‘The Last Man on Earth’ Season 2 Episode 17 Recap: ‘Smart and Stupid’

If there is one thing we know about The Last Man on Earth, it’s that the show lulls us into a sense of routine before it crushes us with the reality faced by the group of survivors. And this usually happens during its seasonal and mid-seasonal bookends, like when New Phil died of appendicitis, or when Mike Miller made his daring return to Earth, or when Tandy was exiled…

In the last few episodes, a number of momentous if manageable dramas have accumulated, and one got the sense that their manageability was a hint that something dark and troublesome was lurking just over the horizon. Just a minute after confirming that Tandy will be the father of Carol’s baby — after Mike tried to impregnate her for his brother — Gail encounters a flying drone outside. When the new episode begins, she struggles to explain what she saw through her (typical) haze of drunkenness. When she claims that she saw a flying griddle, the group is incredulous, especially Melissa, who has grown increasingly bitter over the course of this season. Still, Gail (lightly) acknowledges her drinking problem, but when she poured out her glass of wine, I couldn’t help but think of why she has become an alcoholic. Nearly everyone she has ever known is dead. She lost a new husband (Will Ferrell, remember?) and failed to save a fellow survivor. And she’s seeing a “whole mess of flying hair dryers.” I’d drink, too.

Meanwhile, Tandy (still with half a beard) and Mike are finishing off the bacon that Todd found ages ago. “What the hell is going on in here?” A furious Todd emerges, catches them red-handed. We all know that anything having to do with bacon sends Todd into hilarious fits of mania, so when he catches the brothers, it only adds to his suspicion that he’s been replaced by Mike as Tandy’s new best friend. It’s easy to think of the survivors as the neediest, most emotionally bereft lot possible — it sometimes seems as if immunity to the virus requires the survivor to be a sociopath. But really they’ve just endured a hell that the audience has only glimpsed.

As a matter of inevitability, Mike and Erica have started to flirt. They are, after all, the last two single humans alive. This fact alone helps smooth over the weirdness that sets in when Erica admits that she once robbed a bank at gunpoint in Australia, and later changed her identity so that she could work at the U.S. State Department. “You’re like the most interesting person alive,” Mike tells her.

Outside, with the cow, Mike and Tandy have a sweet moment where the latter thanks his brother for sleeping with his wife. But just as we notice that Mike has a bit of a cough, Todd emerges. “Well, well, well,” he says. “I was just coming by to get some milk, but you guys have probably already dried her out, haven’t you?” And then it happens. When Mike coughs blood into his hand, it takes only a moment for Todd to realize what has happened. “Dear God,” he says.

Tandy implores the group to believe that Mike is virus-free, and that the cough is just a cold. He accuses Todd of starting rumors. (“You know where he works? At the rumor mill.”) And he points out that the survivors are immune to the virus anyway. “Not all of us,” Todd reminds the group that their babies aren’t necessarily immune to the virus. Melissa flees the room when Mike can be heard coughing nearby. It’s a credit to the show that it can turn convincingly dark on a dime. The social bonds established by the group are fragile. When everyone turns to bail on Tandy and Mike, the older brother intervenes. “We can’t be stupid about this,” Todd says. “Well maybe,” Tandy responds, “there is a way to be smart and stupid at the same time.”

Cut to a coughing Mike wandering the halls at night, only to run into a Tandy in a full hazmat suit. The entire group, it turns out, is head-to-toe hazmat. And after Mike asks if he has the virus, they offer him a quarantine bubble. “You reek of confidence,” he says sarcastically. Tandy removes his suit in solidarity.

Now living in his bubble — later that evening — Mike takes Erica on a second date. They press their lips against the plastic and kiss. (Everyone oohs and ahhs.) Melissa interrupts the scene to tell them that the cow — the one Mike milked earlier — is dead. It’s pretty likely that Mike has some new strain of the virus, given that the cow survived before. The group decides it’s time for Mike to go, but before Tandy gives a rousing speech, one that highlights the serendipity of Mike’s return to earth earlier this season. Was it providence or blind chance?

After the group abandons the brothers, they sleep side-by-side through the night. But when Tandy wakes up in the morning, Mike has left a note and departed. “So long, Phil,” the note reads, “I didn’t want you to have to say goodbye again…” Does Mike have the virus? Where did he go? The final episode of the season airs next week.