By Ariana Bacle
Updated March 16, 2015 at 03:30 AM EDT
Jordin Althaus/FOX

The Last Man on Earth

S1 E4
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Last week’s episode began with Phil reluctlantly marrying Carol (so he could have sex with her, and only for that reason) before walking out of the church to discover that, oh no, they weren’t the last people on earth. That he had options. Phil quickly woke up from this dream—or nightmare, as he’d call it—but he didn’t escape it completely: This episode begins with Phil crashing into a limo containing a living, breathing woman. An attractive, blonde one. His nightmare came true.

This new survivor’s name is Melissa Shart (!), and she’s just as excited as both Phil and Carol to see other humans—though in a different way than Phil, who giddily laughs at all her jokes and tries to push Carol out of conversations so as to hog Melissa’s focus. He goes from bearded grump to bearded teenage girl in all of 60 seconds.

The beard doesn’t last for long, though. Phil shaves it off in an ill-fated attempt to impress Melissa. “You got rid of the beard?” she says with disappointment. “I thought it was kinda cool.” It’s a classic teen drama situation: Boy likes girl, boy changes for girl, girl turns out to prefer the boy just the way he was. Except Melissa’s lack of enthusiasm regarding his transition from having a bearded to a clean-shaven face seems to be purely based off of style preference, not romantic attraction.

Phil’s efforts to woo her don’t stop, though. He gets visibly embarrassed when Carol tells Melissa about his habit of turning pools into toilets, and later agrees with everything Melissa says at dinner. She reveals her unsexy last name (once again: “Shart”); he calls it “beautiful.” She says she likes resourceful, manly men; he claims he is one (spoiler: he’s not). His schoolboy crush is a refreshing reminder that despite his apathy toward all things Carol (and life in general), Phil does have feelings. He might revert to adolescence when he showcases them, sure, but he has them.

While he’s (trying to) flirt away, Carol’s hell-bent on making their marriage work. She tries to get him in bed, saying that she feels like she’s cheating because Phil’s new look makes him seem like a different man—though despite her excitement about this scenario, insists that infidelity is something she would “never, ever do.” After he begs out of sex by claiming stomach trouble, she notes that he should always feel free to tell her about his diarrhea. Two very romantic, very different approaches to repairing a marriage.

The diarrhea conversation in particular has an effect on Phil, but not a pleasant one: He dreams of Melissa leading him through an empty, airy house—and eventually guides him to Carol, who’s sitting on the toilet thanks to a bout of loose stools. The joke isn’t that he’s disgusted by the thought of Carol pooping (although he probably is), but that his could-be sex dream about Melissa turned into a much more mundane dream about being comfortable with his wife. Marrying Carol was a compromise, a way for him to quench his thirst for sex, and the presence of a new woman to whom he’s genuinely attracted just keeps reminding him of that compromise again and again.

The whole situation is all the funnier because just a few days ago, Phil was going on about how marriage didn’t matter at this point. And he had a point: What’s the purpose of marriage when no one’s around to recognize it? (There are many, many answers to that, but we’ll go along with him.) He saw marrying Carol as a last resort, as a meaningless way to get in bed with her. Now with Melissa around, there is someone to recognize their marriage—and he’s finding himself restricted by it, reverting back to old social norms that he’s been ignoring for months.

This makes everything complicated when Phil and Melissa are drinking beers and she mentions how horny she is. She goes on about how much she wants sex, how she’d “saw off [her] right arm to make out with a dude.” Meanwhile, Phil’s unbuttoning his shirt behind her, ready to pounce. But then she starts thinking out loud about how unfortunate that the last man on earth is married and how she respsects that marriage. So Phil is left with one option: Divorce Carol.

He runs over to her house, but finds her finishing up a wreath that reads “Home of Carol Philbasian-Miller.” She’s going to put it on the (very, very shoddy) door he built her, and she’s going to keep trying to fix their marriage. Phil’s so overtaken by the moment, and Carol’s genuine desire to make it work, that he decides against a serious relationship talk and instead says he has diarrhea when she asks why he came over. It was a rare gesture of sweetness by him toward Carol.

For now, he’s honoring his marriage with Carol over a hook-up with Melissa—but the operative phrase is “for now.” It’s only a matter of time (perhaps next week, judging by the previews) before Phil makes the argument that if they want to repopulate the earth, it’s smarter for him to procreate with as many women as possible. This potential love triangle could make things messy in a predictable, sitcom-like way, but so far, the show’s been able to turn predictable, sitcom-like situations into strange, surprising moments. Even Phil’s transition from grungy guy to sharp gentleman wasn’t run-of-the-mill: The lack of beard makes him look physically smaller, a gag that adds extra humor to his occasional bravado, and it caused the two women to join together in their dislike of it.

Whatever happens, hopefully Clean-Shaven Phil doesn’t stick around for too long. His margarita-drinking, pool-urinating, all-around disgusting ways are missed. Plus, we have Carol or Melissa to look at if we want to see what someone looks like when they’re not completely giving up on life.

Episode Recaps

The Last Man on Earth

Will Forte stars as Phil Miller, the last man on Earth, who is just trying to get by in Tucson, Arizona.
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