mike and eve baxter sitting on eve's bed in last man standing season 9

As much as Last Man Standing fans might not want to believe it, the long-running sitcom is once again coming to an end soon after three seasons on Fox. When the cast came together for the final table read in March, star Tim Allen marked the occasion with photos he took around the set, inspiring nostalgia for a show that hasn't even ended yet. More recently, though, he shared what is presumably one of the final cast photos from the set, and while oft-absent star Kaitlyn Dever wasn't part of it, Allen hinted at something pretty cool in the pic's caption.

Check out Tim Allen's Twitter post below, and after getting all the good vibes from the cast pic, and then let's discuss what the actor meant when he brought up Kaitlyn Dever's Eve Baxter.

Let's look at the facts here. One: Kaitlyn Dever isn't in the pic, which implies she was not around for this segment of the production, which likely included filming the series finale. Two: Tim Allen strongly implies that fans won't get to see Eve in said series finale, as the character is off "in a fighter jet," which is the show's basic shorthand excuse for why Eve isn't around for a particular event or sequence. Three: the door to everlasting hope is dropkicked open by Allen's mildly conflicting notion that Eve/Dever "made the curtain call."

But what does that even mean in this context? Logistically, it further backs up the idea that Kaitlyn Dever won't be showing up in the series finale, at least not as part of the narrative structure. And since Last Man Standing's lack of a studio audience in Season 9 kind of negates a literal curtain call happening on the set, it's possible the one-hour finale will partly feature a digital curtain call behind-the-scenes, with the cast and crew saying goodbye to fans and to the Baxter family.

So, barring a miracle, Kaitlyn Dever won't be around in person like she was for her lone Season 9 episode "The Two Nieces of Eve," which itself almost didn't happen for one reason or twelve others. However, Dever may very well show up in the series finale via Zoom call or in some other prerecorded way. In that sense, it wouldn't be far off from how Dever's Eve appeared on a video call in Season 9's premiere, which introduced the big time jump, which showrunner Kevin Abbot might have handled differently in hindsight. Alternately, it's possible Dever and the producers banked on her not being able to return, and that they filmed something extra with her while she was still on the set, just probably not in character.

For a bit of background that may already be obvious: Kaitlyn Dever is a popular, hard-working actress at this point in her career, which blew up in awesome ways after Last Man Standing's initial cancellation at ABC. (Case in point: she just landed a movie with George Clooney and Julia Roberts.) And while it was already hard for the sitcom's producers to secure Dever for guest appearances in the previous two seasons, the difficulty factor was ratcheted up once the pandemic forced productions to adhere to COVID safety protocols that made even a simple one-episode cameo a weeks-long effort. Thus, the writers often have to bring Eve into the story through dialogue osmosis and similar tactics.

Everybody knows just how important a series finale can be, though, even for a show that already celebrated/mourned one in the past. So I'm hoping beyond hope that Last Man Standing's final outing will bring not only Kaitlyn Dever into the fold, but also the other former stars that exited in the past, such as Molly Ephraim, Flynn Morrison, and even Alexandra Krosney.

Last Man Standing airs Thursday nights on Fox at 9:00 p.m. ET, with the series finale set to air on May 20.

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