“The Boo” is a strangely lopsided episode of The Last Man On Earth. The emotional climax arrives at the end of the first act while the ostensible return to the status quo comes at the end of the episode, and in between a specter of a former self haunts our “Last Man.” Though “The Boo” is a funny, sweet installment of The Last Man On Earth, especially in its first act as Carol copes with loneliness, its rhythms are a little off simply because of the necessary table-setting it has to accomplish. “The Boo” needs to reunite Phil and Carol with the Tucson Crew (who are now in Malibu, and because that ultimately drives the episode, it almost feels like “The Boo” is two different kinds of episodes smashed together.
Let’s start with the first kind of episode: The One Where Phil And Carol Try To Find Each Other. At the end of last week, Phil accidentally drove off without Carol abandoning her at an Emco station (not a Speedy Pump like Phil believes, or a Valero station like I erroneously claimed last week). Carol patiently waits at the station in the hope that Phil will return and Phil traveled to Tucson believing that’s where Carol will be. So, Carol is stuck eating jerky, setting off road flares, and making statues of Phil out of chewing tobacco and toothpaste.
It’s a nice reversal of Phil’s situation in the pilot—alone, depressed, hoping that someone, anyone, will come along—but it’s arguably worse for Carol as she knows that someone’s out there but isn’t sure that he’s coming back. After all, Phil has proven himself to be a selfish asshole in the past, and he could have easily taken off and left her to die, just like he was going to do with Todd. But Carol wants to believe in Phil, so much so that she retains a positive attitude for over five days, not letting such a setback to get down. Yet, Carol is only human, and slowly but surely a defeated attitude creeps in after the fifth day. Kristen Schaal’s delivery of, “He’s not coming back” is heartbreaking because it’s almost as if Carol’s whole mindset has crumbled.
Then suddenly, there’s the sound of a train off in the distance. Carol rushes towards it to find that Phil has written a note on its side saying that he’s in Tucson waiting for her. Carol’s joy at Phil’s sign is palpable and it’s easily the best moment in “The Boo,” but I can’t help but thinking that it comes a little too early in the episode to have the desired effect. There’s a palpable sense of rushed urgency to the whole storyline, which is a little disappointing because extending both Carol’s loneliness and Phil’s desperation would have made their eventual reunion that much more meaningful. There was a whole episode in Carol and Phil trying to find each other, but instead writer Andy Bobrow relegated it to the first act so as to move on to the second kind of episode: The One Where Phil Briefly Becomes Tandy Yet Again.
The concept of Tandy is an interesting one introduced near the end of last season in which a new Phil Miller comes to town and proves himself so useful that our Phil Miller is forced to change his name to Tandy, his middle name. As a result, “Tandy” stood for the kind of person Phil became when he joined a community: A selfish, manipulative, bitter human being. In short, he became someone who works against the interests of a group in favor of his own self-interests. After Phil was cast out into the desert and saved by Carol at the last minute, it seemed like Tandy was left behind for good.
But that’s not how Former Selves work. No matter how much you want to put that worse version of yourself behind you, it still lives within you, waiting for when your guard is down to strike back again. In this case, Phil finds a note in Carol’s Tucson house that says the crew traveled to Malibu and for Carol to come if she wants, but not to bring “Tandy” because it wouldn’t be safe. Naturally, Phil hides the note from Carol as he doesn’t want to go to Malibu, but the guilt starts to eat him up inside when he sees how much she wants a real-deal community. After a last-ditch attempt to recreate the Tucson crew with crude sculptures, Carol breaks down in tears and Phil informs her where they are. The best part of this storyline is the conversation they have afterwards. Carol is shocked that Phil lied, but once Phil admits that the terror of her unhappiness outweighs the terror of confronting the old crew, Carol softens and initially demands that they not go. However, knowing that Carol would eventually regret her sacrifice, Phil gets her drunk and puts her in the van and makes a beeline for Malibu.
Though “The Boo” is certainly uneven, if anything it solidifies the wonderful rapport between Will Forte and Kristen Schaal. It’s only two episodes into the new season and both of them have a natural, relaxed chemistry that not only sells their characters’ marriage, but their devotion to one another. Both Phil and Carol recognize and understand each other’s strengths and flaws, and seem willing to accept them rather than constantly fight them, which is probably the best change the series made from the first to the second season. By the end, when Phil and Carol are overlooking the Tucson crew sitting on a Malibu beach in their matching disguises, you believe Carol when she says she’ll go down there and warm them up to Phil (Tandy)’s return.
But when Carol “surprises” the crew, by yelling, “Boo!” their new member Gordon (Will Ferrell) suddenly has a heart attack and collapses. Carol looks up at Phil and shrugs with a devilish smile. Maybe there’s a Tandy that lives in all of us.
- Biggest laugh(s) of the night: 1. Phil cradling a deflated Bryce (soccer ball) after the steamroller accidentally ran him (it) over, and 2. The shot of dead whales all over the Los Angeles beach.
- I will say that I’m thrilled The Last Man On Earth team has kept Phil’s sports ball friends. They’re always a winner.
- Carol’s conversation with the airdancer in the beginning of the episode was delightful. “Let me tap in!”
- Phil tried to use mouthwash instead of mint to make his mint juleps. It did not work.
- “Try helium next time. What am I thinking?”
- “Nobody wants a mint julep? Okay, more for me.”
- “Let me slip into something more comfortable.” “Prosecco?” “No, probably a robe.”
- “You little skunk. You just lifted up your skunk tail and you sprayed me with the sweet smell of selflessness.”
- “That’s a whale of a good idea. Boom. Still got it.”
- “I deserve this! I deserve to be alone!”