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Series / Last Man Standing (2011)

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"It is GREAT to be back home!" note 

Kristin: I know this is hard for you to believe because you are so old school, but I do not need a man.
Mike: You have a baby; that says you needed a man once.

Last Man Standing is an American sitcom starring Tim Allen and Nancy Travis that aired on ABC from October 11, 2011 to March 31, 2017, and Fox from September 28, 2018 to May 20, 2021.

Allen plays Mike Baxter, director of marketing at Outdoor Man, an outdoor sporting goods store in Denver, Colorado. He is proudly a man and is frustrated about how the world is trying to make his gender more sensitive. At home, his world is dominated by women — his wife Vanessa and three daughters: adult single mom Kristin, high school-aged girly girl Mandy and middle school-aged tomboy Eve. The only other male in his house is Kristin's young son Boyd.

He was originally often away from home taking up sponsors for the store catalog, but as things become more Internet-based, he turns to promoting products on the website in videos while ranting about various topics surrounding masculinity, making him a mild celebrity and keeping him at home. He is good friends with his boss and owner of the store, Ed, while also striking a friendship with a younger employee, Kyle, who becomes friendly with the family.

One hook from the show is that it approaches a lot of political, social and interpersonal topics with an upfront, frank attitude that is uncommon in most shows. Mike uses the Outdoor Man web videos as his own personal soapbox on a topic related to the overall episode, which typically skew towards his own conservative views and are balanced out by quite a few liberal family members, neighbors and others, ensuring that the more controversial subjects get a fair depiction. Even though it is a family-friendly show, they do not shy away from topics like sexuality, sexual orientation, drinking, drug use, bullying and even racial tension, many even at the teenage level.

Considered a Creator-Driven Successor to Home Improvement, due to being an Allen vehicle where he plays similar characters as a father obsessed with preserving and passing down manhood and has a public forum as part of their jobs to share their views on the episode's subject matter. In fact, the second episode of the final season even had the two characters meet.

While the show was never a hit with critics like its predecessor, it did well enough in the ratings to warrant six seasons and over 100 episodes, and was one of the most notable aversions of the Friday Night Death Slot in this age of television...until ABC cancelled it in 2017. However, Fox picked it up over a year later, and a seventh season began airing in fall of 2018. The series managed to continue for another three seasons, with its ninth and final season concluding in May 2021 with a hour-long series finale.

Last Man Standing provides examples of the following tropes:

