NASHVILLE Debriefing: It’s showtime!

(c) ABC

Last season, Nashville ended with a real doozy, blowing up the relationships we’ve come to know and love (and hate). Luke  proposed to Rayna — then so did Deacon. Juliette lashed out at Avery by sleeping with evil Jeff Fordham, because she is a self-destructive mess. Will fessed up to new wife Layla that he was gay, made all the more complicated by the fact that they’re living their lives on camera for a reality show. Then Scarlett decided she was going to start fresh after her mental breakdown by leaving town, and Maddie and Daphne proved they were smarter than all the adults in their lives by calling them out on their crap. So where does that leave us in Season 3?

Lots of booze, lots of tears, not as much singing and more longing gazes than you can shake a stick at! Oh, and a gimmicky live performance at the Bluebird by Charles Esten that’s sure to tug at the heartstrings.

When last we visited Scarlett (Clare Bowen), she was packing up to leave town, and we first see her here having a sweet goodbye with her uncle Deacon (Charles Esten), interrupted by a drunk Avery (Jonathan Jackson), who’s decided to tag along on her road trip to get the hell out of dodge and away from Juliette (Hayden Panettiere). As if that weren’t enough, Gunnar (Sam Palladio) barges in at the last minute, trying to talk her out of leaving, and failing that, forces himself into her car to make her change her mind. Too bad: she leaves anyway! That’s what you get for inviting yourself along, Gunnar. It’s hijinks time!

If you had told me at the beginning of season 1 that I would not only come to like Avery, but enjoy his friendship with both Scarlett and Gunnar, I would have told you to take a hike. Sure, part of Avery’s transformation has been a bit of a revisionist history of his character, but you know what, I’m okay with that — I think he’s a lot more enjoyable and much easier to incorporate into the greater Nashville universe when he’s a genuine friend, instead of a jealous tool like he was for most of season 1. A little humble pie, combined with a little more nuanced writing, has made for a pretty fun character. I like that his shared history with Scarlett has come in handy in the wake of her breakdown last season, and that he’s been able to support her in a way no one else can. And I also enjoy that Scarlett loosens up around him; I find that Scarlett finally has the confidence to stand up for herself, especially around him, which serves them both well. Here’s hoping her return to Nashville after the barroom revelation is more successful than her last go at country music.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Juliette is a total wreck. And that’s saying a lot for Juliette, because she is definitely the drama queen of the show. (I say that with love.) As you’d expect from her, she’s weepy and has drunk herself into oblivion, regretting her life choices no doubt. Manager Glenn (Ed Amatrudo) and assistant Emily (Kourtney Hansen) force her up to shower and shape up, because she’s got an audition for the new Patsy Cline biopic right away. As self-absorbed as Juliette is, she’s also professional, and as soon as they remind her of it, she gets herself together to meet the producers. (A trait I love about her. Bucking stereotypes!) Predictably, she belts out “Crazy” and dissolves into a puddle of tears, no doubt intended to remind us of her recent breakup with Avery. I definitely had to remind myself that this is a nighttime soap once we got to this part; Juliette may be my favorite character on this show, but her audition, and how it was framed — the closeups on her black mascara tears (see what I did there?) and quivering lips, was definitely over the top. (I quite enjoy Hayden Panettiere’s voice, but I have to say that she’s no Patsy Cline when it comes to singing “Crazy,” as serviceable as her performance was. Also, way to hide Panettiere’s real-life baby bump with extras, Director!)

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Meanwhile, Rayna (Connie Britton) wrestles with her predicament. She hasn’t turned down Deacon’s proposal, but she hasn’t accepted it either. She (frustratingly) believes she needs to share this with Luke (Will Chase), because she doesn’t want to keep secrets from her future husband (ahem), but Tandy (Judith Hoag) rightfully tells her that is a very stupid idea. Rayna being Rayna, though, tells Luke anyway. (Because Rayna can’t start being an adult at this point in the series, now can she?) Surprisingly, Luke takes the high road and tells her to take her time to make up her mind — instead of, you know, being upset the woman he’s decided to spend the rest of his life with is hemming and hawing over her ex for the umpteenth time. I’m not even a huge fan of Luke’s, because I think there’s more at play than meets the eye there, but I thought he was overly generous to Rayna in this instance. (Then again, I don’t quite understand why all the men on this show give Rayna a pass on her crap, or why they’re so entranced by her when she makes her fair share of terrible decisions.)

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Deacon, of course, pleads with Rayna to give them (yet another chance), but all he gets for his trouble is more noncommittal stares from Rayna. (Seriously, the grownups in this show have major communication issues.) However, unlike in the (beyond cheesy) flashbacks we got from Rayna, Deacon doesn’t take this opportunity to enter a drunken stupor, and instead pulls himself up by the bootstraps to play his big comeback show at the Bluebird. Which, by the way, happened to be aired live on ABC on both coasts; sure it was a gimmick (the difference between the taped episode vs. the live-on-camera scenes were particularly jarring), but I love the music on this show, so it was neat to see Charles Esten perform for real, and he definitely poured his heart and soul into it.

