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Eastbound & Down Recap: How Not to Have a Creative Collaboration

Well, that got ugly fast. Though it seems unlikely that anyone thought pitching relief for Los Charros of Copales, Mexico, was going to be an express trip to either the Major Leagues or personal betterment, the wheels popped off Kenny Powers’s latest comeback so horrifically and in so many different ways, the Denali looks road-ready by comparison. These are the folks who made Observe and Report — they’re not afraid to take their comedy to a dark place.

Chapter Ten begins with Kenny making the world his bitch — mowing down batters, riding Jet Skis, doing mushrooms, getting rained on by trim, riding more Jet Skis — even as Roger tries to warn him that his own nascent Major League baseball career was derailed by excess and selfishness. Kenny is perhaps too narcissistic to recognize the clumsy Photoshop job right in front of his nose, but in any event, message clearly not received. Stevie and Catuey drive around town with a loudspeaker, Blues Brothers–style, drumming up excitement (“He’ll strike you out and shit all over your face!”), then that night, Kenny keeps the entire stadium waiting as he rides to the mound on a donkey. The subsequent benching doesn’t go over well.

Nor does Kenny’s stewardship over Vida’s singing career. Sebastian sets her up at his home studio (formerly his parents’ bedroom), but from the minute Kenny hears Vida’s song about wanting to be by herself, he knows he’s in trouble, and catchy though it may be, adding the line, “I like to butt-fuck the ladies / Will I choke hold a bitch? / Well, maybe” may not increase the single’s commercial prospects. When Kenny — with Vida’s poor son in tow — catches Sebastian going down on Vida in the studio, he trashes the place completely. “I thought you were a whore with a heart of gold, but you’re just a whore with a regular whore’s heart.”

When Kenny comes home to find Stevie having sex with his new (and first!) girlfriend, Maria, he insists he dump her immediately. Even Kenny seems to vaguely acknowledge that he’s now crossed over from everyday megalomaniac to cartoonish supervillain, but Stevie obeys, as he must. But as for wondering, as we did a couple of weeks ago, whether Steve Little is an actor or someone who may actually be a bit … off … we can safely say, after watching the heartbroken reaction to Kenny’s demand, that he isn’t just an actor, he’s a pretty great one.

Kenny goes on a bender and runs onto the field at Charros Stadium waving a gun, which he eventually throws to a lucky fan. There’s something about the spectacle that feels pretty boilerplate, yet if anyone was going to have the protagonist of an ongoing comedy series blow his brains out midway through a second season, it’s Jody Hill and company. Didn’t happen, but that hint of menace and unadulterated antipathy lent what was otherwise an eye-roller of a scene some much-needed tension.

With no bridges in Copales left for Kenny to burn, Stevie presents him with some intriguing news: Eduardo Sanchez, the mystery man Kenny is kinda-sorta-but-not-really looking for, lives 100 miles away, and is not, in fact, the guy who directed The Blair Witch Project. They steal Sebastian’s red Lamborghini and happen upon a house with a man outside working. He has a familiar haircut, a familiar drawl, and a similar predilection for badass snake insignias. “Kenny,” purrs Don Johnson.

“Hey, pop,” says Kenny.

That Kenny Powers may have some daddy issues isn’t a huge surprise, but that the season turned on this point so suddenly might be. It’s worth remembering that Eastbound & Down doesn’t go thirteen episodes; we’re already more than halfway done. So a character whose name wasn’t mentioned or particularly hinted at before the last episode winds up being the reason Kenny’s in Mexico to begin with, and we have ourselves a very different show at the end of this episode than we did at its beginning.

Photo: Fred Norris/HBO