The Last Man on Earth
The Last Man on Earth does double duty tonight, offering us two episodes and, finally, two men. Now that we’ve got an even gender distribution, you’d think everyone could finally stop worrying about having sex with each other, but you’d be wrong.
The evening’s first installment kicks off with Phil devising a plan to get Carol’s blessing to bed Melissa. Never mind the fact that Melissa might not want to bed him. We viewers know another man is on his way because the episode is intercut with dreamy, Drive-like shots of a sports car racing toward Phil’s “Alive in Tucson” signs. (Raise your hand if you were hoping Ryan Gosling would be the driver here, too.)
When Carol insists “we need to have as many babies as possible,” Phil sees an opening, realizing that with careful planning, he might have a shot at convincing his wife he should be sleeping around. Phil heads to the bar to hash out the plan with his ball gang. Will Forte has a great rapport with his sports balls, and this scene is among the episode’s strongest. Using his spherical friends as stand-ins, he determines, “‘As many babies as possible’ means there has to be two balls pregnant at any given time … I should be impregnating both Carol and Melissa for the good of humanity.”
Cad that he is, Phil runs the plan vaguely past Melissa before Carol, asking Melissa if she’s open to repopulation and change and Rosa Parks. When it comes time to convince Carol, Phil’s idea of “playing this real careful” is framing the tactic as a way to protect their future children. “Do you want our babies to have sex with each other?” he asks, overcome with fauxmotion. Kristen Schaal plays Carol as slightly clueless and affectionate, patting Phil’s head and face like she’s never comforted anyone in her life before. Phil certainly does not stick the landing: “I don’t wanna have sex with Melissa, I have to have sex with Melissa.” Just when it looks like he might have pulled it off, Phil lets slip that Melissa confessed to feeling horny. Carol loses interest in the plan and calls Phil a skunk.
Apparently Carol chews Melissa out off-camera for sort of lusting after her husband, a scene of which I’m sorry we viewers were deprived, as Carol might have phrased it. This fight is short-lived — the last two women on Earth can’t be fighting, Melissa points out. So the three powwow to fill Phil in on the new plan. “I realized how important it is to have friends,” Carol explains, ”and I want my babies to have friends, too.” She lays out the rules: Phil-Melissa intercourse can only occur three days per month, with a maximum of three times on each of those days. For the first time, Phil asks Melissa, “You’re okay with this?” January Jones delivers the most January Jones of lines, completely in line with her performance and skill set: “I’m sitting here.”
Ever-doting Carol makes Phil a snack for energy and coaches him before he heads out to do the deed. Phil insists this is just a job for him: “I’m just gonna punch in, punch out. Punch in, punch out. Punch in, punch out.” We get it, dude.
Phil has set up a romantic oasis for his new partner, complete with chocolates, candles, and actual fireworks. That mystery driver we’ve been seeing glimpses of throughout the episode? He sees the fireworks, too, and conveniently arrives just as Phil’s revealing his newly shaved chest. The hot rod pulls up and out steps Todd, “Some Friggin’ Fat Guy,” as Phil kindly identifies him in the subsequent episode.
Melissa’s treatment as a sex object is getting more troublesome with each passing week. Sure, we’re constantly reminded that repopulation is the ultimate goal, and it’s a valid one, but January Jones’s flat performance makes the character feel even more like an object. Her oversimplification has been a bit offensive, so I’m grateful to see Melissa get an arc of her own in part two tonight.
The whole gang convenes to get to know Todd. Before Tucson, he was heading to Zihuatanejo, he tells them, inspired by his favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption — which happens to be Melissa’s favorite, too. In another childish bit, Phil tries to prove he loves the film despite clearly never having seen it. (His favorite part? “Where the Shawshank is redeemed.”) Continuing his petty streak, Phil refocuses the conversation by asking Todd’s weight.
Despite Phil’s unending rudeness, Todd stays in good spirits, telling his new friends that he’s been overweight and teased his whole life. Much to Phil’s disappointment, the tale elicits sympathy from Melissa.
Carol correctly deems the meet-and-greet successful: “Wow, that was like a welding factory. Did you see all those sparks?” She attempts to push the pair closer by forcing them on a date. To put the plan in motion, crafty Carol designs a glittery invitation to a go-kart excursion. She initially claims she and Phil will round out the group, but her plan to back out on the adventure deserves its own gold star — in a room adjacent to Todd and Melissa, she carefully pours out canned soups in sync with her coughs so it looks, sounds, and smells like she barfed.
Phil spies on Melissa and Todd’s date and witnesses a playful scene at the racetrack. He tells himself Todd is in the friend zone, but the pair sharing jellybeans and holding hands tells a different story. Determined to win back what was never his, he insists on crashing Date No. 2: a tennis match. (Dating seems super fun when no one’s left on Earth.) Phil insists that they differentiate doubles teams as shirts versus skins, because there are far too many people to keep track of in this scene — the show’s cast has grown by 400 percent so far this season! Thankfully, this mean-spirited play backfires, as Todd, ever the team player, gamely doffs his polo and reveals a scar. Responding to Melissa’s concern, Todd tells the crew the scar is left over from a kidney transplant — he donated the organ to his sick foster brother. What a mensch. When Todd runs off, upset, Melissa follows to comfort him. Next thing we know, the new couple has traded tennis for tonsil hockey.
Phil goes to warn Melissa that she should be careful with her new beau because you can never trust “the fats,” and Melissa speaks for all of us when she calls him “such an ass” and slams the door in his face. This prompts Phil to apologize, in a rare honest moment: “For the last two years, all I’ve been doing is like going around drinking and breaking stuff and talking to sports balls like they’re people. Now that actual people are here, I’m still trying to figure out how to talk to them.”
Melissa’s curiosity about the balls gets the better of her. So Phil introduces her to the guys back at the bar. “This explains a lot, actually,” she says. The pair relaxes a bit, and Melissa asks Phil to just be honest with her. So he launches into a lengthy, touching, if cliché declaration: “I think I’ve fallen in love with you. Is there any chance you feel the same way about me?
Always succinct, Melissa replies, “No.” Phil attempts to save face: “So I was gonna say that stuff to Carol, any notes?” And the credits roll.
Last Man’s pacing remains great, sight gags abound, and the jokes are timed perfectly. If only the material were as adventurous as the show’s premise — we’re halfway through the season; we deserve more than petulant fat jokes. Clearly these writers are capable of new and novel ideas; can’t we get past this insipid love triangle already? Does Phil care about anything other than sex? Todd’s arrival this week all but confirms there are dozens more people waiting to be found. Can we go looking for them instead? Or better yet, speed up that train to repopulation station: Watching these couples try to parent should be interesting.