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The Last Man On Earth: “The Tandyman Can”

Illustration for article titled iThe Last Man On Earth/i: “The Tandyman Can”
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Ever since Carol showed up in Tucson, Phil Tandy has been struggling to reconcile the free-for-all utopia he dreams of for this post-virus world with the reality of this new suburban cul de sac. He just wants to throw things at the wall and see what sticks (literally), drink whenever he wants, shit in his pool, and have sex with beautiful women. For all the grief I’ve given the show for hammering that last point so hard, I get it! I do! Lacking any kind of human interaction for two years is bound to stir up loneliness, intimacy cravings, and serious sexual urges, so it makes sense that Tandy should have some pent-up energy. Then there’s the fact that he was once free to do whatever the hell he liked, and then when he didn’t, he at least got to live around someone like Carol, who so aggressively pretended he was perfect. Tandy’s fall from unanimously elected President of the United States to despised neighborhood creep has been a sharp one, despite how slow it’s felt.

That brings me to a point I’ve seen floating around, most notably from Flavorwire’s Pilot Viruet and former A.V. Club editor/Salon’s current television critic Sonia Saraiya: The Last Man On Earth would have been best as a binge-watch. If viewed as a marathon rather than on a week-to-week basis, Tandy’s dogged pursuit of Melissa might not have felt quite so endless, which in turn would have made it easier to feel how desperately Phil is trying to hold on to whatever power and sense of self he can.


With this in mind, “The Tandyman Can” is a pivotal episode for the show. Tandy loses just about everything, as evidenced by the fact that I’m now calling him “Tandy.” After losing his name to Boris Kodjoe’s Phil, Tandy also loses his presidency to him in another near-unanimous vote (Todd is the only holdout, and more on that later). Adding insult to injury, Phil doesn’t even want to be President; he just doesn’t want Tandy to be. Then, after spending most of his energy trying to impress them, all the women have turned on him. Even Carol’s joined in on the eye rolling, even if she’s not as outright disgusted as the others. Add in the fact that the other Phil Miller is a tall, fit, beautiful man with a knack for fixing things, and the already insecure Tandy basically locks himself into a days-long panic attack.

Joining him in this desperation is Todd. As last week indicated, Todd’s insecurity with Melissa is reaching a feverish, Tandy-esque pitch. Since Melissa pretty much hates Tandy at this point, the obvious resemblance is unflattering to Todd, and splinters their relationship maybe beyond repair. The scene where Todd confronts Melissa about helping Phil out with the garbage pool and “hooting and hollering” on the back of his truck sounds just like Tandy. Todd haltingly forbids Melissa from “hanging out” with Phil at all, and then preemptively breaks up with her when it sounds like she’s going to dump him—and then she witheringly tells him she wasn’t, but fine. I don’t love Todd’s rapid descent into Tandy-dom—mostly because I can only handle one Tandy at a time—but I respect that it’s realistic. Again, the “old world’s” social norms would have assumed someone like January Jones’s Melissa would end up with someone like Boris Kodjoe’s Phil, and so it makes sense that Todd feels that pressure. So sure, Phil and Todd agreeing with blank eyes at the end of the episode that they need to “kill that guy” is a tad extreme, but lest we forget, so are the circumstances.


Speaking of the old world’s social norms: While Gail and Erica spend the entire episode trying to entice Phil into bed, he ends up roleplaying with none other than Carol. I’m of two minds on this plotline. First, I really wish Gail and Erica would gain actual personalities. While giving these women insatiable sex drives is a welcome counterbalance to Tandy’s, Mary Steenburgen’s Gail can be distilled down to “Southern sexpot,” while Cleopatra Coleman’s Erica is… Australian? Honestly, there’s just not much there, and the fact that Boris Kodjoe’s Phil registers some personality traits beyond his good looks early into this episode proves that fleshing out Erica and Gail isn’t a priority right now, which is a shame. Steenburgen and Coleman are very good and game, so I look forward to the day they might have more to do than giggle at whatever dude comes across their paths.

On the other hand, the way Phil and Carol come together is genuinely sweet. Carol does her fair share of eyelash batting and bribing, but the things that make Phil like her are unique to her actual personality (though again, having one at all probably helps). He loves the scarf she knit him, and cracks a real smile at her cat nail art. Kristen Schaal always walks the line between sweet and oddball so well, but her flirtation with Phil brings out the best in it. More impressive is Kodjoe, who brings a goofy charm to their interactions despite his previous experience running largely in the espionage and drama genres. Despite all their differences, Schaal and Kodjoe’s chemistry sells the hell out of their characters’ connection. By the time Carol and Phil are having their loud, shameless, unabashedly silly sex, it makes as much sense as anything in this post-virus world does—and maybe even more.


Stray observations:

  • Forte’s solo scenes are still some of my favorites in the series. His late-night farming and support session with his ball bros at the bar are aces.
  • Phil asks the question we’ve been asking since the beginning: why are they trying to rebuild society in Tucson?!
  • I’ve always loved seeing the historical artifacts Phil Tandy (man, that’s getting annoying) stole around his house - reminding us that these suburban shenanigans are still happening in a very different world - so I laughed a lot at him using the Constitution to cover himself up.
  • “If I know you were coming, I would’ve tucked it in.” ”I thought you already did.”
  • “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? African-American? American?”
  • “I know it’s not going to win any penis awards, but there aren’t any penis awards, so…”

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