In tonight’s episode of Eastbound & Down Kenny Powers behaved in an uncharacteristically mature fashion and it felt like a dispiriting admission of failure. Then he behaved like a dangerous, psychotic lunatic and it felt like a roaring, life-affirming success. Like Strangers With Candy, Eastbound & Down has a moral compass. It’s just a crazy upside down moral compass where bad behavior is rewarded and goodness and virtue are punished. Harshly.
One of the show’s greatest accomplishments is eking real pathos and emotions out of the profane, drugged-up misadventures of a deluded, mullet-sporting asshole. We’re feeling Kenny Powers’ pain and rooting for him. In tonight’s episode, for example, our intrepid antihero finally mans up and acknowledges the ugly truth of his situation. He’s old, out of shape, has burned too many bridges and his best days are long gone.
In an unexpectedly poetic monologue/montage Kenny stares down his bleak future. He vows to give up on his dream of returning to the big leagues and winning back April. A broken and defeated man, Kenny promises to embrace the soul-crushing monotony of everyday life: committing himself to his job and reconciling himself to being “Just an average guy with exceptional hair.” Kenny would no long be “The Man with the Golden Dick” or “Doctor Cockandballs”. He’d just be another random schmuck going through the motions, pretending to be happy while he died a little more each day. “Just like Neil Armstrong I went to space and came back and no one gives a fuck.” Kenny complains to Stevie.
Then fate offers him a second chance. Will Ferrell’s car-selling douchebag offers Kenny five hundred dollars (half up front, “half of it in coupons to local businesses, baby”) to face the slugger (Craig Robinson) who ended his career with a grand slam. The Robinson-Powers rivalry was set up in the pilot, when Robinson put in a five-second cameo in a montage detailing Kenny’s spectacular flameout.
Miss March cut-up Robinson was funniest when he adopted a tone of fake piety and bemoaned what he imagined was Kenny’s pathetic post-fame career, “Freebasing with O.J, human trafficking, dog fights/orgies.” I don’t quite know how exactly the orgies and dog fights fit together but it was hilarious all the same.
After kicking all his dreams to the curb, Kenny wore glasses, an Oxford shirt and khaki pants, a look that’s both the official dress code of Poindexters and folks who’ve given up all home and the outfit I had to wear every shift during my four years as a Blockbuster Customer Service Representative.
Tonight’s episode invited the question: do we want Kenny Powers to grow up and face reality? Or are we too intoxicated by his rock-star swagger, no matter how deranged or rooted in adolescent fantasy? I think by this point we love Kenny just the way he is: insane, arrogant and swimming with venereal diseases and substance abuse problems. Kenny’s cockiness has infected seemingly everyone around him: Stevie, April and even his humble brother, who tells off a client (Gina Gershon) in a Kenny-like rage.
I felt like Gershon was the weak link in tonight’s episode. She was clearly a parody of the OCD star of Flipping Out but she seemed like one asshole too many in a show already rife with them. Ferrell and Robinson were mainly reduced to playing off Powers but Ferrell had a great insane monologue about dreaming about his son stumbling upon him and his wife having sex, then insisting that he stick around and watch him handle his business.
Like a Western, it was all just a big prelude to the climactic showdown where a steroid-crazed Powers threw wild and loose before hurling a hundred and one mile an hour fastball into Robinson’s face and taking out his eye in the process. It was an over-the-top shock gag that led to a wonderfully cathartic orgy of violence that doubled as a crazy Natural parody. The world has seen far too many spoofs of the instantly iconic climax of the 1984 Robert Redford movie but there’s never been one quite like this. Everyone was getting into the action.
Everything was coming up Milhouse for Kenny Powers tonight. April left Terrence’s triathalon to support Kenny and maintained an ecstatic smile even as he regaled the entire audience—including his family—with the story of he ejaculated prematurely while they were making out. Tonight’s episode was a little broad. It definitely bore the Adam (Anchorman, Stepbrothers) McKay touch but it brought the funny and began and ended with a bang.
I am seriously bummed that there is only an episode left. The show seems to be developing a loyal cult following online and its likely it’ll pick up an even bigger following on DVD but there’s also something to be a said for quitting while you’re ahead.
—“Chapter 2—The Next Chapter”
—Great use of Creed
—“Kenny P.’s days of burning ass are done and that’s not a homosexual reference.”
—“This bar smells like an old lady farted piss.”
—“Now you’re just, like, a vagina with a mullet.”
—“My vision started to go all colorful.”
—“No discount on account of tragedy.”
—Have any of you been following Kenny Powers on Twitter? His posts are very amusing and very true to character