Only on Eastbound & Down could the image of a chubby man with a curly mullet spinning through the air on a water jetpack produce an emotional gut punch. Our hero’s moment of triumph has come at a (hilarious) cost. “Could Schwarzenegger have ascended to the top of both film and politics if he had actually given a fuck about his family?” Kenny Powers muses. “I doubt it.” Kenny’s cuttin’ in: He’s the alpha at last, even if it means letting April down and setting himself up for retribution from the insecure, vengeful Guy Young. When Stevie is the voice of reason, you know something has truly gone amiss.
Before arriving at this moment, Kenny does try, in his own fashion, to be a better man. Because he has no grasp of such concepts as humility and human decency, he fails spectacularly, but at least he makes the attempt. In his mind, extravagant displays of wealth should be enough to smooth over whatever hurt feelings his loved ones may be harboring. It begins with a party celebrating the opening of the new pool Kenny built himself (with the help of a dozen or so undocumented workers). In the course of congratulating himself on his newfound success, KP manages to crap all over April’s accomplishments again by making a speech about how miserable he felt to watch his wife being honored. Later he tries to win back his lady love’s trust by making it rain, but April thinks he’s losing touch and tries to convince him to join her in therapy.
Kenny attempts to win back brother Dustin (John Hawkes) the same way, showering his children with age-appropriate gifts like an electric guitar and an assault rifle. Again, Kenny comes close to expressing some genuine remorse for his misdeeds (that whole “faking his own death” thing really didn’t sit well with Dustin), but just when reconciliation seems like a possibility, he blows the moment by checking his text messages from Guy. (In Kenny’s defense, Guy does send the funniest emoticons.) In the end, “How much is your forgiveness worth?” isn’t quite as effective an olive branch as Kenny believes it is.
At least things are going well at work... up to a point. Kenny has quickly become a Sports Sesh fan favorite with his “Kenny’s Cuttin’ In” shtick, but Guy is increasingly disgruntled by KP’s spotlight-stealing ways. During a cooking segment with Iron Chef’s Cat Cora, Kenny looks to top Cool Hand Luke’s feat by downing 50 jalapeño peppers. The audience loves it, but Guy does not. He calls a one-on-one meeting with his “favorite co-host,” looking to reestablish his top banana status by arriving via water jetpack. (Yes, these things are real. Like Kenny, I immediately coveted one, but a little Googling reveals that, while not quite as expensive as Guy claims, they are a little out of my price range.) Guy makes it clear that Kenny will suffer the same fate as Dontel and the newly dismissed Jed Forney if he doesn’t dial back his on-air persona.
Stevie advises Kenny to play ball. I know I’ve been down on Stevie’s penis (wait, I think that came out wrong... dammit, so did that…), but Steve Janowski had a good week, from dressing up as Hunter S. Thompson at Kenny’s baseball clinic for no apparent reason to helping Kenny brainstorm his Taters ’n' Tits restaurant chain (“Sauce Rack” indeed). As someone who’s comfortable in the Scottie Pippen role, Stevie encourages Kenny to bide his time in the sidekick slot and let the good times continue to roll.
Easier said than done, of course, especially when Guy Young busts out the time-honored “zookeeper with exotic animals” segment. Seething because Guy fails to milk every bad pun and bit of physical comedy possible out of his encounters with lemurs and anteaters, Kenny cuts in on the spider-monkey fun. Once again the crowd goes crazy, but it’s clear that Kenny has crossed the line and seems destined to join Dontel and Forney on the inactive list. “Victory is its own reward,” says Kenny, having blown off his therapy session with April to do donuts around the lake on his own new water jetpack. But victory comes at a cost. Like I said, those fucking jetpacks are expensive.
Commenters have noted Kenny’s occasional forays into high culture, but even so, I was unprepared for the sight of KP with opera glasses. Of course, he needed a bump to get through it.
I probably could have listened to Kenny and Stevie say “feexins” for a half-hour and still been happy with the episode.
I can’t give the episode a full A grade, however, mainly because I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the character of Maria. She seems to exist as little more than a visual punchline, as if the sight of her in a belly shirt should be enough to make me fall off the couch laughing. Unless and until the show puts some kind of spin on the character, it just comes off as mean-spirited and retrograde. (Of course, Stevie’s appearance is mocked as well, with Kenny noting his chinless profile, but Stevie contains multitudes. Maria needs a win.)
“How did Leonardo DiCaprio figure out about gravity?”
Our little robot’s all growed up. “Don’t stay out too late, dude!”