For the second time in The Last Man On Earth’s short run, Fox aired two episodes back-to-back—and for the second time in The Last Man On Earth’s short run, airing two episodes back-to-back flatters the show. The first time was when the unusual one-man show pilot aired with the second episode immediately afterwards in order to signal where a show called The Last Man On Earth could possibly go. This time, “Dunk The Skunk” and “Some Friggin’ Fat Guy” work together towards some actual progress in the one specific area, namely Phil trying to seduce Melissa while remaining married to Carol. It’s only been a couple days in the grand scheme of things, but Phil’s fumbling yet somehow still aggressive attempts to flirt with Melissa were getting old, and fast.

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While both episodes stand on their own, Phil getting so close to what he wants in the first episode only to lose the girl he never really had in the second makes the episodes work thematically as a two-parter. First, “Dunk The Skunk” deftly plays Phil’s “skunk” qualities against Carol and Melissa’s disdain, and then “Some Friggin’ Fat Guy” does some of the show’s best character work before trying to explain away Phil’s increasingly gross tactics with scenes that could have been some of the series’ most emotional moments if it had laid the proper groundwork.

So we’ll start with “Dunk The Skunk.” This episode some more creative work with the forced love triangle by letting Melissa and Carol actively react against it—and by setting a ticking clock in the form of a new man speeding towards Tucson. First, Phil ties himself into verbal knots trying to get Melissa to agree that she is “an open-minded person who likes change” in one of his strongest and funniest scenes since the pilot. (As it turns out, there is no limit to how long Will Forte can ramble himself into corners, nor should there be.) Once he has the vaguest of confirmations that Melissa maybe could be open to repopulating the Earth, he sprints to get Carol to agree that he should impregnate her, too. To be fair, his argument is pretty convincing because of Forte’s total commitment to Phil’s exaggerated crying and, you know, incest. Carol has been trying to keep positive ever since we met her, but even she can’t ignore how hard Phil has been ogling Melissa, and so she still isn’t wholly convinced when he tries to pretend he needs to sleep with Melissa for the good of humankind. Meanwhile, the mysterious man in the red sports car gets ever closer to ruining Phil’s carefully laid plans for getting laid.

Both “Dunk The Skunk” and “Some Friggin’ Fat Guy” dive headfirst into a theme that’s been sneaking up on us ever since Phil woke up from his fever dream to see Carol Pilbasian staring back: Phil can be a dick. Carol’s high-strung energy brought out shades of Phil’s less flattering attributes, but it wasn’t until Melissa came into the picture that Phil’s baser instincts kicked into high gear. He hasn’t stopped his dogged pursuit since she stepped out of that limo; tonight, that pursuit catches up with him, trips him to the ground, and stomps on his heart for good measure. “Dunk The Skunk” deals with this best even as it ends with Phil getting what he wants, anyway.

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First, though, Carol sees through at least part of his act and turns on both him and Melissa, which in turn turns Melissa against Phil. January Jones’ exasperated, “you’re such a dick” is pitch perfect, as is Melissa’s sad resignation when she thinks she’s lost her last chance to have a female friend. It’s even enough to convince Phil that he messed up, and so he goes back to the well of grand gestures to make it up. In “The Elephant In The Room,” the grand gesture was finding a way to water Carol’s plants; in “Dunk The Skunk,” it’s rigging a mini carnival that centers on his own humiliation. Since Phil and Forte’s best moments have come out of this combination of self-pity and absurdity, it’s no surprise that Phil continually climbing and falling into the dunk tank provides some of the series’ best laughs to date. I kept thinking it would get less funny, and it just never did.

Despite his new “Skunk” title, though, Melissa and Carol decide that they will both reproduce with Phil for the good of humanity. As Carol lays out strict ground rules, Phil tries hard not to show how thrilled he is and Melissa looks on grimly. She might be horny, but it’s clear to everyone but Phil that any sex she’d have with him would be a formality. In fact, Phil remains so clueless to her disinterest that some of it has to be willful ignorance, or at least hopeful denial. He arranges an elaborate outdoor bedroom complete with glowing candles and fireworks—romance by way of The Bachelor—and there’s just no doubt that none of this will go according to his plan even before it all comes crashing down. As soon as he sets off those fireworks (by stepping on a guitar pedal as one does), the mystery car screeches to a halt on its way out of town to turn back around and confront the other survivors.

