Carol and her love conductor/little skunk/honest Abe were reunited in record time!
Well, record on-screen time, that is. Technically, Carol was stranded at that
Speedy Pump Emco gas station for a week, though the lovebirds were separated for a maximum of about twenty minutes of screen time.
The Last Man on Earth Season 2 Episode 2 saw Phil and Carol, once reunited, directly dealing with an issue that's been brought up time and again in prior installments of the show and in critical responses to the series: whether Phil can truly maintain this whole "better man" thing that he credits to Carol's influence. (Spoiler alert: he totally can, and the payoff here was a lovely example of truly selfless love on both their parts.)
I've gone on quite a bit about how much I love the way Carol and Phil's relationship has developed over the course of the series. In particular, I gushed about this repeatedly in my review of The Last Man on Earth Season 2 Episode 1, which was really the first time that we had any kind of uninterrupted stretch of Phil and Carol's domestic bliss.
I was a bit concerned that the show was looking to kick off an episodes-long arc that would see Phil and Carol separated.
That's not to say that the opening scenes of Carol stranded and Phil looking for her weren't hilarious. Carol dancing along with that inflatable man outside the country store, telling it to relax, and screaming for Phil was an incredibly funny bit, as was Phil's accidental crushing of his soccer ball bro, Brice.
Kristen Schaal and Will Forte are both comedic goldmines, and I don't doubt that they could each carry many scenes of Carol and Phil out and about on their own, searching for one another. It's just preferable to see them acting off of one another, being adorable, dealing with the Tucson crew, etc.
This installment started off with Carol hunkering down at the Emco, waiting for Phil to return for her. Phil, back in Tucson, had the very smart idea to scribble a message on a train and run it along the track, hoping Carol would see/hear it (this was important because Phil is not particularly known for his bright ideas, let alone for ideas that actually work out perfectly – see, character development!).
As Phil sat bemoaning the idea that he'd never see Carol again, the show touched on another (very important) aspect of Phil's character – he kind of hates himself.
We know from having seen The Last Man on Earth Season 1 that Phil is/was not a particularly good person. In the scene right before Carol makes her way back to Phil, Phil accidentally pops Brice the ball bro. The scene is funny but also weirdly moving (like much of the show). He completely overreacts to having popped the soccer ball.
Wait, where's Brice? BRICE! AHHHHH! No, my god! No, he's okay, he's gonna be fine, he's just got the wind knocked out of him!Phil
He berates himself, hitting himself in the head, and finally comes out with it: he believes that he deserves to be alone after his misdeeds and the multitude of ways in which he's "really beefed it" over the past months.
Of course, this show is after all a comedy, so Carol makes her semi-miraculous reappearance at that very moment, and Phil is able to brush off the extremely negative thought spiral that we've seen a glimpse of. But that thought process is still there, and it's still behind every word the character says and every action he takes.
So perhaps that's why Phil manages to be a great, complex character and one that you can still root for, despite his occasionally hideous behavior. He's a real person! He's not a cartoon villain or a flatly-realized good guy. That's what makes the show so unique and interesting. You're kind of rooting for him and also kind of think he's awful.
Once Phil and Carol are reunited, they have some good ol' passionate reunion sex right there on the side of the road, in front of the watching, scribbled-on eyes of Phil's ball posse (as you do). Then they revert back to Tucson, where Phil has to break the news that the Tucson crew up and left to Carol. At this point, the actual plot of the episode begins.
Carol: We're staying in Tucson.
Phil: Carol, I can't ask you to make that sacrifice for me.
Carol: You didn't ask me, I'm just doing it 'cuz that's what people do for those about whom they care!
Phil and Carol enjoy being back in Tucson but for Carol, there's a tinge of sadness and disbelief that her friends up and left without leaving a note. Of course, Melissa did leave her a note – which Phil finds, and struggles with the knowledge of. He's afraid to go rejoin the group in Malibu but he know it's what Carol would want. That point is unambiguous.
As previously mentioned, the "theme" of the week was selfless love and the larger notion of doing what's right for the person you care about regardless of whether it's the best thing for you.
If there was any doubt that Phil truly loved Carol at this point, I think it's been completely obliterated by now. Phil's double nightmare sequence (neither of which saw his penis falling off, despite Carol's insistences) absolutely proved that he was truly terrified of encountering the Tucson crew.
That wasn't fake: he really thought that it would be unsafe to go find them in Malibu. Regardless, even dream-Phil loved dream-Carol enough to follow her to dream-Malibu (only to be stopped by dream-other Phil, who sliced through the roof of the car with a knife and attempted to strangle him).
Phil just wants Carol to be happy. He tries to convince himself and Carol that they can be happy on their own, without anyone else (even bringing out some extremely creepy mannequin-replicas of their departed friends). When that doesn't work, Phil finally breaks down and tells Carol the truth: that the group is in Malibu and invited her to join them but suggested that Phil stay away for his own safety.
Phil's confession scene was really great, as was the lead-up to it. It felt true to character, and true to other similar interactions we've seen Phil and Carol have so far, that Carol wouldn't have been angry with him for more than a minute.
In the season premiere, Carol expressed that Phil didn't need to go back and retrieve the bomb he'd clumsily dropped – just the fact that he'd offered to do it was enough for her. Here, that idea was revisited. She didn't like that he had kept the note from her, but seemed satisfied that he had even offered to go re-join the group in Malibu for her.
Carol: Phil. You got me drunk, then while I was passed out, you drove me to Malibu non-consensually?
Phil: Sorry, Carol, but when you're making a sacrifice for someone, you don't ask them if it's OK, you just go ahead and do it. Because that's what people do for those about whom they care. Direct words from you.
Carol: You little skunk. You just lifted up your skunk tail and you sprayed me with the sweet scent of selflessness.
Phil's plan – to get Carol completely wasted and cart her, unconscious, off to Malibu – was, again, a smart Phil idea but still had that tinge of creepiness that we've come to expect from our protagonist. It was a little strange that he essentially made the decision for her, but her reaction when she woke up and saw that they were nearly in Malibu basically proved that he was on the right track with what he'd done for her.
The show has a tendency to gloss over the actual catastrophic event that caused the vast majority of humanity to be wiped out. It also glosses over the fact that the earth is technically in ruins.
So you can imagine my shock and disgust when I saw the long line of beached whales when Phil took Carol to see a California beach. That was totally horrifying! For that reason, Phil's punny whale jokes sort of fell flat for me in an otherwise very funny episode.
Finally, arriving in Malibu, the couple manages to find their friends/frenemies easily. We see that Phil kept his carefully constructed camouflage outfit and made another matching one for Carol, and that a new guy, Gordon, was picked up by the Tucson group.
And hey, Gordon is Will Ferrell! Too bad Carol seems to have promptly killed him by shouting "boo!" and causing him to have a heart attack. Goodbye, Will Ferrell.
Was it just me or was the group not particularly thrilled to see Carol? Did anyone else get that vibe? Were they all just as shocked to see her as poor, probably-dead Gordon, or is there more to it?
Share your thoughts on this episode by commenting below and remember that you can watch The Last Man on Earth online here at TV Fanatic to catch up on anything you might have missed before next week's The Last Man on Earth Season 2 Episode 3!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.