This week’s Last Man On Earth mostly amounts to two scenes: A divorce/wedding ceremony and an attempted impregnation. After Phil agrees to let Todd impregnate Carol, they decide to have an official ceremony where Phil divorces Carol and Carol marries Todd so that their consummation falls in line with Carol’s values. But during the ceremony, Phil admits that he wants to keep the sperm donor in the family, so he requests that Mike be the one to impregnate Carol instead of Todd. When Phil sees Mike and Carol start to get close to one another, he insists that he be in the room while they have sex. Naturally, this leads to a very awkward, picnic-themed sexual romp that ends with Phil declaring his love for Carol and without Mike consummating the arranged marriage.

These are the two longest, most crucial scenes in “Falling Slowly,” with everything else functioning either as transitions between the two setpieces or table setting for the final two episodes (like Todd’s resentment towards Phil for not choosing him to be the sperm donor.) Though they have funny moments and rely on a protracted absurdity that works quite well—it’s not that Carol and Mike are having picnic-themed sex, it’s how far they’re willing to commit to that takes it over the top—it’s all in favor of an unusually slight story that mostly revolves around Phil never explicitly saying “I love you” to Carol. While LMOE gets some points for effectively spicing up a well-worn sitcom story, the episode mostly ambles from scene to scene without much drive or focus.

I’ve written before about how LMOE works best when it puts real focus on genuine conflict, either with plots that pit people’s personalities or desires against each other, or with plots that force the Malibu Crew to confront an external other. The two best episodes of the season are strongly driven by these two respective conflicts; they take seriously the existential stakes of the series’ premise while understanding the inherent difficulties of a group thrown together out of circumstance. Despite receiving criticism in some circles for Phil’s shrill, boorish behavior and generally one-note storytelling, the series’ first season strongly thrived on the clash between individual desires and communal growth, between selfish behavior that benefit one and selfless acts that benefit all, and established the narrative tone of the series going forward. Now that the series has transitioned into more of a traditional ensemble comedy within an untraditional environment, the stories necessarily have to change as well, but what’s remained the same is LMOE’s interest in mining comedy from conflict-driven stories.

Of course, it’s easy to imagine a version of LMOE that’s effectively a hangout sitcom, with the ensemble cast cracking wise in low-stakes plots, only they’re in a post-apocalyptic landscape instead of a nice apartment. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but I just find it much less interesting than its current state. The main problem with “Falling Slowly” is that it falls into hangout territory by demonstrating its half-hearted interest in the conflict at the center of the story: Phil’s jealousy with Mike and Carol’s newfound emotional intimacy. It’s understandable that the writers may want to hit the brakes on the “Phil’s jealousy” plotlines, and not to repeat the sibling rivalry story from last week, but the results are fairly listless on the whole. There’s no real sense that Mike and Carol are any closer this week than they were last week, and Mike never really puts up too much of a fight against Phil’s demands. It’s as if “Falling Slowly” was constructed solely around the idea of Phil watching Mike and Carol have sex. Again, this isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it isn’t quite enough to sustain energy for the full episode, especially since there’s no B-plot to switch up the episode’s rhythm. It’s all just gags and moving pieces around to get to the moment when Carol realizes she’s pregnant and Phil isn’t sterile.

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But there’s enough funny material to save “Falling Slowly” from being a whiff. Forte and Sudeikis have a natural chemistry together, developed during their time together on SNL, and their scenes singing the Academy Award-winning Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová song from Once are delightful and ridiculous. Mel Rodriguez expressing passive-aggressive anger towards Phil has its moments, especially his frustrated line delivery of, “I’m going, okay? I’m going,” after Phil asks him to take a seat during the divorce/wedding. Plus, Phil blurting out he loves Carol in the middle of having sex with Mike has its sweetly absurd charm, aided by Sudeikis’ exasperated face when he realizes what’s happening. LMOE can always come through in the clutch with a good joke, but it’s even better when there’s a good story beneath it as well.

Stray observations

  • Though LMOE will take a break for a week, we have some unidentified flying object drama to look forward to on May 8th.
  • I like that Forte/Phil has committed to his ridiculous Two-Face haircut. It weirdly livens every scene.
  • For whatever reason, I think that the specific choice to have “Falling Slowly” be Phil and Mike’s karaoke song best represents LMOE’s weird brand of humor. Also, their disinterest in singing anything else.
  • January Jones kills it this week with the sarcastic asides: “THE MOVIE IS CALLED ONCE!” and “They’re really invested in this picnic theme.”
  • Phil will take to his grave his opinion that in Indecent Proposal, if Woody Harrelson had been in the room during Demi Moore and Robert Redford’s sexual encounter, Moore would not have stayed with Redford, despite the fact that she returns to Harrelson at the end of the movie.
  • Mel Rodriguez’s dance moves return, courtesy of “Looking For The Perfect Beat” by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force.
  • Gail physically turning the clock forward so it’s an acceptable time to start drinking was quite funny as well.
  • Nice sight gag: The jumpers with the holes for genitalia
  • “You’re not gonna fall for Todd…but he is on kind of a roll.”
  • “Pretty ugly spot for a wedding.”
  • “I’m detecting some anger in your moves.” “Well, you must be reading my moves wrong.”
  • “There actually is a very serious reason I need to be here…I wanna get a real close-up of that genitalia of yours. JK, this is a bad time for a joke.”
  • “Got a frickin’ po-TAH-to allergey, dude.”
  • “You took this test just now?” “Yeah, it’s still got pee on it, so you might not wanna hold it over your cereal.”
  • “Phil having someone yell, ‘I love you’ to the person you’re having sex with is kind of a buzzkill.”

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