Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Eastbound & Down: Adios, Bubblebutt

Last week, we fretted that Kenny and Stevie’s Hispanic adventure was coming to an end prematurely, just as it was showing how much fun it might be to watch Danny McBride and Don Johnson squint and smirk and trade half-baked non sequiturs on a long-term basis. And that the decision to go back for April seemed hasty and safe by comparison. We would like to, for the most part, recant that worry — Jody Hill and gang send Kenny off with closure, and by putting Kenny’s doomed comeback attempt back in focus, and in a way that feels, at least by Eastbound & Down’s standards, vaguely plausible.

Kenny wouldn’t be floundering in Mexico at all if it weren’t for Pat Anderson, coked-out scout for Tampa, who offered Kenny a Major League deal that never existed. Now that he’s getting out of rehab and making amends, his first priority — after apologizing to his loyal sponsor, played by Hill himself, for fucking his wife and letting his sister watch — is to make things right with Kenny Powers. Pat offers Kenny a gift basket, which includes mineral bath salts and an iPad, as well as a promise: If Kenny can pitch one more game for the Charros, then a scout from Texas will be there to watch. But given the degree to which he burned his bridges, this is going to take some amends on Kenny’s part as well.

First stop is Sebastian’s house. He returns the Lamborghini and finds Sebastian depressed and ready to defend himself from Kenny with a sword. Kenny is armed only with Sebastian’s laptop — an actual Mexican standoff in Mexico. Vida hasn’t been calling Sebastian back, which has left him in a complete funk — Kenny sees this opening and uses it to bond with Sebastian (“I used to be just like you yesterday,” he says. “Sad inside and compensating by acting like a complete cocksucker.”) Sebastian lets Kenny back onto the team, provided he can convince Roger to forget about that whole gun-waving spectacle.

Stevie’s packing to leave Mexico and asks if he can bring one extra thing back home with them: Maria. Kenny grants permission for Stevie to marry Maria, as long as he realizes that their kids are going to be made fun of on the playground, and Maria offers a gift of gratitude: a custom Flama Blanca suit, revealed to the hair-raising opening strains of "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)," just the Messianic flourish Kenny needs to finish settling his Mexican scores in style. He tells Vida that, despite her sweet tailpipe, he’s actually a tit man. He’s not like a black guy. This is his “you can’t fire me, I quit” resolution for her dumping him for Sebastian, and while she couldn’t care less, he’s one step closer to freedom.

Also newly freed: The roosters caged in Aaron’s truck, just before Kenny sets the truck on fire, cruising away from the flames on his moped, mullet flowing, middle finger pointed ever-heavenward. Then, the closest thing Eastbound & Down will have to a Knute Rockne moment: Kenny gives the Charros a rousing speech asking for forgiveness and for them to let him play one more time, to help Kenny Powers’s dream come true before they go back to being the shittiest Mexican baseball team in Mexico. Roger relents on the condition that Kenny enter the ballgame like a regular player — no donkeys, no fireworks. Stevie takes to the PA truck and appeals to the good people of Copales to get off their couches and do something for once in their lives and see Kenny Powers pitch one last time.

Kenny strikes out the first batter and gets the appreciative round of applause he’s been wanting all along — turns out, all the people want is quality baseball, not cheap theatrics — and the Charros win, presumably, by some score or another, with Kenny starting instead of closing. (Eastbound wears its complete lack of interest in the details of baseball as a badge of honor.) And while the Texas scout had all the markings of a Waiting for Guffman red herring, he does in fact exist, and he is in fact Matthew McConaughey, at his McConaugheyest. He invites Kenny to spring training in Myrtle Beach, which will likely be followed by a stint in Double-A. It’s not what Kenny had in mind, but it does seem to be a legitimate offer. It’s time for him to quit tickling balls and start sucking his dream’s dick. And he takes the offer seriously enough to turn down the coke-filled celebration — he has a wedding to attend.

After Stevie and Maria’s happy nuptials, it’s time for the final farewell. Catuey has fixed up the Denali and added some extras. Kenny says good-bye to the family, and offers Catuey’s kids the burro as a parting gift. (“Whenever I think of a Mexican, I will think of you. Whenever you look at that jackass, think of me.”) And then he leaves as he came, in the Denali. But not alone, and not at the lowest point in his life. That’s in the past. Unless it’s still to come. Everything about this episode feels like a finale, the exact analog of last season’s closer — loose ends are tied up, closure’s attained, a new goal is pursued. It only took the last five minutes of that episode for everything to come undone. There’s a whole episode next week for that to happen.

Now that Mexico does indeed seem to be in the rear-view mirror, leaving doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all. Every conceivable variation on xenophobic slurs has been touched on, every way to insult someone indulged and repeated. We’ve seen Kenny Powers wreak havoc on his hometown and an unassuming Mexican village — if the show actually follows through and puts him around actual professional baseball players, half his age and double his talent, that’s something we haven’t seen yet and likely a world he’d find more alien and alienating than Copales. It would be weird for Hill and McBride and David Gordon Green to pull that particular rug out a second time. Which, come to think of it, is exactly why Myrtle Beach seems very far away.

Photo: Fred Norris/HBO