Even as I was excited for a gruff new castmember—not everyone who survived the Virus can be a shiny happy person, right?—I love that Mel Roderiguez is the one to step out of that car. His supporting work on Enlisted made him stand out in an already stacked cast, and he has a giddy energy that easily fits in with the rest of the cast. His Todd is sweet, honest, and unassuming—a perfect foil for Phil. “Some Friggin’ Fat Guy” plays Todd’s decency against Phil’s latent rage to mixed results. As Phil plots to tear Todd away from Melissa, his obsession gets more manic, more calculated, and more difficult to watch. Meanwhile, Carol employs the “Pilbasian Nudge” to push Todd and Melissa together. Carol being Carol, her methods are equally gross and touching (i.e. “vomiting” canned sauces into a pot). Her winking matchmaking and the botched tennis double date are awesome examples of how The Last Man On Earth draws from existing tropes to create something weirder and funnier. There have been countless tennis double dates on television, but none of them involved the supposed last four people left on Earth.

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January Jones and Mel Roderiguez have a lovely, understated chemistry together. They play mini golf, grin their way around the golf kart track, break into a carnival and feed each other licorice. Melissa and Todd just have fun together, and Phil can’t understand it. Melissa is the hottest woman he’s ever seen, while Todd, as Phil so crassly puts it, is “a fat.” It’s hard to root for a protagonist who gets this gross when he gets cornered, but it is at the very least an interesting choice for the show to make. It also says a lot that Phil rolled his eyes at Carol for wanting to stick to the technical rules of the “old world,” but he himself sticks to the societal rules when it comes to Melissa and Todd. As far as he knows, they’re the last four people on Earth, and he’s still buying into stereotypical bullshit.

While “Some Friggin’ Fat Guy” is a great introduction for the show’s latest new character, though, it ends up on a false note for its first. Phil’s confessions to Melissa at the end are supposed to be a rare moment of clarity for his character. First, he delivers a horrifying monologue to Melissa about how she can’t trust “the fats,” but then almost immediately apologizes by saying that he has forgotten how to interact with people after years of wandering around for so long by himself. That’s a huge moment of truth for his character, but it’s such an abrupt about-face that it’s more startling than affecting.

He then takes Melissa to meet his “friends” at the bar. She looks around at the scrawled faces on sports balls and dryly remarks that it makes sense, and for a minute, this vulnerable moment is the most convincing one she’s shared with Phil throughout the show. Then he steels himself for another moment of honesty to admit…he’s falling in love with her. Melissa is startled, but ultimately says she won’t feel the same, and he hoofs it and his bruised ego right on out of there. Again, this is supposed to be a Big Moment, but his pursuit of her has been so one-note horny to this point that it just doesn’t land. Up until he introduced her to Gary and the guys, Phil and Melissa have never had a moment that suggested that he could be feeling anything but lust for her. By the time we get to Phil confessing his apparent love, both Melissa and I are exhausted by the effort of putting up with him. Hopefully, her firm and sympathetic rejection will at least signal a change in their dynamic for good.

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Stray observations:

  • The long shots of Todd’s car whipping along the desolated freeways are really gorgeous. The entire series has generally looked more cinematic than the usual television show, which just makes it stand out for more than just its weirdo premise.
  • The final firework comes with a bonus soundbite from Phil, like he’s a grotesque version of a pull toy (yeah yeah, phrasing): “That orgasm was generously provided by Phil Miller!”
  • “Oh no…please don’t play a song on the guitar for me.” Melissa Shart, speaking for 90 percent of women out of college.
  • The Melissa Shart School of Comfort, Fuck Your Bullies Edition: “Well, they’re all dead now, so.”

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