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  • Abhorrent Admirer: Eve has one in the form of Andrew, a desperate and rather creepy nerd who has math class with Eve. There are several examples of his one-sided desperate obsession to win Eve's heart:
    • In one episode when Eve is thinking about transferring out of her current math class because of her difficult teacher, he tells the teacher and Eve's mom that she can't do that because he purposefully failed the AP Calculus entrance exam so he could be in the same class as her.
    • Before the previous conversation, Andrew told Vanessa to tell Eve that he said "hi" and that he's still in love with and he hasn't moved on, Vanessa says she will do him a favor and not tell Eve that last part.
    • He asked her to prom while she was in a relationship with Justin, who was standing in the next room.
  • Aborted Arc: Kristin attending college at UC Denver. It was an ongoing plot line in Season 1, reduced to a few token mentions in Season 2, and was then completely dropped in Season 3.
    • Early in season three, Ryan's beer truck driver union went on strike, which lasted for a few episodes and resulted in him getting a janitor job at Outdoor Man. Later on, he is back at the beer company and we never find out how the strike was resolved.
  • Accidental Proposal: In "The Ring" Mike catches Kyle with an engagement ring and thinks he's going to propose to Mandy. It's actually Ed who's going to propose to Wendi and he gave Kyle the ring to get resized. The Baxters think Kyle is going to do it when he and Mandy go to dinner that night so Mike tells him to take her to a fancy restaurant. During dinner, Mandy tells Kyle she knows about the ring and Kyle mistakenly thinks she knows about Ed proposing and goes to show it to her. Kyle drops the ring and gives it to Mandy, who cries and accepts while the restaurant applauds. Then Mandy gets a call from Vanessa explaining the mix up, devastating her until Kyle actually proposes to her at the end of the episode.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • This isn't Nancy Travis's first time playing the wife in a sitcom starring a stand-up comedian with old-fashioned values. She was also the wife on The Bill Engvall Show.
    • When Ed puts in his new home theater, we see Mike stand in front of a Toy Story poster on the wall. Tim Allen starred as the voice of Buzz Lightyear.
    • In "Private Coach", Mike ends the internet ad with "Never give up. Never surrender." He even does the salute.
    • Jonathan Taylor Thomas plays a character called Randy, named after his character from Home Improvement.
  • Advertised Extra: Richard Karn's guest spot was heavily hyped in the promos. He barely has a few minutes of screen time. In fact, the promo has about almost half of his total screen-time. Jonathan Taylor Thomas suffered this same fate (at least until the third season when he became a recurring role).
  • Advice Backfire: In "School Merger", Kristin tells Mandy that it is important for the latter to enforce the rules while she's working at the election polls. This bites her in the ass when Mandy refuses to allow her to vote since she no longer lives in the district.
    • Played straight, then subverted in the first episode. Mike advises Eve to play aggressively during her soccer game against the boys' team to impress her crush. This results in Eve accidentally giving her crush a sprained ankle during the game and she stops speaking to Mike. However, by the end of the episode, the boy asks her out on a date because he liked the way she played, proving Mike was right all along.
  • An Aesop: "Principles matter, but family matters more" tends to be an overarching Aesop for the entire series. Some specific examples:
    • Kristin and Ryan realize that contributing to diversity in an inner-city school is not worth screwing over Boyd's education and future.
    • Ryan gets some What the Hell, Hero? lectures from Mike and Kristin when his activism interferes with his obligations to provide for his family, or his dogmatism upsets Boyd.
    • Eve realizes that, opinions about fracking notwithstanding, she was way out of line for how she treated her mother.
    • Mike gets hit with this too. In one episode, Eve gets in trouble parroting Mike's vlog. Ed argues that Mike should water down his statements. When Mike asserts free speech and the importance of standing up for his principles, Ed simply asks him if he loves his daughter.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Season Two's "Attractive Architect" had Mandy learning that she doesn't need makeup to look good and people seeing her without it isn't a big deal. Then in Season Five's "Educating Boyd" she freaks out because Eve took pictures of her sewing without makeup on for a class project and doesn't want people to see them.
  • Age Lift: Boyd went from a two year old to a five year old in the second season, played by a new actor. Kristin was also given a new actress and her age increased to keep her as having Boyd when she was 19. In the other direction, Mandy was said to be a high school senior in the first season (Vanessa mentions her graduation is approaching and she was working on college applications), but didn't actually graduate until the end of the second season, essentially de-aging her by a year.
  • Analogy Backfire: Kyle tells Boyd that mutton busting is just like riding a bike. Boyd points out that the entire reason he's doing it is because he doesn't know how to ride a bike.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Even though he's actually her nephew, Boyd is this to Eve.
  • Appeal to Obscurity: Mike uses this on Vanessa to show what will happen to Eve if they don't push her to succeed at soccer.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the episode "Sinkhole," Vanessa mentions they were lucky they didn't die by falling into the large hole. Mike calmly mentions all the times he's cheated death:
    Mike: Remember that time I slipped rock climbing in Chile, capsized that boat in those class-4 rapids in Oregon, and rooting for the Broncos in a bar in Oakland.
  • Artistic License – Military: Eve's JROTC uniform is just... all sorts of wrong. When she's in ACUs, she wears the collar up and velcroed shut (it should be worn down like a regular shirt/jacket collar), has her sleeves rolled up, is missing her American Flag shoulder patch, and for some reason wears what appears to be a completely random belt (it's not the canvas belt that's part of the ACU, and doesn't look like a pistol belt) around the outside of her jacket, instead of, you know, through the belt loops on the pants.
  • Artistic License – University Admissions: The show treats West Point as Eve's only option to get a college education and become an officer in the military. There are several other military colleges in the US (Virginia Military Institute, Citadel, etc.) and many civilian colleges have ROTC programs that students can participate in and become officers after graduation.
    • Also, the fact that she got rejected from the school makes little sense since she is a straight A student (except art), a three season athlete, an award winning JROTC participant, had a recommendation from a congressman and the Vice President of the United States, and at the time the episode aired, West Point had launched an initiative to increase the number of female cadets.
    • [[Could actually be true because West Point has a 10% acceptance rate]]
  • Ascended Extra: Chuck Larabee first appeared in a season two episode as a new neighbor, where a lot of the joke is that Vanessa is trying to be friends with a black family so that they don't seem racist. By the end, Mike and Chuck bond over the racial humor behind that and Mike mentions offhand that Chuck is the only neighbor he could see himself hanging out with. Chuck slowly started appearing in more episodes, to the point he is in every other season four episode.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The topic of one episode. The school psychiatrist diagnoses Boyd with ADHD after he becomes too disruptive in class and prescribes medicine. Mike goes on a tirade about the situation, feeling that the school just uses ADHD as an excuse to drug kids for being too energetic and Boyd doesn't really have the disorder. He's proven right when Boyd calms down in school after he begins playing ice hockey to burn off energy. However, it's later revealed that Mandy took some of Boyd's medication while studying for her exams and did better than usual, suggesting she actually has ADHD and explaining a lot of her seemingly absent-minded personality.
  • Author Tract: In-Universe, whenever Mike does an Internet ad for the store he usually rants about whatever's been annoying him in the given episode.
    • In something of an inversion Tim Allen, an admitted conservative, has said that most of the writers and crew are liberal (as is most of Hollywood), and thus the conservative slant and constant potshots at liberals is them having fun with Self-Deprecation.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Eve and Mandy in a few episodes. In a very minor use of the trope, Mike has come to admit that Ryan has earned some measure of respect even though they argue on almost every topic, and Ryan has come to appreciate Mike's help and advice in difficult situations (helping him salvage his relationship with Kristin, and once even calling out his actual dad for the way he treated Ryan). This is similar with Mike and Kyle, as Mike can tell Kyle is a good kid and a hard worker and sometimes his dad instincts kick in.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • In "Mike's Pole", when Mike wants Chuck to settle his and Ryan's debate regarding pledging the American flag. Chuck tells Mike and Ryan that as a Marine he fought for all the rights Americans have, including the right not to respect the flag. Ryan is pleased by this, but then Chuck tells him that while he has the right to not respect the flag, doing it is insulting to all the men and women who risked their lives in battle for those rights.
      Chuck: Until you sit in the back of a Bradley and brace for an incoming RPG, you respect that flag.
    • In "Here's the Kicker", Eve comes home walking with crutches and says she injured her knee at practice. Vanessa freaks out and tells Mike she will not play football anymore. Then Eve's friend Cammy comes in and reveals she accidentally injured Eve at soccer practice.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Ryan is a firm believer in this and is shocked that Vanessa, a scientist, believes in heaven.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Ryan presses Vanessa's when he reveals he plans to use the wedding money Mike and Vanessa gave him and Kristin to pay off his student loans. You know, the ones he took out when he went off to college while Kristin had to give up college, her career dreams, and basically her entire future to raise Boyd alone.
    • When Bill McKendree takes out his anger and frustration at Mike by pouring a beer on Boyd's head at a baseball game, Ryan instinctively punches him.
  • Big Apple Sauce: Mandy spends the summer at a fashion internship in New York before Season 5 and annoys Eve by constantly talking about it.
  • Big-Breast Pride:
    • Invoked by Mike when Vanessa is distressed that she "doesn't have it anymore" when she can't get out of a speeding ticket by flipping her hair.
      Mike: Aw, honey...with your knockers, you go for the hair flip?
  • Big Brother/Sister Instinct:
    • Deconstructed in "Mike and the Mechanics". Kristin gets upset because Mandy doesn't want to hang out with her like they did when they were kids. Mandy tells her it's because after Kristin became a mother, she began bossing her around and telling her what to do. Kristin says she was just trying to keep Mandy on the right track and prevent the same thing from happening to her, but Mandy claims it just made Kristin seem more like another parent than a sister.
    • In "Mandy's Party," Eve tries throwing a party with her friends and Mandy takes the blame when Mike and Vanessa come home early. Eve is certain that Mandy has some ulterior motive, being that Eve regularly rats out Mandy and Kristin, but Mandy explains that the older sister has a responsibility to protect the younger sister. Mike understands this, telling Vanessa that he once took the blame for his younger brother Jimmy going for a joy ride, as Jimmy was 15 and would have been punished worse.
  • Birds of a Feather: Mandy and Kyle have the exact same sense of humor, which makes them just about perfect for each other despite very different interests.
  • Black Sheep: Mandy is the only member of the family that does not do well academically in high school. A season 3 episode reveals she might have ADHD, explaining why. This is only true while in high school; once in college, where she was taking courses she was actually interested in and relevant to her goals, she did quite well, even making the dean's list.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Mild example. Chuck doesn't want inner city students to be sent to the local high school even though he himself comes from the area.
    Chuck: We moved out of the hood. I'm not sure I like the idea of the hood following me here.
  • Brand X: Outdoor Man for Bass Pro Shops. The stores both sell outdoor, hunting and camping gear and the exterior shots of Outdoor Man are clearly Photoshopped Bass Pro Shops.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: During the stinger of "Tattoo" (directed by Tim Allen), after Mike finishes his vlog, we see Allen run off the set to the director's booth and yell cut.
  • Bridezilla: Mandy becomes one during her wedding shower. Then when her actual wedding arrives, she gets even worse, at one point ordering the preacher to change the pews in the church.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Mike's dad Bud has a thick Midwest accent. Vanessa once tried to imitate him with something he said and Mike wonders why she thinks his dad sounds like Mike Ditka.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Mandy's ditzy personality and obsession with popularity and social media causes her to blow off school work and get poor grades. But she reinvents herself when she starts going to college in the third season, proving she has a real talent for fashion design and is more willing to put in hard work for something she is passionate about. One episode all but states that she has untreated ADHD.
  • Broken Aesop: "Eve's Breakup" has Eve, well, break up with her boyfriend and is pretty blasé about it. Everyone keeps telling her that she should be feeling devastated and crying over it, which causes her to start thinking she's a cold person. Mike tells her that everyone reacts to breakups differently and there's nothing wrong with her not crying about it. Eve is content with this and Mike tells Vanessa to stop pressuring her to be emotional. However, everything is undone when Eve does start to cry about it (after she finds out Vanessa returned her boyfriend's headphones to his mom) and Vanessa is ecstatic to get her wish of getting to comfort her sobbing daughter.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Mandy accidentally invokes this trope. While talking about Kyle with Kristin, she mentions that Kyle thinks of Mike like a father, which makes them... then realizes exactly what that makes them and ends that conversation very quickly.
  • Brutal Honesty: Mike favors this approach, unlike the more tactful Vanessa. Their varying success rates indicate that both approaches have their place.
    • Eve follows in her father's footsteps with this.
  • Bubbly Waitress: Mandy gets a part time job at the same diner as her older sister, Kristen. This immediately rubs Kristen the wrong way as Mandy's lighthearted attitude already has her as more popular than her sister, earning far more in tips, despite frequently getting orders wrong.
  • Bumbling Dad: Generally averted with Mike. He's a very caring and loving father, but there is no question that he is more rational and mature than his kids. In one episode, Mike and Vanessa discuss how exhausting it is to go to all of the kids' activities, and Eve is offended when she learns they're pleased to have a free weekend because her soccer team is not in the championship. He later misses Mandy's play (where she bombs) because of trying to do two things at once, and realistically apologizes to her as a one-time mistake.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Kristin regards being spanked by Vanessa as a child as one of the most traumatic experiences of her life and the cause of her spanking Boyd. Vanessa doesn't think it was a big deal since she only did it twice.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Ryan is a frequent target for Mike's ire, especially when Mike brings up Ryan leaving Kristin, something for which Ryan's tried to make amends repeatedly.
