As is so often the case in life, in this week’s episode of Last Man, many sacrifices are made in the name of cheese. Last night’s half hour saw Phil in many ever-tightening states of confinement, the majority of which were self-imposed. Did he ultimately redeem himself in the wake of his gun-brandishing apology? Let’s evaluate.
We pick up right where we left off last week: with Phil’s wrists locked up in old-school stocks. EvPhil’s still terrorizing his eponymous enemy, and when he tries giving Phil a taste of his own ammo, Phil calls out that he’ll need a change of pants … and underwear … and shoes. Bless Will Forte for slowly unspooling this line without shame. And bless Carol for helping her stockaded dummy of a husband into a fresh outfit. While Carol & Co. are thrilled as ever to be back together, she’s still sticking by Phil’s side, and for whatever reason, her friends don’t seem to hold it against her. Which is not the same thing as them forgiving Phil, though.
To atone for his many missteps, Phil proposes upping the weeklong solitary confinement sentence EvPhil requests to last five whole weeks. Once her friends are out of earshot, Carol points out that Phil likely could have gotten away with a far lower sentence. “I’ve always taken the easy way out,” he counters, “and I don’t wanna do that anymore.” How noble! “For the next five weeks, I’ve got a new wife, and her name is Lady Justice.”
Hey, remember that cow from last season? She’s back! Well, as a narrative conceit, anyway — perhaps budgetary constraints prevented her from appearing onscreen. No matter, because even more pleasing to the eye are the gorgeous hunks of cheese Melissa has cultivated from the cow’s milk. Carol cuts off an admirable slab of mozzarella and assures us it’s for which to die. (The grammar-girl tic is inconsistent at best, but it always gets a chuckle out of me.) The ladies guzzle wine while they make a dent in the cow’s bounty, and in a bit of foreshadowing, Melissa confides in her best pal that Todd’s been acting all kinds of weird lately. He’s been cold and distant, and not only sexually!
Melissa and Carol leave their cheese outside overnight (this seems irresponsible — did all manner of wildlife and insects in Malibu die during the plague, too?), and Phil’s got an unobstructed view of all the artery-clogging substances through the glass door in his makeshift cell. From the cheese’s point of view, we watch Phil sneak out and tiptoe over. He proceeds to shovel the stuff straight into his mouth and beard — probably a 70-30 split — and quickly spits it back out. We watch Phil vacillate over whether to eat the creamy cheeses, and it’s equal parts gross and gleeful. “Our friendship is worth way more than this cheese” is something I personally have never found to be true in my relationships, yet Phil convinces himself of this and sets off to return to his hole. Just when he was about to get away with his walkabout, he careens into a wind chime. Smooth, dude.
After getting caught, Phil’s apologetic as ever, and his housemates are exceedingly angry that he broke his vow. I get that Phil’s trying to prove that he’s changed, but why are his nemeses so mad that he broke the rules he himself made in the first place, anyway? In order to tighten Phil’s ever-more-literal leash, EvPhil has him wear a shock collar. Phil’s eager to comply, as he insists he ought to “DTC DTT” (did the crime, do the time); but Gail and Erica, who are rarely allowed to act as individuals, quickly realize that the shock collar does not prevent Phil from talking to them. And we can hardly blame them for wanting him to shut up — Phil’s verbal gymnastics are just as out of control as his actions. So Carol, at Phil’s request, procures some sort of bark collar that suffocates its wearer with citronella anytime he attempts to talk.
Somehow Phil lasts five days in his double-collared backyard prison, and his bangs are looking worse for wear. When Carol comes to check in on him, he whispers to her that all he wants is a little acknowledgment of his progress. Instead, Melissa continues to taunt him, leaving beers just far enough outside the perimeter that Phil can’t reach them without getting shocked. Like a very strong child, he throws a tantrum, shattering all the potted plants within arm’s length just for the opportunity to play charades with the only other people on Earth.
Then a fire breaks out because sure, so Phil gets a chance to prove his devotion to the people who hate him so passionately. He’s unable to wake anyone up, and he winds up having to run back and forth through his high-wattage boundary in order to subdue the flames that would otherwise consume the compound. Instead of bragging about his achievements, he returns to his shed and passes out.
When the gang pieces together Phil’s sacrifice, EvPhil himself comes to remove Phil’s shackles. Phil is over the moon, of course, but soon remembers that regaining the ability to talk doesn’t necessarily correspond with regaining the ability to be heard. For an off-topic cliffhanger, we see Todd sneak into some garage-type space in the middle of the night. WHAT’S HE HIDING?? the teasers for next week taunt. Could it be Jason Sudeikis? Because seriously, are we just going to pretend we weren’t all up in his space station in the season opener? I’m very happy with the way that Last Man has been settling into its comic sensibilities, but it’d be great to see a little bit more narrative cohesion across episodes. Or to mine a bit more backstory from our secondary characters. Or cheese, I guess. More cheese would be fine.