Eastbound and Down Season 4, Episode 1 “Chapter 22”
Written by Haynes Davenport, Jody Hill & Danny McBride
Directed by Jody Hill
Airs Sunday nights at 10pm ET on HBO
At the end of season three, it appeared Kenny Powers had finally let go. He walked away from baseball, dyed his hair blonde, and embraced a normal life with the woman he loved in signature ridiculous fashion (faking an explosive death, only to return at his own funeral). “Chapter 22” points out this isn’t quite the case – there’s a reason Kenny never throws the third strike in that game. Even though he says that “he won” over the Weeds-like opening sequence, he’s once again projecting the myth in front of his own eyes: deep down he thinks he’s won nothing, stuck in the purgatory of middle-class life.
Some of “Chapter 22” is clumsy, but watching the continuous plight of Kenny Powers (one many thought ended last season by walking away from baseball) is still hilarious, occasionally enlightening stuff. Sure, some of it is just stereotypical ignorant masculinity on steroids – but in a way, it’s part of the show’s genius, this satire of American masculinity, and how the petty things in life (like the game of baseball, no matter how metaphorically powerful it can be) pale in comparison to home (base) and family (team), two things KP still resists.Whenever Kenny talks, we’re always given a number of shots showing the different people watching him: it signifies both Kenny’s search for simple human connection, and a little nudge to the audience that there’s a little bit of Kenny in all of us, a little being that never will let us be satisfied, even when we have everything we need.
It comes back to the final baseball scene of season three: which many found to be clumsy and cliche – but actually reveal something very important about Kenny when connected to the final scene of “Chapter 22”. When he gets called out to the mound, he is there to throw three strikes for the third out, representing his final chance at redemption and all that “happy bullshit” he’s been searching for his whole adulthood. He gets strike one easily (April; the show’s proven time and time again she’ll always be there for him), and strike two glides by with a big swing and a miss (his less-than-ideal path back to the majors)… but he can’t throw that third strike, the one he admittedly knows really matters. It’s his last chance, the final step from Kenny Powers the ignorant asshole, to Kenny Powers the mature, enlightened asshole: and the end of “Chapter 22” doesn’t give us the answer as to what that final strike represents, only that Kenny has to dig deeper (digging in the yard, near where he wanted his ego-inflating pool) to reconcile whatever’s wrong with him.
The Big Question of Eastbound and Down’s final season is simple: can Kenny Powers let go? Can he finally leave all the disappointment, failure, and frustration in the past? The stakes are established pretty firmly in this episode: if he can’t get his shit together, he’ll lose April for good (the rule of threes again applies: he left her once, she left him once… three strikes, you’re out). The suburban purgatory we see him rejecting is not just a lifestyle, it’s a pronouncement that Kenny can no longer live in between: he’s either going to save himself, or be lost forever in a sea of self-hatred. The events may be light and amusing in “Chapter 22”, but make no joke: it’s the bottom of the ninth for Kenny, and he better step the fuck up or be lost for good.
– a quick, hilarious montage brings us up to speed: he returns at a funeral, gets punched by his brother, then ends up in jail for trying to collect on his life insurance claims.
– his daughter Shannon loves the poopie in Human Centipede. How adorable.
– Kenny wrote a motion picture of his life… is that his master plan?
– Ken Marino makes his first appearance as Guy Young, Kenny’s former teammate in Atlanta and now-successful TV personality (on Sports Sesh).
– “Look at you [Shannon], eatin’ all your carrots. Gone. Toby’s got a goddamn farmer’s market on his plate. Toby, eat your fucking carrots.”
– the volcano erupting on Kenny’s TV is both representative of him and his marriage; let’s hope he finds a way to save them both.
– Adorable April Moment of the Week: she wrote “Pizza Fixin’s” on the blackboard shopping list. Love her!
– Guy: “Let’s win the World Series against AIDS!”
– “What does ‘point some brownies’ mean?”