    • Kyle is often treated as this as well, especially in the earlier seasons. He's often relegated to doing non-job related tasks for Ed, and subject to a lot of playful insults. (However, Mike points out in the second episode that putting a radar collar on Kyle and have him run around the store is inappropriate workplace behavior.) But he handles everything with such joy for his job and love for Ed and Mike that he's eventually promoted to be a showroom manager, basically getting paid more to do these odd tasks because he works well with the entire crew.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: when Vanessa teaches a class at Eve's school her friend Cammy observes that she is really smart and Eve comments that she also hopes to inherit her mother's very enviable large cleavage.
  • Calling the Old Man or Woman Out:
    • Mandy is able to land one on Mike in "High Expectations." Eve wants to quit soccer so she could spend more time with friends and Mike refuses to let her. Eve ends up skipping soccer practice to go to a party, where she has some tequila shots and gets drunk. Mandy comes to help her sober up and bring her home, bailing out of choir to do so. At home, Mike and Vanessa quickly notice that Eve is drunk and blame Mandy for it. Mike and Mandy get into an argument over how much attention he gives Eve while ignoring what's going on in Mandy's life, with Mandy saying, "Eve so much as mentions quitting soccer and you act like it's the end of the world. But I had to leave choir early to go help her and I might lose my solo but you, you couldn't care less!" Mike actually takes this to heart and apologizes to her the next morning.
  • Camp Straight: Kyle likes feminine stuff like baking and watching Chick Flick Romantic Comedy movies. However, he's clearly not gay since he dates Kristin in the first season and Mandy in the second and third.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin':
    • Played with. The three daughters often do things that frustrate Mike, but not bad enough to ground them over it. But in one episode, Eve dents Mandy's car after Mandy makes her drive it, and in the process of pulling out the dent the paint gets ripped off. They cover it up with a "Say No to Drugs" sticker and Mike sees through the entire story immediately. He doesn't care much, figuring Mandy driving the car with that sticker on it would be enough punishment.
    • In a later episode, Mandy plans on moving into a new apartment, but deliberately doesn't tell Mike that Kyle is going to move in with her. While other people are just learning about it, Mike deduces that this is her plan without anyone telling him because it makes logical sense (she was moving just far enough away where Mike and Vanessa wouldn't be seeing her everyday and Kyle was going to be over there all the time anyway). Funny enough, the situation deteriorates long before that information gets back around to him.
  • Casual Kink: when Eve gets a hunky new soccer tutor all the Baxter girls are smitten with him. However Mandy takes things a step further, outlining a scenario where she encounters him on a deserted beach whilst wearing a flimsy peasant dress and "Then things get nasty...".
  • Celebrity Star:
    • Kim Kardashian guest stars in one episode in Season 1.
    • Along with Nick Jonas, who also guest starred as Kristin's baby daddy and ex-boyfriend in the Christmas Episode during the same season.
    • Jay Leno turns up as the former owner of Mike's 1967 Impala in the fifth season.
    • Reba McEntire guest stars in "Outdoor Woman" as Mike's college girlfriend Billie Cassidy.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: "Polar Run" is a light-hearted episode until Eve finds out she was rejected from West Point.
  • Christmas Creep: Used in a throwaway line in "The Gratitude List":
    Mike: Thanksgiving night, already five neighbors have their Christmas lights up.
  • Christmas Episode: Just like Home Improvement, there's been one every season (except Season 8 which started after the holiday):
    • Season 1: "Last Christmas Standing". Ryan returns to town and wants to reconnect with Boyd, while Mandy demands better working conditions for her fellow elves at Outdoor Man.
    • Season 2: "Putting a Hit on Christmas". Mike and Vanessa decide they want to spend Christmas by themselves and attempt to have the girls go on different trips for the holidays.
    • Season 3: "Elfie". Mike and Vanessa want Boyd to celebrate Christmas the traditional way (with Jesus and Santa Claus), while Ryan wants him to celebrate other cultures' customs and without the fantasy aspects. Meanwhile, Mandy, after asking only for cash for Christmas, has a change of heart when she meets Blanca's niece, whose father is stationed in Afghanistan.
    • Season 4: "Wedding Planning." Mike and Vanessa offer Kristin and Ryan a large sum of money for their wedding as a Christmas gift, only to refuse to give it to them when the two reveal how they're actually going to spend it. Meanwhile, Ed tries to teach Kyle how to play poker.
    • Season 5: "Gift of the Wise". Mike asks the rest of the family to take care of some of the Christmas preparations to ease the strain on Vanessa, only for them to screw them up.
    • Season 6: "My Name is Rob". Mike and Vanessa meet Eve's boyfriend Rob and find out he's a recovering alcoholic while Mandy puts up Kristin to dropping hints to Kyle about what to get her for Christmas.
    • Season 7: "The Gift of the Mike Guy". Mike tries to get Ed a special Christmas present, Eve returns home for a visit, and Vanessa tries to teach her daughters the value of long-standing holiday traditions.
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene: Ed's girlfriend Wendi miscarries their late in life child, something he admits is partly a relief but still leaves them both heartbroken.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Kristin and Ryan discuss changing Boyd's last name to Vogelson, upsetting Mike, who want him to carry on the Baxter name. Later in the store, he discusses it with Ed and Kyle, leading to:
    Mike: Ryan wants to change Boyd's name to Vogelson.
    Kyle: Vogelson Baxter? I like Boyd better.
    Ed: Vogelson would be his last name, you idiot
    Kyle: Vogelson Vogelson? Ok, now that I like.
  • Commander Contrarian: Kristin. Ryan, of all people, eventually calls her out on it.
    Ryan: You're just disagreeing with your dad just to disagree with him. He says, "up," and you say, "down." You go against him just to drive him crazy even when he's right.
  • Conflict Ball: Eve's boyfriend Justin demanding that she wear a dress instead of her formal JROTC uniform to the prom seems pretty out of character based on his other appearances (especially in the season four opener where he's perfectly fine with her joining the football team).
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • In "Found Money", Kristin and Kyle mutually decide to break up when they realize they had little in common and move on immediately. Three seasons later in "Eve's Breakup", Kristin claims that she dumped Kyle and he spent the next six months trying to win her back.
    • The season one episode "High Spirits" establishes Mike's birthday as being in the winter while season five's "The Road Less Driven" has it take place in the fall.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: A rather depressing example happens in season four. Ed gets Wendi pregnant but they decide to keep the baby. "Three Sundays" reveals that she ends up having a miscarriage. Given that women of her age have a slim chance of being able to carry a baby to full term, this was almost inevitable.
  • Cool Car:
    • Mike drives a 1956 Ford F100 (from Tim Allen's personal collection) most of the time. [[spoiler:The series ends with it being stolen and destroyed at a chop shop).
    • In "The Road Less Driven" he's given a 1967 Impala by Vanessa as a project car for his birthday.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Zigzagged in "Kyle's Friend." Kyle's homeless friend Dave and his associates play this trope straight. However, Morgan, a homeless woman to whom Mandy gives a makeover, subverts this. She is a completely sane person who became homeless due to tragic circumstances.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-Universe, this is what made the Outdoor Man Internet Ads so popular, as Mike skewed into a long rant that he probably didn't intend to be shown. But his attitude was so fired up and his comments so funny that it became an Instant Web Hit.
  • Cringe Comedy: Every time Vanessa talks to the Larabees and tries to avoid being Mistaken for Racist. Chuck will often Troll her just to make it more uncomfortable for her.
  • Crossover: "Dual Time" is a crossover between this and Home Improvement, with Tim Taylor coming over to fix the garbage disposal.
  • Cut Short:
    • The show’s initial cancellation didn’t allow for a proper finale because the production staff thought the show, which was one of the network's highest rated, would be renewed for a seventh season. The show only had a light storyline anyway, but things such as Eve going to college and Kyle inheriting some land from his mother are left unexplored.
    • Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the eighth season was shut down before the season-ending 22nd episode could be filmed.
  • Cutting the Knot: Jokingly suggested in "Dad Hat," when Mike teaches Eve and Boyd how to set up a fishing line. Eve suggests they use guns or hand grenades to kill the fish instead. Mike obviously tells her no.
  • Damned By a Fool's Praise: In one episode, Ryan mentions that he's highly active on the Huffington Post comments section.
  • Darker and Edgier: Although very similar in tone and style to Home Improvement, having Tim Allen take on the more Archie Bunker-esque role of Mike here opposed to the more huggable accident-prone man child of Tim Taylor (along with the show's much more more overt and contentious political topicality) make it a mild version of this trope.
  • Dating Do-Si-Do: Kyle originally dates Kristin during the first season, and because of working with Mike and being friends with the family in general, eventually starts dating Mandy. Unusual for the trope, it's acknowledged that a guy dating sisters at different times can be tricky, and Mandy ends up getting Kristin's blessing before pursuing him and making it official. Ed is suitably impressed.
    Ed: Kyle pulled off sisters?! He's going to be bragging about that in bars for years!
  • Dating What Daddy Hates:
    • Played with. Mike actually likes Kyle and introduced him to Kristin, considering him a good kid and with a surrogate parent/son relationship between them that keeps Kyle around even after he and Kristin broke up. Mike does think Kyle has some way to go before becoming a husband or father, which is what annoys him when Kyle and Mandy start dating.
    • Played straight with Ryan in multiple ways, the core of it being that Ryan ran out on Kristin for several years and exacerbated by Ryan being every liberal stereotype you can imagine. However, by season four, Mike has come to accept that he does sincerely regret what he did and truly cares about Kristin and Boyd, earning his respect.
      • After Ryan calls Kristin out on being a Commander Contrarian, he leaves the room, only to come back and ask her whether she is only dating him to invoke this trope.
    • Eve's boyfriend Justin inverts this because he's seemingly everything Mike would want in one of his daughter's boyfriends (a football player, JROTC member, very religious), but he still doesn't like him.
    • Subverted with Eve's new boyfriend Rob. After initially playing the overprotective dad role, Mike starts to warm up to the guy (aside from the fact he's an Oakland Raiders fan). Then when he finds out he's a recovering alcoholic at 20 years old, he's understandably worried about how this will affect Eve. After Eve reveals she knows about it, Mike tells her he respects the fact that Rob was upfront and honest about it and is intent on staying sober.
  • Deconstructed Trope: "Rediscover America" deconstructs the Jackie Robinson Story/You Go, Girl! tropes. Everyone keeps praising Eve for her performance as her high school football team's kicker and how inspirational it is for women everywhere. On the other hand, Eve hates being singled out by the press and would rather have people not make a big deal of it and treat her just like the other players. Eventually the pressure of representing women gets to her and her performance suffers as a result.
  • A Degree in Useless:
    • In one episode, Vanessa tells Eve that with her major in Geology, the only career paths available to her are working in energy companies and teaching.
    • Ryan is implied to have one of these since he spent his years away from Kristin and Boyd at college, but can only find employment as a beer truck driver. Season six reveals that it's a B.A. in History.
    • Mike subverts this since he majored in Marketing which, as demonstrated by the Baxters' standard of living, paid off quite well.
  • Demoted to Extra: Boyd appeared in less than half of Season Four's episodes and only plays a major role in three of them.
    • In the seventh season Eve ends up only appearing every fourth episode or so, due to attending school at the Air Force Academy. This was partially a convenience of planning, Kaitlyn Dever was looking to expand her film career and Eve's efforts to go to college was already a recurring plot point of the previous three seasons.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • You would think Ryan would have been smart enough to take his protest pictures without wearing his beer company's uniform, seeing as displaying the logo would imply the company agrees with his views. Nope. He does it with the uniform on and winds up getting suspended from work.
    • Kyle has done a lot of dumb stuff, but trying to shoot a bear that got inside the Outdoor Man warehouse with an empty tranquilizer dart really takes the cake.
  • Disappeared Dad: Boyd's father Ryan disappeared until he reappeared in the first season Christmas Episode and became a Recurring Character in the second season to take responsibility and rekindle his relationship with Kristin.
  • Discriminate and Switch: Happens frequently with the Larabees.
    • In "High Expectations", Mike tells Vanessa he doesn't want to befriend the Larabees because they're neighbors.
    • In "Big Brother," Mike calls Chuck about a cat roaming the neighborhood. In the course of the conversation, he refers to Chuck as "people like you." Cat-lovers.
    • In "Gift of the Wise," Kyle complains that Chuck doesn't have the right look to play Santa. He's too tall.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Vanessa (also Blanca & Mandy to a lesser extent) in Season Two's "Private Coach". Rather than focus on Eve's playing, Vanessa's camera work tends to linger on Asst. Coach Octavio and his butt.
  • Do Wrong, Right: When Mandy gets caught sneaking in past her curfew, Vanessa goes to talk to her and tells her to get better at sneaking back into the house without Mike noticing.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The season seven premiere "Welcome Baxter" both refers to Eve returning home after her first year at the Air Force Academy and, on a meta-level, Fox welcoming the show to its network after the Channel Hop.
  • Double Standard: According to Kristin, Eve should only be described as "female placekicker" in newspaper articles about her football team when they win.
  • Dreaded Kids' Table: Eve didn’t want to get stuck at the kids table with Boyd.
  • Dumb Is Good: Kyle doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and is so innocent Puppy-Dog Eyes is basically his default expression. When Vanessa hinted to Mandy that she should move on to college guys instead of blue-collar Kyle, Kyle finds out and is actually angry with her. Mike was astonished, saying it was like getting a goldfish to hate you.

