The previous episode of The Last Man on Earth ended with one of the more astonishing haircuts I can remember on television. As one character describes it early in the new episode, Phil/Tandy/Skidmark’s head now looks like it contains not one but two distinct serial killers. It really is a weird testament to Will Forte’s sui generis physical comedy. Anyone would look different if you shaved half of their hair and beard (and a single eyebrow), but Forte really does retain a Jekyll/Hyde like quality (or a Phil/Tandy one) that he uses to great effect in one of the funniest episodes of the season.
It’s no surprise that Tandy, having been “burned” by his brother (the perpetrator of the haircut), tries to play it off as if he likes it. Nor is it unexpected that the show takes a turn to Step Brothers territory for the remainder of the episode; although Tandy doesn’t again mention Christine (the reason for the feud), the escalating nature of the sibling rivalry has its own internal motor. This one-upmanship seems to be how the Miller brothers work out their feelings for one another after years apart.
Meanwhile, Todd is in the early days of his Big Love-style relationship with three women. (Last episode, Melissa and Gail agreed to “share” him, and he promised Erica he would act as the father of her baby in the wake of New Phil’s passing.) Needless to say, he’s finding it difficult (and he reminds us that he is now dividing his time between most of the known women on Earth.) Gail wants full disclosure and honesty; Melissa needs him to focus exclusively on her. By the end of the episode he’ll get yet another request.
Tandy retaliates against his brother by spreading poison oak all over his sleeping bag, but during the burn-attempt he notices an enormous gift box with a note from Mike telling him not to open it until Christmas. Of course he opens it anyway; it’s filled with bands of cash (now useless in the post-virus world). Tandy picks up a stack of 100s, and blue ink squirts on the bald side of his face. (He’s been “smurfed” by Mike.) The next morning he covers up the blue ink with white makeup, which only exaggerates his pronounced serial killer vibe.
During breakfast, Carol describes a hilarious dream featuring Denzel Washington that she’s “had fifty times,” before a ghostly white Tandy emerges in the Kitchen. Mike explains that he moved into another house down the street (thus avoiding the poison oak), but he won’t tell Tandy which one. Later, Tandy dons his ghillie suit and stalks him as he heads to his new place. When Tandy tries to break in with the poison oak (why hasn’t he invented a new burn?), Mike is waiting for him. Tandy tries to play it off as if he is the new neighborhood watch. Mike asks him why he’s carrying poison oak in a plastic bag. Tandy denies that it’s poison oak, so Mike demands that he “rub it on his balls.” And he makes it plain that the war of burns is just beginning.
When the show returns from a commercial break, Tandy is sleeping outdoors. He rolls to the side and falls screaming from a tall cliff. (I was genuinely shocked by the way the scene was filmed.) And he lands on a big cushion. Before he realizes what has happened, he finds a note telling him to look up. It’s Mike, who is standing at the top of the cliff, flipping him the bird. (He makes it clear for the network’s sake that it’s his fourth finger.)
Tandy’s reaction makes it clear that Mike has exacted a new degree of psychological torture on him with the burn. He wants the war to end, so he consults Todd, who just happens to be passing by between dates. Todd, perilously split between his “duties,” promises to help Tandy nonetheless. When they reappear, Todd has shaved half of his head (and his moustache) in solidarity with Tandy. Mike decides to end the war.
But Tandy doesn’t believe him. After Carol shows him photos of his young years with Mike, he totally misinterprets her meaning. Instead of seeing the value of family, or taking a moment to realize the sheer momentousness of Mike’s arrival in Malibu, Tandy decides to use family against his brother. He claims to have found a note that his dying mother sent to Mike while he was in space, but he won’t let Mike read it until he promises to end the war of burns. And then he hides it in a safe (with the combination “6969”) that Mike promptly finds. At the bottom of the painful letter (which provides a glimpse into the devastation wrought by the virus), Tandy provides a little note admitting that he wrote the letter that morning; it’s a fake. Mike seems genuinely hurt.
Elsewhere, Todd finds Gail, Carol, Erica, and Melissa sitting in the living room, where he delivers a rousing speech (after they mock his Tandy-esque haircut). “I can give 100% to every person on Earth,” he says. The speech is clearly convincing. Melissa admits that it was “hot.” Carol seems surprised.
When we return to the brothers, Tandy finds a forlorn Mike sitting alone. He gives him a package of actual letters written by his mother. It seems the war of burns has ended. They admit how much they miss their parents. How will the brothers treat each other now that they’ve played out their family drama? When Tandy exits through the doorway, a bucket of sand falls on his dead. “I swear to God, I didn’t know we were going to make up just now,” Mike admits. They flip each other a caring fourth-fingered bird.
It’s not the only family drama brewing (or resolving). After his speech, Todd goes to the kitchen to eat peanut butter and crackers. Carol finds him there. She applauds his speech. “It got me thinking,” she says. “Maybe there is something you can do for me.” The new Todd is ready for anything.
“I want you to put Tandy’s baby inside of me.”
“You got it.”