Now Approaching Repopulation Station: ‘Last Man on Earth’, Season 1, Ep 5

I couldn’t take notes for the first eight minutes of episode five. My guffaws prevented all the writing I meant to do. In about 10 minutes of network TV excellence, we cover the following joke topics: rationalizing parenthood with sports paraphernalia-friends, wearing white after Labor Day, Rosa Parks defying segregation, and agreeing on rule-breaking as a pretense for infidelity. The audience has a new definition for Phil Miller: A really, really pathetic man who poorly sheds crocodile tears. “Our children shouldn’t have to sleep with each other! The solution is the hardest part! I have to sleep with Melissa!”

Sadly for Phil, Melissa brands our hero “an ass”, and rightly so: no man can interfere with the power of two female friends. To self-punish himself after both women have blackballed him, our hero sets up a dunk tank, a stereo blasting a bizarre blend of circus and mariachi music, and a faulty seat that continually drops him into the water. I’m chuckling just remembering it. I wanted to see him dunk himself, over and over, because that’s just what he’s done: Phil has literally dumped cold water thrown over his evident, constant erection.

Quick shout-out to Mark Mothersbaugh, whom I’ve been meaning to properly laud for weeks. Best known for his collaborations with Wes Anderson (and a little outfit called Devo), the composer’s contributions to the show are near-flawless. Little dollops of accordion and harmonica help each beat land. Much of this episode isn’t backed by music, which gives the audience insight to Mothersbaugh’s editorial ear. We don’t need to hear a ba-dum-psh every time a joke’s released. Of course, what music there is stands out this week because a crimson sports car is zipping across America’s people-free highways – a red herring, of sorts. The only appropriate soundtrack: booming electric guitar and drums, amping our expectations. Clearly Phil Miller is not the last man on Earth. But more on that later.

I’ve mentioned feminism in reviews for “Last Man on Earth”, and I like how this episode plays with tropes of equality. Phil underestimated Melissa’s desire to have a friend – January Jones flaring her nostrils at a moron was a nice reminder of her work as Betty Draper on “Mad Men” – versus her desire to get laid. Carol correctly estimated Phil’s attempts to cheat on his wife. And Phil underestimated the power of two women to work against him. Phil literally has cold water thrown over his evident erection. My favorite line this week might’ve been one uttered by our Hot Girl: “The last two women on Earth can’t be fighting.” The Carol-Melissa coalition comes to the conclusion, over a bottle of prosecco (ladies, am I right?), that Phil should procreate with both women. There are rules, but he can.

While discussing this episode with my brother, I was surprised to hear him say he found the end of this episode to be sad. At first I couldn’t see it at all: I laughed when Carol hands Phil trail mix – sorry, GORAP – and Melissa’s irritation with Phil’s attempt to romance her. She’s not in the Phil Miller fan club and dark chocolates urging her to “Ignite the spark/spank” aren’t really doing it for her. But then I saw what my brother meant: Phil’s Rube Goldberg-esque contraption linking fireworks to his electric guitar is his own funeral dirge. He insists on blasting note after note into the sky, and the resulting fireworks lead our sports car mystery man to the action.

Only Will Forte, Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and Andy Bobrow, among others on this crack comedy team, could introduce a pudgy Mel Rodriguez, dressed in loafers, khakis, Aviators, and a tucked-in striped polo shirt, as sexual competition. Best known for his role as a bemused cop on “Community”, Rodriguez is heavily mustached, appears chipper, and attracts Melissa’s attention just by driving up in a literal vehicle of sex. This new guy? His name’s Todd. Things are about to get interesting. And really damn funny.

**So, call me crazy, but there were a lot of “Community” references in this episode. “Cool, cool, cool”, a character named Todd, Rodriguez, etc. Given that I’m a diehard fan I may well be reading into something. But I don’t mind smiling if I think Bobrow’s presence has the occasional glimmer of his alma mater.

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