Synopsis of 1×07: The knowledge that Todd and Melissa are having sex drives Phil to despair.

Synopsis of 1×08: Phil becomes annoyed at all the attention Todd is receiving, and schemes to bring the attention back to him.

Rating: ★★★1/2☆☆

This week’s first episode, “She Drives Me Crazy,” was almost definitely the strongest episode we’ve gotten since the show’s pilot. Once Phil hears a certain song blaring all night long, he realizes the inevitable has happened: Todd and Melissa are having sex. And when they start playing “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals every time they do it, it starts to drive him crazy too. He tries to use his power as the newly elected President of the United States to enforce a sexual curfew, but opening up the community to a vote only allows everyone to demand that Phil cleans his toilet pool.

All the while, it slowly dawns on him that none of this would be happening if Todd weren’t here, and he finally decides to act on it. He takes Todd out into the thick of the Tucson desert, tricks him into getting out of the car, and speeds off… only to speed back again moments later, ridden with guilt. And then off again. And then back. The longer the sequence goes, the funnier it gets, and the more we get caught up in Phil’s struggle. Of course, he does eventually pick Todd back up again, and being the good guy he is, he even cleans the toilet pool.

Now that we’ve finally gotten past the cringe comedy of the last several episodes, it feels refreshing and much more natural for the characters to finally speak authentically with each other. Melissa isn’t about to pretend that Phil’s confession of love never happened, and the show’s all the better for it. It was a bit tough to believe that monologue before, given that Phil had never shown anything but lust for Melissa, and this all could have probably been a lot better if they’d set up their relationship differently, but here we see him really struggle emotionally over his feelings for her and authenticate what he said. This episode also boasts some of the best jokes we’ve heard in a while – I love that Carol’s solved the toilet problem by pooping in a variety of midrange hotels. And Phil’s growth by the end of the episode feels fairly permanent, meaning hopefully we’re finally done with the exhausting love triangle stories.

But by “Mooovin’ In,” the show’s back to its old self, and not really in a good way. The girls have both started fawning over Todd, who’s at least the Sweetest Man on Earth even if not the Last, and Phil starts craving attention. When he finds a live cow, he knows he’ll be able to win them back over, but it turns out Todd is the one who knows how to milk it and make a variety of dairy products, so the whole plan backfires. Phil sets the cow loose so he can re-find it and re-impress the group, but Melissa sees through his obvious ploy and insists they search for it together. Todd’s the one who finds it, but he lets Phil take credit for it, because c’mon, the guy needs a break. But when the cow wanders upstairs in Carol’s house (read: is led there by Carol) and will be stuck there indefinitely, the married couple finally has to move in together.

This is all noticeably weaker than “She Drives Me Crazy.” Phil’s motivation has basically changed from “desperately tries to get Melissa to like him through ceaseless manipulation” to “desperately tries to get the group to like him through ceaseless manipulation,” and the result looks about the same. The laughs are again few and far between, and it’s become increasingly obvious they’re just using Phil’s bar as a lazy way for him to talk directly to the audience. None of it’s all that bad, but it’s just dull, which is a shame given the show has so much weirdness to work with.

Not to mention that the other episodes of Last Man On Earth that have aired in pairs have tied together rather well, but this one seems to waste the opportunity and give us two completely unrelated plots. And on the show’s plotting, given the show’s small cast, its approach to subplots is a bit awkward so far. Most of the time in sitcoms the B-stories are given to other, less dominant characters, but it’s strange to see multiple simultaneous plots that both primarily concern Phil and yet both barely overlap. The show will be introducing some new characters in the coming episodes (at least 3, it seems), so I’m curious to see how this trend changes.

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