Last Man on Earth: Sweet Melissa
March 15, 2015 8:49 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

A run-in leads to a new friend. Phil tries to fix a door.

Following directly after the events of the last episode, Phil and Carol literally run into Melissa (January Jones). Phil obviously has the hots for her and she picks up on it. Turns out that she was drawn to Tucson by Phil's signs, but he didn't leave and address, so she's been wandering the town looking for him for weeks, even before Carol got there. Phil obviously regrets getting married now that a more conventionally attractive woman (who doesn't annoy Phil as both he and she agree that laws don't matter as much now that everyone is dead).

Carol admits to Melissa that she knows Phil doesn't love her and the marriage was more for her so the kids they would have wouldn't be bastards and that she was really happy that he came through for her. Later, Melissa cites this as changing her mind on Phil when they have a private conversation. She had previously picked up on his weird nervous energy.

Melissa then admits to Phil that she is horny and really needs companionship. Phil excuses himself to speak with Carol, who is making a wreath for the new door that Phil put together after he broke it in the last episode. At this, Phil changes his mind and doesn't bring up wanting to sleep with Melissa.
posted by inturnaround (35 comments total)
Poor Melissa, the last sane human on earth. With these people. And the raisinballs still exist.

"I liked Carol right away..." Heck, they can even go get coffee together.

Last week Phil fixed the WATER for Carol's tomatoes and went to the library to learn how. This week he can't be arsed to go to the library to figure out how to fix a door, but at least he can steal a VW Bug. Though to be fair, a crafter girl I know told me the story of how she tried to fix the door where she was renting because the previous tenant had a violently affectionate dog, and little did she know that you have to buy a new door frame at the same time you buy a new I guess doors are hard. In other news, Phil shaves and cleans up...and the ladies both preferred the beard.

I love Carol's crafting. Making a red heart scrap wreath with a hyphenated married name on it for that broken door...."The door represents our marriage." "I know."

Other quotes from the episode:
Carol had to draw the whole wedding album, based on a police sketch artist class she took: "You have to sketch fast or the killer could kill again."

"Phil, I'm your wife, you can always tell me about your diarrhea."
"The moment I have it, I will march on over to your house and tell you about it."
Followed by....
"I have diarrhea."
"Thank you!"
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:08 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't be that opposed to Phil dying and the show just being about Melissa and Carol.
posted by drezdn at 6:19 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I thought for sure that Melissa would come out as a lesbian. But then she said "dude".
posted by inturnaround at 6:25 AM on March 16, 2015

When it first started, I thought the "I'm so horny, Phil" sequence was going to be a dream, but it obviously wasn't. Moby Double Dick was a funny joke, but otherwise it's just more of the same.
posted by cashman at 6:52 AM on March 16, 2015

Beh. I wish I had liked this episode more.

It feels like they're rushing right into the ho-hum sitcom scenario we've seen in countless other comedies: unhappily married man preens for woman who is just beyond his reach. And if that's really the case, why go through all the bother of setting this story at the end of the world? Why not a cul de sac or an office or a hospital or a hotel? The fact that there's only two women in the world doesn't raise the stakes: it lowers them because the women don't have much of a choice to go elsewhere.

I'm fascinated by the idea of a comedy about the end of the world -- there's so much weird and funny stuff they could do with social construct, personal space, scavenging/improvising, putting up with strangers, searching for other survivors, etc. I hope they get more into that as time goes on.

That said, I'm glad to see January Jones and I think she's doing what she can with it. She could have been doomed to be Betty Draper forever and this is a good place to land.
posted by mochapickle at 7:09 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also it just dawned on me that both January Jones and Kristin Schaal are Mad Men alums. I would be totally OK if Lois, Dawn, and Miss Blankenship all found their way to Tucson.
posted by mochapickle at 9:59 AM on March 16, 2015

And there was a great sigh of "meeeeeh." Without Kristin Schaal, there would be nothing redeeming in this episode.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:17 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

so I guess doors are hard.

Doors are maddeningly hard, but this is why you buy them pre-hung. You don't have to get them already in a new frame, you will just hate yourself if you do otherwise.
posted by phearlez at 12:53 PM on March 16, 2015

so I guess doors are hard.

I had a the wood root in the front door of apartment such that the lock mechanism fell out. The absentee landlord wouldn't replace the door so our solution was to pack up and move mid-lease.
posted by ridogi at 2:38 PM on March 16, 2015

I wonder if dudes like this episode and women don't, for the male wish fulfillment vs. "oh god, this is the only body on the planet I can ever have my preferred gender sex with."