  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • In the early episodes, Mike had some Bumbling Dad tendencies that were eventually phased out. Justified because he was adjusting to being at home more often and taking a bigger role in raising his daughters so he was prone to making mistakes.
    • The first season was pretty light on politics or commenting on social issues, while the second season rarely does anything but that. By the fourth season the show reached an equilibrium where not every episode was political, but many still were.
    • Mike's vlogs were initially just him staring into the web cam sharing some thoughts, and in the first season his office was on the right side of the Outdoor Man set. The vlogs became more elaborately produced with props, green screen work and some on-location events, while Mike's office was moved to the left side of the set (switching with Ed's office). The vlogs eventually went back to primarily Mike talking into the camera, with a slightly more casual and refined style.
  • Easily Forgiven: Zigzagged with each Baxter family member in regards to Ryan. While Kristin allows him back into Boyd's life, it's implied it took a while for her to do so. Vanessa immediately welcomes him when he does come back into town and does whatever she can to help him. Mandy and Eve are neutral about it, but they don't like Ryan on a personal basis. Mike, however, is not happy about it at all and refuses to forgive him or let him forget what he did for a long time.
  • Easter Egg: In one episode, Ryan returns Mike's tools and his toolbox is a Binford brand.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Ed to Mike. Though Mike's well past being mentored, he considers Ed to be a second father and learned a lot from him as they brought up Outdoor Man together. These days Ed focuses more on the "eccentric" part.
  • Election Day Episode: These are expected with the political nature of this show. One episode that came during the 2012 election involved Mandy being able to vote for the first time, with Mike encouraging her to vote for Mitt Romney and Kristen encouraging her to vote for Barrack Obama. Mandy's choice is never revealed in the episode.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: To prove how cool she is to her daughters, Vanessa decides to get a rose tattoo on her ankle. However, she chickens out in the middle of the session and runs out, leaving just the stem.
  • Escalating War: "Halloween" features a prank war with Mike and Chuck competing against Vanessa and Carol, who pulled the first one as a punishment for the two skipping Halloween to watch football.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Mike setting up Kristin with Kyle. He may be hard on her and sometimes rude, but he does what he can to help.
  • Exact Words: After Boyd rode a mechanical sheep at Outdoor World and Ryan decided it wasn't so bad that Boyd did so, as they go home Ryan tells Boyd not to tell Kristen because he wants to talk to her first. Ryan says they're home and Boyd immediately tells her what he did, pointing out that Ryan "talked" to Kristen first (he didn't say he wanted to tell her first).
  • Expy: With Home Improvement, the three Baxter girls match up in personality with the three Taylor boys: Kristin is the snarky intellectual that Randy was, Mandy is innocent and gullible like Mark and Eve is the sports fanatic who bonds most with dad like Brad. Vanessa is also similar to Jill in being a career-focused woman with a strong personality. Mike subverts this however. Compared to Tim Taylor, he is more intelligent, politically astute, mature, and rational, completely avoiding the Bumbling Dad role. It later becomes a case of Expy Coexistence when Tim himself shows up to help fix Mike's garbage disposal.
  • Fandom Rivalry: In-Universe, Mike and Vanessa are alumni of the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University, respectively. Since the two schools are arch enemies, they frequently poke fun at the other institution. Mike went so far as to hide Eve's acceptance letter from OSU to ensure she wouldn't go there.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Not only does Ryan try to raise Boyd without religion, he also tries to keep him from believing in anything fantasy related. When Eve tricked Boyd into believing that a Christmas elf doll was really magical, Ryan immediately told Boyd the truth, resulting in Boyd becoming depressed and earning Ryan a What the Hell, Hero? from Mike.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: A minor one in the pilot episode. Mike invited Kyle over to take Mandy on a date, when he arrives he mistook Kristin for Mandy and invites her to see a movie, which she accepts. When Mike sees the error (and how Kristin has warmed up to him) he tries to roll with it by telling Kyle that "Mandy" prefers to be called Kristin. When they leave Vanessa tells him that is not going to last long and he agrees. The last joke is Kristin storming in the front door, looking at him and exclaiming "Mandy!?"
  • Flanderization:
    • Kristin started off as an overprotective mom who felt Boyd was too young to be exposed to the Halloween "pagan death imagery," and was mostly about her I Coulda Been a Contender! regrets about being a young mom and putting her career dreams on hold. Starting with the recasting and the second season, she became a lot more of a liberal Granola Girl who was trying to keep Boyd away from anything negative whatsoever, dodge ball being just the start of that, and her attempts at going back to college were dropped. Could be justified in that Ryan exacerbates that side of her. Then in season three she undergoes Character Development that brings her closer to her previous characterization and by season six she's completely de-flanderized.
    • Kyle was originally a very eager and sincere guy who, while not well educated, was intelligent, observant and sometimes even eloquent, but not quick-witted or able to pick up on hints. Over the seasons he became a lot more Sarcasm-Blind and Literal-Minded, misunderstanding basic figures of speech and other terms. Depending on the Writer, he fluctuates back into being observant and eloquent.
    • Happens in-universe when Mike decides the theme for a Halloween party and has everyone in the family swap roles. They all proceed to act like cartoon versions of each other.
  • Fleeting Passionate Hobbies: The Baxters' garage is filled with boxes containing items from various hobbies Ryan pursued (ukulele playing, cheese making, leather working) before quitting. It becomes justified when Ryan reveals he had to give most of them up because they conflicted with him caring for Boyd (e.g. Boyd was allergic to cheese).
  • Food Slap: Bill McKendree takes out his anger and frustration at Mike by pouring a beer on Boyd's head at a baseball game.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Kristin and Mandy are the foolish, Eve is the responsible.
  • Forbidden Fruit: In "The Gratitude List", Mandy admits that she doesn't like wine as much as she did when she was under 21 and not legally allowed to drink it.
  • Foreshadowing: In one season one episode, Kyle makes the remark that Mike might eventually be his father-in-law. A few seasons later, this actually happens.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: "Thanksgiving" has the following plot lines:
    • Mike and his father disagree over the latter's decision to open a marijuana dealership.
    • Boyd tries to do a video report about what each family member is thankful for.
    • Eve tries to avoid having to sit at the kid's table with Boyd.
    • Mandy is upset that Kyle can't come to dinner and tries to convince Vanessa to let her drink wine.
    • Ryan places a bet on the Detroit Lions game despite knowing nothing about football or how sports gambling works.
  • Free-Range Children: "Free Range Parents" discusses the ongoing trend of parents not allowing their kids to ride the bus or walk to school, but be driven both ways by them, due to increased media attention on child abduction. Ryan is terrified for Boyd's safety, but his efforts to still feel in control when Boyd is allowed to walk home from school backfire.
  • "Friends" Rent Control:
    • Averted by virtue of being set in Denver (lower cost of living), with both Mike and Vanessa working fairly lucrative jobs (Outdoor Man is the main hub of a national chain of stores). Their neighborhood is shown to also be rather nice, making this one of the few sitcoms to really focus on upper-middle class people.
    • Also averted with Kristin and Ryan's apartment. Because they do not earn that much, they live in an inner city neighborhood with a school system so bad, they use Mike and Vanessa's address so Boyd can go to their neighborhood's school instead.
  • Genius Ditz: When Mandy goes to college for a fashion degree, she immediately starts doing well because she is studying something which interests her. She later reveals she made the Dean's List - and in her ensuing conversation with Mike, she continues to make a lot of Malaprops and Literal-Minded mistakes, which Mike lampshades.
  • Girliness Upgrade: Mandy gives this to tomboy Eve when she is going to her first high school dance, transforming her into stunning beauty. She comments "Look, I made a GIRL! It only took me 2 hours!".
  • Glamorous Single Mother: Subverted with Kristin. It's established that the only reason she was able to do it was because her parents and sisters helped her.
  • Glorified Sperm Donor: How Mike views Ryan, despite Kristin and Vanessa's efforts to get him to see otherwise. The relationship eventually improves.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In the fifth season finale, Mandy suggests that she and Kyle stay at the Baxter home after they get married. Neither Mike or Vanessa are happy about the idea, but taking a chance on Kyle's hesitation (he's lived on his own terms since he was 16), they suggest a trial period to see how well everyone likes the scenario, expecting it to implode. To their surprise, Kyle's friendly demeanor and eagerness to be part of the family was infectious, and they realize that they truly love having him there. Instead, it's Mandy who isn't overly happy with the arrangement - because she feels like her parents are monopolizing his attention.
  • Good Parents: Mike and Vanessa clearly love their daughters, know the right amount of discipline to give them when they do something wrong, and make sure they don't spoil them.
  • Halloween Episode: Once a Season, except for Season 2, which didn't premiere until November, or Season 8, which premiered in January.
    • "Last Halloween Standing" in Season 1. Against Kristin's wishes, Mike takes Boyd out trick-or-treating and winds up mixing him up with another kid in a similar costume.
    • "Haunted House" in Season 3. Vanessa takes over the PTA haunted house responsibility from Kristin for Boyd's school Halloween party and winds up scaring him with her design.
    • "School Merger" in Season 4. The main plot focuses on a local election ballot proposal to close Taft High—a failing school—and merge it with better-performing schools. But Vanessa's dissatisfaction with her job is fueled by Boyd's Halloween costume: a lump of coal ("the scariest thing on earth" according to Ryan).
    • "Halloween" in Season 5. Mike and Chuck get into a prank war with Vanessa and Carol after the former decide they'd rather watch college football than hand out candy to trick or treaters.
    • "Trick or Treat" in season 6. The Baxters dress up as each other for a Halloween party and hurt each other's feelings with their impressions.
    • "Bride of Pranksenstein" in season 7. Mike and Vanessa both prank their friends and family to get into the spirit of Halloween, and Kristin, Ryan, Mandy, and Kyle hold a seance in Kyle's mother's trailer.
  • Happily Married: Mike and Vanessa. They have their disputes, but they always come back to loving each other dearly. A young sponsor visiting their home even comments on how quickly they resolved an argument.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Mike initially comes off a lot like his predecessor Tim Taylor, maybe even a bit more of a staunch conservative and sometimes even a deliberate jerkass. But he really is a loving father and husband, and his rants about the disintegrating male image doesn't mean he is himself chauvinistic. When Outdoor Man is forced to make their softball team co-ed, Mike is supportive of it.
    • While Eve mocks the other women for being too feminine and claims she doesn't care about being a tomboy, a few episodes show that she is self-conscious about the fact that boys aren't throwing themselves at her like they did for Kristin and Mandy.
    • Kyle can be pretty dense and is certainly not book smart, but he is a thoughtful individual and highly teachable. Most of the mistakes he makes are not (solely) from being stupid, but from just being a Nice Guy who naturally trusts and supports people. When called upon for his opinion, he more often than not provides an intelligent observation that everyone else was too bullheaded to realize. On a couple of occasions, he is able to see through Mike's frustration and provide a solution while showing a backbone, such as in "Adrenaline" where Mike misses his world traveling adventures and Kyle dares him to drive a race car.
    • Ryan is every liberal stereotype rolled into one, and backs it up with being very socially active and willing to take a hit to prove his point. But he is not unreasonable when presented with good logistics that go against his first instincts. He advocates how good it would be for Boyd to go to a culturally diverse school (which is also overcrowded and understaffed); but when Mike suggests a perfectly legal and free way Boyd could go to a school that would offer a better education overall, he has to admit he feels better about that scenario, putting him in conflict with Kristin over the idea.
      • Another example is in "Big Shots". While he initially supports Kristin's decision not to get Boyd vaccinated, he then decides to actually do some research on the subject and comes to agree with Mike and Vanessa. He even goes so far as to use Boyd's appointment for vaccinations to have himself given an adult chicken pox vaccine, since his research showed that his never having it or being vaccinated meant he could die from contracting it.
    • Mandy is airheaded by default and appears very self-centered, but she is actually one of the most altruistic members of the family. Her obsession with celebrities means she is also caught up in celebrity causes, and her passion for fashion comes from enjoying making people look and feel better about themselves; one episode shows that she gives makeovers to residents at a homeless shelter so they can look good for job interviews. She is also still a Baxter at heart, being familiar with camping and gun use.
  • High-School Sweethearts: Ryan and Kristin were sweethearts back in high school before she got pregnant. He ran off on her right before Boyd was born.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Kyle. His father was physically abusive and his mother was neglectful and often absent. It's part of the reason he latched onto the Baxter family so hard.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick:
    • Mike tends to be more more rational and level-headed with the day-to-day operations of Outdoor Man, keeping Ed from being both staunchly old-fashioned and too ready to try bizarre strategies.
    • Oddly enough, Kyle is revealed to be this in "Vanessa Fixes Kyle." Vanessa wants to encourage Kyle into a place outside his skill set, being a boat salesman (he uses Brutal Honesty innocently, which leads him to bring up problematic issues with the boats). With him no longer running errands for Mike and Ed, productivity takes a dive across the entire store. Kyle manages to sell a boat, but hates the experience because he has to ignore the practical needs of the customer. He eventually gets his old job back, but with a special job title as sales floor coordinator, since Mike and Ed recognize his value running errands for them and knowing the entire store personnel.
  • Hypocrite:
    • The manager of Boyd's daycare promotes being open minded about ideas to the kids, then tells Boyd that Mike's ideas are wrong. Kristin calls him out on this.
    • In "Bullying," Mandy keeps bragging that she's a better daughter than Eve because she never got suspended from school. At the end of the episode, it turns out she has been suspended. Twice.
    • Ryan has tendency to be rather hypocritical about his beliefs.
      Ryan: (regarding the Pledge of Allegiance) It's indoctrination... I don't like the school forcing him to say something.
      Mike: But you're forcing him not to say something. Isn't that indoctrination, man?
    • Vanessa constantly chastises Mike for neglecting their other two daughters so he can spend more time with Eve, even though she does the same thing in reverse.
    • Mike, being a off the cuff conservative, proclaims all liberals to be "snowflakes" and "easily triggered" but he himself can be riled-up by just the mention of any liberal point he disagrees with, and often brings them up himself without provocation. He also says liberals can never debate or defend their stance when push comes to shove, but any time strong arguments are made against him or he is forced onto the defensive (via Kristin or even Ryan) he will ignore them entirely in order to remain in the right.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Mike's response after seeing the slutty farm girl outfit Mandy has to wear for her sorority party:
      Mike: It's group-think, and I refuse to support any organization that makes its members wear certain clothes. [walks past Eve wearing her JROTC uniform] Looking sharp, Eve.
    • From "Here's the Kicker:"
      Mike: There's 16 seconds left, you're down by 2! Put in the field goal kicker!
      Chuck: Give it a rest, Baxter. Let the coach call the plays. Give it to my boy again!

