'Eastbound and Down' recap: Kenny Powers jumps on the love roller coaster
He moved to Mexico but barely spoke Spanish. He lived in America almost all of his life but barely spoke English. But no matter where Kenny (you know what word belongs here) Powers may go, he always speaks the international language of love. Fluently. Mucho fluently.
In the season opener, he ran away like a scared chicken from love (baseball and April), denied his name, only to reclaim it on a baseball field in Mexico. (It was like the end of the movie "Malcom X" where everybody stood and said, "I am Malcolm X," even though they weren't, but when Kenny Powers finally said, "I am Kenny Powers," he really was Kenny Powers and the only person to say so. Very moving stuff.)
In the second episode, Kenny acknowledged the importance of a male companion, particularly one who vowed to be "hardcore" about running his personal errands. And this week, Kenny shows us he doesn't have to choose between being a lover and a fighter -- he's both. At this rate of personal growth, Kenny will soon be mentoring Deepak Chopra.
Kenny believes he's "over" April and is now more than happy to slide over to his new local girlfriend, Vida (which translates in English as "life," get it? Don't ask me the significance of Kenny's short-lived career in cockfighting earlier this season). She's a singer and he wants nothing more than to get to the bottom of her. Except he doesn't really put it like that. Like everything else, he says it more colorfully.
And like all the great lovers, Kenny has a way with words. Hearing the ex-major leaguer pitch woo to the Mexican beauty is like listening to dialogue from "Sense and Sensibility." Moments before arriving at a shared state of undress, Kenny tells Vida: "You will have my body, but you will not have my heart, so don't expect it." Isn't that on a Hallmark card or something? Maybe it was YouTube.
Meanwhile, Kenny's professional passion is giving him no love. Or at least not enough. Despite his triumphant inaugural outing as a relief pitcher, Kenny senses his new Mexican neighbors, or "villagers" as he calls them, aren't cheering him on as they should. He's slowly realizing he isn't in America anymore where people will applaud loudly for anything (Lady Gaga, Glenn Beck). After one of his promotional banners is taken down, Kenny protests, explaining to his coach that he has given his "heart" to the villagers and all he has gotten in return is something largely considered worthless unless you're making a simple hut in certain parts of the world.
He has to do something to get his name on the lips of the town. He does what all great men do and that is have someone else do it. Soon Stevie is being driven up and down the town's streets, speaking into a microphone, urging everyone to "bow" and "worship" Kenny Powers, a.k.a. the White Flame. (A good nickname, by the way, but one Kenny later rejects. Why? Because he wears "black" like an outlaw. Cocaine dealers wear white, he says. Still, it seems the name White Flame will stick.)
At the ballpark, Kenny returns to the pitcher's mound determined to whip the crowd into a frenzy by his hand. He strikes out a batter, but he can almost hear a pin drop in the stadium. Soon, he begins getting heckled by a player on the opposing team. But Kenny takes the high road -- and throws a ball at the head of said heckler. (He misses; that's why it's the high road.) The opposition's dugout races onto the field, and Kenny greets the heckler with a punch in the face. Both benches clear and what a brawl! Well, that brings the crowd to its feet.
Despite these fisticuffs, it really is a night for love. It starts on the yacht of the Charros' owner, who has a conversation with Kenny about what part of a woman is really the most attractive. As the two learned men discuss the pros and cons, they watch Vida dance. Finally, the two great minds agree to disagree and view the situation as akin to that "Muslim and Jewish" thing.
Kenny ends up having a sleepover with Vida and discovers the next morning that his lover has a secret -- a teenage son! The young man is watching television and asks Kenny if he likes magic. Kenny asks why -- "were you going to make me disappear?" Then, Kenny explains how the boy could easily make him vanish; just start calling him Dad.
But shortly after their tryst, Kenny and Vida (and her son) go out for tacos at an amusement park. Kenny wants to know a few things first. Will he get Montezuma's revenge from eating park tacos, and do they think the food preparers washed their hands? But they have no answers.
Then, Kenny, who repeatedly has labeled himself "damaged goods," maintains he's over April and now is head over boot heels for Vida. A new ship has sailed into Kenny's life, and it's a pirate ship -- and that's a good thing when you consider yourself an outlaw. He declares his love for Vida and tells her son to consider him a "father figure."
But Vida says she doesn't need a commitment. She just wants to take it slow and have fun. Au contraire, says Kenny, who announces his intention to take things "super fast."
Finally, Kenny asks the mother and son to jump on the park's roller coaster. (Metaphor alert! Metaphor alert!) Vida is happy on the bumpy up-and-down thrill ride, but Kenny is tense and grim-faced.
A sad musical score closes the show, which seems to suggest Kenny and this particular love may not be together very long. Vaya con Dios, Kenny Powers.
-- Martin Miller
Photo: Kenny and Vida from "Eastbound and Down." Credit: Fred Norris / HBO