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'Eastbound and Down' recap: Kenny Powers reborn

November 1, 2010 | 12:03 am

Chicken kenny Gunslinger to loveslinger. From black outlaw to white knight. From a vengeful narcissist who would pour gasoline over a former sidekick's pickup truck and set it ablaze to, well, let's not get carried away. Kenny (you know what word belongs here) Powers is mostly re-born - and he did it on a Halloween, not an Easter, episode.

The episode opens in a stateside rehab center and there is Kenny's agent (Adam Scott from "Party Down) declaring he's "clean and soebs." He's on a new drug, preaching the truth and ready to man up to the 9th step. For those weirdos who aren't in a 12-step program, that's the one about making amends. And Kenny Powers is No. 2 on his list.

Although Kenny seems as many steps away from a 12-step meeting as humanly possible, he is nevertheless caught up in the forgiving theme of the episode. Rather than breakfast bong hits or otherwise self-medicating at every turn, Kenny is instead suddenly big-hearted and full of compassion. I guess you solve your Daddy issues, and like the Grinch, your heart can grow three sizes in a single day.

Kenny's first act of generosity is to violate the code of his "black ops" team and let Stevie say a fond horizontal farewell to Marie before departing Mexico. A reborn Kenny is no longer a small man who will stand in the way of big bouncy love (but he is still willing to continue driving a stolen Lamborghini).

Like everyone else in this show, Kenny's agent has boundaries issues - even literal ones. He's broken into Kenny's domicile and brought a tasteful gift basket with mineral soap for baths (like Kenny has ever had one). The agent has brought something even more important - some good news, namely, that Kenny can have another shot at the major leagues if he can talk his way back onto the Charros. A pro scout wants to check out his skills on the mound.

Kenny didn't exactly leave the Charros on the best terms - he made obscene gestures to the crowd, insulted his coach and destroyed the owner's recording studio after discovering him cheating with Vida, his now ex-girlfriend. But when you have love in your heart and the plot must move forward, those are minor obstacles. After interrupting the owner (Michael Pena who deserves his own spin-off as the Charros owner) in mid-crack pipe use and being temporarily locked in a "Mexican standoff in Mexico," Kenny gets the green light to pitch one last time.

Back at home, it turns out once is not enough for Stevie - in fact, he'd like it to be just the beginning with a new life with his new love, Marie. Stevie asks his spiritual father for permission to marry Marie. Kenny balks at first, but once he's assured this will not erode Stevie's hardcore attention to personal errands, then he gives his blessing. (Kenny does point out that if the couple has a child, it will be "mixed" and thus may get teased on the schoolyard playgrounds.) Sometimes, it's hard to know if Stevie is the wind beneath Kenny's wings or the other way around - either way, it's a beautiful moment between two men with an odd attachment to each other.

The gesture to love brings immediate bounty to Kenny - a white hot Elvis-looking suit that proudly declares his name "La Flama Blanca." When his heart was black with rage and pain, he bitterly rejected the nickname, but with his loser Dad in his rear-view mirror, he embraces his higher blazing white self. (It really makes his black goatee pop, too.)

Of course, no episode dealing with making peace with the past could be complete without another scene with his once beloved Vida. "Did you hurt my feelings?" he asks rhetorically to Vida. "Yes, you did. I will give you that victory." He asks forgiveness, but also lands a textbook Kenny back-handed compliment explaining that she was like the Italian woman Michael Corleone married in "The Godfather." Important, yes, but his true love lives in America.

After winning over his former teammates by declaring himself both "a Cinderalla story," and "Mexican," Kenny mows down the opposition without his hallmark tantrums or theatrics. It's a good thing, too, because the pro scout did show up (at first, this plot line had "Waiting for Guffman" written all over it) and he liked what he saw.

In a season of guest stars that includes Don Johnson, here's another - Matthew McConaughey as a gay pro baseball scout from Texas. These two guys go together like Flatt and Scruggs and soon somebody is twanging "whatever lifts your skirt," and the other guy replies "I won't judge you" for the altitude of your skirt. And it's just a magical night. (Kenny is told he can try out with the minor league team in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and if he acquits himself admirably, it's on to the show once again.)

Stevie came to Mexico for the love of a man, but now he's leaving with the love of a woman. Stevie and Marie marry, and as witness, on the groom's side of the room is a solitary man, La Flama Blanca. After some farewells, the three climb into the car for El Norte. Two of the men aboard are changed hombres, but one of them has a ways to go before he's complete.

Kenny Powers may have been born in the USA, but he was definitely re-born in Mexico and where that gets him in next week's episode with April remains to be seen. Vaya con dios, Kenny Powers.

- Martin Miller

Photo credit: HBO/Fred Norris