Never mind, I probably don't really need to wonder about this one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:20 PM on March 16, 2015

This wasn't my favorite episode, but I think it showcases what I think is the crux of the show: Phil Miller is the embodiment of the worst parts of the male creators (Miller, Lord, Forte). He's selfish, he's lazy, he's highly appearance-driven regarding women and doesn't even try to know Melissa before trying to bang her. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. He's not just those things, but they're a big part of the day-to-day. He's got no male competition (for the time being) and thus has zero motivation to be better than anyone.

I didn't really love the major punchlines from the episode being "You could have had January Jones, but instead you got Kristin Schaal, haha doesn't that suck", and they were presented in a manner sympathetic to Phil. At the same time I do think it's funny that Phil, who really didn't want to get married, still couldn't wait more than a week to get married so he could have sex. I wish the joke had turned more in that direction. I think the best sections this week were the more human, particularly the scene between Melissa and Carol.
posted by JauntyFedora at 5:10 PM on March 16, 2015

I wonder if dudes like this episode and women don't

I didn't like this episode and the show continues to tread into crappy places.
posted by cashman at 5:44 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I thought they were headed into lame "Married with children" territory, and it sucked. The whole "why can't he bang the hotter girl?" aspect is terrible for a lot of reasons. I think this show is trying to make Phil into a very particular sort of shmuck, and falling all over itself to do it.
posted by Catblack at 6:04 PM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I wonder if dudes like this episode and women don't

Nope. This episode was embarrassing unless you completely shift the focus away from Phil and view him as a challenge to solve and move on to the next episode after having solved it.

"Married with Children" was sometimes sublime about the why can't he bang the hotter girl? loser thing, and was never actually mean about it. Sometimes it was even genuinely endearing. This, this is just embarrassing.

I might keep watching a Carol and Melissa show, but it's already in hate-watch territory for me (or to see if they ditch Phil).
posted by porpoise at 6:39 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I didn't even have to worry about disliking this episode for its themes. I was busy disliking it because it was just 30 minutes of Phil being cringe-inducingly awkward. That's not a device I enjoy.
posted by ftm at 7:06 PM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

This episode was awful. Didn't laugh once. Starting to care less about Phil as a character, never really cared for Carol. Not interested enough in anything going on with Melissa, except for her coffee habit. Probably will stick around for next week, but just because it's an hour long episode and they'd need that much time to get back on track.
posted by dogwalker at 7:09 PM on March 16, 2015

So many people watching a show they don't like! I giggled a lot during this episode.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:12 AM on March 17, 2015

I'm a fan of postapocalyptic tv and movies.
posted by cashman at 6:43 AM on March 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Enh. I think it really comes down to how this episode didn't match up to the strengths/freshness/weirdness of the previous episodes. If it had been this cardboardy from the start, most of us would have stopped at the pilot.

I still have hopes that they're just setting up a cliche so they can knock it down later. I read an article that said there are 13 big reveals planned (I think Carol was #1 and Melissa was #2). We'll see.
posted by mochapickle at 6:48 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am a woman and I thought it was a reasonably funny episode.

I have no idea why people are suggesting this is wish fulfillment territory. Here's the last man on earth (so far) and two women are introduced, and both of them are pretty much meh on him. Carol is willing to have sex to continue civilization, but Melissa doesn't have to contend with that kind of weighty matter, and she's just seriously creeped out by him for most of the episode. Only after she's drunk (and after she's decided he's not that threatening) does she admit that she might be horny enough to have sex with him anyway, but she isn't actually coming on to him- she's just talking aloud.
Wish fulfillment would mean that both women are actually attracted to Phil, and try to seduce him or fight over him. This is pretty far from wish fulfillment.

I particularly like that so far all of the characters have had careers/job training that make them completely ill-suited to surviving as the last people alive on earth. Phil was a temp, Carol worked in filing, and Melissa was a real estate agent.
posted by aabbbiee at 8:03 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I especially liked the scene where Phil cleans himself up and shaves his beard and wears a nice shirt, only to have both women still be pretty meh on him. It changes nothing for them.

