I suppose you could consider Stevie as Kenny Powers’ sidekick, but usually sidekicks are shown at least a little respect, whereas Stevie Janowski (Steve Little) doesn’t get even a smidge. Throughout Eastbound & Down‘s run (which you can stream on HBO Now), Stevie stumbled from one humiliating low point to the next, all in an attempt to form a friendship with somebody who never wanted to be his friend in the first place. As depraved as Stevie became while under the tutelage of Kenny Powers, it was hard not to occasionally feel sorry for the guy in-between the moments when you were laughing at him.
If there’s anything to be learned from the tragic tale of Stevie, it’s don’t pursue somebody when they’re not worth pursuing. Also, chin prosthetics are a bad idea. In celebration of all those cringe-worthy Stevie moments, let’s rank some of the worst things that befell this doofus of a sidekick.
9. His Never-Ending Humiliation At The Hands Of Kenny Powers
By all accounts, Stevie’s life was rather respectable before Kenny Powers came strutting back into the halls of Jefferson Davis Middle School. The life of a band teacher might not be a flashy one, but Stevie was liked by his coworkers and remained blissfully unaware of the deplorable path he was about to go down.
From the second that Kenny shoves Stevie over to squeeze next to April at the lunch table, it was all downhill for the guy. Kenny’s first interaction with the guy is humiliating, telling Stevie “I got a lot of memories in my life and sometimes you have to dump the small ones to make room for the bigger ones.” Most people would probably take this as a cue that they’re dealing with an egotistical prick like Powers and they’d move on, but unfortunately, Stevie latches on for approval and begins his downward spiral. From then on, it’s just one pathetic example after the next of Kenny treating him like a piece of human toilet paper.
8. When He’s Disrespected By His Family
Stevie doesn’t exactly show his family the highest level of respect — he did cheat with Shane’s grieving sister after all. Even still, you can’t help but feel for the guy who has to support a wife and four kids who view his groin as a punching bag. And as soon as Stevie does build up a modicum of respect from his family when he moves them into a modular home, it’s not long before Kenny comes back around and tells Stevie “If you’re not with me you’re against me. From this moment forth, I f*cking hate you, dawg.” And just like that, Stevie returns to being Kenny’s lap dog and his self-respect goes down the tubes. It’s all part of the vicious cycle of defeat that is Stevie Janowski’s existence.
7. When Stevie Got Shot By Kenny
Getting shot is usually a deal-breaker for most people in a friendship, even if it’s by accident. Thankfully, Kenny lovingly nurses Stevie back to health… only kidding. That, of course, didn’t happen. Kenny does take the opportunity to swipe what cash Stevie has from his pockets while he’s passed out and then blames Stevie for the trigger burn on his palm, though. In Stevie’s warped mind, this is all part of the invitation to rekindle their friendship and head out for a night of “staring at buttholes and getting a buzz on.” Stevie’s predicament may be a sad one, but you gotta admire the guy for having a delusionally positive attitude about the whole thing.
6. When His Glue-Covered Shame Was Revealed.
Stevie brings most of the embarrassment upon himself by trying to keep up with Kenny Powers’ own self-inflated ego, but heaps of it are piled on him from others, too. Whether he’s being mocked by the students at his school, ridiculed by Kenny’s secondhand sidekick, Shane, or insulted by Ashley Schaffer, Stevie sets himself up as a punching bag for all. Hanging out with Kenny too much eventually turns Stevie into his own worst enemy, leading him to cheat on his wife, Maria, and then shave his head in some sort of bizarre self-flagellation attempt to win her back. Looking like an extra from Deliverance, Stevie realizes the bald and beautiful look doesn’t apply to him and he dons a wig. Having the wig ripped off and exposing his glue-covered head, without a doubt has its place among Stevie’s most embarrassing moments.