  • I Am Not Left-Handed: In "Ping Pong," while reviving their old tradition of playing ping-pong together, Mandy keeps talking trash about how bad she always beat Mike and how good she is at ping-pong. After goading him too much, Mike switches to his right hand and proceeds to curb stomp her. Amusingly, she complains that he is using a left-handed paddle in his right hand, so he switches back to his left hand and still beats her soundly. When asked why he went easy on her, he said he preferred her bragging about winning than being a Sore Loser.
  • I Am Not My Father: Ryan is reluctant to take over coaching Boyd's hockey team because he doesn't want to act like his dad did when he coached Ryan.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Kristin, who was voted most likely to succeed by her high school class, often wonders what she could have done with her life if she didn't get pregnant before graduating.
  • I Let You Win: Subverted in "Big Shots". After Eve beats Kyle in a shooting gallery game, Mandy guesses that Kyle let Eve win because he's a nice guy which he confirms. When Mandy tells Eve, who then demands a rematch, Kyle reveals that he didn't let her win and just went along with Mandy's guess because he liked that she thought he was such a nice guy.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: "The Fixer" has Eve caught off-guard when Rob tells her he loves her. Mandy and Kristin tell her that if she's not sure how she feels, she has to dump him. When Eve goes to do so, Rob reveals the only reason he said it was because his older brother told him girls like it when guys do that. They agree to just pretend it never happened and ignore any advice their siblings give them in the future.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: After Kyle successfully turns a laser pointer into a car through a string of bartering, Ed expresses disbelief that someone traded a Prius for a lunchbox. Chuck points out that Kyle never actually said what model car he got and asks Ed how he knew. It turns out Ed actually bought the Prius from the car dealer who got Kyle's lunch box.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Multiple actors from Home Improvement show up, always with a healthy dose of self-awareness:
    • Richard Karn as Bill MacKensie in "Attractive Architect," who thought Mike had three sons.
    • Jonathan Taylor Thomas has a recurring role as John Baker, whom Mike really likes and even notes that affectionately calling him "son" feels right.
    • Patricia Richardson plays a neighbor who recently lost her husband "Tom", and is the mother of a son named "Randy", causing problems by working with loud power tools early in the morning.
    • Blake Clark appeared as the owner of the music club where Eve performed during an open mic night. Unlike the others, there weren't any jokes regarding his previous role of Harry Turner, the hardware store owner.
    • Aside from the Home Improvement examples, Tye Sheridan began showing up as Justin after he and Kaitlyn Dever (Eve) worked on an independent film together.
    • Taken to its logical conclusion in the second episode of the final season, where Tim the Tool Man himself appears, with Tim Allen playing both roles at the same time.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The first season started off with "Last X Standing" and something appropriate to the episode story. Quickly dropped.
  • Idiot Savant: In "Vanessa Fixes Kyle," Kyle ends up making some personnel changes that would improve productivity at the store. When pressed on why those suggestions, and Kyle gave reasons that only his perspective interacting with everyone as a floating employee could provide. While he might not be very intelligent or quick-witted, he is still observant and wanting to make everyone happy means figuring out how to accomplish that.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Eve's female friend Cammy has a crush on her, which Eve does not reciprocate due to the fact she's attracted to guys.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun: The activities Kristin and Ryan plan for Boyd (such as seeing a puppet version of Hamlet).
    Boyd: Let's go see the sad play that I won't understand.
  • Instant Expert: Subverted eventually when Mike recruits Kristin to help design, build, and run the Outdoor Man Grill. It was said that she did an amazing job, but Mike later reveals that she dropped the ball on a lot of things and he had to cover for her. Her prior experience was in day-to-day operation of a restaurant and she excelled at it, but didn't properly hit deadlines and deal with inspectors.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Eve claims that the reason she was accepted into the Air Force Academy was because she bashed West Point in her application essay.
  • Invisible President: "Election" averts this by name-checking both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
  • Irony: In "Mike Hires Chuck," Vanessa berates Mike after Ed hires Chuck for Outdoor Man's overnight security, claiming that any work issues would negatively affect their relationship. However, even after Chuck's team fails to prevent a group of vandals, Mike and Chuck are still able to remain on their usual terms. Instead, it is Vanessa and Carol who begin to argue after Carol criticizes Vanessa's teaching performance at the inner city school they are working at.
  • It Amused Me: The reason Eve didn't rent a hunting dog when she and Mandy went pheasant hunting was because she enjoyed watching Mandy retrieve the killed game herself.
  • It's All About Me: Ryan. His self-centered nature caused his relationship with Kristin and Boyd to be strained.
    • Mandy is another example.
      Mandy: I should be playing Juliet. I am so much prettier than Chloe Foster.
      Kristin: Okay, well, maybe Chloe Foster is a better actress.
      Mandy: Okay, now you just sound like the director.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ryan. Although he can be shallow, self-centered and extremely rude and pushy about his beliefs, he does care for Kristin and tries to have a good relationship with his son.
    • Mike. He comes off as too conservative and opinionated, but he clearly loves his family and friends and is willing to do anything to help them (as evidenced by helping Kristin raise Boyd).
  • Jerkass Ball: All three Baxter daughters have held this over the course of the series.
  • Jerkass Realization: "In Back to School," Mike offers to let Kristin and Ryan use his address so Boyd can attend their local elementary school instead of his current inner-city school. Even though Mike raises several good points about why it would be better for him, Kristin refuses to listen and calls him a toxic influence. After Mike leaves, Ryan points out that it really is better for Boyd to switch schools and that the only reason Kristin doesn't agree is that the idea came from her dad. Kristin then realizes that she's been a jerk to her dad and apologizes.
  • Kind Hearted Simpleton: Kyle
  • Kinky Role-Playing: when Mike catches Vanessa wearing her reading glasses to grade papers he asks if she's finally agreed to his "Hot librarian" fantasy?
  • The Lad-ette: Eve is much more interested in male activities and often complains about the girly stuff her mom and sisters want her to do.
    Mike: That's my boy.
    Eve: Still a girl, Dad.
    Mike: Just let me have this.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • In "Thanksgiving" (Bud's first appearance after the role of Kristin was recast), when Bud greets Kristin, he tells her she's "like an entirely different person".
    • "Welcome Baxter" (the first episode after Fox picked up the show) opens with Kyle, Vanessa, and Mike discussing the possibility that Kyle's favorite show was cancelled. Then at Mike's suggestion, Kyle finds his favorite show on another channel.
      Vanessa: Oh, Mike, they don't just take a show off one network and put it on a different network.
    • Also in that episode, Kyle realizes that Mandy (who was recast) "changed something about herself", but he struggles to figure out what.
      Kyle: I've got it! You're taller and blond!
      Mandy: Yes!
  • The Last Straw: After Kristin does a great job decorating the Baxters' Christmas tree for Vanessa, she shows the family a final ornament she made and puts it on the tree. The tree proceeds to fall over.
  • The Last Title: The title of the series.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • The vlogs in general do this a little bit - if you pay attention to the various ads on the screen surrounding the actual footage of Mike, they all have some sort of connection to the plot of the episode.
    • In "Rediscover America," Mike says that Friday night is the only good night on TV.
    • Helen Potts (Patricia Richardson) says that Mike reminds her of her late husband, but not as clever (aka how most critics feel about this show compared to Home Improvement).
    • "Take Me to Church" has Mike's vlog about the importance of community intercut with scenes of the Baxter family getting involved with the church community during service. As the vlog ends, it pulls out to reveal Mike was actually watching the vlog on his phone while they were at the service. Vanessa asks why he was watching it and Mike says that it "lined up pretty good with what was going on here."
    • This exchange between Mike and Joe (Jay Leno) in "Mike and the Mechanics":
      Mike: Hey, wait, wait. You actually wanted to be a comedian? Then what's the job you get after that? Like, a talk show host?
      Joe: Sure. Why not? You get to talk to beautiful women, you sit behind a desk, and you work, what, an hour a day?
      Mike: You're right. That's some kind of job. You'd have to be an idiot to walk away from that kind of job.
      Joe: Still better than being stuck on some stupid sitcom.
    • "What's In a Name:" When showing how "Baxter" is ahead of "Vogelson" in the alphabet, Mike starts with the last name "Allen," and later, mentions the nurse who helped deliver Boyd (and implied to be attractive) was named "Heidi," Tim's assistant's name on Home Improvement's Show Within a Show Tool Time.
    • The first episode of the seventh season, the first after the Channel Hop, features a large number of gags related to both being Uncanceled and recasting.
      • Kyle is looking for his favorite TV show and can't find it, leading to a number of jabs at why such a popular show would be canceled. They suggest it might have moved to a different channel and when Kyle does find it, the Last Man Standing theme song kicks in from the TV.
      • Mandy has apparently changed something about herself, which Kyle cannot figure out while the rest of the family sees immediately. At the end of the episode, Kyle finally realizes what it was and says she's taller and blonde now.
      • With all the conversation about Mandy being different, Mike says that they can always rely on him being exactly the same, complete with an Aside Glance. At the end of the episode Mike does his vlog and comments that refusing to listen leads to making bad choices, including canceling popular television shows.
      • The series finale leans heavily on the fourth wall as the Baxters come to terms with the unexpected end of Mike's prized Ford Truck, while also making several Biting-the-Hand Humor gestures at Fox.
  • Like a Son to Me: Mike treats Boyd like the son he never had more than his grandson. It's implied that part of the reason for his hostility towards Ryan is due to the fact that Mike essentially was Boyd's father for the first five years of his life, and doesn't want Ryan to take the role from him.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: Subverted. Most of Boyd's interests and personality come from Kristin's side of the family (Mike), much to Ryan's frustration.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Happens to Kyle every time Mandy plans on doing something with him that her parents would not approve of and lies about it.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Outdoor Man is a reasonably sized retail chain, at least 12 superstores and a number of smaller mall outlets, with the Denver location being the flagship and headquarters. Generally speaking, though, Mike and Ed seem to be the only upper management of the entire company. Ed still personally meets with salesmen trying to sell new products and shows up every day to handle the minutia of running the story, although it could be explained as Ed taking a hands on approach than actually being needed. Mike, however, is explicitly the marketing director, but outside of the vlogs (and advertising various sales) he handles a lot more than that job would entail. Mike even mentions that he should have been made a partner and own half the company. Outside of that, there are a number of employees further down the chain, such as Kyle, Chuck for security, Joe for vehicle maintenance, J.J. the dock foreman, etc.
  • Malaproper: Mandy most often. One time she listed her "career" path as a celebrity that includes reaching fame in a reality show and then having to go to rehab for an addition problem. Mike and Vanessa found the mistake to be appropriate regardless.
  • Mandatory Line: Many of Kristin's scenes in Season Four feel this way, considering she appears in the Baxters' house despite not living there anymore.
    • Eve only appears in the first scene of "The Ring" to say she's going on a field trip.
  • "Meet the Celebrity" Contest: In "The Friending Library," an in-universe contest called "Meet the Outdoor Man" celebrating Mike's vlogs, a conspiracy theorist wins the contest and is convinced that Mike is sending secret messages in his vlogs.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Mike's vlogs are intended to be advertising sales and products at Outdoor Man. Most installments wind up becoming more of an Author Tract, with a little bit of shilling at the beginning or end. In one, he finishes his rant and at the very end halfheartedly says "buy some tents." In another, due to the plot being Eve facing bullying at school for reposting his videos on social media, he actually sticks to just talking about fishing gear. Dialogue also suggests that Mike has to walk a long way from what he is selling to reach certain points. Of course, the vlogs are a huge hit and drive up sales anyway so Ed lets Mike have free rein with them.
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: Mandy and Eve's high school principal uses hand puppets when dealing with students.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Eve's friend Cammy Harris quite obviously has romantic feelings for her but she is blissfully unaware of them. They are quite apparent to Mandy however ("How was softball? You and Cammy get to second base? Third base? Adopt a cat together?"). Once pointed out to Eve she lets her down gently and they remain just friends.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: Happens to Ryan when he hides in the bushes near Boyd's elementary school to make sure the latter walks to the Baxters' house safely.
  • Mistaken for Racist:
    • Vanessa tries to avoid this every time she is with the Larabees by telling them how much she loves African-American artists and culture. Mike gets this often because he makes racial jokes, but he isn't actually racist.
    • During one Christmas, Ed tells his employees that he no longer wants to play Santa so Kyle tries to jump at the opportunity, but before he can, Chuck Larabee says that he'll do it. Kyle says that Chuck can't play Santa, but is hesitant to say why. After some tense moments, Kyle finally says that the reason Chuck can't play Santa is that he'll never fit into the suit that Ed wore.
  • Motive Misidentification:
    • After Kristin tells Mike and Vanessa that Eve's boyfriend Justin will be going with her and their squad on a Junior ROTC camping weekend, they assume she wanted to have a romantic getaway with him and forbid her to go. Eve gets upset and tells Kristin that she wanted to go on the trip because she practiced for an entire year for the competitions that are being held and she didn't even want Justin there because she's afraid his lackluster skills will cost her squad victory.
    • In "Here's the Kicker," Eve believes that Justin feels emasculated now that she is on the football team. When she talks to him about it, it turns out that he doesn't care that she's on the team and was just upset because Eve took his place at the Broncos' kicking contest, thus robbing him of the chance to win a Camaro.
    • When Kristin sees a negative Yelp review about Outdoor Man Grill and her host performance, she assumes the person who wrote it is a Troll who's trying to get a free meal by making things up. It then turns out the reviewer was Eve - and that Kristin did in fact treat her badly, because she cared more about pleasing the other customers.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Mandy wears some fanservice-y outfits on occasion. For example, in "Last Halloween Standing," her parents stuck Mandy with a Garfield costume that covered practically her whole body as her Halloween costume. She tried to sneak upstairs after coming home from a Halloween party, but Vanessa caught her, and she ultimately revealed underneath her overcoat a more revealing version of said cat costume, which shows off her... curves. All three daughters dress and dance provocatively in their "Inglorious Baxter" music videos and in one episode Ed hires a bevvy of bikini clad "Snow Bunny" models to help sell snowmobiles.
  • My Beloved Smother: Kristin tends to be very overprotective of Boyd (she makes him wear water wings in the bathtub).
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: A variation in "Here's the Kicker"
    Mike: (sitting with Eve and her boyfriend at a Broncos game) Doesn't get any better than this. You, me, the crowd, and the Broncos.
    Eve: And Justin.
    Mike: I said "the crowd."

