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'The Last Man on Earth' recap: Smile found

Season 1 | Episodes 9 & 10 | “The Do-Over” & “Pranks for Nothin'” | Aired Apr 12, 2015

“You guys can follow us back to the cul-de-sac. That’s where we live … BECAUSE WE EXIST”

And so, two more cast members were added to the post-apocalyptic Gilligan’s Island that The Last Man on Earth has become. But despite my fairly negative reviews over the last couple of weeks, I could not be more excited.

The smile that faded quickly after a promising pilot has returned in full force.

Pretending that I didn’t just make an overly dramatic statement in an overly saturated recap article that once again will probably include me, myself, far more than anyone needs (find me on LinkedIn!), let’s jump right into this recap of two of this series’ best episodes yet.

Audible groans could be heard from my apartment with the opening scene of this episode. Kristen Schaal was once again doing everything she could to draw the laughs out of her one-dimensional Carol. Lying in bed next to Phil, her Darth Vader–esque breathing machine is keeping him awake. She is obnoxious. Phil is frustrated. They fight again. Luckily, that was the low moment of the episode.

As much as I grew to hate the reluctant marriage between Phil and Carol (effectively erased after these episodes), I cannot get enough of the following scene, where Phil discovers she has painted poodles and duckies onto famous Monets and Van Goghs—or rather, “Dog Bridge, by Monet and Carol.”

Carol fixes the paintings.

A frustrated Phil leaves to go do the grocery shopping, and set the store on fire. Part of what makes this episode so good is the callbacks to the pilot. While I’ve made it very clear I’m a fan of Phil talking to his balls—as he did in both episodes tonight—I love Phil’s chats with God even more. It’s more or less a comedic exercise for Will Forte, in which he really gets to flex his comedic muscles. As Phil asks for a “do-over,” it arrives—in the form of the well-known mom-you-remember-from-Step-Brothers-but-is-in-a-bunch-of-stuff-too, Mary Steenburgen, and the lesser known but equally fantastic Cleopatra Coleman, who was in that Step Up movie you wandered into after seeing The Dark Knight Rises.

Phil acts quickly and irrationally. Maybe he thinks he can hide Carol, Todd, and Melissa from the third and fourth last women on Earth for the rest of his life. In this case, I am willing to forgive the lack of logic. Not only do we get a sexually charged scene from the potential threesome, including Phil slyly covering his erection with a blanket (this shouldn’t have been funny, but it’s pretty easy to laugh at everything Will Forte does), the smile-off between Carol and Phil had the two actors at their best.

Smile on the moon. That

Phil heads to dinner with his new lady friends, quickly digging himself into a hole as he backpedals on describing their physical apperances. He then fabricates Carol’s slow and painful death. Somehow this works, and Phil and his sympathetic new lady friends head down to the hot springs to go skinny-dipping. It all culminates into a very predictable but hilariously constructed scene in which they run into Carol, Melissa, and Todd.

I loved this for numerous reasons. For once, the episode did not follow the formula of Phil apologizing last-minute. And for once, I wasn’t pissed that our main character was once again dependably unlikable. Because finally there was a shift in the dynamic. Two new characters can completely change the stale, recycled plots of the last three weeks … and they did.

My smile returned and did not fade for the entire second episode. (Again, I recognize that no one cares how I felt, but I’m really happy right now, so deal with it. Follow me on Twitter!)

A dejected, abandoned Phil walks home and makes it time for some “java,” in perhaps the most Will Forte scene of the entire series. Carol is so upset that she’s not even at breakfast, and as Phil milks the cow for some coffee creamer, he realizes no one is going to talk to him. Thus, I present my new favorite GIF, of Phil’s silent treatment:

Phil tries to get the girls to talk.

Even better, Carol then delivers the most improbably funny line ever uttered on television.

MVP

I may be exaggerating, but I do not think anyone could have said that as well as Kristen Schaal. She is really the MVP of this episode, for several reasons. The scorned Carol sarcastically refers to herself as a ghost. She gets mad at the other two women, rejecting their “hussy pie.” But best of all, SHE HAS MORE THAN ONE DIMENSION. More on this later, because I’m even more excited that Phil went back to the bar with his balls.

Sequestered to the bar, where he learns just how hard it was for Tom Cruise to pull off all of those bartending tricks in Cocktail (one of the better, completely random, movie references in this show), Phil is back to talking to Gary the volleyball and all of his minions. After wandering around in a costume that can only be described as the Yeti of the Southwest, Phil remembers in a series of flashbacks just how much he has lied to everyone. All of the lying from the last few episodes finally feels worth it, just for this moment of clarity and what follows.

Phil apologizes for everything, down to the most obvious lie: that he has a twin brother. While it’s hard not to laugh at the perm remaining from that last lie, it’s one of the finer moments of the series. And it’s a long time coming. The tired storyline of still being married to Carol had to come to an end. It does, in a sweet, lingering moment, in which it’s made quite clear that Phil and Carol have some lasting feelings for each other. But Phil signs the divorce papers, notarized by Carol (“Once you break the seal … it’s a notary joke”). Best of all, Carol is shown to not be completely in her in own crazy world, but a sympathetic, rational person.

Knowing that there are only a few episodes remaining featuring Phil’s perm—and, oh yeah, it’s been renewed for season two!—I could not be more excited for this show. There is more promise than ever, with a diverse, completely weird cast. This week’s rating is the best yet, with 9.7 out of 10 Kevins.

This week

The Last Man on Earth airs Sundays at 9:30/8:30C on Fox.