DON’T GET SENSITIVE ON ME HERE
By Colleen Lobner
[Ed. note: We have a winner! Thank you to all who submitted their Eastbound recaps. And do stay tuned, ‘cause who knows, I might feel crazy and decide do this again for another show.]
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Last night’s premiere of the second season of Eastbound & Down reunited us, at long last, with Kenny Fuckin’ Powers, who we last saw fleeing Shelby, North Carolina, unable to admit he hadn’t been called back up to the majors after all. Kenny has washed up in Copales, Mexico — “the butthole of America” — rechristened as Steve the Cockfighter, who wears his trademark curly mullet bound up in cornrows and is penning a motivational book about grief and depression. “This is me now,” he says stoically. The new, world-weary Kenny Powers claims he just wants to be another face in the crowd. It’s a far cry from the Kenny Powers who forced his assistant to go shirtless at a backyard barbeque because they both showed up to the party wearing black.
Is he humbled? Well, Kenny seems to think so. In the same stubborn, deluded manner in which he tried to embody the image of a successful American icon loaded with money and star power, Kenny has cultivated a new image of himself as a tortured writer who is emotionally fragile in the wake of all the pain and suffering he’s endured. He fancies himself an outlaw, rather than a coward who left his girl stranded at a gas station, clutching the bag of Skittles he told her to get for him.
We get a quick glimpse of Cutler, Clegg, Dustin, Cassie and the kids, but much of the supporting cast has been repopulated with new faces. With April long gone, we are introduced to Vida (Ana de la Reguera), a singer at El Trombone who has Kenny’s attention as she wags her ass for him onstage, crooning Bob Seger in Spanish. Kenny still uses his vulnerable side to appeal to women— “I’m damaged goods,” he reminds her. He’s already made sex to her, but Vida is obviously more blasé about it than Kenny would like.
At first, Kenny’s determination to fit in among the Mexicans seems to actually keep his racism in check, to some degree: he bristles at the word “gringo” and even peppers his speech with Spanish words, though he makes no effort to shed his flat Carolina drawl. But not surprisingly, Kenny is still a boorish pig. “Even though you’re Mexican, you seem normal to me,” he tells Vida in what he supposed was a moment of sincerity. Later, we see him pull out the Jefferson Davis yearbook to stare wistfully at a photo of April, signing people up for the Dance 4 Phillip. Kenny yanks a fistful of tissues out of the box, only to commence jerking off. And he’s still susceptible to his ego, which allows the Charros’ manager, Roger Hernandez (Marco Rodriguez) to plant the idea of a comeback in his head.
There’s also Hector (Joaquín Cosio), who Kenny calls “Of Mice and Men” because he speaks no English, and Aaron (Deep Roy), a belligerent Mexican dwarf who threatens to cut the tits off of a guy who can’t pay his debt. The guys do some keys, ride around and hit up the ball game, and Kenny later proclaims Aaron the best sidekick ever. Aaron turns out to be nobody’s sidekick, ultimately ditching Kenny. He’s no Stevie Janowski, who I expect to resurface next week in Mexico after he’s done away with the green apron and told his Starbucks shift manager to fuck off.
Kenny Powers still hates kids, but he demonstrates an affinity for Big Red that’s not unlike Tony Soprano’s empathy for Pie-O-My. After Big Red goes down during the cockfight, Kenny cradles the cock’s lifeless body in his arms, feathers stirring in the breeze, and buries him under a cross made from two sticks. “Big Red, you were a good cock. You made us a lot of money,” he begins. “May you find the peace in death you so longed for in life. I’m sorry about the way things turned out. I’m sorry about the way a lot of things turned out,” he adds after a pause.
After he’s cast out by Aaron at Big Red’s funeral, effectively ending his cockfighting career, Kenny seeks out his neighbor Catuey (Efren Ramirez) and joins his family for dinner. Their acceptance inspires Kenny to reveal to them his true identity, and he decides he must embrace the things that make Kenny Powers who he is: his ball playing, his hair, his swagger. Like the pilot episode, the season two premiere saw its protagonist ready to fight to win back his former glory rather than struggle to belong. But this time, Kenny Powers — bulletproof tiger, runaway outlaw, hater of technology (who knew?) — is back in the game. And now he’s a man with nothing to lose.
Colleen Lobner is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls sporadically at nearlylucid.tumblr.com.