Eastbound & Down
You guys know how Friday Night Lights is sort of about football but mostly about Kyle Chander’s laugh lines? Eastbound & Down is sort of about America’s greatest pastime (baseball) but mostly about America’s even greatest-er pastimes (fathers and sons and sex and fireworks and tailgating and girls with rhinestone belly-button rings who smoke menthols and jet skis and airbrushed T-shirts and fireworks and babies and bald eagles in fringe jackets singing Pearl Jam). And this week there is also Lily Tomlin. Fucking Lily goddamn Tomlin. But let’s start from the beginning, which, unexpectedly, finds Kenny’s dad Eduardo Sanchez/Don Johnson and mongoloid son Casper in Mexico robbing a novelty shop.
Back in Myrtle, Kenny, clad in an “I Rented This Hooker”-complete-with-arrow muscle shirt, hangs with Andrea and and her roommates. He instructs poor grieving Kate to stand to his right and apologizes for his Cole/Shane prank inducing an asthma attack. Because they’re all adults here. (“And I’m sorry I just positioned you to be the punch line of my T-shirt. It’s not funny.”) As such, Kenny has brought Toby to meet his 19-year-old mother surrogate, Andrea. Which is fortunate, because Andrea has a lot to say to Toby. “Hey, uh, baby dude.”
In an attempt to win back team leadership from the new prodigal pitcher/mullet² Ivan Dochenko, Kenny announces to the Mermen that he’s holding a banging Fourth of July celebration for America’s birthday. F.O.B. Russian Dochenko, who apparently moonlights as “D.J. Blue-ray,” has got his own shindig that day, which Kenny says is “like a Jew on Christmas — if you don’t believe, you don’t get any presents.”
To this, Dochenko says: “We have a saying in Russia: Sometimes the alpha dog who thinks he’s the alpha is really the zeta.”
“Well, sometimes with wolves, one of them is Russian, and the other ones tear his ass up.”
The heat is on, but two shitstorms throw a wrench in Kenny’s party planning: (1) His dad and half-brother come RV-ing into town. In a reversal of Kenny’s journey back to his roots in season two, Eduardo Sanchez is making like that song in all the movie trailers and getting right back to where he started from. Specifically, he’s come to fuck Kenny’s mom. Apparently his life has been one big downward spiral since he walked out on her — but Kenny refuses to pass on her address or let him spend time with Toby.
And (2), loyal sycophant Stevie Janowski’s attention is somewhere other than doing Kenny’s bidding — he’s still reeling from his recent infidelity — even after Kenny tells him of Ivan’s sinister plans to “ursup” him [sic] and insists “there are things more important than your marriage!” What makes Steve Little’s lines especially great is the fact that he delivers them on the verge of tears, e.g., “Ever since she got here, all I’ve wanted to do is stick my dick in different pussy.”
Finally, Stevie approaches Maria as she’s watching Toby sleep. Peaceful baby mobile music plays.
“You look so beautiful.”
She smiles. “Gracias.”
“I cheated on you. Just kidding.”
She smiles again.
“No, I’m not. I cheated on you. I had sex with another girl.”
She stares at him for a second, then runs out. In the bathroom, he has an ambiguous moment with a razor that someone should put on YouTube and set to “Needle in the Hay.”
Back from a pep talk with Shane’s headstone (on which Kenny litters, natch), our hero returns home to find his dad and Casper have broken into his home to coddle Toby. Eduardo suggests that Kenny leave Toby with him while he parties that evening, and Kenny immediately responds: “Fuck that, I’d rather throw him down a goddamn well.” But after some light pressure, he gives in, on the conditions that Eduardo “stays in the house, doesn’t emotionally damage him, or do any of the other shitty things you can do to a baby.”
Kenny’s dad sends him off with this: “You go get fucked up and feel good about yourself, son.”
So Kenny bumps some lines and makes an entrance in full red, white, and blue pimped-out Lincoln garb on his jet ski. But when he arrives, he finds the party empty save for Casper in the VIP area — they’re all at Dochenko’s Euro dance party. Kenny and Casper head over to the club and find it, for lack of a better word, poppin’. Kenny hijacks the microphone and delivers one of his trademark unsuccessful leader monologues, which also includes breaking up with Andrea, who bailed on his party for Ivan’s: “You better go home and change your Facebook status to fuckin’ ‘dumped,’ because that’s what just happened.” As they are removed from the premises, Kenny and Casper light the fireworks inside the club, causing pandemonium.
Back at home, Kenny spills the night’s disaster to Eduardo. “I feel like my life’s become Requiem for a Dream, and I have front-row-seat tickets to the ass-to-ass scene. And Toby’s the dildo. And I’m both assholes.” Kenny’s dad suggests (in classic Powers self-serving fashion) that he might think about leaving Toby with someone who can love and care for him. Liiike … Kenny’s mom.
A miserable Stevie emerges into the kitchen to take a swig of alcohol — he has shaved his head, Walter White–style. “Happy fucking Fourth of July,” he tells the gang, then retreats with the handle.
Cut to: Ladies night at the bowling alley. A cropped blonde with her back to us has just cursed her head off after striking out.
“Mrs. Powers? Phone call for you. It’s your son, Kenny.”
And LILY TOMLIN turns around. Bam.
From Kenny’s bonding with Eduardo and Casper to seeing Mrs. Powers for the first time, it appears we’re coming toward the hot-gluing together of an estranged nuclear family. But although we see Kenny growing more attached to Toby, he insists he’s an unfit father. Which, I mean, he is. What will happen when April returns for him? Will Stevie make it through his dark night of the soul? Do you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain?