Photo: HBO

Kenny Powers Vs. Communism

The best American heroes wear curly mullets and spout profane poetry.

Eastbound & Down's Kenny Powers is, there's no overselling it, a goddamn American hero. In three seasons of the HBO comedy (soon to be four), the disgraced former major league pitcher blinded an old baseball foe, achieved spiritual transcendence down Mexico way, fathered a child with his high school sweetheart, and doled out life lessons to assistant/adorer Stevie Janowski (Steve Little) -- who, over time, would become a more warped version of his idol. Kenny's whole life is one red, white, and blue victory after another, each set down with the brazen confidence of a thousand roman candles.

But to truly prove himself, every American hero must by right face down an American (read: foreign) villain whose cunning and power matches his own. For Kenny, that was cocky Russian pitcher Ivan Dochenko (The Mindy Project's Ike Barinholtz), traded to his Myrtle Beach Mermen in Season 3. Kenny, the paragon of maturity, initially attempted to bring Dochenko under his wing -- mentor him in the ancient warrior arts. It didn't go well.

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Later, ignited by a passionate pep-talk from Stevie, Kenny aimed to end this personal Cold War on the mound. Why talk, after all, when you can fucking pitch? But even the heaviest of sports-movie guitar riffs wasn't enough to back up Kenny's "Welcome to America, baby dick" boasts. He gave up a grand slam, and was soon replaced by the Russian. Dochenko saved the game. Everything was in the shitter.

The three episodes to follow saw Kenny spiral into rage and depression ("my life has become like Requiem For A Dream"), not helped by the death of his "best friend," Shane (Jason Sudeikis), or the implosion of his epic 4th of July party.

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But, American to the last, Kenny wouldn't quit. After seeking guidance from his long-lost mother (Lily Tomlin), Kenny returned to the Mermen. On the mound, Dochenko was throwing bricks and completely distracted by the opposing team's rowdy fans. An opportunity for Kenny to prove what a real man does with criticism? HELL YES. "I can use their rage and fucking harness it!" he roared, seizing the ball from Dochenko. "Star players a lot like Highlanders. There can be only one." Disgraced, the Russian fled back to the dugout. And in three perfect pitches -- aided by this perfect song -- Kenny proved himself to be every bit the American hero he always was.

Glory returned to the United States. A powerful but lesser enemy felled. It was another Great American Moment for the ages.

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