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Eastbound & Down Recap: Episode 7

September 27, 2010

Welcome-back month continues with the season premiere of one of my most anticipated shows, the ever-offensive Eastbound & Down (wait, you already knew that, otherwise why would you be reading this?).

Danny McBride returns as the misanthropic, washed-up Major League-ball-player Kenny Powers, who’s changed little in the year-and-some-change since we last saw him. Kenny, having abandoned his love April (Katy Mixon) and fled to Mexico, now makes a living as a professional cockfighter named Steve, hoping to lose himself and leave behind his former life just when it was getting normal.

We’re treated to a quick montage of what’s happened to the other players, notably Kenny’s brother Dustin (John Hawkes), living the home life as usual; his disturbingly obsessed secretary Stevie (Steve Little), who’s taken up a job at the local Starbucks and is just waiting to explode in a violent rage; Clegg (co-creator Ben Best), back to huffing paint in the dingiest back-alleys of North Carolina; and the forlorn April.

But the episode belongs to Kenny (sporting some surprisingly good corn rows), whose retinue has expanded to the smack-talking Aaron (Tim Burton fav Deep Roy) and spends his days training his cock and taking in Minor-League ballgames. However, life is not as glamorous as it sounds—as evidenced by his latest venture: painting a burro to look like a zebra then charging tourists to get their picture taken with it.

The old life beckons when the manager of one of the local teams recognizes Kenny and implores him to join. Kenny insists that he’s “Steve” and tries to shrug the manager off, but the idea’s planted, and, after his cock loses a match to the death (and he’s robbed by Aaron at the funeral), the corn rows come off (Kenny’s resulting hair provides one of the best jokes of the episode) and Kenny makes his semi-triumphant return to the game.

The episode is a bit short on belly laughs, but maintains the dark-but-heartfelt tone that made the first season of Eb&D so strong. McBride, a very talented performer, is at his best as Kenny, able to exude some dregs of charm in an otherwise despicable human being. People like Kenny never really change but can have flashes of goodness that manage to keep around their few friends during the interim—it’s a difficult balance to walk, but McBride is second to none in playing it.

However, there’s a good deal lost without the rest of the gang. Eb&D’s first season boasted a wonderful collection of supporting characters that played off Kenny’s delusional ego and desperate acts of cruelty so well that the quick tease of them we get only reminds us how much they’re missed.

McBride’s strong enough to carry the episode, but when the only other notable character is even worse of a human being than him, well, the image suffers some. Kenny’s not as deliciously offensive among similarly bad folk; the effect works much better when he’s cursing out his long-suffering and endlessly patient brother or throwing awkward, profanity-laden game at April.

But I imagine this is all setup, and the season opener gets a pass simply for Kenny’s hair.


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One Response to “ Eastbound & Down Recap: Episode 7 ”

  1. Shannon on October 3, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    OH MY GOD. Best show ever. Caught up last night. So many things to love. Kenny in cornrows will be a cherished memory. The “language barrier”, the cock fighting, etc. I think I liked this a lot more than you, I was laughing my ass off the whole time.

    I think he is still cluelessly despicable, particularly because he has no concept of being politically correct. Love this show, love it being in Mexico, and I don’t really miss the other characters-yet. To me, the whole show IS Kenny Powers.