The Last Man On Earth / Fox

When The Last Man On Earth first began, Carol Pilbasian was the rule-following, hyper-organized, Type A foil to Phil Miller’s slacker ethos. She believed that the last people on Earth have a responsibility to help redevelop the planet, while Phil simply took advantage of the freedom that relatively solitude provided. Her relentless optimism essentially balanced out his brand of “whatever” nihilism. She might have been a little pushy and too anxious, but it was rooted in the best intentions, and when almost every other metric of success disappears, that counts for a lot.

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Obviously the status quo has changed a few times in the four interim years, but Carol’s tendency to blow small things way out of proportion, either out of insecurity or fear or jealousy, remains a tried and true character trait. Unfortunately, the Last Man On Earth writers tend to rely a little too heavily on “the Carol formula” for story ideas, and thus, every other week Carol freaks out about something ridiculous only to calm down by the end of the episode. Sometimes these stories are funny, but most of the time they’re only mildly amusing and generally irritating.

This week’s Carol story, however, takes the cake, not only because it’s especially silly, but also because she unintentionally drags Erica into her madness, only for Todd and Tandy fall into it as well. Erica jokingly mentions to Gail in passing that Jasper, the nine to 11-year-old boy who lives amongst them, is a lady killer because he gave Dawn, her infant, a flower. Gail then casually mentions that Erica must be planning Dawn’s upcoming nuptials as well. Carol, being Carol, convinces herself that her two one-week-old infants will end up alone because of the limited suitors left on Earth. Thus, she tries to “parent trap” Jasper and her twin daughters by playing children matchmaker.

To the show’s credit, Carol’s ridiculous behavior receives genuine pushback from other characters. Tandy tells her that their kids are one year old and that they’ll deal with these kinds of problems as they arise. Erica initially says she doesn’t want to be involved and then later bitches to Gail about her actions. Most importantly, Jasper’s indifference to Carol’s scheme goes entirely unnoticed by her, but he also goes mostly unnoticed by everyone. It’s only Todd who tries in vain to “discipline” him (for driving a limo and blowing up a stuffed giraffe) out of a misguided sense of paternalism.

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Yet, things become more absurd when Carol finally pushes Erica down to her level and they briefly compete for Jasper’s attention. Both feed off each other’s motherly anxieties so well that they end up alienating Jasper, who drives away in his go cart only to reach out to Melissa for support. She eventually brings everyone back down to Earth by just telling them that they’re acting like lunatics. Jasper is a child, their babies are babies, and the only responsibility they have to all of them is to provide the happiest childhoods possible under terrible conditions. In short, everyone should stop freaking out about the infants’ future male lovers.

It’s an extremely obvious conclusion to the story, but that’s less of an issue than the fact that the story was drawn out this long in the first place. It’s thinner than usual and hinges upon Erica recognizing Carol’s cartoonish scheme, criticizing it, and then falling into it anyway because “motherhood.” It also seems like the story was built around sight gags involving the kids—Jasper in the go-kart, babies wearing makeup, etc.—which isn’t inherently a bad thing, but doesn’t necessarily justify a whole A-plot. This show has had silly episodes in the past, but few have pushed Carol’s own personality quirks to these extremes. It also goes without saying that the actual jokes in the episode are few and far between.

“Not Appropriate For Miners” ends on a cliffhanger. Jasper has gone missing and the whole gang drives around Mexico searching for him. Along the way, Tandy and Todd hear an alarm sound and follow it to an old prison. They cautiously enter it and we discover that a prisoner (Fred Armisen) has been watching them from inside his cell. Another guest character will soon be thrown into the mix only for him to eventually be taken from the world. Let’s hope it produces better results next year.

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Stray observations

  • The episode’s funniest moment is when Carol uses Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” to lure Jasper back to the twins.
  • Todd’s no pushover, what with his meaty thighs and low center of gravity.
  • “One: You cannot domesticate a raccoon. I don’t care how smart you think that raccoon is, it’s just not happening. And two: You cannot use logic to win an argument with Carol Pilbasian.”

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