In other relationship news, Layla (Aubrey Peeples) is bereft that her marriage is effectively a sham, and with good reason. Good on Will (Chris Carmack) for being honest with himself and with her, but his timing definitely sucks. Understandably, Layla wants a divorce, and Will smartly obliges. Only, when they tell their producer they want out of their TV show, she confronts them with a whammy: the crew has footage of Will confessing his homosexuality to Layla, as we expected, and is basically blackmailing them to keep filming, because the network won’t take kindly to promoting a “gay cowboy.” I predict cunning Layla is going to be on the warpath in coming weeks, because she seems like she could be hell on wheels if she chose, and she definitely won’t be having any of this bearding business.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

My favorite parts of these episodes usually involve Maddie (Lennon Stella) and Daphne (Maisy Stella), and tonight was no exception. They didn’t have a whole lot to do, but what they did was really touching, especially Maddie. She’s still in a funk over her parents not letting her become a country starlet, as hormonal teenagers are wont to do. Teddy (Eric Close), in a surprising bit of responsible parenting, stresses to her that they can’t have a relationship if she won’t talk to him about her feelings, and she snaps back that she can’t talk to him about something, or more specifically someone he hates. However, Teddy doesn’t take the bait; he later tells her that he doesn’t hate Deacon, which would be a newsflash to most of us, I presume. Instead, he reminds her that if it weren’t for Deacon, he wouldn’t have her, and I have to admit I found this heartwarming — and so did Maddie.

The one thing I appreciate about the whole Rayna-Deacon-Teddy triangle of previous years is that for the most part, they didn’t vilify Teddy, though they came dangerously close with the whole campaign scandal and Peggy affair. Teddy was rightfully hurt by his ex’s past actions, but he’s risen above it to put Maddie first, and has stood by her through all her tantrums and accusations. So Teddy puts aside his own feelings, and takes Maddie and Daphne to the Bluebird for Deacon’s show, even though it’s his week with the girls and he’s under no obligation to do it. But, it’s important to Maddie, so he pastes on a smile, and opens the line of communication with his daughter. Moreover, I loved his short talk with Deacon before the show — it was a little awkward, but they’re both navigating this situation as best they can, and Deacon evidently respects and appreciates that Teddy is facilitating his relationship with Maddie. It’s refreshing from the typical baby daddy drama.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Speaking of which, Juliette felt sick all through the episode, which we were led to believe was a result of her booze binge post-breakup. However, this is TV, and a female feeling nauseous, especially followed by a visit to the doctor, only means one thing. Juliette is pregnant! It was bound to happen, right? Especially after sleeping with creepy Jeff? In all seriousness, though, the show’s hand was sort of forced due to Panettiere’s pregnancy, and since it is, for all intents and purposes, a soap, it makes perfect sense that they wrote in the baby. I hope, for Juliette’s sake, that the baby is Avery’s, but I have no doubt the writers are going to tease that out as long as they can.

So, here’s where we stand at the end of the episode: Scarlett decides to go back to Nashville after a little soul-searching and a broken-down car — I think there’s a song in there somewhere. Rayna still can’t make up her mind about a man, just like the previous two seasons, and the men are totally fine with being strung along because of Rayna’s magical powers, or something. Deacon is a lovesick puppy, but he sings well. Juliette might be in a bit of a pickle (and will be eating them soon), but her teary audition earned her the Patsy Cline part, so this should make for a wild ride. And once again, the Conrad sisters are more mature than any of their parents.

Other random thoughts:

  • Was Juliette’s self-styled haircut supposed to be reminiscent of Britney Spears’ meltdown years ago?
  • I try not to be superficial about characters/actors’ appearances, especially not women, because there’s enough of that in real life and this site is meant to be a positive space for women and female characters in particular, but what’s going on with Scarlett’s hair? I assume it’s a wig, or extensions, because there’s something really off about it.
  • Of course an Avery road trip ends in a bar fight! I still laughed.
  • Of course Scarlett gets recognized by a mechanic named Cletus.
  • Don’t think I didn’t notice the blatant use of Gunnar coming running down to Scarlett when Avery admits he always saw another man coming along to sweep Scarlett off her feet and away from him, writers. I see what you did there. I just hope we’re spared a little of that drama for a while.

 


So, what did you think of the Nashville premiere? Who is Rayna going to pick? Who’s the father of Juliette’s baby? Who’s Layla going to cut to get out of her marriage? Can Scarlett really handle the music business this time around? When are we going to get more singing?

 

Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

One Response to NASHVILLE Debriefing: It’s showtime!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: