'Eastbound and Down' recap: Kenny Powers meets the Russian
Would the Cold War still be going on if Kenny (you know what word belongs here) Powers were the U.S. Secretary of State during those critical post-World War II years?
Nyet way. We'd all be speaking Russian or the planet would have been incinerated decades ago. That's just how Kenny rolls - and that's why we love him. He's like John Foster Dulles, all brinksmanship, except without the Ivy League polish and bastard child.
In this season's third episode, Kenny does confront Russia, his own personal Waterloo, in the form of a young relief pitcher with a thunderbolt arm. Appropriately enough, the prospect's name is Ivan, who was supposed to be the star pitcher for Mother Russia's Olympic baseball team, that is, until the Olympic committee canceled baseball.
But even more appropriately (enough) young Ivan sports what I would call a Moscow mullet - his side walls are shaved and his leftover hair is wet mop straight--for an effect that actually looks worse than Kenny's all-American curly hairdo.
East meets West's 'Eastbound' man when the slimy sports agent played by Matthew McConaughey snatches up the young Russian phenom and asks Kenny - because of his maturity and experience - to mentor the young cub. (Kenny says he doesn't want to be Mr. Miyagi, but ends up doing so nonetheless.)
Kenny takes an instant dislike to the Russian import with a 102-mph fastball and declares the youngster to be the owner of a "big ego," and further points out to McConaughey that there's no room for one of those in baseball. Indeed, Kenny. Indeed.
Kenny's first whack at being Mr. Miyagi doesn't go very well. He asks the Ivan to perform a couple of stupid human tricks (like climb a high wall or hunt down and kill a rat) as part of his team initiation, but the Russian wisely refuses. Ivan then calls Kenny a "has-been," so Kenny naturally threatens him with a trident, which he brought along for just such situations.
Later at the ball park, the dueling relief pitchers meet up again in the bottom of the 9th inning. Their minor league team, Myrtle Beach's "The Mermen," has a commanding lead and simply needs a closer to end the game.
Much to the chagrin of the Russian, Kenny gets the call - but promptly serves up a big home run that brings the game to within one run. Next, the Russian trots out, throws three strikes and retires the side. Game over, Mr. Powers?
Meanwhile, there's another kind of war raging on the Daddy front as well. With April nowhere to be found, Kenny is still charged with Toby's care and welfare. Kenny's parenting style, like so many other overly-involved parents today, can best be compared to a helicopter. That is, an invisible helicopter - kind of like Wonder Woman's jet, except much slower.
You see, Kenny's chopper doesn't hover over little Toby, and risk smothering the lad. No, it takes Kenny boogie boarding or to his college girlfriend's dormitory. When Kenny's chopper does land near his infant son, it's there long enough to ignore Toby as he wrestles to open a bottle of prescription pills. (If only Kenny would go to a Mommy & Me class, he might learn something!)
The episode ends on what could be more tragic than when Kenny's "Big Red" bit the dust last season. After serving up that a monster home run, Kenny and his second best sycophantic friend Shane, played perfectly by Jason Sudeikis, cope the only way they know how, doing lines and lines of coke. (Actually, they could have coped with bong hits, too, but didn't.)
Turns out they may have done one line too many for Shane, who moments after exhorting Kenny to "Never say die!," appears to have contradicted his own advice. He looks pretty dead, but only episode four will tell.
- Martin Miller
Photo: (From left) Danny McBride, Matthew McConaughey and Ike Barinholtz in a scene from "Eastbound and Down." Credit: HBO/Fred Norris