Eastbound & Down: “Chapter 23” 
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Eastbound & Down: “Chapter 23” 

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Eastbound & Down

“Chapter 23” 

Season 4, Episode 2

“My entire fuckin’ mystique is all but faded.”

How Kenny Powers gets his mojo back is both an ingenious twist and, in retrospect, an inevitable one. He may never have been cut out to be a superstar athlete, but a gasbag ex-athlete talking trash on sports television? That shit is what Kenny Powers was born to do. It takes him a while to realize it, though.

Having quit his job with Millennium car rentals, Kenny is adrift: taking drugs, digging a pool in the back yard, and dreaming about cheating on April with the school bus driver and lesbian principal. Desperate for one more shot at fame, he ambushes Guy Young at his security gate and badgers him into giving him a one-time gig as guest co-host on Sports Sesh. (“It was in the subtext. You basically did tell me to quit my job.”) It doesn’t go well. Dressed in black Levis and “classic Western cowboy fringe,” Kenny freezes like a deer in the headlights as he is relentlessly mocked by the more seasoned, quick-witted panel of enormous well-dressed ex-jocks.

Meanwhile, Stevie is finding the life of a family man even more of hardship than Kenny did in the previous episode. His four children (all named with with variations on “Kenny”) show him no respect, addressing him as “dicksucker” and “dicklicker,” and his job giving saxophone lessons isn’t lucrative enough to pay for their sugar-saturated cereal. Yet when Kenny comes calling to drag Stevie into his latest harebrained scheme, his erstwhile sidekick chooses to stay with his family, forcing Kenny to declare Stevie his enemy.

Support is likewise in short supply on the homefront, as breadwinner April would prefer to see her husband ask for his old job back rather than try the fame game again. But after convincing Guy to give him a second chance, Kenny sets about reclaiming his mystique the only way he knows how: through a training montage set to generic ’80s training-montage music. As we knew he would, Stevie surrenders unto his hero and reclaims his rightful spot as Kenny’s toady, instructing him in the finer points of assertive body language and slacks-straightening.

Still, it appears Kenny is headed for a repeat of his disastrous first outing until April shows up at the taping to stand by her man. After hearing the words than every man longs to hear from his loved one (“Go fuck shit up!”), Kenny unleashes his best fastball on the rest of the Sports Sesh panel, most notably bullying ex-NFL star Dontel Benjamin.

Jody Hill and Danny McBride have freely admitted they knew next to nothing about baseball when they created Eastbound & Down, but they’ve clearly done their homework on sports-talk television. The Sports Sesh segments are such dead-on skewerings of the genre that they barely qualify as parody (at least until Kenny really cuts loose at the end). The high-fiving and backslapping; the casual misogyny; the barely-concealed testosterone-poisoned hostility behind the “good-natured” insults; the continuous yukking it up as if they’re in the middle of the greatest party we’ll never be invited to; and the general air of oppressive bro-ness permeating the completely empty “analysis” they’re supposedly supplying—all of this rings true.

There’s a darker undercurrent here as well: Guy’s true motive for bringing Kenny back to the show is not to give him a second shot at stardom, but to use him as an attack dog to do his dirty work. When Guy expresses his disgust about Dontel’s attention-hogging behavior, it's no accident that he suggests his black co-host is trying to turn Sports Sesh into “a minstrel show.” He’s clearly pegged Kenny as the sort of borderline racist who will spout off all the politically incorrect sentiments Guy harbors but, as host of the show, can’t express. He gets to keep his hands clean and humiliate Dontel. Granted, “bad-breath Milk Dud” isn’t the most charged epithet ever, but Dontel knows what’s up. However unsavory the means, Kenny earns his second shot at the big time. The question now is: How badly will he screw it up?

Stray observations:

  • Kenny, ever impervious to irony: "Can't you put your jealous rage aside for one moment and be supportive?"
  • "You can have all the Kennys that there are Kennys of." That may be the sweetest thing Kenny Powers is capable of saying.
  • Clapper jokes? What century is this?