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Eastbound & Down Recap: A Higher Purpose

In his excellent write-up of the season-two premiere of Eastbound & Down, now officially America’s most batshit-insane television program that doesn’t involve hoarders, our regular recapper noted that the show had “raised the stakes by removing them.” Until this week, we weren’t so sure: The first two episodes of the White Flame’s (!) south-of-the-border comeback seemed a bit off to our eyes. (Though, to be fair, we were watching on a 3-D Vizio monitor “popping bubbles in the air like some sort of fucked-up Ray Charles.”) Yes to the cornrows and cockfighting. Double yes to Michael Peña’s shirtless swordplay and the fact that the combined eye-rolling patience of Efren Ramirez’s Catuey and Marco Rodriguez’s Roger more than made up for the lack of John Hawkes. But to speak as a “villager” for a moment: ¿Adónde vamos? Part of the pleasure of last year was watching Kenny simultaneously thrill and horrify his hometown: As terribly as he treated the residents of Shelby, North Carolina, they all kinda wanted him around. Coke-addled and Drakkar-doused, Kenny still represented the impossible dreams of the God-fearing, Jet Ski–underappreciating locals: dreams like escape, celebrity, and having your own audiobook. In Mexico, Kenny Powers is a nobody, and we weren’t quite sure what his motivation was to try to reverse that. Was it April? Was it the love of the game? Was it for the honor of Big Red (R.I.P.)? Thankfully, the much stronger “Chapter 9” sets us straight as to what gives Kenny Powers 2.0 purpose: ass.

In fairness, it’s quite an ass. Belonging to Good Sport of the Year front-runner Ana de la Reguera, it holds its own admirably in a scene with Danny McBride. Barely covered in a leopard-print thong, it shakes and seemingly emits wild-animal noises — which is more than enough for ol’ KP to forget about April and consider throwing on some “customary gowns and whatnot” and settling down permanently in Mexico, despite the country’s fondness for soccer. Vida, the nominal owner of said derriere (at least until No. 55 showed up), is sort of a tough character to figure: Is there a real-life person outside of Jody Hill’s fevered imagination that knows all the words to “Night Moves” (in Spanish!), just laughs when a mulleted ballplayer hands her an “autographed” drawing of him ejaculating onto her, and is able to hold her own at a full-on Mexican yacht party, complete with ”Bartles & Jaymes, corn on the cob, and fucking Booger Sugar?” Maybe not, but Vida is more complicated than initially suspected: She’s got a lonely son named Tony who likes magic and watching Whiz Kids on TV. He and Kenny meet-cute: “You came out of her vagina? I was all up in that shit last night!” But while the presence of a kid at first makes Kenny fear that Vida’s “uterus is used up,” all it takes is watching Stevie choke on a hot pepper and a pleasant night eating tacos at the carnival to make him start thinking of stepfatherhood. “I’ve taken it slow before, it did not work out so good. I’m taking it super-fast!” he declares before hopping on a roller coaster that manages to be both literal and metaphorical. Vida is a person after all: one seeking some high-octane (or, in the case of Kenny’s motorbike, “green”) thrills to escape the realities of her life, not a saintly figure making herself freely available for Kenny to pour his heart and, uh, other stuff into.

But we also learned that Kenny has another mission in Mexico. “I didn’t just come to Mexico to get drunk and fuck prostitutes,” he tells Stevie (who, after a rough entrance last week, seems to have settled nicely into his familiar sycophancy: borrowing Kenny’s powder-blue thong, watching his master practice the bullwhip, and attempting to fix the Denali, all while falling in definite like with Maria, Catuey’s kindly sister). No, Kenny has a higher purpose: locating one Eduardo Sanchez. Deep Roy returns as Aaron, taking what never, ever could have been a one-note performance as an agitated, knife-happy Indian immigrant dwarf with a fake mustache (plus a spare) doing key-bumps in Mexico, and kind of blasts it into the stratosphere this week. “Tell your bitch to stop sassing me!” he bellows at Kenny, while trading an entire phonebook (one which might contain Sanchez’s digits) for not-quite-$40 and a few Baby Gap jokes. Is Sanchez Kenny’s father? His drug connect? Or a person who might actually know how to fix a broken-down SUV? We don’t know, but we’re eager to find out — and also glad to see another example of why this season isn’t really just about louche debasement and kinda easy Montezuma’s Revenge jokes. Things are looking up — for Kenny and his fans. But the man himself said it best: “I’m excited, too, but let’s not touch dicks, okay?”

Okay!

Photo: Fred Norris/HBO