Eastbound & Down
After a lackluster season premiere that ended with April taking off and leaving baby Toby with Kenny Powers: Deadbeat Mullet, threatening to steer season three in a horrifyingly Jersey Girl–ish direction, tonight we return in spades to our regular sexist, racist, generally filthy programming. And, thank Christ on a cracker, my two favorite characters have returned!
Kenny’s hell-bent on finding April and returning the kid. He borrows Shane’s pickup, the Pussy Rocket, which Toby promptly pukes in. “I think his body’s rejecting the Pepsi,” remarks Kenny. When he arrives at April’s empty apartment, he rifles through her stuff and steals her copy of Friends season six DVDs, because middlebrow sitcom DVDs are usually the best collateral. Then he storms the Realtor’s office where she works. She’s not there, either, but her ex and co-worker Jamie is, and Kenny gets the truth out of him after he unzips his backpack and reveals Toby tucked inside with some edible greens.
Jamie is the resident sane man in town, and therefore horrified. “Why the hell you got him in a book bag?”
Kenny says, “I’m trying to get him to eat this lettuce.”
Jamie finally admits that April called him from the road and said she needed some time off. “But you show up here with a baby in a bag? What the hell is that?”
“I’m sorry I don’t know how to wrap him up in a papoose and bounce him on my head like your people,” snaps Kenny.
Meanwhile, at the middle school in Shelby, season one nemesis Principal Cutler is leading a trust-fall exercise until Kenny interrupts it and distracts the faculty, leaving the poor woman to spread her wings and take to the floor.
Kenny cracks up. “That bitch fell.”
In the hallway, Cutler — another one of April’s exes — snaps that he hasn’t spoken to her for months and has no idea where she is. Bitter about the failure of their relationship and also that his destiny is to remind everyone of the boss on Office Space, Cutler addresses Toby in the backpack.
“Good luck to you. It won’t be easy. Because both of your parents are horrible.”
Every warrior needs an ally in battle, so the next stop for Kenny is Stevie Janowski’s house. Stevie’s wife Maria greets him coldly at the door in head-to-toe purple FUBU. It seems that the release of the Hispanic Adventure audiobook didn’t go well, and Kenny and Stevie had a resulting falling out. “Maria rants angrily in Spanish to Kenny and he glares at her.”
“Why are you wearing FUBU? It means ‘For Us, By Us.’ You’re assimulating [sic] weird. You look like a strange sorta Mexican Grimace.”
He tracks Stevie down at a local Kia dealership, where he is scrubbing cars and taking shit. They confront each other and Stevie delivers the following tragic, tear-stained monologue:
“What do you want me to say? I haven’t seen you in a year. You went to Myrtle Beach and you left me in Shelby, okay? Then I get a phone call out of nowhere telling me to self-publish your book, and I did. Now I am thousands of dollars in debt and I am about to lose my apartment, because nobody wanted your dang-gone book, Kenny! Nobody!”
Moments like these remind us that Kenny is actively ruining Stevie’s life and it’s hilarious. Remember that time he manipulated Stevie into taking the fall for that car accident? Stevie’s like the Jesse Pinkman to Kenny’s Jheri-curled Walter White.
More important, ASHLEY FUCKING SCHAEFFER IS BACK, that loquacious, ivory-haired mash-up of Ric Flair and Bill Clinton circa ‘97. Thanks in part to Kenny and Craig Robinson’s season one shenanigans, he lost his BMW dealership and now owns the Kia dealership as well as Stevie’s ass. Poor Stevie appears to be Ashley’s indentured servant (i.e., what Kenny would refer to as a “personal assistant” or a “best friend”). Stevie declines to join Kenny on his mission because Maria, who was kind enough to make him a man in season two, disapproves of their friendship. After being threatened by Schaeffer and his loyal henchman Scott, Kenny skulks out.
Stevie then returns to washing the car and Schaeffer instructs him softly to “get into all [its] crevasses,” because he is a man who only says things that you can spell on your refrigerator with one of those dirty-word magnet sets from Spencer’s Gifts, and it’s perfect.
Kenny busts in on Cassie and Dustin to fill them in and demands any local gossip about where April might have gone (“Cassie! What are all the ladies at the tampon shop sayin’?”). He then asks them to raise Toby as their own. Dustin says no. Kenny says he should think about it. Again, Dustin says no.
As a last resort, Kenny places Toby in a basket and casts him out upon the stream because Toby is destined for greatness (“Like Moses, and the kid from Willow, and other people too”). But as he walks back up the bank, he sees kids on a playground and reconsiders. After fetching Toby from the stream, he returns to Stevie’s house, but Maria says he’s at dinner with his boss. Kenny’s on the warpath.
“Do you know where that motherfucker lives?’
Dinner at the Schaeffer Plantation, as one might expect from a family of quality, is punctuated with classical music. The Fanta is flowing freely. Among the guests are two Korean Kia businessmen, Schaeffer’s wife Donna (as in “I was making love to my wife Donna“) and son Gabriel (as in “My son Gabriel walked in“), all enjoying the culinary labors of the Schaeffers’ cheerful maid, known only as Mammy.
“Mammy’s dumplings will make you cum,” beams Scott.
“Cum-foo!” adds Schaeffer.
Schaeffer introduces the evening’s entertainment, which was “flown all the way from the Orient. The mysterious … and alluring … Cherry Blossom.” As the Japanese koto harp begins to twang, a kimono-clad figure vamps coyly behind a fan.
“Look at the pageantry,” says Schaeffer. “Focus on the pageantry. So seductive.” He then promises his guests of honor lap dances from Cherry Blossom. Is Cherry Blossom Stevie Janowski in full geisha makeup? Yes. Yes it is. While Cherry Blossom has the guests’ attention, Kenny sneaks in, grabs a sword from the wall and busts into the dining room brandishing it. Stevie is surprised and abashed.
Kenny: “I came to liberate my assistant!”
Stevie: “You did?!”
Kenny: “Stevie, why the fuck are you dressed up like the Joy Luck Club?”
Stevie: [Tearfully.] “All I know is I put on … a kimono … and they made me rub my dick all over people.”
Kenny: “It’s called sex trafficking, Stevie. They’re using you.”
Knowledge is power! A newly outraged Stevie tells Schaeffer to go to hell and declares undying sycophancy to Kenny once again. There is a scuffle that Stevie and Kenny lose, thanks to a surprise attack by little Gabriel. Now Schaeffer’s hostages, Stevie and Kenny, are led to the Schaeffer Plantation’s backyard, which houses a cannon, and forced to watch as an exploding example is made of one of the dinner guests who got too frisky with Mammy. Kenny is given the option of walking away, but he won’t leave Stevie — he needs him to move to Myrtle Beach and help take care of the baby. Just before they’re blown to bits, Maria comes to their rescue in the Pussy Rocket, whose ass-end is smashed by a cannon. Shane Dog is not going to be pleased.
We close on Kenny and Stevie — still in full geisha gear — sitting in the back of the pickup. There is contemplative silence. Then they start cracking up.
“You fuckin’ are weird. You are really fuckin’ weird.”
“I nearly got raped!” Stevie gasps, laughing. “I almost was raped!”
It’s nice to see we’ve shirked sentimentality and returned to form. Although Toby’s still in the picture and showrunner logic dictates that Kenny will surely learn how to be a marginally more unshitty father, the show will remain as crude and dark as ever. There should’ve been no doubt, considering I can’t think of a single thing Eastbound & Down holds sacred. Besides maybe the music of Bob Seger.