Spoilers below for the latest episode of Last Man Standing, titled "The Two Nieces of Eve."
While Last Man Standing's Season 9 premiere did the commendable job of giving viewers Kaitlyn Dever's way-too-quick return as Eve Baxter via a family-wide Zoom call, that definitely wasn't going to enough to sate fans for the entirety of the sitcom's final season. Thankfully, everything fell into place in just such a way that Dever was able to finally return in person post-time-jump for Episode 914, but there was a very good chance that the increasingly popular actress wouldn't have been able to return at all.
CinemaBlend spoke with Last Man Standing showrunner Kevin Abbott about the episode "The Three Nieces of Eve" – whose title is an inspired pun on the '50s mystery The Three Faces of Eve – and I asked how hard it was to bring Kaitlyn Dever back to the set for the final season, especially considering all things pandemic-related. Here's how he answered:
For those who might not remember, Last Man Standing had plans to wrap up Season 8 in a big way on Fox by bringing Kaitlyn Dever back as Eve for two fun episodes involving Kristin Baxter's pregnancy and more. Unfortunately, the show was in the final stretch of the episodes production when the call came down that filming needed to stop, and it remained halted for months. That delay forced showrunner Kevin Abbott and his creative team to frustratedly cut losses and shelve the episode entirely, which then led into the show introducing the two-year time-jump that optimistically set the Baxter family's current stories in a post-COVID world.
While Last Man Standing's bosses did a solid job of finding an interesting way to jump into Season 9 without the need for pandemic-heavy humor, they obviously couldn't rewrite real life in a way that allowed everyone to go all out for the final season. Instead, all the COVID protocols created a new normal in Hollywood that made it even harder for shows to utilize guest stars, since the self-quarantining period required for filming created even more of a time crunch for busy actors like Kaitlyn Dever. Here's how Kevin Abbott continued explaining the challenge behind securing Dever for Season 9:
Luckily, Last Man Standing isn't so serialized a series that the writers couldn't find a way to craft an Eve-centric episode that could essentially fit anywhere in the season where Kaitlyn Dever herself could fit into it. Indeed, it felt like a perfectly natural choice to have Eve going through her journey as an aunt this deep into Season 9, where her toddler nieces have developed personalities and are easier to latch onto, as opposed to trying to convince viewers Eve would become emotionally attached to screaming newborns/infants. I'm sure it would have worked, story-wise, but then fans wouldn't have been able to see Dever in dress-up mode, so we're better off as is.
Imagine if Last Man Standing's showrunner had worked that hard to build the house of cards necessary to guarantee Kaitlyn Dever's return, only to have it all fall apart over a legitimate COVID outbreak on the set. Thankfully, that incident was limited in nature and didn't derail the production much, allowing for just enough time to get Dever involved before she was needed elsewhere. While Abbott did make it sound as if this will be Eve's only in-person appearance for the final season, I'm hoping there will still be another Dever-shaped surprise in store for fans before the hour-long series finale concludes in May.
With seven episodes left to go, Last Man Standing airs Thursday nights on Fox at 9:00 p.m. ET. Here's hoping we can all make it through those episodes free from mind-numbing nightmares about Tim Allen's ventriloquist dummy.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.