’t half bad and somehow winds up examining his, uh, Tandy cane. And this self-evaluation provides us with some of the night’s many gleefully snort-worthy lines: “It’s not gonna win any penis awards — but there aren’t any penis awards,” he declares. “As with all Ferraris, the real show is on the back end.”
Finally, Tandy lands on the point: “[Phil]’s trying to establish dominance. That’s a statement move right there, and I have to establish in kind.” Which for Tandy seems to mean derobing in front of his new roommate, who’s rightfully confused at this display. And since people in Tucson seem to walk in on each other unannounced even more than they do on Friends, Erica stumbles upon the uncomfortable scene. Tandy shrinks back in shame — in more ways than one. “I will get out of your hair, and your bald head,” he says, and retreats.
On the other side of the cul-de-sac, things are getting pretty rocky between Todd and Melissa, and Todd’s insecurities are pretty pathetic to watch. He’d finally found confidence and happiness as the second-to-last man on Earth, and these feelings fade pretty quickly in the presence of an alpha male. Todd fixates on his girlfriend’s new friendship to the detriment of his own relationship, just as Melissa feared he might last week. He thinks she might dump him, so he beats her to the punch in a last-ditch attempt to have the upper hand. “That’s not what I was going to say, but fine,” Melissa says. Todd crumples as she shuts the door in his face.
As Tucson’s interpersonal politics continue to shift, the ladies decide it’s time for a recall election because Tandy’s leadership skills are less than presidential. Phil snatches the title in a landslide victory, while Tandy’s apprehension over the whole ordeal compels him to lie again. In response to Phil’s claim that their city, his hometown, is “pretty much the worst place to sustain human life,” Tandy blurts out that he’s been planting crops as a surprise. “I plowed it, I raked it, I tilled it, I sowed it, I farmed it,” he insists, without skipping a beat. And then, in the cover of night, Tandy sets out to actually do those things.
When Tandy returns from his agricultural all-nighter, he finds a distraught Todd wandering the streets. “It’s Phil,” he cries. “He had sex with them … all of them!” Todd can barely keep it together, so Tandy sets out to investigate — and it turns out the women were just showering, though the satisfaction they derive from the water heater is pretty carnal. Still, Tandy’s quieted enough to take Phil to his “farmland,” where he basically just drew lines in the dirt and sprinkled around some jalapeño seeds. But Phil buys it, even apologizing for his behavior: “I’m sorry that things got a little tense this week,” he says. “Looking at what you did, I realize I may have been off-base.” The two cast away any remaining ill will with a fist bump; if we hadn’t seen Tandy’s slipshod farming, we might even think a friendship is growing, too.
As for Carol, she’s found a new muse in Phil 2.0, for whom she knits a scarf because “it gets drafty in this house.” A “cat man,” he even appreciates her meticulous feline nail art, securing Carol’s position as a front-runner in the race for his affection. By episode’s end, they’re in bed together, hollering out the camping talk that gets Carol in the mood for the whole neighborhood to hear. Todd and Tandy sit together, stone-faced, while Carol and Phil carry on. “We gotta kill this guy,” Tandy says. “I’m in,” Todd agrees.
Is the Tandyman about to become a hit man? We’ve seen him act pretty unpleasantly, but premeditated murder is a whole new ball game. Knowing Tandy’s success rate in life, it’s unlikely that things will play out as he wants them to, but this week’s blend of punchy one-liners and little failures sets us up for an attempted murder that should at least be fun to watch.