When we left Last Man on Earth two weeks ago, Tandy and Todd were in the stocks after a fit of meat-lust led them to eat an entire freezer’s worth of bacon. (In the meantime, everyone struggled to eat Carol’s cricket casserole.) There were two major takeaways from the episode: 1) in an effort to demonstrate how a smooth-running society requires absurdist violence and judgment, the show has begun to push other colonists — not just Tandy — to the margins; 2) and a few years after the virus, the colonists are growing all the more agitated because they are running out of resources.
In the last episode, the colonists had (rather nonchalantly) begun to realize that heir can goods were passing expiration. In this episode, it dawns on Tandy, who is using a generator to cook some waffles, that the gas that they use to power most of their lives is turning into goop. Or, as Tandy puts it while inspecting the gas outside (and singing “The Heat is On”), “It looks like a ghost took a dump into this gas can.” Industrious as ever, he then tries to drink his uncooked “liquid waffle.”
When we meet the other colonists, they’re playing Jenga with heavy gold bars, while New Phil is outside hammering away at some furniture for Gail. When she yells at him to stop hammering, he loses it. (We did predict that New Phil would be the next to crack.) Given Tandy’s revelation that the gas is going bad — a developing fact that New Phil, the colony’s resident survivalist, had pointed out way in advance — he wants to leave Malibu for more habitable pastures. (He wants fresh water, for example.) The group, led by Gail’s bizarre “YOLO” chant, disagrees, although Carol — in a telling moment that could affect the show in later episodes — agrees with New Phil, wondering aloud whether they could raise babies in Malibu. It’s at this moment that we discover none of the other women colonists want to have babies. Todd, bacon-crazed partner of Melissa, is crushed. So is Carol. At the end of the conversation, New Phil, the only handyperson in the colony, goes on strike.
After discussing it with a caring, concerned Tandy (while he wears ridiculous reading glasses), Carol goes to each of the women to discuss their disinclination for bringing children into the world. Melissa explains that there is no food or medical care — that they live on a forsaken planet unworthy of new life. Erica simply shrugs her off. Gail is too busy with her makeshift Gordon blow-up doll.
Meanwhile, in the face of the colony’s worsening energy drought, reunited buddies Tandy and Todd try to assemble a set of solar panels (during New Phil’s strike). Todd, of course, in the throes of a perpetual non-marriage crisis with Melissa, vents to Tandy about her unwillingness to have kids. As they talk it out, it becomes clear to the pair that they are missing a crucial component of the solar panel kit. Needing some sort of box, they head to the store to find it.
When they return, the frayed wire (meant to be plugged into the box) is jumping and dancing like a berserk snake. Tandy looks at it perplexed. “Man,” he says, “that’s all in the family.”
We find New Phil pouting in a beach chair when Tandy approaches him for help. At first he doesn’t answer, but when Tandy (rightly) brings up New Phil’s feelings for Carol, it sets him off. “She chose me!” Tandy shouts, and New Phil punches him in the face in front of the group. The colonists take Tandy’s side (for once). “Pick on someone your own size,” Melissa yells, “this is like hitting a girl!”
But when the show attempts another iteration of the “discipline and punish” cycle it has been on for a few episodes, everything breaks down. New Phil is just too large to punish. Even when the group gangs up on him, he refuses to go to “do the time,” as the colonists are now fond of saying. Instead, he chooses to leave the colony, but not before he flicks a switch on the solar panel while, putting to rest the dancing snake, proving again that he is indispensible for the colony’s survival. Still, his mind is made up. In the episode’s final scene, New Phil offers an apology — but only to Carol. He begs Carol to come away with him to start a new life somewhere else. Before she can respond, Erica ends the conversation with the episode’s most glaring revelation: she’s pregnant.
Carol, who so desperately wanted the other women to have children, is hard to read. Does she feel conflicted about New Phil, who has been courting her ever since her return to the colony? And I can’t help but wonder, given his ne’er-do-well, slapstick lifestyle, if Tandy can even have children.
In what amounts to TV’s weirdest subplot, there is still no word from Tandy’s astronaut brother, who is presumably still floating in space. Did he run out of food, too?