  • Nepotism:
    • Many of the employees at Outdoor Man Grill believe that Kristin only became the manager because of this.
    • Inverted in "Tanks for the Memories." When Eve goes to eat at Outdoor Man, Kristin neglects her in favor of the customers to whom she is not related. She ends up having a terrible meal and posts a negative Yelp review in retaliation.
  • Never My Fault: After Kristin spanks Boyd, she blames Vanessa because she spanked Kristin two times when she was younger.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: "Man vs. Myth" deals with the death of Mike's dad some months earlier. Mike is unmoved, due to Bud's failings as a parent. He's even content to junk Bud's store and possessions, an attitude that outrages Kristin. Mike intends to tell her the unvarnished truth about Bud, but Chuck advises against that, explaining that he has similar feelings about his own father; Chuck doesn't mind voicing his complaints about his dad to friends, but he doesn't want to shatter Brandon's illusions of the man.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: All of Ryan's attempts to calm Boyd down after the latter and Mike almost drove into a sinkhole only cause him to refuse to leave the Baxter's house.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Eve finds herself having to deal with this a lot.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. An early season one episode had Eve struggling with her first period and all the mood swings that entails. Given that she's his youngest daughter, Mike is aware of the issues but it's awkward regardless, especially since Eve was the child to whom he relates the most via sports and she becomes just as emotional as the others.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: "Welcome Baxter" has Mike, Ed and Chuck discuss the politically charged atmosphere of America in 2018 and long for the old days when the country wasn't so divided. But then after they remember the times of The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and Red Scare, they realize that the turmoil in America isn't exactly new.
  • Not a Date: The Baxters and Larabees believe Eve and Brandon are dating because they were hanging out a lot and kept it a secret. It turns out Brandon was actually giving Eve golf lessons at the driving range.
  • Not So Above It All:
    • On occasion, Ryan will partake in Mike's more "manly" and dangerous activities for Boyd (hockey, mutton busting) and has been shown to be a bit misogynistic on occasion.
    • Granola Girl Kristin is a gun owner.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Baxters must deal with an arrogant official who refuses to pay for a city tree that broke their window during a storm and then orders them to remove a tree that he claims (with no proof) is infected with a disease in "Tree of Strife".
  • Odd Friendship: Kyle and Ed.
  • Old Media Playing Catch-Up: In-Universe, Mike was originally a world traveler doing photo shoots of their equipment while on location in exotic locales, all to be published in their catalog (which was rated best catalog by Catalog Magazine). Ed put a stop to it as they needed more focus on their website and internet marketing, which led to the Once an Episode vlogs. In the fifth season opener Mike was shown doing vlogs while on location in another round of travel and photo shoots, even mentioning an upcoming catalog release, indicating there was still a need for the old media in the new age.
  • Once an Episode: Each episode features one of Mike's vlogs for Outdoor Man, which usually ties thematically into the story's conflict.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Mike will not let Ryan forget that he walked out on Kristin and Boyd for 5 years, and the entire family won't hesitate to remind Kristin she got pregnant in high school.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: "The Ring" abuses this trope after the Baxters mistakenly believe that Kyle is going to propose to Mandy.
  • The One Guy: The premise of the series with Mike the only male Baxter in the cast, Boyd being too young to do the manly stuff Mike is anxious to do.
    Doctor: I'm concerned about your blood pressure.
    Mike: I live in a house with four women.
    Doctor: Then you're doing great.
  • One-Hour Work Week: Not used in general, but one episode lampshades the trope. The family learns previous residents have died in their house, sparking worries from Vanessa about dying alone. Mike spends time tracking down previous families to learn the truth and shows them a slide-show of the history of their house and those women, showing they died surrounded by family, and ending with a montage of their own family. Vanessa is grateful and Mike heads back to work late in the evening because he didn't get anything done during the work day due to making the video.
  • Only Sane Man: Mike and/or Vanessa, depending on the episode. Mike plays this role during the episodes where he makes decisions based on rationality and logic instead of emotions like the women and turns out to be right. Vanessa is this during the times when Mike gets carried away with his testosterone-fueled antics or conservative rants and has to reel him back in and convince him to make amends to whomever he has hurt or offended. Both of them are this in the episodes where their kids are the ones who screw up.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Played for Laughs in "Changing Light Bulbs". After Eve tells Mandy that she's happy the latter isn't moving out because she loves her, Mandy believes that Eve is dying.
    • Played straight in "Wedding Planning" where Vanessa, Ryan's biggest defender aside from Kristin, becomes furious at him for wanting to use Kristin's wedding fund to pay off his student debt.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: In "Restaurant Opening" Kyle is the one to express the opinion of Kristin being the manager due to nepotism and undermine her authority. Kyle is usually the first to avoid conflict, but someone had to be the voice for the rest of the restaurant crew.
  • Out of Focus: Boyd appeared in less than half of Season Four's episodes and only plays a major role in three of them.
  • Paintball Episode: Used in a parody of mafia/gangster movies, Ed tracks down all the employees who voted for co-ed softball and shoots them in the leg with a paintball gun.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • When Bill McKenzie (Richard Karn) spills beer on Boyd at a baseball game while being a Jerkass, Ryan punches him in the face.
    • When Mike's father Bud meets Ryan for the first time, he tells him that he swore he would kill him (Ryan) for abandoning Kristin and Boyd. He still thinks about doing it during their conversation.
    • In the "My Father the Car" episode, Ryan is actually uncomfortable with feeling carnally protective urges like Mike after Eve, who has just moved in with the Vogelsons, has her new boyfriend Rob spend the night. He does civilly instruct Eve not to do this again, especially as she lives with her 10-year-old nephew. As diplomatic as Ryan tries to be, though, he also says that if he catches Rob fooling around with her again, he'll eviscerate him.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • Downplayed example. While Mike and Vanessa clearly love all three kids, it's no secret that Mike likes Eve (the tomboy who loves sports, hunting, etc. just as much as he does) the best. Vanessa also bonded more with the more girly Kristin and Mandy, giving her some empty nest syndrome when she realizes Eve was the last daughter to hang out with.
    • Mike's dad favors his brother Jim over him. He's even misremembered some of Mike's achievements, such as catching a game-winning touchdown, as being Jim's.
    • This becomes the subject of "Three Sisters." When Mike chastises Kristin for giving Eve money to buy recording equipment after he and Vanessa said no, Kristin accuses him of favoring Mandy by allowing her to live at home and use the basement for her business rent free. Later, Mandy accuses them of favoring Eve for allowing her to take a gap year; then Kristin is accused of receiving favoritism for getting the job at Outdoor Man Grill along with several pay raises. Mike and Vanessa eventually concede that they do treat the kids differently based on their circumstances and abilities, but that it's impossible for them to make all the girls happy without sacrificing something for one of the others.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Kyle looks to Mike as a father figure, as he hasn't seen his own dad in years. As much as he likes to prank or tease Kyle, Mike grows extremely fond of the kid and takes the father figure role seriously.
    • Ryan tells Mike in "Daddy Dearest" that the latter has been more of a father to him than his real dad. Mike notes that that is pretty sad, considering all he does is make fun of Ryan.
    • As time has gone on, Ed has taken some of the role from Mike. Kyle still looks up to each and especially Mike, but Ed has grown to take a more active effort in mentoring Kyle; in more than one episode, he openly acknowledges that he loves Kyle like a son and even puts him in his will.
  • Passionate Sports Girl: Eve, specifically soccer, basketball, softball, and later in the series, football.
  • Personality Swap: "Wedding Planning" involves Mike offering Kristin and Ryan the money from a fund he and Vanessa set aside for each kid's wedding. Mike is hesitant to give them the money when they say that they're going to have a remote forest ceremony instead of a church, but relents when Vanessa encourages him to be more open to the idea. But when Kristin and Ryan confess that they would like to have a small wedding and use the money to pay off Ryan's school debt, Vanessa goes crazy and Mike has to calm her down.
  • Phone Aholic Teenager: Mandy
  • Phony Veteran: After Mike insults one of Vanessa's friends during a party she hosted, she gets angry and makes him promise to keep his opinions to himself when they go out to dinner with her and her new boyfriend. During the dinner, the boyfriend talks about his experiences as a Navy S.E.A.L., but Mike, being the son of a Korean War veteran as well as having an interest in military history and weaponry, quickly deduces that he's a fraud and struggles to not call him out on it.
  • Political Correctness Is Evil:
    • Mike feels this way about some aspects of modern society along with some of Ryan and Kristin's actions regarding raising Boyd.
      • And in an in-universe case of Artistic License – Religion, Ryan fails to note that Muslims still believe in Jesus (Isa) as a prophet even if they reject his divinity, and the fact still stands that Christianity and the events surrounding it are largely Middle Eastern, and not "white."
    • When talking about planning their wedding, Ryan insists on it not being held in a church, given that he's an atheist. When trying to convince him, Mike mentions that Ryan doesn't seem to have problems with any culture's beliefs except their own.
  • Political Overcorrectness:
    • In "Precious Snowflakes", Mandy asks Mike to give a speech at her college. Mike learns the school has to review his speech before he gives it, to ensure he doesn't say any micro-aggressions that may offend people. Their list includes typical ones such as "man" (which may offend non-binary people) but then goes on to say calling America "a place where anyone can succeed" is one because not every single person succeeds. Naturally, Mike gets riled up about it and refuses to speak.
    • Ryan is guilty of this in "Gift of the Wise Men," when he and Kyle are given the task of setting up a nativity scene, and Ryan convinces Kyle to create an "inclusive" display that consists of a sign reading "Your God Here" and an arrow. The problem is that this is a nativity scene for a church, for which a non-religious display is inappropriate. One wonders how Ryan would respond if a nonbeliever insisted on a watered-down "inclusive" display at a synagogue, mosque, or other (non-Christian) house of worship.
  • Potty Emergency: An early episode features Vanessa having one when she can't figure out how to open the baby-proofed toilet seat.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Jonathan Adams (Chuck Larabee) and Jordan Masterson (Ryan) in Season 4. In both cases, they're only credited in the episodes they appear. Masterson actually started as a Fake Guest Star when he joined the show in Season 2, appearing in a majority of the episodes through Season 3.
  • Proud Beauty: Mandy, much to Mike and Vanessa's chagrin.
  • Pungeon Master: Vanessa has a tendency to be this. It's remarked upon by just about everyone that her puns are never funny.
  • Pushover Parents: Kristin and Ryan don't believe in punishing Boyd and instead try to teach him to behave by using positive reinforcement (i.e. giving him candy after he does something good). This backfires on them when Boyd begins to refuse to do anything they say unless he gets a treat.
  • Pride: Vanessa's screw ups are often because of this trope.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Mike teaches Eve this lesson when she defies the football coach's instructions that ended up winning the game instead of kicking a field goal, tying it and putting it into overtime. She didn't respect her coach, and if her teammates treated her the same way, she would have failed royally. She gets punished by running the stairs during practice. Mike adds that things will be much worse when she's in the military, and wants her to learn that lesson now.
  • Really Gets Around: Mandy, although this is mostly implied rather than actually seen. She is extremely boy-crazy but also desperately wants Mike to like her boyfriends, which he rarely does. She does admit, when she starts dating Kyle, that she tends to rush into the physical stuff.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mike gives a big one to Ryan in "Buffalo Bill Day" after tensions from the latter trying to keep Boyd from participating in the Old West skit, as well as hiring a lawyer to ensure he gets visitation rights, come to a head. Ryan asks Mike when he's gonna forgive him for making his mistake and Mike retorts that he didn't make one. Ryan wasn't just some dumb teenager who made a bad choice; he was a selfish prick who made a conscious decision to abandon his girlfriend and child when Kristin didn't get an abortion like he hoped she would just so he wouldn't have to make any personal sacrifice. Now he shows up five years later when the hard part's over and thinks he should just be Easily Forgiven and Wants a Prize for Basic Decency. Kristin thinks Mike went out of line, but Ryan later admits that everything Mike said was true.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Generally averted in principle (although Mike did threaten Kyle with a crossbow in the pilot), but teased at in one episode. Mike is cleaning a vintage flintlock rifle in the kitchen and Vanessa was concerned that something could go wrong with Boyd right next to him. Mike goes on a minute-long bit about the ludicrous idea of Boyd overpowering him, correctly doing all the steps necessary to load and arm the rifle, and shooting him in the foot.
    Vanessa: Just keep the safety on.
    Mike: The whole gun IS the safety!.
  • Retool: The second season recast both Kristin and Ryan, as well as making Ryan a common Recurring Character. While there were some hints towards politics and social issues in the first season, Ryan's strong liberal leanings clash with Mike's conservative opinions made them come to the forefront, having the effect of turning the show into a modern-day remake of All in the Family. The main difference is that Mike is opinionated and loud but generally well educated, while Ryan's opinions lean toward ignorant, spoiled idealism (which even he admits is not the best for his family), and he has been shown to be very hypocritical and self-serving with his beliefs.
    • The seventh season featured a small shift in its political themes (probably due to the backlash the Roseanne revival had in the interim) and even had the first episode be about excessive family drama from contentious political opinions. The show ended up backing off it almost entirely for most of the season, keeping the focus on family stories, and just let it filter back in at a reduced level.
  • Reverse Psychology Backfire:
    • In "Eve's Band", Eve's band sounds horrible so Mike and Vanessa pretend to support the band hoping they will eventually stop. The rest of the band does, but Eve decides to perform a solo act which turns out to be much better.
    • Zig-zagged in "Boyd Will Be Boyd". Ryan gets Boyd a shotgun for his 10th birthday and accompanies him and Mike on a hunting trip, hoping that doing so will cause him to hate hunting and give it up. When they come across a pheasant and Boyd gets ready to shoot, he lowers his gun and decides not to do it. Ryan is jubilant, thinking that Boyd has come around to his way of thinking. Then it turns out Boyd had no issues with wanting to kill the bird and wants to keep his gun, but he knew that doing so in front of Ryan would hurt his feelings.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: After Colorado passed the bill legalizing marijuana, a few episodes in season 3 focus on Mike's father opening a pot dealership.
  • Romantic False Lead: Kyle for Kristin. They date in the first season, but it doesn't last.
  • Running Gag: Whenever Kristin tells Mandy she needs her help with something, Mandy always assumes it's to upgrade Kristin's wardrobe and proceeds to make various insults about it before Kristin tells her it's something else.

