How Last Man Standing Brought Eve Back Into The Story Without Kaitlyn Dever Around

Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched the latest episode of Last Man Standing, so be warned!

Just a couple of weeks after Kaitlyn Dever's most recent return to Last Man Standing as the ever-beloved Eve Baxter, the Tim Allen sitcom was already invoking her name again for another episode partially centered on Mandy and Kyle's daughter Sarah. Similar to how Eve was previously having emotional issues getting into aunt-mode with her nieces, Molly McCook's Mandy faced some motherly hurdles with the notion that she doesn't really like her kid as a person, while Nancy Travis' Vanessa continued to distinguish her matronly duties from her grand-matronly duties. And it was all bookended with a pair of scenes showcasing just how much Tim Allen's Mike adores Dever's Eve.

The cold open for Episode 916, titled "Parent-normal Activity," featured Tim Allen and Nancy Travis' characters anticipating a visit from young Sarah, who was on a hot streak of ill-advised behavior. After bemoaning her for putting a bunch of ceramic coffee mugs in the clothes dryer and turning it on, Mike acknowledged that his granddaughter's mischievous behavior reminded him of a certain someone special.

MIKE: Kinda reminds me of Eve. A little bit, right? Remember when Eve was that age, she didn't like the tree out front we just planted. We both loved that little tree. She didn't like that tree.VANESSA: Yep, she was a handful. She spent half her childhood in time-out.MIKE: And the other half trying to get into time-out.

Even though it almost sounded like Mike was upset with Eve not sharing any interest in the tree, he was really just wistful with pride over his daughter's over-the-top reaction to it.

Cuts the tree down with a Bowie knife. God, I miss that kid.

True to form throughout the episode, Vanessa was far more tethered to Molly's struggles with keeping Sarah disciplined by staying amicable and friendly, while Mike was a much bigger proponent of tough love and marking the boundary between "parent" and "friend." Naturally, by the episode's end, Sarah appeared to be reversing her bratty ways, meaning Molly didn't need to worry about being viewed as a pariah anymore. That change probably won't stick, because kids will always be monsters, but at least Molly gained some perspective from that situation.

While Eve's name didn't come up again for the middle bulk of the episode, Kaitlyn Dever's character did come up again at the end of the episode, when Tim Allen's Mike was putting his vlog together. Here, he spoke glowingly about how not being his daughter's BFF led to them actually being more friendly down the line.

But do you know how hard it is not to be friends with your kids when they're as awesome as mine? My daughters? Hell, I got a kid who's a fighter pilot. Yes. Because I did something right and I didn't try to be her best friend. She'll always look up to me. Even when she's looking down at me from 30,000 feet, keeping us safe. Damn, she's cool.

Damn straight, Eve is cool. And even beyond the fictional adoration that Mike Baxter has for his youngest daughter, it's clear that Tim Allen also feels the same way about Kaitlyn Dever herself, with her exit from the series making as big an impact on the sitcom's star as it did on the fanbase. The big question now is whether the actress will return for the series finale, and hopefully in a big way that consists of more than just a video call like we got in the premiere.

With only a handful of episodes left to go in this time-shifted final season before it all wraps up for good - assuming NBC or CBS doesn't step in with a renewal order - Last Man Standing airs Thursday nights on Fox at 9:00 p.m.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.