The Last Man on Earth recap: Secret Santa
By the end of this episode, Melissa is, for the first time in a long time, feeling: She’s feeling so much, in fact, that she proposes to Todd in a romantic moment that ends not with a “yes” but with Phil falling to the floor in pain. Melissa isn’t the only one feeling this week, apparently.
Even if Phil didn’t interrupt — and we’ll get to that later — it’s not clear if Todd would have agreed to marry Melissa anyway. Their breakup was fairly nasty, and he rebounded with Gail ridiculously soon after (then again, is there really a point in waiting when you’re one of six people left on the planet?). But Melissa and Todd did always seem to have a genuine connection, and Melissa reminds him of that by pointing out that they broke up because of their differences but their differences are what made her fall in love with his loving, optimistic self in the first place. Aww.
Part of Melissa’s change of heart came from the Secret Santa gift exchange Carol organized. Carol is, as always, scarily enthusiastic about it, and about the holidays in general. Christmas gives Carol a chance to really let her inner Carol shine, and shine, it does: At one point, Melissa enters her room only to find it covered in fake snow thanks to Carol, who dubs the revamped space Frosty’s Lair. Later, Melissa receives customized, bedazzled (of course!) thigh-high boots from Carol — and she chooses to keep them over the designer black thigh-high boots she requested that Carol also “bought.” Scrooge no more!
Secret Santa has a similar effect on Phil and Erica, who might be coming close to reconciling partly thanks to Tandy. Tandy picked Erica for Secret Santa, but passed her name on to Phil along with the Hope Diamond to give her. This is all part of Tandy’s plan to both help Phil win back everyone and to get some recognition from Phil, someone he’s really gone out on a limb for. He’s succeeding with the first part. The second? Not quite.
Phil ends up ditching the diamond and instead gifts Erica with ultrasound equipment to see her baby. Erica grabs Phil’s hand as she sees the heartbeat on the screen, and everyone is smitten with how sweet a moment and how sweet a gift it is. Everyone except for Tandy, who is having trouble containing his frustration that Phil hasn’t thanked him and didn’t give Erica the diamond.
Tandy later tells Carol he’s “done trying to help this turd” seconds before Phil asks Tandy if he wants to grab a drink. Tandy’s answer? An insanely excited “I’d love to!” Ah, Tandy. You can’t stop running back to him, can you?
Now that Phil and Tandy are repairing their relationship (or rather, building it — they were never exactly pals), everything seems to be slowly getting better. That is, until Phil collapses and sends everyone from staring at Melissa and Todd to staring at the obviously hurt Phil and panicking about what to do. And what do you do when there are only six people left on earth and none of you are doctors?
This plot development is a brilliant way to remind everyone that this isn’t The Real World and that these six people are actually without most of the resources we get to enjoy. There’s no other side where suddenly they have access to the internet and doctors. This is it. They’re all they’ve got. And that’s a terrifying fact in these circumstances.
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It’s especially terrifying because Last Man is proving more and more that it’s not afraid to get dark, meaning Phil might not spring back from this as quickly as a character in a typical comedy would. That darkness becomes overwhelming in the episode’s final moments when Mike adds his name to his tape graveyard after he notices Terry — who he seconds earlier called the only family he has left — is dead. He somberly dons his space suit and prepares to exit the spaceship, assumedly for good.
Right after he presses the button to leave though, he notices a worm: a sign of life. He’s not alone after all. But it’s too late. He presses the button once again to abort the command, and the next thing we hear is a robotic voice announcing that the command to abort failed. Mike bursts out of the ship and into space.
Like I’ve said before, I don’t believe this is a show that would introduce someone like Mike only to kill him before he makes any progress. Yes, it can get realistically grave, but that would just be needlessly cruel, and Last Man is not a needlessly cruel show regardless of how jerky all its characters can be. But even with that belief, that moment where Mike was forced outside of the ship was completely shattering. He had so much hope for so long, proven by the years he’s stuck around despite not knowing if there is any possibility of him returning to his home, and watching that hope disappear over this season has been devastating — understandable, but devastating. Maybe that glimpse of a worm before he left restored that hope, and maybe that will be enough for him to somehow manage to get down to Earth (or at the very least, back to his ship). A now-dead worm is far from the only family Mike has left, and it’s about time for him to discover that.