The Last Man on Earth Recap: Fatally Startled

Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX
The Last Man on Earth
Episode Title
Dead Man Walking
Editor’s Rating

“By now we are all so used to death, as we have seen everyone in the world around us die,” Carol reminds us at the top of last night’s Last Man, while the Malibu gang gather to pay their respects for Gordon (Will Ferrell), whom she literally scared to death last week. Carol doesn’t have much more to offer beyond recalling the volume of bodies, “heaps and heaps,” seeing as she didn’t know Gordon for even a minute before he passed, but her friends — especially Todd — are pretty broken up about the whole ordeal. In a way, Carol’s obliviousness to loss summed up the show’s flip attitude toward what little remains of its world, and finally, everything jelled.

This week, in the wake of Gordon’s death — and at Gordon’s actual wake — Carol has a daunting task ahead of her: to convince her old friends to welcome a new and improved Phil into their 13-bathroom Malibu manse, even though they’re still calling him Tandy and they still clearly hate his guts. While Phil entertains himself by turning the motor home into batting cages, Carol wastes no time getting reacquainted with Melissa, who’s thrilled to have her old friend back. Soon enough, though, talk turns to “absolute turd” Tandy, whose absence everyone appreciates loudly and emphatically. When Melissa asked what happened, Carol makes a characteristically awkward exit by “accidentally” dumping her mug all over her favorite red-and-white horse shirt. (Because this is Carol we’re talking about, we doubt that’s a quip so much as a factual statement.)

When Carol excuses herself to get cleaned up, she’s tailed by EvPhil, who seems pretty enthused about reuniting with his ex-lover. Lucky for Carol, Erica, who seems threatened, interrupts EvPhil’s advances and marks her territory with her mouth to clear up any confusion about the whole matter. Kristen Schaal’s eyes throughout this whole ordeal are a marvel to behold. Because we know how these immature characters work by now, it comes as no surprise that Carol angles for sympathy by telling her friends that her husband is dead.

Carol ducks out to visit Phil in the motor home — her practical and accurate excuse: “I told them I had diarrhea so I could come back here and work out the details” — and he’s a tad worried about how this whole plain is going to shake out. Carol helpfully reminds us that Phil once told Gail and Erica that she was dead, so now they’re even, which, fair. Our craftress puts those cartooning skills to good use, and she renders quite vivid illustrations of Phil’s bloody death: He fell to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you see, while he was helping Carol to achieve her bucket-list dream of holding a handstand on the rim of a canyon for a full minute.

Still, everyone’s having a hard time envisioning Phil as a mensch. While Carol notches up the drama by playacting as a grieving widow alongside Gail, who’s still heartsick over Gordon, EvPhil professes his support — and affection — for Carol. Her strategy for escaping EvPhil’s passionate embrace after he lifts off her mourning shroud is just priceless: “I’m not wearing any sunscreen.”

In light of EvPhil’s advances, Carol decides to fast-track whatever ridiculous plan she had in mind, and insists that it’s time for Phil to reemerge alive. Each takes a walkie-talkie, and Carol tells Phil to listen for his cue to come out of hiding while Gail is attempting to revive a crash-test dummy dressed in Gordon’s clothing (Mary Steenburgen’s pathetic grieving and overt comments about Carol’s murderous tendencies are aces, by the way). As Carol tries unsuccessfully to bolster Phil’s reputation for the umpteenth time, the gang pieces the plan together: He’s alive, and they are not at all happy about it. Of course Phil hears every last jab over the walkie-talkie, and retires to his bleak hideout in sorrow. At long last, he admits to himself that he cares about these people’s opinions, and that he wants to be their friends, but he finds himself alone yet again.

Bless her heart, Carol remains dogged in her quest to rehabilitate her husband’s image. While Phil sinks to his lowest, moping among his balls, Carol tugs at the Malibu bunch’s heartstrings, insisting that Old Tandy is truly, truly dead. Since this is a sitcom, just as she’s succeeded, Phil emerges with an outrageously misguided plan of his own — if he holds his former friends up at gunpoint, they’ll have no choice but to listen to his apology, right?

The gesture is so classic Phil that it’s almost touching, and Forte plays it for laughs. Screaming at Melissa, Todd, Gail, Erica, and even EvPhil with the entitled fervor of a bank robber, he passes out meaningful apologies for all that meanness, attempted murder, and attempted sex. Every time he approaches kindness, he screams to remind them to keep their hands where he can see them. And just like that, yet again, Phil mucks up his millionth second chance.

But all hope for reconciliation is not lost: EvPhil secures his nemesis into locked stocks, Colonial-style, for Phil to mull over the consequences of his actions. This time, I’m not convinced he even deserves the punishment, which is a sign this might have been the best episode in Last Man’s run thus far. With so much interpersonal baggage to unpack and so many hysterical lines from Carol, who needs an astronaut brother, anyway?