NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “The Last Man on Earth” are present in this review
After last week’s episode had some shaky elements, having to set aside that week’s offering for establishing Mike’s dynamic with the show’s lead group, The Last Man on Earth simplified itself for another purely joke-focused episode for the most part in, “Fourth Finger” this week. Piggybacking off of the way last week’s episode ended, most of the episode focused on Phil’s desire to try and outwit his brother in a sort of, “Prank war”, and this was fair enough, even if there’s ultimately not too much to say about this week’s offering, beyond the fact that it’s plenty funny and satisfying.
The prank war that serves as the hook of the episode, for the most part, is pretty one-sided. Mike always seems to be several steps ahead of Phil, who is determined to bathe Mike in a batch of poison oak for his shaving prank. Every effort of Phil’s just seems to make him fall victim to a selection of more inspired and unpredictable pranks from his brother however, as Mike does things like rig a fake Christmas present full of money with a paint bomb, move Phil’s bed so that he rolls off the cliff and onto the beach, flip Phil the, “Fourth finger” from a safe distance (conveniently allowing FOX to get around the restriction of flipping the bird on primetime syndicated television), and more. Phil’s efforts to try and recover from Mike’s pranks only seem to make them worse as well, such as when he tries to cover the paint bomb stains with make-up, only making him look more ridiculous.
While there was still an element of buffoonery to Phil’s character this week, it didn’t feel obnoxious and heavy-handed like it did last week. Instead, little things like Phil hiding a letter from the Miller parents in a safe with the code, “6969” provided better and more reliable laughs. Things do eventually hit too close to home for Mike though, after Phil reveals that the letter is a fake, and that he actually coated it in poison oak, or so he says. Mike never seems to be affected by it.
While this is pretty immature, it’s easier to forgive, given that Phil has been pushed to this point by Mike’s unstoppable pranking prowess. It also opens the way for a nicely sweet moment between the two brothers, as Phil reveals that the fake letter material was taken from actual letters that the Miller parents wrote to Mike while he was preparing to go to space, which Phil saved in their entirety. The two have a brief moment of bonding and understanding afterward, when Phil admits to Mike that he was always jealous of him for being the perfect son, and Mike responds by saying that the Miller parents still loved Phil, even though he was just, “A temp.” The show starting to tap on Phil’s inferiority complex with Mike is starting to come into better focus here, and thankfully, it didn’t completely quash the laughs, as Phil prepares to walk out of Mike’s new house, only to get a bucket of flour dumped on him in the doorway, which Mike owns up to by saying, “I swear I didn’t know we were going to make up just now.” A fitting end for such an effectively silly squabble.
The episode also sported a subplot with Todd, who is still trying to feel his way around juggling both Gail and Melissa. There’s some decent jokes derived from Todd blabbing about his sex life with the opposite woman to both women, though honestly, Todd’s latest conflict didn’t feel like it went anywhere. In fact, the episode seems to abandon it about midway through, in favour of Todd simply showing his support for Phil by shaving half of his own head, facial hair and pubic hair, which was both sweet and funny.
The final result of Todd announcing to all four women that he can be there for everyone, demonstrating what he did for Phil as proof, was at least worth the weaker subplot though. Carol wasn’t in the episode very much, beyond being a voice of reason for Phil every so often, and Erica was sidelined for the entire affair pretty much, but Gail and Melissa’s reactions to Todd declaring that everyone will have to accept him being a perfect friend and lover were amusing, especially when Melissa admits that it’s hot. The real shock was yet to come though, as Carol uses the opportunity to ask Todd to inseminate her so that she can have a child with Phil, and amazingly, Todd accepts! That’s where the episode ends, and it’s a great hook for next week, especially since this raises the obvious question of what Phil will say at the process of Carol having sex with Todd so that the spiritual spouses can accomplish their dream of having a baby.
Like I said, this was a simpler episode of The Last Man on Earth, but this allowed the show to get back to good old-fashioned laughs and charm, and that also made its heart more noticeable too. The Todd subplot didn’t really get off the ground, but pretty much all of the material with Phil and Mike was great, especially the emotional conclusion to their battle of pranks. There’s three episodes left in this current season, and I have a feeling that the whole sticky wicket of Erica’s pregnancy is pretty much being shoved into the background for now, in favour of the ongoing connection struggles with Phil, Mike and Todd, but maybe that’s just fine, since we know for sure that The Last Man on Earth is getting a third season now. Besides, the idea of Todd having to brave Carol’s sexual weirdness after his recent hot streak with Gail and Melissa presents a lot of jokes that really write themselves.
The Last Man on Earth simplified the scale and mainly focused on goofy laughs this week, resulting in a better episode with more heart.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Mike always being one step ahead of Phil
Emotional final moment between the Miller brothers