After a few weeks of consistent Last Man On Earth episodes that appropriately balance the series’ broad humor with its grounded post-apocalyptic drama, it’s only natural to come across a dud. As far as duds go, “Find This Thing We Need To” isn’t actively bad, but it’s mostly very dull. The jokes are too few and far between, the drama never quite lands, and it mostly just feels like the series biding time for the last major development going into the home stretch of the season.

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The A-plot this week involves Tandy, Carol, and Erica going on a manhunt for a mysterious Yoda figure in the background of Carol’s family portrait. The three don camouflage and furtively check out the nearby surroundings where they find a house that they presume a small boy occupies, given the abundance of board games, the small size of his Yoda costume, and general messiness. The three immediately take pity on the guy, but while Carol and Erica try to “mother” the place, Tandy sees himself in the boy and wants to try a different approach, which mainly involves an amateurish Tandy-esque take on reverse psychology.

Putting aside the fact that introducing this vague entity feels like a cheap way to either advance the season plot or to vary the Melissa/Gail storylines, the A-plot is riddled with issues, not least of which is that it doesn’t actually accomplish anything. Tandy, Carol, and Erica survey the house, they enter the house, the leave the house without finding anything. Sure, Tandy returns to the house but to no avail either, and while that does free up time for Will Forte to broadly free associate on plenty of topics—mainly The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the phrase “looking forward to it”—that isn’t particularly funny or interesting either. Plus, the whole idea that Tandy sees himself in this mysterious boy feels…thin. Sure, he’s alone like he was in Tucson, but Tandy’s existential problems aren’t necessarily comparable with anyone else’s, apart from the fact that they’re both living in a post-virus world. It all feels unnecessary, especially considering that the episode ends with the Yoda figure in the truck as the gang drives away.

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The B-plot fares a little better, but not by much. Todd tries to get Melissa to talk about the pill she took in Akron, but Melissa will only repeat “Santa’s penis” in response. Gail offers to help Todd try to find more information at the pharmacy, but ends up losing the pill in the process. Frustrated with both Melissa and Gail, Todd stomps off to the elevator in the second building to retrieve Gail’s accordion and sees the claustrophobic hell she lived in for ten whole days. Eventually, the two reconcile and discover together that Melissa has been taking Clozapine (“Santa’s penis” = “Claus o’ Peen”) and they rejoice.

Though Steenburgen and Rodriguez have nice chemistry, the story is too sparse to have any lasting impact on the audience. Gail losing the pill amidst the “maybe” pile of nondescript circular white pills was kind of funny, ditto Steenburgen acting all Xanax-ed out, but it mostly plods along. Besides advancing the Melissa storyline, it feels like it exists just to break up the A-plot. It’s somewhat surprising that the story didn’t lean harder on Gail and Todd’s past relationship (a development that I admittedly forgot about entirely), and though you can charitably say it exists in the subtext, it would have added much more gravity if it were explicitly addressed. However, the scene when Todd apologizes to Melissa was handled fairly well, and it’s the one scene when the couple’s history feels present on screen.

Overall, it was a mixed bag, but it looks like next week, the gang will all collectively deal with the mysterious Yoda that has invaded their small community, which might liven up the proceedings. Maybe LMOE will embrace that “seismic shift in reality” that Carol talked about. I’ll hold onto my hat just in case.

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Stray observations

  • Though Tandy was a bit too much this week, I did find his amateur detective work with the board games to be funny. “Monopoly, healthy interest in real estate, capitalist…”
  • Things Tandy packed in a duffel bag just in case the kid was a “Benjamin Buttons” type: Metamucil, hearing aids, a couple Judging Amy DVDs, diapers.
  • Gail wants her accordion because she has a Thin Lizzy song stuck in her head and she just needs to put it to her fingers.
  • The funniest bit in the whole episode was Carol’s skunk story, which I’ve reprinted in full: “When I was 11, we had a neighborhood skunk, and he would spray me, and I would spray him right back with my garden mister. The spraying lessened over time until one day we were both sitting on the curb, looked into each other’s eyes and basically said, ‘Hey, we’re not so different you and I.’ Ultimately we were though. He had rabies and I had to get a shot in my stomach for 60 months, but for a brief time, we were inseparable.”

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