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Eastbound & Down Recap: Hot Mic

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. From the second Guy Young fires a sweet old janitor in the cold open for laughing at a bit of Kenny’s (“He’s one of those stupid white people who just says shit”), flashing a maniacal smile the moment before the title card appears, it was clear this episode would be rough.

“Yeah, I can fuckin’ break shit too!” April shrieks at Kenny during the inevitable marriage-ending showdown. She’s referring to a plate, but it could also be a response to his continued insistence that she has no right to leave him because he’s rich and successful and takes her on whirlwind lobster-and-opera date nights with Blackie (his AmEx Black). “Divorce is for losers, April,” he tells her. “We’re not losers.” Of course, he isn’t willing to go any deeper than showy gifts and last-minute parties to fix their marriage — she’s the one who knew it had to be repaired it from the inside out and was the one who was willing to put in the time and effort.

From the get-go, April is not happy. There has not been a sadder woman on a roller rink since Monster. This does not escape Kenny. “Maybe I just married someone who sucks,” he muses to Toby a few days later, who is sitting on a lawn mower playing with a stack of cash. Kenny identifies with the Craigslist wolf chained up in their garage nearby: stuck in domestication, out of its element, and unappreciated.

In a desperate attempt to understand April’s unhappiness, Kenny goes to Dixie, which is an Über-dick move, since he broke up her marriage with that lie about Gene sleeping with a woman at Congo Canyon. Dixie agrees to help Kenny in repairing his relationship with April. As he turns to go, he pauses. “Oh, and Dixienoodles. Gene didn’t … ” He almost reveals his lie, but “ … come inside that woman. After a few thrusts, he took his penis out, and began smashing it between the ring and the toilet for penance. You should give him another chance.”

The pissing contest with Guy on Sports Sesh has also reached a breaking point: Guy introduces a wild card guest — a tennis pro named Candy Cox who shares Kenny’s knack for the crude putdown — and, to add insult to injury, Kenny accidentally leaves his microphone on during a private bathroom-mirror pep talk. When he comes back on set, he’s the subject of audience ridicule. “Hot mic, champ,” Guy smirks at him. Later, the two have a confrontation hovering on the lake, like Transformers, and Guy reminds Kenny of his origin story: “I took you under my wing. And then you bit the underside of my fucking wing.” And you know, that’s kind of true. Guy was doing Kenny a favor by putting him on the show, and Kenny repaid him by trying to stage a coup. It’s Asshole vs. Asshole here. 

As for Kenny’s third venture — if you count marriage as a venture, which I (and probably Kenny) would — the Hooters-of-tater-tots kiosk has opened, albeit with very little fanfare, featuring Maria as a waitress (complete with an absurd new boob job). Stevie promises he will deal with Guy while Kenny focuses on saving his marriage to April. Stevie’s version of “dealing” with Guy is to hire a dimwit from a local church to corner Guy on the way out of the gym and recommend that Kenny get more airtime. This ends poorly. Guy kicks the shit out of this poor feeble-minded man, who can’t get his few lines straight, and spots Stevie and Maria waiting nearby in the getaway car. 

For the last three seasons, we’ve watched Kenny mature enough to get to this point with April and the kids, and in this episode, we see it all get torn down in a single party scene. In order to remind April how awesome her life as Mrs. Kenny Powers is (his words), Kenny gets all of April’s friends together, splashes out on plane tickets for some of them, and has a priest in attendance to renew their vows.  

Finally, when a subdued April declines the microphone as Kenny asks her to duet with him on “Time of My Life,” he implodes and the two have it out in front of everybody. For a show whose bread and butter is gross-out humor and antiquated racist slang and ballsacks hanging out of underwear, it packs a surprising punch. Danny McBride stands up to the challenge of taking Kenny outside his normal emotional range; when Kenny yells at April about not knowing what she wants from him, how he’s gotten her all of this shiny stuff but she’s still not happy, you get the sense that he’s genuinely confused and upset that nothing he seems to do for her — short of sitting in the room fuming silently and feeling bad about himself while she gets an award for selling houses — is good enough. 

It’s not about the money, she tells him, like she has over and over. It’s never been about the money. But he can’t hear her. They both throw things, and she cries. He comes clean about Gene’s innocence, and April orders him to leave the house. Before taking off in the $80,000 lime-green convertible, he shoots the metal chain that keeps the Craigslist wolf tethered inside the garage. It takes off into the night. Kenny Powers the family man is dead. 

Back at work, Kenny throws himself at the mercy of Guy Young, telling him that April kicked him out of the house and he has nothing except Sports Sesh. If Guy keeps him on, he’ll know his place and stay second banana. But Guy, being the biggest sore winner and loser in the known universe, goes on a diatribe about the difference between him (the talent) and the audience (plebes, morons, “jigaboos” — yikes) before finally telling Kenny that he belongs in the latter group, with the people who “eat his shit.” With that, Guy walks onto the set — and is immediately booed off it. Kenny had a hot mic. On purpose this time. 

Extras: 

The sound effect when Stevie reveals Maria’s (tiny?!) post-surgery nipples. 

April’s Kim Kardashian–in-the-first-few-months-of-Kanye-courtship peplum outfits are my whole heart. 

Kenny to Toby: “You know what libido is? Those little beans inside you that make you horny.” 

Ken Marino is surprisingly not-doughy, but it feels weird perving on Ron Donald.

Photo: HBO