The conclusion to last week’s episode of The Last Man on Earth was formally classic yet altogether surprising. After a dull, conventional episode, New Phil was about to abandon the colony when he turned to Carol and asked her to come with him. But then Erica trumped him by announcing that she is pregnant with his child. Carol’s reaction was, to say the least, hard to read.
Well, as it happens, Carol literally couldn’t hear what Erica was saying. When she understands what is happening — when the whole group understands — they continue to give New Phil the cold shoulder. “Facial express!” Tandy yells as he turns to the house.
Meanwhile, New Phil entreaties Erica to talk to him, while an increasingly eccentric Gail acts as her defender.
“I’m the father of her child,” New Phil says, sounding like a vintage soap opera character.
“Not anymore,” Gail says, “The whole group is going to be the father.”
I’ll confess that, being of a certain political persuasion, I found this otherwise bizarre scene rejuvenating. Even accepting Carol’s basic likability, her obsession with bearing the children of a classic nuclear family seems to fulfill an IRL political function for The Last Man on Earth. She seems to be, in other words, a stand in for a contingency of politically conservative viewers who are just now slouching their way toward a basic American quirkiness, one that was born in the mid-aughts. But the possibility that they colony would reject the nuclear family in favor of a more, well, communal rearing program — it has my attention.
Tandy and Carol next talk about New Phil being a “dong” for his recent behavior. But Carol hilariously suggests that Tandy should be “kissing that dong” because New Phil’s antics are Tandy’s way back into the heart of the colony. (He’s already getting along with Todd.) Tandy replies that he should be instead “punching that dong.” Exasperated, ethically reformed, Tandy refuses to play the sympathy card — cut to Tandy with an ice pack on his eye, playing the sympathy card as loudly and repeatedly as possible. Melissa, who has been cruel to Tandy (in what amounts to a wink at Will Forte and January Jones’ real-life relationship), even admits that his eye looks nasty after taking New Phil’s punch.
A sulky New Phil interrupts the group to tell Erica that he has made her something, and that he wants her to come see what it is. Gail sends him away again. “What a turd,” she says, “I think he’s almost worse than Tandy.” Tandy is thrilled. The sympathy card has won him a hand for once.
We next see a triumphant Tandy lying inside a baby pool that floats in the middle of the larger pool, mocking New Phil’s newfound travails. “Gray skies for that dong,” he announces in a whiny, childlike news anchor’s voice, “Clear skies in Tandyville!” As New Phil passes out of earshot, Tandy wonders what he’s hiding in his house.
Moments later, Tandy notices that New Phil has whittled from wood a crib for Erica’s baby. Touched by New Phil’s plight, he is forced to wrestle with his inner demon — his inner Tandy.
When Gail suggests that Tandy’s black-eye is improving, he promptly goes to a nearby mirror and punches himself in the face repeatedly. We’re made to wonder, albeit briefly, whether the old Tandy has reemerged, and will swallow the New Tandy whole.
When Tandy and Todd go to get Gail some tortilla chips, Tandy throws a tantrum about the number and variety of chips. (He still exhibits almost no signs of altruism; instead, his need to impress the other colonists is more in line with his own need for praise.) After Tandy calms down, Todd “spills the bean dip” about Melissa, who still doesn’t want a baby. Tandy lets it slip that Melissa does in fact want a baby, that she was about to have sex with Tandy when Todd arrived at the colony (last season), when Tandy was truly thought to be the last man on Earth.
When Todd confronts Melissa about it — while she skeet shoots a stack of iPhones — she is unempathetic. Todd tells her that the news she was going to sleep with Tandy is going to make him “sick out of both ends.” They agree that they can’t trust each other and part ways. How will Melissa’s new independence affect the show’s relational makeup. Will her singleness affect Tandy”
In the meantime, Tandy loses out to his inner Phil and decides to confront New Phil with basic human kindness. Drunk, trying to shove his handmade crib into a dumpster, New Phil angrily confesses to Tandy that his biggest regret isn’t trying to run away with Carol or breaking up with Erica. It’s saving Tandy’s life when he was stuck on that billboard, about to toast himself to death under the Tusconan sun. “Every day,” New Phil says, “I wish I’d left you up there…to die!”
“You don’t mean that,” Tandy says.
“Yes, I do,” says New Phil. “Because everybody’s life go worse the day they met you.”
Tandy Miller, literally the most sensitive soul on the planet, is dumbstruck. What else to do but talk to his balls?
After Carol learns that Erica got pregnant on accident, her interiorized sadness kickstarts one of the show’s more touching interludes, one where most of the colony is shown in the throes of gentle sadness. We see Carol, who wants children more than anything, at a pharmacy. Erica is, of course, assuaging a newish grief with her life-sized Gordon doll. Erica fondles the baby hat she got from Carol. Todd sleeps alone on a couch. Melissa reads a book in an empty bed. Carol, again, realizes she still isn’t pregnant.
Meanwhile, Tandy goes looking for New Phil again. After questioning a sad, sleepy Todd, he finds New Phil passed out and drunk on the beach, about to be carried unknowingly into a lifeless ocean by an inhuman tide. Tandy drags him to safety. After another long, tender scene where Tandy lugs New Phil’s hulking body on a surfboard, we find Tandy in bed with Carol. Next we hear New Phil’s screams. It seems that Tandy has placed New Phil in the stocks after all.
Still no sign of Tandy’s astronaut brother, although he does appear in the preview for the next episode…