That is a direct subversion of the usual trope where a woman puts on makeup and a nice dress, and then the men fall all over themselves.
posted by aabbbiee at 8:10 AM on March 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Maybe I'm liking this show because I didn't have any idea what it was about, so had no preconceived notions. People are upset that it's a sitcom... but it is a sitcom? So, I guess I just don't get that criticism. That it's not subverting gender roles -- okay, but does it have to do that in order to be funny? It doesn't strike me as subverting or reinforcing gender roles -- or rather, that it's having a fun time doing both, often in quick succession. To me it boils down to I find it funny watching Will Forte be hilariously stupid and transparent, and also basically everything that Kristen Schall says and the way she says it gets me giggling.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:18 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think people are upset about the situations, as it doesn't lead them to see much comedy. It doesn't have to subvert gender roles, but the fact that the last guy on earth is a slovenly man-child, the last women (until the end of last episode) was a woman who wanted to change that last man and wasn't what the last man was hoping to find (remember the vision he had before he saw clearly? The lady who was traditionally pretty and wore make-up even when the rest of civilization had crumbled?)

Will Forte is wasted on this part. He makes it better than what it could be, and he's one reason I'm still watching, but the character as written doesn't have much space for humor for me.

I'm glad he didn't ask for a divorce even after seeing the heart that Carol made for him, though he's clearly conflicted.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:28 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

The gender role thing, I don't see much in that argument either. If you flip Phil and Carol around so that Carol was the one collecting shiny things and unable to function in a post-apocalyptic landscape, and Phil was the strict rules-lawyer who wanted Carol to have all the babies, you'd end up with even more complaints about gender roles. Carol was the one who was camping in the first episode, and she's the only one to make anything so far (crafts, food- even if it sucks), and Melissa hooks up the generator to cool beer, and so far we've seen Phil mostly flail around.
posted by aabbbiee at 8:29 AM on March 17, 2015

I still like Carol. If it were just me & Carol at the end of the world, we'd grow vegetables and have a firepit and do a craft hour every night. If Melissa were there, we could sit in coffee shops and drive up desert roads. If Phil were there, I'd shrug my shoulders and quietly move to another state to live alone!
posted by mochapickle at 8:39 AM on March 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

So many people watching a show they don't like!

Well....I have a hour of dead time in between watching shows I like on Sunday. It's either this or Battle Creek and so far I have zoned out within the first ten minutes of that show, so it's this one. And the first two episodes were better than I expected. I didn't even plan on watching it originally.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 AM on March 17, 2015

So many people watching a show they don't like! I giggled a lot during this episode.

There are funny situations in this show, absolutely. One of my favorite silly moments was Will Forte's line reading of "masturbatory" from last week. And I adore Kristen Schaal in nearly everything she's ever done. I even like Betty Draper, so I am going to keep giving this show a chance. But I am still disappointed with what I consider the Apatovian gender norms on this show -- women as civilizing force over man-child, driving towards marriage and babies.

I still like Carol. If it were just me & Carol at the end of the world, we'd grow vegetables and have a firepit and do a craft hour every night.

I love Carol, and once I straightened her out on that silly prescriptivist preposition pedantry, we'd have a great time.
posted by gladly at 9:02 AM on March 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

The problem may be that we don't know what to expect from the show. It's not a typical sitcom. It's not satire. It's not out to subvert 'typical gender roles.' The closest I can come to defining it after only 4 episodes is that it's a parody of a sitcom that doesn't accept the fact that it's a parody. It isn't particularly funny, but it's not trying to throw a laugh a minute at us.

I don't think this is a bad thing and I sure hope the show lasts long enough to come into its own. I'm just surprised that something so out of the ordinary is coming out of Fox.
posted by 2ht at 9:34 AM on March 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

I liked the premiere enough to get the season pass on iTunes, but now I'm regretting that decision. I thought the show would be not quite like a traditional sitcom, but it's hitting every cringeworthy sitcom beat, including a retrograde "moralistic" lesson at the end of each episode set to sappy music. Trying to make us care about the marriage is ridiculous. It definitely feels like a traditional Fox sitcom to me, and it's not taking any risks.

But I have some hope. The creators have promised a show-changing cliffhanger at the end of every other episode or so. (I was surprised this episode didn't have one.) They've also said that they're going to explicitly confront the issue of incest in future generations. My biggest hope is that after a few episodes we get a twenty year time skip, and the show becomes about a family of teenage brothers and sisters who only know about the previous civilization from their crazy polygamous parents and who have to develop a whole new system of government and social mores on their own. And they're all sleeping with each other. That's the kind of show I signed on for.
posted by painquale at 7:07 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

My wife is really enjoying the show, where I'm starting to find it a little stale at this point - trending into things we've done; the premise here was bold at the start and I wish they had carried through with it further.

