The end doesn’t bode well for Kenny Powers, not if this week’s episode of Eastbound and Down is any indication of things to come. As his ego spirals out of control, he’s managed to alienate his neighbors (poor Gene), his brother, and by the end of tonight’s 26th chapter, even his wife.
Things begin on a high note as Kenny celebrates his newfound fame and fortune at the grand opening of his backyard salt water pool. Delivering a classic speech to his gathered family and friends that opens with, “Water. Mother nature’s piss. And it brings us here today,” he notes that the people gathered with him on this day are his true supporters; his sister-in-law has shown up, but not his brother Dustin.
The big problem is that Kenny seems to think money solves all of life’s problems, even going so far as to try and buy sex from his wife later that evening. Typically, he’s able to be simultaneously insulting and charming (at least in his wife’s eyes); As April tries to reason with her power-hungry husband, all the while he tosses money at her saying things like, “What you need is to get over here and suck this dick.” Although she laughs at his advances, they don’t work. She’s not in the mood, focused instead on getting Kenny to agree to see a therapist with her to work on their communication.
Later in the episode, he shows up at his brother Dustin’s house to buy back his love by showering his kids with inappropriate gifts like an automatic rifle and an electric guitar, and even going so far as to “make it rain” as he exits. The thing Kenny is missing, of course, is actual emotional growth. The money and presents doesn’t fix things with Dustin, but it does open Dustin up to share some of his feelings, yet Kenny rudely ignores his brother in favor of answering a text from Guy Young, his boss on the show Sports Sesh.
The money problem even extends out to Kenny’s views on charity. He returns to the inner-city kids he used in the previous installment as his Dragon Boat race “charity” to present them with a brand new baseball field (dedicated to himself) and a slew of new equipment. In KP’s mind, this solves all the problems these kids could ever have. However, the boys don’t even know who the hell this generous hillbilly is. KP’s got the answer to that question, because in his mind he’s, “Your handsome white Jesus, motherfucker.”
Meanwhile, none of this bravado will matter much if Kenny loses his slot on Sports Sesh, and if Guy’s treatment of Jeff (the guy Kenny pushed off the boat last week) is any indication of Kenny’s future fate, he’s in big trouble. The first sign of trouble comes with Guy’s off-the-cuff mention of Jeff no longer being a part of the show. He sweeps it under the rug like it’s no big thing; Kenny takes this in, but it doesn’t seem to register in relation to his own behavior. Kenny’s got a new bit on Sports Sesh called “Kenny’s Cuttin’ In,” in which he interrupts Guy’s single segments (to the delight of the audience) with his own brand of brash, boisterous humor. Young is shown as visibly uncomfortable with the shift in focus to Kenny, but to his credit, instead of plotting against Kenny he opts instead to talk to him.
Kenny meets Guy at the lake, and is impressed by Young, who arrives wearing a water-powered jetpack (just like Rob Lowe did in real life). The invitation to the lake, and even the jet pack, is all a facade used by Young to intimidate Kenny. Unfortunately for Guy, his showboating has the opposite effect; Kenny seems more determined than ever to become the next Guy Young. He wants a jet pack now, and he mentions it to Guy, who delivers the attempted moral message of the season, telling Kenny he needs to earn his place in life. Guy’s worked hard for his toys and it angers him that Kenny thinks he deserves the things Guy’s had to earn. It’s not like Guy’s request is unreasonable; After all, he is the host of the show. He’s not asking Kenny never to talk, but simply to pull it back “from an 11 to a 5”, even going so far as to make a direct comparison of Kenny’s performance to Dontell’s (the guy whose spot Kenny stole).
Instead of taking the suggestion as a warning, Kenny takes it as a challenge, immediately brainstorming ways to expand his empire. His solution? He and Stevie are going to open a restaurant called “TNT,” which stands for Taters’ and Tits.
Stevie, ever the Sancho Panza, is on board with whatever Kenny wants, because he’s finally gotten his mojo back. His erectile problems are a thing of the past: “My dick’s all pruney from being all up in Maria’s pussy.” “That’s fifty shades of gross,” responds Kenny. However, when the conversation turns to Guy’s suggestion that Kenny pull back a little, Stevie agrees with the talk show host. He urges Kenny to heed Guy’s warning, suggesting Kenny not try to one-up Guy, but instead enjoy his current lot in life and be satisfied by what he has. You know things are looking grim when Stevie is the voice of reason.
Kenny ignores all better judgement and continues to spend money like it’s going out of style. He takes April out on an expensive lobster dinner date, then to the opera, and finally gifts her with a three thousand dollar Chanel handbag (filled with a Kindle Fire loaded with all of Dean Koontz’s novels), but April’s not impressed. She still thinks they need therapy, and a reluctant Kenny agrees to attend a session with her the following day.
The episode concludes with Kenny crossing the line both at work and at home. First, on the show, he interrupts another of Guy’s segments with his “Kenny’s Cuttin’ In” bit, once more upstaging Guy on his own show. It’s hard to argue against Kenny’s decision to join Guy’s one-on-one with an animal handler because, once again, the audience loves it. There’s no denying Kenny’s a fan favorite, but that doesn’t save him from an eyeful of dagger from Guy.
Kenny narrates the final moments of the episode, explaining that the change others are hoping to see in him is impossible. Kenny beleives he’s destined for greatness, and he’s going to achieve that no matter who gets hurt along the way. As he puts it, “Is it possible to reconcile the needs of others with the need to win, when winning often means defeating your rivals at any cost?”
The final image of Kenny alone on the lake strapped into a jet pack of his own is juxtaposed with that of April waiting alone at the therapists office, over which Kenny says, “The simple truth: Victory is its own reward,” and as the chapter comes to a close, we’re left to wonder when (or if) Kenny will finally realize that his victory is bittersweet at best.