5. When He Was Financially Bled Dry
Nobody gets rich off teaching middle schoolers to play the saxophone, but Stevie was able to support himself. Then the money squandering monster that is Kenny Powers came along. It wasn’t long before Stevie quit his job to help Kenny climb back to the top, only to be fired by Kenny and left to work at a Starbucks. If that wasn’t bad enough, Kenny runs Stevie’s credit into the ground by living off his credit cards in Mexico, and like the gullible idiot that he is, Stevie takes the credit trail as a sign to head south of the border.
If credit card theft wasn’t enough to bury the guy, poor Stevie takes the debt and the blame for Kenny’s failed memoirs, The Powers of Now. Of course, this was all just a warm-up for Stevie’s worst financial decision — allowing Kenny to rope him into a restaurant venture so tacky it makes Hooters look classy. Mall kiosks are the bastard stepchildren of retail, and Stevie’s decision to try to support his family with Tater N Tits was yet another blow to his already dismal finances.
4. Becoming Ashley Schaffer’s Chore Monkey
After feeling burned by Kenny and left in financial ruins by Kenny’s failed memoir, Stevie succumbs to the minimum wage lure of working for Ashley Schaffer Kia. I’m assuming he’s being paid, but he’s treated more like a prisoner and is regularly tormented by Ashley and his sales goons. If becoming the Ashley Schaffer Kia chore monkey wasn’t soul-crushing enough, the true horror that is now Stevie’s life is revealed at the Schaffer plantation. Hopped up on Fanta like a white trash Colonel Sanders, Schaffer has forced Stevie to dress up as a geisha girl named Cherry Blossom for the entertainment of some Korean businessmen. It’s a level of humiliation too low for even Kenny to bear, pushing him to swoop into rescue mode.
3. The Downfall Of The Chin
Having that joke of a chin blown off his face was the best thing that could have happened to Stevie. Sure, it would have been a lot less painful and traumatic if he’d had the practical joker of a plastic surgeon who put it on remove it, but that’s a minor detail. Hitting the low point of contemplating suicide because he’s ruined his face and his family certainly found Stevie in his darkest moment yet on the show, but in losing the mini Bruce Campbell glued to his face he regained some of his dignity. Yes, the show suggests that he developed an addiction to painkillers, but eh, chin removal comes with a price.
2. Stevie’s Manhood
Throughout the series, it’s alluded that Stevie’s not confident in his manhood. He blames his inability to perform with Maria on cocaine and ridicules the size of his equipment. Besides wishing that he was Kenny’s junk he threatens to shoot himself in the crotch, declaring “my dick is a little b*tch.” Eastbound & Down co-creator Jody Hill revealed to Vulture that Stevie’s dong was a regular go-to joke in the writing process and had a scene planned that was understandably too much for actor Steven Little to sign on for.
Hill has been trying to get Stevie naked since the beginning; last season, when Kenny found Stevie so distressed over the loss of Maria that he had shaved his head, Hill wanted Little to emerge not only bald but naked. He then wanted Stevie to puke on his own penis. Little refused. Hill tried again in last week’s episode when Stevie was threatening to commit suicide in a motel room. “That seemed like it would fit in a gonna-kill-yourself scene. It seems like you get naked to do that. But he just would not do it,” Hill said.
Just think, if Little would have gone all the way and actually vomited on his manhood, that moment might have clinched our top spot. #Hindsight
1. The Birth Of The Chin
Blowing a piece of your face off with a revolver would normally take the top spot here, but I’d like to argue that the chin’s birth was actually a lower point for Stevie than the removal of said chin. The prosthetic that looked like a doctor glued Jay Leno’s chin to Stevie’s face and then hit it with bronzer was season four’s best sight gag but it marked the lowest point yet for Stevie. Up until that point, he had only aimed to keep up with Kenny’s level of partying and grandiose appearance. With the chin, Stevie aimed to surpass Kenny and shift the barely there spotlight of fame his way in the most bizarre way possible. Besides leaving him looking like a Dick Tracy villain, it put him $50,000 in the hole and left him unable to provide his kids with any Christmas gifts. Truly, this is the moment in which we all felt the most sorry for Stevie.