The worst episode of The Last Man on Earth since its nadir in the middle of the first season isn’t a result of lame humor or cliched writing, but from the epic pointlessness of the whole affair.
“Find This Thing We Need To” is a 22 minute slog with two plots that could have been completed in “Hair of the Dog” in five minutes (and would have made that episode a lot more rewarding to a watch in the process). The major plot of the episode goes absolutely nowhere. We don’t even get to find out who exactly it is under that Yoda mask.
The episode starts out with Carol showing the group a shadowy figure moving in the back of her pictures. This plot moves forward with beats that one would expect from Last Man at this point: Tandy, Carol and Erica find a cabin on the edge of their property where our mystery character has been living and scope it out in those absurd Christmas tree get-ups. When they get there, Erica and Carol note that the items in the house are hallmarks that a child has been living there (or, as Tandy notes in one of the few successful things in this episode, a Benjamin Button type).
Even though Tandy spends the night sleeping outside trying coerce the kid to show themselves, they never come out. An introduction right after Tandy’s sweet speech would have worked wonders for the episode’s pacing. Instead, all we get is the Yoda-masked figure popping out in the back of the characters’ car at the end.
By not revealing this character until next episode (or, even worse, the one after) only delays the inevitable and needlessly stretches out a plot that could have worked fine as a stand-alone plot. Instead, all it does is give the impression that writers have run out of ideas and are trying to spread out the four or five they have for the remaining episodes of the season. All this does is make for boring, pointless television with plot lines that overstay their welcome. The gags and standalone jokes are fine, but what The Last Man on Earth needs more than ever is focus and for at least one plot introduced in an episode being resolved by the end of it.
The B-plot fares a little better, but is still incredibly flawed. Todd and Gail try to get an uncooperative Melissa to reveal the name of the pill she took in Akron last episode. Melissa’s cryptic “Santa’s Penis” line is taken as a non-sequitur by the duo and they head over to a pharmacy. There, Gail loses the last remaining pill amongst their maybe pile. Todd is upset about Gail’s goof, but when she asks him to retrieve her accordion, he discovers the conditions of the cramped elevator where she was trapped for ten days and apologizes.
That sub-plot wraps up alright, but the actual B-plot has an ending that’s effectively a rare deus ex machina in a show that already operates on the suspension of disbelief: Gail discovers that one of their maybe drugs is Clozopine, and Melissa’s “Santa’s penis” retort was actually a weird clue to the identity of the drug. This whole running gag felt nonsensical, and the ending rushed. Not only that, but the show had already established that Erica could identify pills by sight, so it was also needless too. It would have been a good utilization of a heavily underused character, but heaven forbid the writers actually do anything plot-reliant with Cleopatra Coleman.
“Find This Thing We Need To” is an extraordinarily lazy and disappointing piece of television that makes it seem like the show has run out of gas, even though it’s only a few weeks separated from two of the strongest episodes in the whole season. The Last Man on Earth has dug itself out of a hole before. It got unwatchably bad before it got consistently great, and it can do that same trick again. But before they get there, the writing staff needs to stop extending its plot arcs their breaking point because it’s killing all of the show’s forward momentum.