The Last Man on Earth
It’s starting to seem like Phil didn’t look nearly hard enough when searching the country for fellow survivors, because a veritable half-dozen and counting have shown up in Tucson in the past few weeks alone. (And who knows how many more are out there — especially now that we’ve got a whole ‘nother season to fill.) Tonight, we meet Gail and Erica (Cleopatra Coleman and the delightful Mary Steenburgen), two attractive women who have shacked up out of loneliness and to appease Last Man’s horny teen-male demographic; and the institution of marriage amasses yet another casualty: Phil and Carol finally untie the knot.
Gail and Erica find Phil just as he’s reverted to his fire-starting ways in the grocery-store parking lot, where he’s begging God for a “do-over,” still insisting that the flaw in his fate is that he met Melissa after Carol. While Phil’s spirituality is loosely defined at best, the God of Last Man seems to have his back to a minor degree, providing cows and companionship as soon as any request is stated. Phil interprets Gail and Erica’s presence as a sign that God is offering him a second chance and follows them home, claiming to be all alone in Tucson.
The trio get acquainted over “Oprah-quality Champagne” in one of the region’s plentiful McMansions. This scene is intercut with one where Carol hosts dinner for Melissa and Phil, and the OG half of the show’s cast debates Phil’s questionable trustworthiness. (His wife thinks he’s out camping and “finding his smile.”) Last Man often evokes laughs in its editing; aligning contrasting plot points effectively milks the humor out of two conversations that would have been less entertaining examined solo. Carol insists she has faith in her husband; meanwhile, he’s being fed tequila shots by two network-sexy ladies — until he, characteristically, sets the whole flirtation up in flames, pointing out Gail’s advanced age and Erica’s skin color. Even more squirm-inducing, Phil climbs out of the hole he’s dug by making up a story about his dead wife Carol. Gail and Erica seem simple-minded and sex-starved enough to play along, and soon suggest skinny-dipping in the hot springs. Why not! Due to Newton’s Laws of Sitcom Motion, Carol, Melissa, and Todd, headed to the craft store to put together a surprise for ever-undeserving Phil, encounter Erica and Gail’s car along the way, quite literally catching Phil with his pants down.
At the top of the hour’s second episode, Phil insists that he was planning a prank on everyone, fooling exactly zero people. “I was gonna introduce you to the people who mean the most to me in the world,” Phil tells Gail and Erica, who have just discovered that Carol is perfectly alive. While Phil surely intends for this to be a great compliment, it’s hard to forget that Carol et al. are the only people in Phil’s world. Both cars drive away, leaving Phil in the dust where he belongs.
By morning, Phil’s walked back to the cul-de-sac, where he interrupts Gail and Erica’s breakfast with Todd and Melissa. Looks like the neighborhood cow is doing just fine, and Phil milks her directly into his coffee cup. Down the block, Carol’s sulking at home. She’s been scorned, and of course her version of wallowing involves sewing furiously on the couch. Phil attempts a weak apology, but Carol’s not having it. “You told me you were going camping, and then you went out skinny-dipping with two hussies,” she hisses. Phil maintains his innocence, but Carol cuts him off — “Baloney on rye, Phil!” He retorts, “No, truth meat on honesty bread!” a comeback that should make its way to playground disputes in short order. Gail and Erica try to offer Carol an olive branch, but she’s not hearing them, either; Kristen Schaal’s withering delivery shames the women right out the door. “Why would there be any hard feelings? All you did was make a series of quick, slut-based decisions about sharing your body with a man you hardly knew!” Even Todd and Melissa can’t get Carol off the couch.
Meanwhile, Phil goes where all doghoused husbands hide out: to drink with his ball buddies at the bar. “I asked for a do-over — instead, I got a doo-doo-over,” he laments. Feeling lonesome, Phil spies on his former friends and sees that no one misses him. After observing their happiness in his absence, a great montage of Phil’s most ridiculous untruths plays in his head, and he realizes what we all knew: “I am a liar.”
Enter the Phil Miller Apology Tour. When our weary antihero crashes yet another Carol-Melissa-Todd gathering, his wife lets him speak: “Let’s just over with which to get this.” Phil admits that he wanted to have sex with Melissa for non-repopulation reasons and he didn’t co-write any songs with Sting, and he drops a painful but legitimate truth-bomb in Carol’s despondent lap: “We should have never gotten married. When I said, ‘I do,’ it was a lie.” A Last Man first: Phil takes the moral high road, and he means it. “I’d rather be an honest person with no friends than live one more day as a liar,” he concedes.
Phil’s speech was stirring enough to get Carol to visit him at the bar, where she explains her feelings about their marriage the way she knows best: through a crafting metaphor. “Sometimes in quilting, you just don’t have the right scraps. No matter how much effort you put in, you make a quilt that looks like this. And you work so hard on it and you trick yourself into thinking it’s beautiful.” It’s reminiscent of her raisinballs speech, but its more negative flip side. “I think it’s time we put this quilt in the closet,” she says.
So we end this week’s episode on a rational note, though Phil and Carol’s good-bye kiss was steamier than we might have expected. As Last Man’s cast expands, untethering Phil will surely lead to sexier sitcom-y antics — but Carol divorcée behavior should be equally exciting. Perhaps the next batch of characters will even out our gender ratio and send her a companion more appreciative of her creativity.