  • Save Our Students: In season four, Vanessa decides to quit her job as a geologist and become a teacher at an inner city high school.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: In "The Wolf Returns," after Mandy confesses to the family that she was kicked out of her internship program, Eve reveals that she already knew about it from Kyle. The reason Eve was acting like a jerk to Mandy throughout the episode was because not only did she know Mandy's stories were untrue, but because she was hurt that Mandy didn't confide to her.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • Kristin jokes (especially in season one) about having gotten pregnant in high school. "We all have our own talents... apparently I'm fertile."
    • When Helen Potts (Patricia Richardson) says that Mike reminds her of her late husband but not as funny, Mike replies that "he probably had better writers."
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Kyle's the sensitive guy and Mike's the manly man.
  • Sequel Episode:
    • "Vanessa Fixes Kyle"'s A-plot is about Vanessa trying to get back into Kyle's good graces after the events of "Pledging."note 
    • "Trick or Treat" is one to "Halloween." Mike, inspired by Kyle's Ed costume and Ed's reaction to it in the latter episode, decides to take it up to eleven for the family's Halloween party by having everybody swap roles so they'll make fun of each other and have a terrible time.
  • Serious Business: Holiday traditions to Vanessa. In "Elfie", she cries when Kristin tells her Boyd won't be opening presents at the Baxters' on Christmas morning, and is heartbroken when Eve asks if the family can skip "The Gratitude List" at Thanksgiving dinner.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Eve is usually seen in sportswear, grimed up from a recent game. That makes the few times she dresses up for an event that much more surprising when she's actually wearing a flattering dress and make-up.
  • Short Teens, Tall Adults: Rather notable in that both Mike and Vanessa tower over all their kids.
  • Shout-Out: When Mike realizes that Kristen wrote Mandy's paper on Virginia Wolfe, Vanessa replies "Nice work, Castle."
  • Sickening Sweethearts:
    • After they get married, Kyle and Mandy start turning up their affection for each other, to the point where Mike and Vanessa have to lay down some ground rules. It's later suggested they didn't get a honeymoon and needed one to help burn off the newlywed energy.
    • It's also said that Mike and Vanessa are abnormally affectionate with each other too. Eve in particular seems to find their interactions "gross."
  • Skewed Priorities: Initially, Ryan places more importance on his causes and crusades than on providing for Kristin and Boyd. He stops doing so when Kristin gets fed up with it and kicks him out of their apartment.
  • Slut-Shaming: Referred to by name, as Mandy being a big flirt and (supposedly) sleeping around is often a target for insults by Eve. Mandy learned the term (and psychological effects) in a college class, which gave her the upper hand to ignore the stigma.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Ryan is a male version who takes this to extreme levels. To give an example, he launches a campaign to rename Boyd's school because the person after whom it is named (William Clark) was a slave owner. Even Carol Larabee, who is head of the PTA and, as an African-American, has more reason to dislike Clark than Ryan, feels the entire thing was trivial.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Boyd turned 2 in the first season and in the second season was suddenly 5. This is embraced as a complete retcon, as Kristin was also aged up appropriately for consistency.
  • Special Edition Title: The opening title for "Eve's Band" features a rock version of the show's theme.
  • Stacy's Mom: Vanessa is a very beautiful matriarch causing her neighbour Bill Calhoun to become infatuated with her when she wears a sexy pirate outfit in 'Last Halloween Standing'.
  • Stealth Pun: In "Last Halloween Standing," Mike gets Boyd a skeleton costume, while he dresses like John Wayne in The Green Berets. Mike introduces Boyd as "Senor Bones!" (Seen Your Bones!)
  • Strange Minds Think Alike:
    • When the neighborhood cars are vandalized with eggs, most everyone is able to clean up in the morning except for the new black family, the Larabees. Vanessa worries they may take it as racially motivated, with Mike saying "I don't think the Klan does a lot of work with eggs." In an effort to not seem racist, Vanessa invites Chuck and Carol Larabee over for dinner, which is a very awkward event. Mike eventually admits the reason why Vanessa did this was over the egging incident and Chuck says, "I don't think the Klan does a lot of work with eggs."
    • For a Halloween episode, Mike decides to have his family dress up as each other so they can annoy one another with their overly-exaggerated quirks—except for himself, who dresses as Donald Trump. His plan works and the family gets annoyed with one another, but then Chuck shows up...dressed as Donald Trump. Chuck points out his costume (complete with a devil tail) is ironic; Mike's is a tribute.
  • Straw Character: Mostly played for laughs both ways.
    • Mike's overt Republican beliefs set the character up as this for viewers on the left, presenting many stereotypes Democrats dislike about Republicans such as being a Gun Nut, money obsessed, angry, borderline bigot who sees Barack Obama and the government as a socialist nightmare here to take his guns and money. However, he also subverts this in that he has been shown to be tolerant of minorities and gay people, believes in equal opportunity, and is against government policies such as over-policing.
    • Ryan is his Democratic counterpart who plays this painfully straight. He embodies the "bleeding heart liberal" to a T. He's also a vegan, pacifist, overly politically correct, borderline hippie Soapbox Sadie who blames the 1% for every problem suffered by the working class and wants socialized medicine, benefits, and wages. The final season, while still keeping his character very much left-leaning, has him undergo Character Development thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic, making him realize he has to sacrifice some of his beliefs to better take care of his family. This leads him to sell his pot store to a multi-million dollar company, and become a top-ranking executive, something that even Mike is impressed with.
  • Straw Feminist:
    • Kristin has shades of this. When a newspaper reporter refers to Eve as "female placekicker Eve Baxter" in an article after a win, she is happy because the article implies girls can be just as good as boys. When the reporter uses the same terminology after the team loses, she complains that the article implies Eve lost the game because she's a girl.
    • Vanessa donates money to Hillary Clinton's campaign just because she wants the next president to be a woman. She even declares that she would vote for her even if she disagreed with all of her political positions. Several characters point out how ridiculous that is, and Chuck tells her that he himself voted for Barack Obama because he felt he was the best candidate, not because he just wanted a black man to be president.
  • Strawman News Media: In one episode, Ryan mentions that he's highly active on the Huffington Post comments section.
  • Strike Episode: In the first Christmas episode, Mandy gets fed up with the way she and the other workers playing Santa's helpers at Outdoor Man are being treated and compensated, and leads a strike. Eventually, she lays out their demands to Ed, including company perks and bi-annual cost per living increases. Ed just stares at her and points out that they're seasonal workers and their jobs end once Christmas is over. She promptly revises it to just giving them five-minute breaks every hour.
  • Sucky School: UC Denver, according to Mike, Kristin, and Eve.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: The ending of "Polar Run", Eve is rejected by West Point, her dream college and life goal for three seasons.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Ed accidentally hurts Mandy's feelings by being upset with the promotion she did for his local hangout, filling it with young hipsters. He apologizes by offering her a bottle of wine from his vineyard. Being 16, she couldn't legally drink it, but she accepts the gift, saying, "I will hold on to this until I'm 21, whereupon I will have my first taste of alcohol." Mike and Vanessa quickly confiscate it.
  • Take a Third Option: In "Three Sisters," Mike gives the daughters three options: Kristin gets a bonus at work, Mandy can keep living at home rent-free, and Eve gets new recording equipment. However, only two of them can get what they want so the daughters have to pick who gets left out. They decide to leave Eve out, but then Kristin and Mandy will buy her the equipment themselves so everyone gets what they want.
  • Take That!: Aside from the numerous shots taken at Leftists, Obama, the government, Obama, hippies, and Obama we have these:
    • Mike compares his father's store's lack of security to the Denver Broncos' defense in Super Bowl XLVIII note .
    • In the episode "Three Sundays", Ed mentions that he gives employees the day off for the Broncos' sixteen regular season games and Mike adds "and one playoff gamenote ."
    • In "Kyle's Friend", Kristin offers to pay Boyd $1000 if they don't have to watch Frozen again.
    • "House of Tutor": Mike uses his vlog to mock the Atlanta Falcons for blowing their 25 point lead in Super Bowl LI.
    • The entire opening scene of the first episode of season seven is a Leaning on the Fourth Wall one towards Creator/ABC for cancelling the show despite its popularity.
      Kyle: I’m trying to DVR my favorite show, but it’s not on.
      Vanessa: Oh, well, maybe it got cancelled. You know, the TV business can be a heartless bastard.
      Kyle: Cancelled? Why would they cancel a popular show that everybody loves?
      Mike: Maybe they’re a bunch of idiots!
