Mel Rodriguez and Will Forte in The Last Man On Earth
Image: Kevin Estrada (FOX)

Every so often on The Last Man On Earth, the characters will act completely out of whack for story purposes only to reset at the end of the episode. Sometimes there are justifiable reasons for such a drastic change in behavior, and other times, it either makes little sense and/or the writing forces the performances into such an obnoxious mold that it negates any creative defense. “Special Delivery,” unfortunately, is an example of the latter.

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In the episode, Todd is ridiculously anxious for Erica to get pregnant with his child, so much so that he tries to micromanage the conception to an absurd degree. He’s uncomfortably oversensitive to her needs and constantly badgers her about the progress of his “product.” Naturally, Erica is annoyed by Todd’s behavior, especially when she discovers him snooping around her tampon drawer, and when he begins judging Erica for her one-glass-of-wine-per-day intake.

Meanwhile, Melissa awkwardly tries to bond with Erica because she wants to get close to the future mother of her partner’s child. It just so happens that Melissa has never had many close girlfriends, so she overplays her hand to, once again, an absurd degree (see the pattern here?). However, her only referents for girlfriend behavior are humorous clichés, like lip-syncing into a wooden spoon, or getting tangled up in ribbons, or burning candles down to make new candles. It only gets worse when Melissa begins reading terrible poetry about Erica at the dinner table. Erica is also annoyed by Melissa’s behavior, as can be expected.

Of course, there are reasons for Todd and Melissa to act this way. Todd, fresh off the heels of a debilitating depressive period, is nervous about being a father and doesn’t want to blow his one chance at parenthood, so he tries to control every detail without understanding the extent of his actions. Melissa, who’s closed off from the majority of the group, realizes that Erica will be in her life for the foreseeable future, so she wants to connect with her on a deeper level than “apocalypse acquaintance.”

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Yet, “Special Delivery” forces both Todd and Melissa into strange corners that they otherwise wouldn’t be in if the episode didn’t dictate it. Melissa fares okay, mostly because her story is limited to two-and-a-half scenes, it resolves quickly, and January Jones somehow charms as an overeager “silly girl,” even as her performance tips into cringeworthy territory. Todd, however, turns into a real jerk, and directs all of his negative energy to the potential mother of his child. He invades Erica’s privacy, refuses to give her space, and when she tells him that the pregnancy test came back negative, he accuses her of sabotaging the conception by drinking wine and coffee. Though Todd has been overbearing in the past, Mel Rodriguez’s warm performance keeps the character from becoming a boor. But here Rodriguez pushes Todd into a nasty mode, one that puts Erica off the idea of having another child at all.

It’s not that Todd shouldn’t ever be portrayed in an unflattering light, but just that the reason for doing so is quite flimsy. It’s believable that Todd would be controlling in this situation, but it stretches character plausibility that he would devolve into such a judgmental person on a dime, especially after Erica decided to have his baby. Of course, he does so because, again, this week’s story called for it, but even a brief heel turn requires a little more foundation than the episode provides. By the end, Todd seemingly realizes he has overstepped, but instead of burdening Erica with an apology, he simply provides her space, which, admittedly, is a nice grace note for the story.

Meanwhile, Carol notices a mysterious bowel movement by the orange tree and suspects that a new person walks amongst them. Though the group is convinced that the movement in question belongs to Jasper, Carol isn’t convinced and decides to put up wind chimes around the mansion as a precautionary measure. Later, when Carol hears a noise, Tandy investigates and finds nothing, only to discover that half his facial hair has been shaved off. It looks like Tandy’s brother Mike (Jason Sudeikis) survived his bout with the virus after all, and he’s back amongst the living. Maybe he can push The Last Man On Earth into a more interesting place as it moves into the homestretch of the season.

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Stray observations

  • Tandy and Carol build Todd his very own Masturbatorium. In an effort to make Todd’s child a boy, Carol draws pictures of men with “admirable” traits: The genius of Albert Einstein and Benajmin Franklin, the panache of Elvis Stojko, the stature of Robert Wadlow, and the robust presence of William Howard Taft, Grover Cleveland, and Donald Trump, our three fattest presidents.
  • Tandy provides Todd with a 2012 bottle of Golsten Farm’s Shea Butter for his masturbation session. It provides fluidity of motion, with just the right amount of purchase. It’s also Paraben-free, and she’s got one hell of a nose on her.
  • Other words for “product”: Yield, overhead, deliverable, output, export, download, income, splutter, confetti, and bonuses.
  • In the second Trump nod of the night, Tandy yells, “You’re so fake news! SAD!” at Gail.
  • Tandy made a robot dog. His name is Clancy. He’s a good boy.

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