Christmas came to Malibu on The Last Man on Earth Season 2 Episode 9 and (in the words of the effervescent Carol Pilbasian) "goldarnit" if I wasn't a weepy mess by the end of it.
What began a a fairly standard, goofy, and fun installment of The Last Man on Earth ended in a really serious and worrying place, with two lives (Mike Miller's and Phil 2's) at risk.
If you'd forgotten, "Secret Santa" also served as a nice little reminder that Kristen Schaal/Carol Pilbasian is the most adorable human on the face of the earth. Seriously, I challenge anyone to tell me that they weren't all ear-to-ear smiles during each and every one of the Secret Santa and preparation scenes.
After all of the ugliness that went down among the group earlier in the season, it was wonderful and legitimately heartwarming to see them all come together. Carol's Secret Santa idea was such a perfectly Carol thing to do.
Of course, it also had that tinge of Carol neuroticism; it wasn't enough to simply do Secret Santa, it needed to be done exactly right. For Carol, that meant having everyone eat the paper that she'd printed the names on so that no one would have any way of knowing who picked whom (full disclosure... it wasn't rice paper) and not allowing anyone (cough, Melissa) to blurt out what they wanted for a gift.
A Carol Pilbasian Christmas is nothing if not filled with strict rule-following!
In addition to setting up Secret Santa, Carol decked the friggin' halls. Seriously, every square inch of the late Gordon's home was Christmasfied. My personal new favorite room in the Malibu crew's house:
I call it Frosty's lair. It's where Frosty comes to think.Carol
Oh Carol. Shine on, you crazy diamond.
In the midst of Christmas shenanigans, Phil was shoving help down Phil 2's throat and expecting him to cough up a few thank-yous. First, he convinced the group to allow Phil 2 back into the house. Then, when he pulled Erica's name from the Secret Santa hat, he basically forced Phil 2 to switch with him, so that Phil 2 could (in theory) woo Erica back with his amazing gift-giving. Again, all totally unbidden help.
Of course, Phil couldn't just stop there. Being Phil, he needed to be actively involved in Phil 2's redemption (projecting much, Tandy?). He handed off the Hope Diamond to Phil 2 (having apparently procured it on one of his solo trips, pre-Tucson crew, to the Smithsonian).
It's actually rather comforting and realistic to see that, while Phil's made great strides, there's some small part of him that still can't quite reconcile doing good just for good's sake. He needed Phil 2's thanks.
As it turned out, Phil 2 didn't need Phil's help in the slightest. Phil 2 had managed to get a sonogram machine back to the house and reassemble it there so Erica could see her baby. It was such an expectedly sweet moment, amidst all the silliness. There were wonderful moments all around, but I have to give specific props to Cleopatra Coleman (Erica) for bringing the feels, full force.
Naturally, Phil, heart-warmed by this display of affection as he was, couldn't stop himself from being a know it all. As he was ranting to Carol about Phil 2's lack of gratitude – and the "cold, impersonal" nature of the sonogram machine as medical equipment – Phil 2 popped up to invite Phil on the most awkward man date ever (ostensibly to non-verbally communicate his thanks for Phil's help).
The two stopped in at the local bar, had exactly one beer in silence, and then headed back to the house. As you do.
Meanwhile, another subplot throughout this episode followed Melissa's gradual realization that she'd made a huge mistake in letting Todd go.
January Jones played this really wonderfully. There were several small moments throughout showing Melissa's slow acknowledgment of her feelings (the most notable being her sadness at hearing Todd refer to Gail and not her as "someone special" during the gift-giving).
This culminated in her proposal of marriage to Todd at the end. Melissa's love for Todd and her vulnerability in that moment really came through.
Todd, I know things haven't been great between us. We broke up because we're different. You're warm and caring and you see the world through rose-colored glasses. And me, I'm... I know I can be cold and negative and my glasses are basically crap-covered. But that's what made me fall in love with you.Melissa
Unfortunately, Melissa's proposal (and Todd's answer) was cut short, when Phil 2 suddenly collapsed, writhing in pain. This show has made me care about Phil 2's fate! That moment was legitimately shocking and I fear for Phil 2's life.
But Phil 2 is not the only one we should be worried about. "Secret Santa" focused on Phil's brother Mike the astronaut as well. After his earlier attempt (and failure) to communicate with earth via radio, he'd fallen into a messy depression. The straw that broke the camel's back came when his last remaining worm-friend Terry died – Mike finally lost all hope and prepared to eject himself out into space...
... which he almost immediately regretted, when he saw the baby worm writhing about and recognized it as a symbol of hope. Unfortunately, his attempts to abort the airlock opening were too late, and he was violently ejected from the spacecraft. Anybody wanna place bets on the likelihood of Mike somehow tumbling to earth in a completely improbable way, a la Gravity?
For fun, here's my totally subjective ranking, best to worst, of the Secret Santa gifts:
- Phil 2 to Erica, the sonogram machine. I mean, come on. You just can't top that. Obvious reasons.
- Erica to Carol, Oprah's studio audience chair and J. Lo's green dress. This is ranked so highly mainly because of Carol going completely bananas with excitement. This gift-unwrapping was easily the most fun of the bunch.
- Carol to Melissa, bedazzled thigh-high Jimmy Choo boots. Despite the fact that the boots were more Carol's style than hers, Melissa was obviously touched by the thoughtfulness Carol put into her gift. Melissa thanking Carol while laughing and telling Carol she loved her was a totally sweet moment.
- Phil to Phil, the late Pitbull's yacht. I mean, yeah, he blew it up, but Tandy knows what Tandy likes – and Tandy likes EXPLOSIONS (and general destruction, to be honest).
- Todd to Gail, ZZ Top car. This is ranked low because it means basically nothing to me. Gail was obviously excited about it, but it wasn't exactly a memorable scene.
- Melissa to Todd, prom king paraphernalia. Oh god, this scene was so awkward. So painfully, painfully awkward. Not only was it not even really a gift, but Melissa's attempt at being heartfelt fell so very flat.
- Gail to Phil 2, wicker ball. Because it wasn't even a gift – she grabbed it off the table. Bet you feel pretty bad about that now, huh, Gail?
- Gail dipping her Secret Santa paper in her red wine before eating it is a great example of why I love Gail.
- So, Phil 2 gifting Erica the chance to see her baby with a sonogram was a beautiful moment and all but... where the hell is that Hope Diamond?!
- My favorite version of Phil is Carol's-Little-Helper Phil. I absolutely adore seeing Phil help Carol with all her little schemes and eccentricities, without for a moment questioning her. Relationship goals, am I right?
- Let's talk about the possibility that Phil accidentally cursed Phil 2. Remember that Hope Diamond? There's a well-known rumored curse that whomever owns the diamond will have misfortune and tragedy befall them. I wonder if anyone will bring this up? It seems unlikely that the choice of gift was just a random coincidence.
- I'm trying to care about Gail and Todd's secret romance but I just don't. Sorry, Gail and Todd.
What did you think of "Secret Santa"? Who had the best gift? What do you think will happen to Mike Miller and Phil 2? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below and watch The Last Man on Earth online here at TV Fanatic!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.