In tonight’s kick-ass, David Gordon Green-directed episode of Eastbound & Down our intrepid antihero Kenny Powers got exactly what he’s been pining for since returning home in disgrace and it turned to shit before his eyes. The best thing in his life turned into the worst thing. For weeks (well, three at least) we’ve been speculating as to whether or not Kenny would succeed in winning April back from her boss/principal/fiancé Terrence.
Katy Mixon has done a good job cultivating an air of ambiguity around her character’s feelings towards Kenny Powers. On one hand she’s understandably turned off by his mulleted crudeness and seemingly impregnable self-delusion. At the same time she clearly maintains a vestigial fondness for a guy who was, within the context of small town life, a fucking rock star, a supernova who made millions of fucking dollars as a big league superstar. Kenny used to be somebody huge. Within the rinky-dink world of Eastbound & Down that counts for an awful lot.
As April, Mixon looks like a porn star and talks like a kindergarten teacher. She wears a little too much make-up, her jeans a little too tight and her necklines a little too low (not that I’m complaining). She’s managed to grow up, accept adult responsibilities and become an educator to the youths of America without ever quite losing her inner high school skank, the teen trollop overjoyed to sleep with the school’s star athlete.
In tonight’s funny, sad, strangely touching fourth chapter of Eastbound & Down the simmering love-hate relationship came to a head between Kenny and April when Kenny followed April up to her bedroom during a barbeque while his “fuckbuddy”, AKA Miss Venereal Disease, did shots and flirted outrageously with April’s increasingly douchey fiancé.
Repelled and turned on by Kenny’s persistence and lack of shame, April rips off her blouse and jumps Kenny’s bones, only to have him cum prematurely in his boxers at the first hint of friction. Kenny long ago lost his fastball and superstardom. In tonight’s episode he lost the rest of his mojo completely. In the final moments of the episode Kenny was vulnerable and sad, though he characteristically expressed his sadness through incoherent rage, in this case tearing apart his brother’s living room like he was Led Zeppelin rampaging through a Penthouse suite at the Ritz.
Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The episode began with a fresh glimpse into April’s domestic hell, with fiancé Terrence getting so turned on by softcore porn while prepping for a triathlon (ah, the lengths people will go through to prove that they’re “best at exercising”) that he takes April to the bedroom for some of the most dispiriting, uncomfortable sex this side of a Todd Solondz movie. Kenny never struck me as a particularly generous or gifted lover but he can’t be worse than Terrence with his indifferent pumping and excruciating small talk.
Meanwhile, Kenny has completely corrupted sidekick Stevie, who hauls his music class outside so they can not watch Kenny practice pitching. In an amusing development Stevie has turned into a crude Xerox of his hero. His vocabulary has taken a profane turn and he now shares Kenny’s raging misanthropy.
Terrence invites Kenny to a barbeque. In a sad bid to make April jealous, he brings along his trashy female consort, who he laughably tries to pass off as both a runway model and an accomplished painter with several paintings currently on display at what he calls “The Loov-Ray”. Kenny’s best-laid plans lead to naught, however, after he blows his big chance for a sordid fling.
As is generally the case on Eastbound & Down, a glimmer of hope is rapidly extinguished, followed by agonizing humiliation. After Kenny fails to perform with April, Terrence drunkenly dresses him down for being a pathetic has-been and all the hostility that’s been bubbling under the surface rises to the top.
Kenny is a lost and shattered man. In a surprisingly poignant sequence, he confides his anxieties and self-doubt to his brother. Ah, but Kenny can’t be vulnerable without being a raging asshole at the same time so he lashes out at his brother and his brother’s DVD player and belongings when he’s really mad at himself.
Tonight was one of the strongest episodes of the season. There was lots of hilarious shit, especially Kenny’s star-wipetastic “greatest hits” video (I loved that the bartender suggested that they inexplicably add shots of Kenny smoking weed right when the video posits Kenny as clean and sober) and the insane dance class his nephew attends. But it also had a melancholy emotional dimension that lifted it above a mere chucklefest. There are only two more chapters to go this season and a renewal seems unlikely given the show’s low ratings and mixed reviews. But I am enjoying the fuck out of this shit right now.
—What Kenny thinks every pitching video needs—“Animal sounds, a dude throwing balls like he’s a force to be reckoned with.”
—“Come if you feel you need to.”
—“One of us had their own personal stylist and one of us shoplifts their clothes from Fashion Bug.”
—“He’s my boss so don’t try to suck him off.”
—“I don’t believe you’ve met my fuckbuddy.”
—“The next thing you know I’m sucking his dick on a jet ski.”
—“Besides creeping around here like some kind of rapist?”
—“In closing I’d like to give a big up to God or L. Ron or whatever.”
—I wish I knew the context for the big “9/11” graphic in the video. For that matter I hope they include the entire video as a special feature on the DVD along with Kenny's complete book-on-tape
—Don't look at summaries of the next two episodes on Wikipedia unless you want the rest of the season ruined for you.