    • The entire season finale does this again, only to the Fox Network, treating Mike's truck like the show; something that has been worked on carefully and painstakingly for ten years, only for it to be stolen and destroyed by "professionals". The entire Baxter household and friends then spend the episode mourning for the truck and the memories it brought, lamenting its loss because of someone deciding it was worth destroying.
  • Taking the Heat: In "Mandy's Party", Mike and Vanessa come home from their anniversary celebration early and find out a party was being planned at their house. They assume Mandy is responsible and when they confront her she takes the blame, even though it was actually Eve's party. When they find out the truth, Vanessa is confused by it while Mike understands, having done the same thing when he was a teen after his brother Jimmy wrecked their dad's car.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Kristin got pregnant during her senior year in high school.
  • Terrible Artist: Eve's attempt at drawing a bowl of fruit for her art class looks more like a dinosaur. She hopes that her high school's budget cuts will result in the art program being cancelled so she won't get a bad grade and not get into West Point.
  • Third-Person Person: Greg Archer in the episode "Quarterback Boyfriend".
  • Time Skip: An interesting case. The show was cancelled in 2016 with season six, then renewed a year later. Instead of just picking up where they left off with a season seven, the show went ahead and said that a year has passed since we last saw them, with Eve having been at the Air Force Academy for a year, Grandpa Bud passing away and Kyle starting a new job in personnel management. The end effect is making it seem like we missed a theoretical season seven and we are really jumped to season eight.
    • Likely to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic from dominating all episodes (while still making general references to the aftermath), the Finale Season opens with "Time Flies" where it starts a few weeks into the pandemic then uses a sequence of Outdoor Man vlogs to convey the passage of time. Mike grows a longer beard with each vlog alternating with Exploding Calendar cut scenes until coming to a future, post-pandemic time in 2023 where Mike's beard is gone.
  • Tim Taylor Technology: A rather mild example, considering the source, when Mike put a $900 scope on Eve's $99 pellet gun so she could more accurately snipe gophers with it.
    • In the Season 9 episode "Dual Time," the tropemaker, a visiting handyman from Michigan named Tim Taylor fixes the garbage disposal only to have it launch a carrot into the ceiling, much to Mike's annoyance.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Jay Leno guest stars one of these in "The Road Less Driven".
  • Token Black Friend: Chuck to Mike, even though neither will admit it. A lot of their banter comes down to racial humor, as Mike likes to tease Chuck as coming from the hood but he has actually always been in the same middle class as Mike.
    Chuck: (to Mike) "Wait a minute. You got one daughter with a baby daddy, another shacking up with her boyfriend, and a third on the football team. Your family is blacker than mine!"
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Eve's the tomboy to Mandy's girly girl. With Kristin in a different stage of her life, the contrast between Mandy and Eve is that much bigger.
  • Took A Level In Dumb Ass: Kyle has gotten a lot dumber as the series has gone on.
  • Took A Level In Jerk Ass: Kristin in season 2. She went from being a levelheaded young woman who was mildly annoyed at Mike's beliefs and restrictions at worst to a Commander Contrarian Granola Girl who undermines him at every opportunity and, on one occasion, calls him a "toxic" influence on Boyd.
    • By late season 3, however, she's often as likely to side with her father as with Ryan when the two of them start arguing.
  • Town Girls:
    • Butch: Eve, who plays sports, does ROTC, and has beaten up two different boys.
    • Femme: Mandy, a stereotypical shopaholic, boy-crazy fashionista air head.
    • Neither: Kristin.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: Defied — After Kyle accidentally lets a bear inside Outdoor Man, he decides to fix the problem himself by shooting it with one of the store's tranquilizer guns. However, US law prevents a store like Outdoor Man from selling animal tranquilizer, just the gun and the darts. Therefore, Mike has to stop Kyle from shooting the bear with an empty dart that will do nothing except make it angrier.
  • Twerp Sweating: Zigzagged. Whenever Mandy and Eve go on dates with guys he doesn't like, Mike makes sure the boy is aware that he owns a large collection of guns.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Eve once stole all of Mandy's make-up gear, forcing her to go to school without it. She felt like she had a reputation to keep up the "Mandy Baxter experience" at school. By the end she realized it was not as big a deal as she thought it would be.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Mike is a borderline case. He has a lot of strong political beliefs, which he does not hesitate to voice. He's also anti-social and will do or say things that are insulting because he doesn't care about other people's feelings. It's said he's not very popular in their neighborhood for that reason and has a Vitriolic Best Buds relationship with his actual friends like Chuck and Joe. But deep down he is a very intelligent guy and attentive husband and father, and he avoids doing anything that is disproportionate or could result in real harm.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Mike and Chuck make a big show of not liking each other, but the truth is they hate many of the same things and enjoy insulting each other with no ill will involved. Vanessa cannot understand why they don't consider each other friends, but that's all part of the gender clash.
    • Mike and Joe (played by Jay Leno) are a more prominent example. Joe is something of The Thing That Would Not Leave and Mike is genuinely annoyed by him, but he doesn't have many friends to talk about cars with and he respects Joe's talents as a mechanic. Enough to hire him on to Outdoor Man to service their vehicles.
  • "Wash Me" Graffiti: In the episode "Quarterback Boyfriend", Kyle suggests writing "wash Me" on the back window of Mandy's exes truck, as a way of getting revenge.
  • Wham Shot: In "Mike's Pole," Mike and Eve go with Ed to the VFW hall and Eve meets a female Iraq War veteran and talks with her about her war experiences. The woman gets up from her seat to talk to someone else revealing that she is a double leg amputee who was wounded in combat.
    Eve: Whoa.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In "Polar Run", Vanessa suggests getting Eve a puppy after the latter is rejected by West Point. This makes no sense since Eve was seen playing with Muffin just three episodes prior and he appears in the one after this.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Mike and Kristin to Ryan after the latter claims that Vanessa, with no evidence whatsoever, is to blame for the sinkhole into which Mike and Boyd almost drove.
  • White Man's Burden: Ryan is always going on crusades to get rid of "white male oppression" and "benefit" American minorities, much to the annoyance of Mike and people that actually belong to the minority groups, like the Larabees.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Vanessa hates that Eve enjoys dangerous activities like sports and hunting and wishes she were more feminine like her sisters.
  • Wild Teen Party: Subverted. Mike and Vanessa actually arrive home before the party starts so they're able to nip it in the bud before anything happens.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Through most of the second season there was a lot of Ship Tease between Kristin and Ryan (mending fences after Ryan left when Boyd was born) and Mandy and Kyle (made complicated in that Kristin and Kyle used to date). Both couples end up getting together in the same episode after Eve points out that most everyone can see what is going on.
  • Wise Beyond Her Years: Played with with Kristin. Since she had to grow up earlier than most high schoolers when she got pregnant, she's very wise and mature compared to other people her age. However, she still needs guidance from her parents regarding being a mother.
  • Women Are Wiser: Subverted. More often than not, Mike is the one who's proven to be right at the end of an episode and Vanessa is prone to stupid mistakes because of her pride.
  • World-Weary Waitress: Kristen is a younger version of the World Weary Waitress. Being a single mother (initially) with a dead end job, having sacrificed her chance at a higher education, she's already burnt out and frequently snarks at customers and staff alike. It becomes even more apparent when her younger sister, Mandy, gets a job at the diner and starts immediately pulling in more in tips due to her attractive looks, bubbly personality, and positive demeanor, despite frequently getting orders wrong.
  • You Are Grounded!: Generally averted due to the fact that the Baxter daughters don't do anything bad enough to warrant it. On the occasions where they do, they are usually forced to undergo a punishment that is worse (i.e. after Eve was caught skipping soccer practice and drinking underage, her punishment was that she would not be allowed to quit and she had to play her game the next day with a massive hangover).
  • You Go, Girl!: Eve becomes the placekicker for her high school's football team in season 4. As discussed above, it's deconstructed as there was no opposition from the other players and Eve hates the pressure everyone else puts on her for representing women.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Inverted, Mike thought Muffin was a girl and never bothered to check. Amusingly, he only found out because Chuck came by with his pregnant German Shepard and said Muffin was the only dog it could have been.

Alternative Title(s): Last Man Standing