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Eastbound & Down Recap: Not Everyone Can Fly

In this episode, Hyde Kenny — career over family, fame over reality — comes out in full-force. Or, I should say, leans in. Not to overanalyze this, but while the Having It All conundrum’s being beaten to death in trend pieces, romantic comedies, and much of the current women’s nonfiction sphere, it’s generally contextualized as a ladies' only problem. It’s kind of refreshing that Eastbound & Down’s broaching the issue in its own stylized, over-the-top, gross-out male way.

And here’s why all of this is so crushing: It’s undeniable that Kenny has grown as a man and a father over the last few seasons. In this episode, when he and April are in bed and he’s “making it rain” on her and telling her to “bring those big titties over here,” there’s an affection and tenderness he never would have been capable of showing her in the first season, back when he was in Shelby, cocaine flop-sweating all over the auditorium (this is also to the credit of Katy Mixon’s response-acting/Katy Mixon’s smile, which is like fertilizer for the heart).

April is not happy that Hyde Kenny is emerging. You can tell by her deflated hair, and also by her halfhearted picking at the expensive crab dinner Kenny takes her out to and her distinct exasperation at the flashy gifts (Chanel bag, Kindle “with 500 pre-loaded eBooks,” indelicate wads of cash) he keeps piling on her. She’s miserable that he was miserable about her own professional success — and he doesn’t realize the contradiction in expecting her to be thrilled about his. Inspired by Dixie and Gene, April asks Kenny if he would be willing to go to couples therapy. Kenny snorts, responds: “A therapist? Is that a motherfucker with a little flute? Getting a snake to come out of a basket?”

Cassie, like April, is attempting to keep Jekyll Kenny alive by encouraging Dustin to hear Kenny out about faking his own death and generally being an asshole over the last few years. But Kenny opens by gifting Dustin’s kids expensive swag, and, in the middle of the brothers’ reunion, checks his phone and chortles at a funny emoji that Guy Young sent. Then he bounces to go meet Guy, inadvertently making Dustin’s decision to stay estranged really easy.

As predicted, Guy and Kenny are beginning to chafe, although sports shows have more room for multiple douchebags than a lot of other platforms. Kenny’s been hijacking Guy’s stupid gag interviews with, for instance, random Game Day nacho-making Cat Cora, by saying, “Kenny’s cutting in!” and getting the crowd to egg him on as he tries to eat 50 hot peppers. His sheer ridiculousness has garnered him the position of fan favorite, and it’s bugging the hell out of Guy. And we know what happens when you bug Guy. (Poor Forney from last week is no longer on Sports Sesh.)

No more ol’ boy camaraderie between these two. Guy has purchased one of those insane hovering water jet things that Leonardo DiCaprio was riding on in those pictures, and Kenny wants one, but Guy says he’s uppity for even thinking he could afford one, and he needs to stop hijacking the show. “Not everyone can fly,” Guy tells Kenny. (Which, of course, guarantees that Kenny will hijack the show and buy one of those insane jet things before the episode is over.)                                                                                  

Stevie’s trajectory, meanwhile, is the inverse of Kenny’s: He only got into the whole fame gig to gain the respect of his family. Now that he’s got enough cash to buy the kids a Bouncy Palace and dress like 2007 Nick Cannon on a cruise ship, his sex life with Maria has improved (urghhh) and the last thing he wants to do is fly too close to the sun. He gets the cash part, and the dimepiece part, but he doesn’t get Kenny’s obsession with the spotlight — his enthusiasm for being a career sidekick is boundless. “I’ve been Scottie Pippin for a while now, and it’s been pretty awesome. I dunno, there’s a lot of pussy and money for gross Scottie Pippin.

Like an emotionally troubled 13-year-old girl playing truth or dare at a slumber party, Kenny is absolutely incapable of going with the option that will ruffle the least feathers or continue things at the status quo. He will always choose dare over truth, go for the glory, and wind up sticking his head in the public toilet of a local arts college, not that I did that when I was 13 and don’t tell anyone. Order him “go left,” and he’ll go right. Tell him “Stop swaggerjacking my mid-level sports talk show program,” and he’ll end up feeding Froot Loops to a monkey, getting all the laughs and pissing off his boss. And, of course, bailing on couples therapy with a sad-eyed April in favor of playing with his new Leonardo DiCaprio Jesus-hovercraft.

“Could Schwarzenegger have made it to the top of movies and politics if he gave a shit about his family?” asks Kenny, echoing, somehow, those myriad profesh-versus-wifey chick flicks like The Devil Wears Prada. All we need now is Stock Boyfriend Adrian Grenier to get some throwaway lines in about grilled cheese. (“There’s like eight pounds of Jarlhsberg in there!”)

Just three episodes to go. Will Kenny end up redeemed, in a comfortable place between suburbia and fame? Can he hold on to April? Or will we end on Hyde Kenny, alone in a blur of designer drugs and coked-up women from the local vocational school, in a desperate run for Guy Young’s job as top banana on Sports Sesh? And when will we see Lindsay Lohan?!

Extras:

Kenny’s idea for T&T (Taters and Tits) not only sounds like it’ll pop up sometime in the next few episodes, but a viable real-life franchise. He and Ken Marino should do a T&T/Souper Crackers outpost.

Kenny goes back to those Poor Black Kids and brags about fixing their baseball diamond for them: “Got rid of that thrown-up sizzurp everywhere.”

Stevie, on constantly having sex with Maria again: “My dick’s all pruny from being up in that sweet punani.”

Kenny: “Sounds like 50 Shades of Gross to me, motherfucker.”

Photo: HBO