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"This is me now," says a cornrowed Kenny Powers in the first 10 minutes of "Eastbound & Down's" second season premiere.
At the end of last season, baseball cult-figure Kenny suffered his ultimate humiliation: getting a second chance at the majors only to learn the team was no longer interested. In true Powers fashion, he ditched his love interest and took off running. Now, he's the runaway that'd make Mexico's tourism board weep. Kenny is drunkenly shooting guns with his new buddies, catching a cock to fight, snorting powder and tossing money on a naked hooker. How does Kenny Powers behave in Mexico? Like you'd expect him to.
Kenny's name change is most telling -- he's now Steve Janowski, the creepshow music teacher/Kenny worshipper he treated like garbage last season. It's as if Kenny asked, "Who is the opposite of Kenny Powers, the mythological "I'm In, You're F---ing Out" alphamale?" 
Taking on a new identity allows Kenny to ignore his ballplayer aspirations (even though he crankily attends baseball games) so he can manage his cock. Yes, in a heavy-handed move, the writers have Kenny fighting with his manhood (in the form of a bird). In true "Eastbound" fashion, Kenny's cock, Big Red, dies in battle. Big Red's loss is really the death of "Steve" and the end of Kenny's hiding. It's time for Kenny to rise again, and like many great "Eastbound" scenes, he gets a profanity-laced monologue to dawn a new era -- Kenny F---ing Powers is returning to baseball with "his pitch" (101 on the radar gun in his head) and a middle finger to everyone (including his new miffed teammates). Danny McBride, the out-of-shape but pitch-perfect protagodude, knows how to sell these scenes, speaking like that friend who acts like an ass after happy hour but you end up hugging goodnight anyway. 

"Chapter 7" moved along at a brisk pace. It felt like a prologue, quickly showing us that Kenny tried to start anew, but he's incapable of change, and that's good for us. It's hard to tell the direction "Eastbound" will take -- we missed last season's key characters such as the real Stevie and Kenny's buxom love interest April -- but the premiere's predictable and somewhat-satisfying conclusion gets a baseball back in Kenny's hands, and that's a promising sign.
 
The episode came up short in the laughs department but it kept the show's unsavory, creepy edge that is imperative to its effectiveness. The skeeviest moment came at the midway point, with Kenny masturbating to April's faculty photo in a yearbook. It wasn't done for laughs but done to underline Kenny's pathetic descent (as if we needed the emphasis). It was encouraging to see the show sticking to its hallmarks even when the episode failed to truly take off. Optimism is still in play for "Eastbound's" sophomore run, based almost solely on the first season's strengths. Now we wait until next week and hope Will Ferrell's Ashley Schafer opens up a BMW dealership down south.
 
Photo by HBO. Check back each Monday for recap/commentary on the latest episode of "Eastbound & Down." E-mail me or follow me on Twitter, @wesleycase.
 
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