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Eastbound & Down Recap: You Can Go Home Again

No shame in saying that’s not what you were expecting. After the cockfighting and the sociopathic midget and the lonely samurai millionaire and the Seger-fetishizing torch singer and the Charros and the Sonny Fuckin’ Crockett, you didn’t think this would all end up back in Shelby with Kenny contemplating tossing his last shot at the majors to raise a child with April. For all the chaotic possibilities at this story’s disposal, it opted instead for the quietest and most serene way out, which is pretty punk rock in its own way. Like setting a match to the fuse of a bomb only to find out it lights a nice candelabra. A few weeks ago, we worried that the return to Shelby for April might feel like something of a cop-out, a safe choice after a season of setting up some decidedly unsafe ones. The season finale doesn’t necessarily dissuade that notion, but it adds a final twist that has the potential to be scarier and more chaotic than anything a knife-wielding Aaron might threaten.

After a full season (okay, only six previous episodes) designed squarely to put the show’s audience and its (pro?)tagonist in unfamiliar terrain, this finale is meant as a reward. Look, there’s Kenny doing blow with the not-really-rehabbed Clegg. Look, there’s Kenny embarrassing himself with a ludicrous, self-aggrandizing speech in front of the student body. Look, there’s Kenny trying to humiliate Cutler. Look, there’s Kenny being weird and clueless around Dustin and his family. It plays like a season-one clip reel, by design — reboots are all the rage, after all.

There’s some drama early at the border, as Kenny is able to, barely, use his celebrity to convince the border guard to let the Denali into the U.S. without a search, a perfunctory one of which would certainly reveal Maria hiding under a blanket and a Tecate box in the backseat. “It feels good to be breaking the laws in America again,” Kenny says, with no small amount of relief. From there, the greatest hits begin in earnest — Kenny drops Stevie and Maria off, then goes to see his brother.

After Kenny makes a scene in the cafeteria, Cutler brings him to an open house presided over by April, who’s no longer the school’s art teacher. Oh also, she’s extremely pregnant, presumably by the hand (okay, not hand) of her real-estate partner, played by Jerry Minor, a.k.a. Delocated’s Mighty Joe Jon the black blond. She has no interest in any sort of mea culpa from Kenny.

With his one reason to stay in Shelby no longer valid, he gets ready to leave for spring training in Myrtle Beach and stops at Stevie’s to say goodbye. Maria has invited her cousins over, perhaps permanently, and Stevie again begs Kenny to take him along. But he refuses: After all, “It’s better to be strangled by a necklace of Mexicans than to be strangled by no one at all.” It is, in its way, the wisest, kindest thing Kenny has ever said to his ward. Or maybe to anyone at all. Kenny gives his manuscript tapes to Stevie and Maria to deliver to April. Seeing the happy couple walk away from her house hand-in-hand is enough to make April think something deeper may be going on in Kenny’s world than she gives him credit for.

And, somehow, that ploy works. April drives around town listening to his memoirs, then catches Kenny just as he’s yet again about to leave Dustin’s for his baseball future, freshly scrubbed jet ski in tow. She reveals that the baby is Kenny’s — premature ejaculation is ejaculation just the same — and he is rendered speechless. More than speechless, really: He’s speaking in tongues. But it’s clear that something in him has been shaken irrevocably as the nature of Kenny Powers’s doomed ego trip shifts from the narcissism of returning to baseball to the narcissism of bringing a tiny Kenny Powers Jr. into the world. There is another.

That prospect may be no less horrifying and offensive than any other possible outcome, and it certainly lays the groundwork for Eastbound & Down’s third, and presumably final, season. You’ve loved Kenny Powers doing key bumps and shooting steroids in Mexico — are you ready to love Kenny Powers doing key bumps and shooting steroids while leafing through What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Well, no matter, because Jody Hill and Danny McBride probably have something even darker than that in mind. Or do they?

Photo: Fred Norris/HBO