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Eastbound & Down Recap: A Goddamn Minstrel Show

Kenny Powers was born to be a dickhead sports commentator. In real life, his new gig would be a Deadspin editor's wet dream: He’s racist, misogynistic, profoundly un-self-aware, cocky, comfortable in the good ol’ boy world of ESPN but also doesn’t play well with others, and meme-able hair. While he quit his car dealership job and launched himself back into the public eye as a guest host on Sports Sesh in this episode, Kenny’s still retained some of the family-man mentality of the season premiere. Yes, maybe he has dipped into some crank, but he’s not fucking other women (“My lesbian-turning days are over”). He still wants April and the kids, but he wants fame, too.

Stevie’s been sticking it out in the suburbs, too; it’s like a weird, cussy, ethnic version of Rabbit Redux. A number of Maria’s wrinkled older relatives are still floating around the house using the amenities, and his 9-year-old-ish kids call him “dick-licker.” He’s giving saxophone lessons for money, and sometimes for free. He hides unpaid bills under his pillow. It’s bleak. Stevie’s not Kenny, who revolts by going on a Percocet bender and digs a hole in the ground (“to make a pool”) like a demented Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption. Stevie just takes it. Even when Kenny extends the offer to return as Official Powers Sidekick, Stevie declines in favor of continuing to support his family/live in hell.

“I have two white kids,” Kenny snaps. “Two straight-up white kids. They’re a lot more expensive to take care of than four fuckin’ Mexican kids.”

“Four Mexican kids is equal to two white kids!” Stevie replies.

April is trying to stick it out, but fears embarrassment on Kenny’s behalf as well as general annoyance that he’s throwing down $2,400 for a SAG membership while she is trying to Lean In. You have to wonder: Which Kenny did April actually fall in love with? As he preps for his first appearance on Sports Sesh, he tells a skeptical April: “When I come home and have a victory celebration and eat a whole fucking pizza by myself, I won’t share one single slice with you. No slices … for Wife.”

After Kenny tells Guy (the always-good Ken Marino) that he's quit his job in an attempt to live the high life again, he asks Guy for a co-hosting spot on Sports Sesh. Guy offers Kenny a spot — one guest appearance — but it is later revealed that this is not out of the kindness of his … the Aqua-Velva bottle that rests inside his ribcage where his heart would be. It is because he wants Kenny to unleash his bombast onto Dontel Benjamin, the former NFL player who has been monopolizing the show. A closer read: He wants the un-PC Kenny to serve up the racist shutdowns that Young knows better than to express himself. Not a coincidence that Young rants that Benjamin’s turning Sports Sesh into a “goddamn minstrel show” like “the goddamn Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

Kenny gets bulldozed during his first appearance by the abrasive Benjamin, who makes fun of Powers's classic “Run-DMC black Levis” and Western fringe shirt. Benjamin also pretty much obliterates and talks over every other host on the show, and is generally completely obnoxious. (Based on the little I know about sports commentary, it seems like the bro version of The Real Housewives, but instead of Swarovski-studded iPhone cases it is sagging alpha-male ballsacks. Kenny freezes up, to Guy’s chagrin: “[Dontel] took out his big fat dick and started smacking you in the fucking face, and in your ears … I thought you were something that you’re not anymore. I bet on the wrong horse.”

Finally, as he must for Kenny to succeed, Stevie comes around in typical Stevie fashion, saying, “I am a cunt, okay? I am such a big pussy that my dick can barely get hard. I say if this fucked-up world doesn’t give us what we deserve, we need to take it.”

Kenny: “If we’re gonna do this, it’s gonna take a ton of blood, sugar, sex, and magic.”

Stevie: “Well, guess what — I can feel my little dick getting hard already.”

With the help of Stevie (“the brains send the hands shit to do, and the hands get it done”), one training montage, one suit, one $80,000 lime green convertible, and a pair of two-tone oxfords later, Kenny is ready to take on Dontel again. Just before he does, April shows up to support him and voices her true reservations about Kenny’s potential to succeed.

“I’m scared that I can’t have my husband Kenny and the famous Kenny at the same time, and I don’t want to lose you,” she says.

“You can have all the Kennys that there are Kennys of,” he replies. Which is about as romantic as it gets on this show, alien syntax and all.

“Well, if this is what makes you happy, then go fuck shit up.” I want to marry Katy Mixon.

He does, ultimately outwitting, out-cussing, and out-peacocking Benjamin — culminating with a victory arm-raise in front of the cheering crowd.

Eastbound & Down’s biggest weakness in its four seasons, arguably, is that it has never been able to develop a villain we can take as seriously as Kenny takes himself. Ashley Schaffer was hilarious, but absurd. Craig Robinson was lovable. Ike Barinholtz as Ivan Dochenko was, uh, oddly sexy (although I suspect that the straight women and gay men who watch Eastbound & Down are a niche contingent of people to begin with). This season I am expecting that it’ll come down to Kenny versus Guy Young, who seems like a formidable opponent, the Devil in this Faustian scenario. The Devil would play “Casanova” by LeVert in his car.

Extras:

White woman talking to April: “If you and the kids need a place to crash, away from him, you can always stay with us, our house is too big.” Hahahaha. White women.

Stevie hugging Kenny: “Oh my gosh, I missed that smell.” Perfect line delivery.

If there were any questions about the quality of weed in the E&D writers room, look no further than the fight between Stevie and Kenny that involved throwing things.