Phil “Tandy” Miller is on a mission for redemption. First he targeted Carol and now his aim is the entire Tucson group. Perhaps the show runners are using this second season to also redeem Phil and the show in the eyes of the audience. Critics continue to revisit their complaints about last season when they write about the current crop of episodes. I loved the first season and welcomed Will Forte totting the line between earnestness and aggravating. It has become my brand of humor.
But back to the latest episode, titled “C To The T.” When we last left Phil, he forced the Tucson crew hear and accept his heartfelt apology by gunpoint. The third episode concluded with him locked up in old-school stocks for his crimes. This episode explores all types of punishments and consequences that aren’t employed for Phil to pay for his crimes. For everyone minus Carol, they punish Phil to delight in his suffering. For Phil, he agrees to the terms of his punishment because he wishes to demonstrate that he has changed and is worthy of the group’s trust and forgiveness.
But Phil is weak, and despite his honest desire to pay back his debt to the Tucson society, his resolve vacillates at the first sign of luxury and temptation. The scene where he talks himself in and out of eating some of the group’s cheese is as funny of a scene that this show has given us. It is weird, uncomfortable, and funny. Soon he’s not in solitary confinement, he’s wearing a shock collar. And soon after his punishment is upgraded to a vocal shock collar.
Make not mistake, Phil is weak and selfish and struggles to follow through with what he agreed for himself. But his desire to reconcile with the group is genuine and heartfelt. However, the episode is quite revealing in how the rest of the group (minus Carol) delights in Phil’s punishment and take pleasure in his suffering. Tandy reminds them that his gun wasn’t loaded. New Phil brings out a loaded gun, which provides another the highpoint of the episode, when Phil calls out requesting a change of pants … and underwear … and shoes. We see Melissa bring out a bucket of beer, only to leave it out of reach. They lock him in a shed. The vocal shock factor requires him to communicate via Charades (the tossed off X-factor gag is hilarious). And remember, despite Tandy’s desire and attempt to kill Todd, he didn’t follow through with it. New Phil left Tandy out in the desert to die. Phil “Tandy” Miller may be selfish, weak, and annoying, but the rest of the group is showing that they can be cruel, petty, and masochistic.
I really enjoyed this episode, and I found myself laughing more than I may have all season. I am starting to accept that the rest of the Tucson group may not function as individual characters. There just isn’t enough time in a 30-minute sitcom to flesh out every person, and I don’t want them to take precious time away from Phil and Carol. However, I am warming up to the concept that the rest of the characters don’t necessarily function as individuals but more as a study on group dynamics. Collectively, they provide a counterpoint to the zaniness and absurdity that Phil and Carol provide, but they also lack the compassion and forgiveness that Phil and Carol continually display.
Kristen Schaal is the early MVP of this season. Her effortless charm and endearing weirdness is a delight to watch on-screen. Her comedic timing and delivery is a perfect counterpoint to Will Forte’s aggressive manner and staccato delivery of his lines.
In the end, Carol asks Phil during the episode why he volunteered to increase his punishment. “I’ve always taken the easy way out,” he informs her, “and I don’t want to do that anymore.” I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the New “Tandy” hangs around.