Phil is just awful - which both my wife and I agree on - and I find Carol irritating to the point of cringing. I really thought the gag here was going to be that Melissa, after meeting the two of them, decides she much prefers life on her own and disappears rather than sticking around with these two crazies.

I have some hopes that the show might head in some unexpected directions yet. For example, if the ongoing reveals are that Phil is the last man on earth, but more women keep showing up, you could get a real strange take on polygamy (in that instead of Phil setting himself up for this situation, there's no choice about it - for anyone) or having the women decide that Phil is objectionable but necessary, so they leave the man-child to fend for himself, with a different one coming for visits every week or so while they get on with re-establishing society in a town that is perhaps a bit more survivable than Tucson.

I like that Melissa is somewhat of a sane, sensible character compared to the other two, but she needs something more to define her.
posted by nubs at 8:26 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend and I quite enjoy this show as a harmless thing to have on in the background but with the episode 3 preview of episode 4, introducing blondie, we were kinda like "eh". We've enjoyed watching Phil and Carol (I've loved Kristien Schaal since Conchords) and now that January Jones is on the scene this is starting to feel very uninspired and samey.

Also I think a episode or three that shows Carol's first few days/week/years as the "last woman on earth" are completely necessary, that would be brilliant. I can't think of a single post-apocalyptic TV show or movie that focuses on a woman (though there was a really awesome book I read a year or so back and I've totally forgotten the name but it was really good, kind of a bit like The Road but the protag was a woman.)
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:35 PM on March 18, 2015

turbid, I think that might be a great idea - we saw what Phil did, now seeing what Carol did (and maybe even Melissa, though I don't know if the role as conceived would allow for as many laughs) would be fascinating. That might be a great structure for the show - some episodes in the ensemble, others of one of the cast during their time alone.
posted by nubs at 8:47 AM on March 19, 2015

I particularly like that so far all of the characters have had careers/job training that make them completely ill-suited to surviving as the last people alive on earth. Phil was a temp, Carol worked in filing, and Melissa was a real estate agent.

Yeah, I think part of the joke is that everyone who survived is straight-up B Ark material. It makes me want to see them introduce someone who was a survivalist before the virus and who STILL has no idea what to do in this world.

On the one hand, I really want to like this show -- I like both sitcoms and cozy catastrophes, so this should be up my alley.

But then I saw this interview with the creators and it did not give me good happy feelings about them letting Carol and Melissa be much more than plot devices.

When you’re asking about what this guy’s journey is going to be like, we always talked about him as this person who is very flawed. He’s a person who maybe needed the entire world to end, in order for him to become his best self. We’ve always talked about writing the show about somebody for whom the end of the world might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to him, and over 100 episodes, he basically turns into the person that we all hoped that he could be. He’s a guy who maybe wasn’t the best guy in the regular world, but if you took the regular world away, he could eventually get back to being the person that all of us hope that we can be.

I know they gave this interview before the show came out, so they couldn't exactly talk about Carol or Melissa (or anyone else who might show up). But -- the reading where this is all about Phil, and everything that happened, even 99.99999998% of humanity dying, is in service to Phil's growth as a person -- that still fits the show, or at least what I'm seeing of it thus far. And while I really want Carol and Melissa to be something more than plot devices to help Phil learn to be a better person... I'm not sure I can see the show doing that.
posted by pie ninja at 10:10 AM on March 19, 2015

Oh, ugggh. All of that concept from the interview rests on the idea of Phil being the most interesting character in the show. And he's not.

If that's really their point, we need more scenes/flashbacks of what he was like back then. Because honestly, he can't have been a worse person than he is right now. The thing is, we're able to forgive Phil for a lot of his character flaws specifically because he's been through the apocalypse and two years of hopeless solitude, just as I see Carol's deep quirkiness as an dramatic exaggeration of what two years of apocalypse can do to someone's generally normal personality.
posted by mochapickle at 10:34 AM on March 19, 2015

As a concept it works - stripping away society entirely to find out who these people really are/could be - but that concept then has to be applied to all the characters, because then it really says something about society. It can't be just about Phil.
posted by nubs at 1:01 PM on March 19, 2015

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