'Eastbound and Down' recap: Kenny Powers comes out
There is a man and he walks a lonely road.
He carries the burden of greatness and the heavy weight of failure. Like the mythic Hemingway characters, he has run from the horror of existence and is trying to piece his life back together. He is trying to piece his life back together with his hair in corn rows. He also has an awesome moped.
And this man's name is Steve Janowski. Seriously, that's his name. That was he said it was. Repeatedly. In fact, he was urinating in front of a baseball stadium as the crowd filed out after a game (that's more like a Charles Bukowski character really) and some guy asked him: "Are you Kenny Powers?" And he made it very clear that he was not Kenny Powers -- the one-time ace relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves who lost his pitch, his money, but never his class.
No, instead, he said his name was Steve Janowski, a Kenny Powers flunkie from North Carolina. He really doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would lie for personal gain. Hold it! Drop a mullet on this guy's melon and that's Kenny Powers! That's Kenny (you know what word belongs here) Powers!!!
When we first see him in the season opener of "Eastbound and Down," Kenny has abandoned the game -- and the woman -- he loves and relocated south of the border to Mexico. He wants to lose himself in a cyclone of cheap sex, drugs, alcohol, guns, gambling, loneliness and insults. Sure, that's fun for a while, maybe even for more than a while, but Kenny is still trapped inside a world of hurt.
Even though Kenny came to Mexico with next to nothing, he found kindred spirits almost immediately and in a place with the look and feel of a "tea party" rally. (Actually it's just a cockfighting arena.) Kenny is a cockfighter and trains "Big Red," a formidable barnyard animal who has earned him and his toadies a considerable sum of money. After one Big Red victory, it turns out a local (who like most Mexicans in the series conveniently speaks heavily accented English) can't cover his bet. In trying to settle his account, the poor man calls Kenny a gringo.
"Does it make your life easier to throw a quick racist term at somebody?" asks Kenny, speaking truth to the powerless. Later, Kenny adds, "I transcend race, hombre."
But what Kenny can't transcend is his own unhappiness and that's why he's "writing" a motivational book on how to deal with grief and depression. He's actually not writing it, but speaking it into a recorder. Like a lot of "writers" on television, he's very cranky, communicates through voice-over, isn't very productive and yells at children.
Another thing Kenny can't transcend is his love of baseball. He's drawn to local semi-pro games, and spends much of his time drunk and heckling the crummy team -- not the Dodgers, but the Charros. Then, tragedy strikes -- Big Red is killed in the ring, and Kenny's two henchmen threaten him with a knife and steal all of his money. "I can't believe you would do this at Big Red's funeral after you know how much he means to me," whines Kenny.
Death always bring change and Kenny does what most characters do when they are searching -- he stares in a mirror. He knows he is pretty to look at, but he really means business this time. He unfurls his mane, his manhood, his mullet!
Like a pot-bellied white knight, Kenny rides his moped onto the infield of the Charros and declares his independence from living under a false name. He tells his soon-to-be teammates that they stink, but admits that he does, too. He will help the team rise from the dead and goes on to confess that he is probably a "Christ figure."
But most important, he comes out in -- as he put it -- in "the darkest third world hole" he has ever been in and that he is Kenny (you know what word belongs here) Powers!
-- Martin Miller
Photo credit: HBO