The Last Man On Earth / Fox

There are exactly two interesting elements in this week’s Last Man On Earth: 1) It marks Kristen Schaal’s directorial debut, and with a script credited to her husband Rich Blomquist; 2) Tandy switches up his usual “Closure” song with an acoustic rendition of Mötley Crüe’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” for a wedding, which is just weird enough to be funny. Other than that, “Gender Friender” simply bides its time before the midseason home stretch. This is The Last Man On Earth on autopilot, complete with tired storylines, an obnoxious running gag about Tandy’s performative feminism, and some fairly hoary emotional wrap-ups.

The big story this week involves Carol’s jealousy towards Gail. Carol believes she spends too much time with Erica and her daughter rather than with her legal grandchildren, especially since the two aren’t married. Gail flippantly communicates Carol’s concerns to Erica and then condescends to the institution of marriage, which sends Erica into a tiff. Long story short: Gail feels guilty for not officially committing to Erica, so she proposes to her. Gail obviously accepts.

There are a handful of issues at play that render Gail and Erica’s wedding emotionally dead on arrival. For one thing, Gail and Erica have made little impact as a couple since they officially got together back in “The Big Day” (a mere nine episodes ago), mostly because their romance took a backseat to the various life-threatening situations that run through the series. Furthermore, “Gender Friender” barrels through Erica’s disappointment, Gail’s hesitation, and then later her proposal so quickly that it’s difficult for any of it to properly marinate. It’s one thing to play fast and loose with emotional shorthand in order to move the plot along, but it’s another thing entirely for a character-driven episode not to invest time in the actual characters.

The two do eventually tie the knot, but Carol (again, obviously) isn’t too happy about it because she thinks Gail has abandoned her for Erica. While Schaal continually excels on LMOE, unfortunately without much notice, it’s a shame that she keeps getting sidelined into stories that ask her to routinely overreact to the situations. It seems like Carol misreads a situation and then blows it out of proportion every other week, only to be talked down by someone who cares. Most of the time it’s Tandy or Gail, but this week it’s Erica. Carol accepts that Gail won’t simply walk away from her (legal) daughter and endorses her marriage to Erica.

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Meanwhile, Todd, still feeling baby crazy from last week, decides to hang out with Jasper, the older kid in the crew who shows up every few weeks to prove that he’s still alive. Todd tries to play the surrogate dad role with Jasper—playing catch, teaching him how to shave (using Todd’s back), etc.—but Jasper seemingly has no interest in that kind of relationship. Jasper just wants to do his own thing, but Todd has paternal instincts that Melissa can’t exactly taper down. Even though Jasper initially upsets Todd by refusing to don the matching apparel for the wedding, he eventually suits up and all is right with the world.

Oh, and Tandy repeatedly tries to prove he’s not sexist to the ladies by basically overcorrecting his behavior so much he falls back into sexist territory. This leads to the occasionally amusing pun and a nice sight gag about “shattering the glass ceiling,” but it’s mostly overdone material that’s been done differently or better on other contemporary sitcoms.

Still, Tandy has completed a single side of the explosive Rubik’s Cube. Will La Abuela’s ghost rear her ugly head when the series returns in two weeks, or will they drag it out even longer? Only time will tell.

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Stray observations

  • Thanks to Brianna for filling in last week!
  • The big reveal this week is that Erica’s last name is Dundee, a fact that almost sends Tandy into a spiral. He does get to slip a Crocodile Dundee crack into his ceremonial speech.
  • Forte leans a little too hard on shtick this week, but his entrance line “Just burning some diapers on the lawn” made me crack up.
  • Gail has been married three times. The third time was because you can’t testify against a husband in court. It’s a long story.
  • “This house has a surprising amount of manatee art.”
  • “It’s a flawed institution. It’s like bread bowls or the Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of fame.”
  • “I feel like Bill Clinton. A simple man stuck between two bushes.”

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