This week THE LAST MAN ON EARTH gives us the good and the groany.
Okay, groany isn’t a word. But you get it – Tandy is in full Tandy mode. I know Will Forte created the kind of character we couldn’t want around unless the fate of the world depended on it, but man, man, man, it’s still hard to stomach half an episode of Tandy being Tandy.
Luckily the other half of “Find This Thing We Need To” focuses on Todd, Gail and Melissa in the best Todd episode in a while.
But yeah, let’s start with the groany stuff. Cause Tandy’s gotta put himself first.
“Find This Thing We Need To” nods to Yoda, who is on everyone’s mind after Carol’s mother-daughter picture with Gail resulted in the sighting of … something. The group runs through all the options until Phil realizes the creature is wearing a Yoda mask. Thus the impression is knocked out quickly, and Phil, Carol and Erica are off to find out just who or what is behind the mask.
We at least get the nice visual joke of the van decked out in flora (for camouflage reasons) and the trio wearing those callback-quality Christmas trees (same reason). They stumble on a house out over yonder, and when they break in, notice that a Toys ‘r’ Us had exploded all over the place. There’s Hungry Hungry Hippos, Monopoly, a Jenga set and Super Soakers on the walls. There’s also a can of orange Sunkist (which is pee, but yeah, Phil’s got to taste it twice). The verdict: there’s a kid on the loose. (Or, according to Phil, a “Benjamin Buttons.”)
The ladies stay in the house to clean up (because they’re motherly) while Phil forces everyone to leave the area (because he’s thinking like a child). But then he returns to wait for the kid, resulting in a real drag devoid of action. Phil’s shortening words, cracking jokes and defecating in the woods. Ooh, funny.
For a moment there’s a glimmer of sadness for Phil. Maybe it’s about losing Mike (or everyone in the world), or maybe it’s about – for once – the weight of the world on his shoulders. But it’s fleeting. Later he shows some heart, acknowledging to the Yoda he thinks is listening that Carol has made his life worthwhile. And that’s very nice, but Tandy be Tandy a little too much.
Yoda does show up (he or she was hiding in the back of the van) and there’s our cliffhanger for next week. Is it really a child? Maybe it’s Pat? What about Pamela Brinton?
Heck, maybe it’s Benjamin Brinton. Too on the nose?
Anyway, it takes far too long to get to the Yoda-meets-the-survivors plot point, and we have to deal with too much Tandy. So that’s the groany.
The good keeps us far more grounded. Todd is bending over backwards trying to “save” Melissa with a magic pill, but all she’s telling Todd is “Santa’s penis.” (Again, I need to state how incredible January Jones is – “Santa’s penis” is all she says this week, and it’s pitch-perfect.) You know that’s the pill as soon as she says it, but the long time it takes Todd and Gail to get there (the pill is Clozapine, heh) is worthwhile, as it finally brings Todd back to earth and reminds us of the seriousness of the survivors’ plight.
All Gail wants is her accordion (to extract some damn Thin Lizzy song from her head), but all Todd wants is to find the pill. Gail can help there, but she loses the thing as they sort through hundreds of them. That sends Todd into a tizzy, but as he retrieves Gail’s accordion, he finally gets to see what she endured in the elevator. It’s a sobering moment with fine, understated acting by Mel Rodriguez.
An affected Todd returns with the accordion and a fixed Gordon, repairing his relationship with Gail. So they get back to work finding the pill, and that’s when Gail stumbles upon the “Santa’s penis” clue. High-fives all around.
This season of The Last Man on Earth has been especially dark, and though we certainly need some levity (but not too much), the show is typically in good hands when the darkness and lightheartedness balance each other. The Todd and Gail story does just that, hitting the right notes at the right moments. There is silly (an on-point Mary Steenburgen on Xanax), there is sad, there is serious, there is sweet.
We’re still not sure whether The Last Man on Earth will be picked up for a fourth season. Regardless of its status, the show apparently will end season three on a major cliffhanger that would affect the universe in a new and exciting way, according to Forte. We’re certainly building toward something like that, with Pat still running around likely seeking vengeance, with Mike maybe still out there (?), with Pamela obviously alive and now with this Yoda revelation.
But for a show that’s been living in the bubble for some time, an episode like “Find This Thing We Need To” won’t do it any favors. Not that it was any bad, but it’s the kind of episode where half the time the wheels are spinning without any forward movement until there just happens to be some forward movement. Good character development is nice (in the case of Todd, Gail and Melissa), but let’s be real: the time for Tandy being Tandy is running out.
As I said two weeks ago (and three weeks ago), time for some action.
Season 3, Episode 13 (S03E13)
Last Man on Earth airs Sundays at 930 PM on Fox
Timothy, who grew up on The Golden Girls and Seinfeld, writes regularly about entertainment, arts and lifestyles for a number of publications.
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Timothy Malcolm | Contributor