Like “C To The T,” this week’s The Last Man On Earth focuses on Phil and Carol regaining the trust of other group members. For Phil, it means getting back into Todd’s good graces with the (fake) threat of blackmail, a shared secret, and then a sacrifice. For Carol, it’s means making good with Erica who blames her for Phil 2.0 breaking up with her. Both storylines hint at the LMOE team’s vision for this season (which I discussed last week): The slow process of redemption. As the group sits around enjoying the quiet night while Phil blabbers on about how he knows actions are more powerful than words, it’s clear he’s in for an uphill battle with these folks who clearly have little patience for him.
This brings us to Todd, who has been hiding a shameful secret: He found a cooler filled with bacon and has been hiding it from the rest of the group. LMOE gets into a rut sometimes with its monotonous rhythm, often painting Phil as the villain too often even when it logically and narratively tracks, so it’s nice to see credited writer Tim McAuliffe change up the rhythm a bit by illustrating that Todd ain’t as good and wholesome a guy as he appears. When Phil finally catches Todd in the act, he feigns like he’s going to rat on him, but to get into his good graces, he keeps his secret and shares in his bacon supply. Granted, it doesn’t help that Carol has been cooking up crickets (their new food discovery) in various dishes for the rest of the group.
But as much as Phil loves hoarding the bacon as much as Todd, he also knows that what they’re doing is wrong and it’s only going to bite Todd in the ass sooner or later, either through guilt and shame (feelings he’s already dealing with) or by getting caught. Though Phil tries to connect with Todd and steer him in the right direction, Todd wants nothing to do with him, claiming their newfound closeness “is just about the bacon.” Clearly hurt by this, Phil wants nothing more than to help him, so he decides to secretly destroy the evidence of their secret by sending the evidence out into the ocean, and to share the rest of their stash with Todd giving him all the credit.
It’s a nice gesture that’s immediately ruined by the evidence coming back onto shore, but when Melissa demands an explanation from Todd, Phil falls on the sword yet again, claiming that it was his fault through an elaborate, melodramatic tale (courtesy of Will Forte’s wonderful manic energy). But Todd eventually breaks down and admits his wrongdoing. It’s a stellar acting moment for Mel Rodriguez, who completely falls apart knowing he’s lied to his fellow friends, as well as his lover, and willingly accepts whatever punishment they deem necessary. However, though it’s more obviously comedic and absurd, I found Phil’s solidarity to be equally moving, especially Forte matching Rodriguez’s crying pitch to spare Todd his punishment. The last scene with Todd and Phil in matching stocks sharing a brief moment of friendship is the most I’ve liked the show in the past few weeks, pointing a way forward that allows more avenues for storytelling and varied use of the large ensemble.
Meanwhile, Carol has been dealing with Erica’s eye-rolling disgust towards her for her breakup with Phil 2.0, who’s clearly still interested in Carol. Though Carol has been doing her best to dress modestly (read: boring, not conservatively) and been avoiding his flirtation, Erica still holds onto her resentment. It’s only when Carol finally confronts Erica and argues in favor of solidarity over cat-fighting in their new society that Erica in turn confronts Phil 2.0 over his sleazy behavior. Though slight and a little rushed, on account of the Todd-Phil story as well as the C-plot with Gale and Melissa, it’s a nice encapsulation of the “mending broken relationships” theme that runs through the episode. Even though Erica and Carol are very different, they can agree on the idea that women shouldn’t blame other women for a man’s shitty behavior.
Five episodes into the season, LMOE has established a comfortable rhythm, but I worry that the series won’t stretch itself in favor of consistency. Though it’s got a nice, amiable rhythm right now, the most exciting thing about LMOE’s first season was its ability to tear apart established relationships, stories, and rhythms at the drop of a hat. I don’t doubt the writers are playing the long game with certain elements this season, especially with the redemption them, but I also hope they’re not done taking risks. As I said above, LMOE has had a monotony problem in the past, but before at least its monotony was on an offbeat tempo. Let’s hope the series can take more weird turns in the future.
- Apologies for the late review! I’ll try not to let it happen again.
- I did really enjoy the Gale-Melissa C-plot, mostly because Mary Steenburgen acting only slightly drunk and yelling “Woo!” before stitching up a wound cracks me up. Plus, drunk January Jones as well!
- Carol’s guilt-tripping attempts to get the gang to eat crickets were also a highlight. I’ll say it again: Kristen Schaal has really made the character her own this season.
- The montage of Todd and Phil cooking up bacon was great. Credit to Jason Woliner who makes moments like that (and the close-up of Phil’s ecstatic, bacon-filled face) sing.
- “What do you want? Breast, wing, thigh, face?”
- “You got served!”
- “I pulled a gun on him. You guys know I do that from time to time.”