NASHVILLE Debriefing: Don’t forget to smile for the cameras

CONNIE BRITTON

This week on Nashville, our favorite messed-up country stars deal with the faltering record industry, bratty teenagers, incessant love triangles and unexpected pregnancies!

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Tonight opens with Rayna (Connie Britton) being interviewed at the future offices of Highway 66 Records, being prompted to tell all about her relationship with Luke (Will Chase). Rayna declines, because she’s never traded on her personal life before (ahem), but the reporter, and later manager Bucky (David Alford), remind her that it’s a totally different market today than it was when she broke through two decades earlier, and social media basically dictates that she has to open up her personal life to the press to sell her album.

It’s an interesting debate that is woven throughout the episode. Rayna, as we know, is firm about keeping her private life private and maintains that she got to where she is thanks to her hard work — ignoring, of course, how much her dearly departed daddy helped to get her there, but that’s another issue. On the other hand, fiancé Luke has embraced his public image, with his name on barbecue sauces to prove his point. He navigates the press with ease, and sees no problem with using his image to make a buck, nor does he see anything wrong with Rayna teasing the public with some of their more intimate moments (like his proposal) to sell some more records. Curiously, though, he warns her that, “once that machine gets going, it doesn’t stop.” I’m sure those words are going to come back to bite both of them in short order, because if there’s one thing this show is good at, it’s dropping anvils left and right. In any case, Rayna takes them to heart: by the end of the episode, she gives the scoop on Luke’s private proposal to camera crews, while she announces another forty dates to her tour. With that, her personal and professional lives are inextricably linked, undoubtedly set to explode as the season goes along.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

I must admit that as much as Rayna’s apparent cluelessness about the state of the music industry these days grated — I mean, come on, did she really not realize how dire sales are now across the board, and that social media has become a fact of life for performers? — I actually loved that she and Luke represented two sides of the coin here. Frankly, I expected more of these kinds of insights into the music industry when Nashville first premiered and was disappointed about how quickly it veered into pure soapy fluff (though I now embrace that wholeheartedly). So I welcome any plot that gives some screen time to real-life issues in the industry, particularly since Rayna is now herself the owner of a record label.

Speaking of Rayna’s personal life, daughter Maddie (Lennon Stella) decides to be a full-on brat this week, which is both refreshing and infuriating. With all the upheaval in her life recently thanks to her self-absorbed parents, it’s understandable that she’d start acting out, and in some ways she’s earned it. However, that comes in the form of being snotty to Deacon (Charles Esten) when he’s trying to bond with her over buying furniture for her new bedroom in his house, which isn’t cool at all. In what is probably the biggest blowup they’ve ever had, she spits at him, “My mom is marrying Luke because you were too pathetic to do anything!” Which, you know, isn’t totally wrong if you’re as sick of the endless Deacon-Rayna merry-go-round as I am, but is also completely out of line, especially by a fifteen year old. Deacon finally throws back at her that he did propose to her mom, and she said no anyway. “The fantasy is over, let it go!” He finally yells at her, and I kind of want to yell that at all of these characters, period. Could it be we’re finally letting go of all this once and for all? Not a chance, this is Nashville.

Predictably, Deacon and Maddie make up pretty quickly and cry over their broken dreams and IKEA furniture, and Maddie goes back to taking everything out on her mom. However, it’s not completely baseless: Rayna tells the girls she’s extending the tour, which means she’ll effectively be gone for a year. Adorable, perfect Daphne is fine with it and tells her mom to chase her dreams, but Maddie just rolls her eyes — but still agrees. When Rayna is shocked at her complacency, Maddie answers, “Take yes for an answer, Mom.” Yikes — if I’d pulled that, my butt would have been grounded indefinitely. But since nobody on Nashville actually communicates, Rayna just looks confused at her daughter’s surliness.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

The tour itself is about to turn into fireworks, unquestionably. Deacon assumes he’s fired, given that he just proposed to Luke’s fiancée Rayna, but Luke keeps Deacon on, much to his dismay. Yes, Deacon wanted to wallow and make sad eyes and sadder songs, as is his custom, but Luke reminds him that he signed a contract, and Luke effectively owns him for the next year. I really can’t figure out what Luke’s deal is yet: he denied it, but is he doing this to stick it to Deacon? Force him to watch him get his girl? That would be my first inclination, given Luke’s past actions. Oddly enough, though, I can also buy that it is purely business, because as the show reiterated tonight, that is Luke’s bottom line. (In fact, last season I believed his whole romance with Rayna was all about boosting his box office.) Deacon may be a sap, but he’s apparently a damn good guitarist, and he knows the catalogue. Plus, as much as I love Deacon, I’m glad someone is finally holding one of these characters to their contracts and not letting them walk out of a gig due to personal screw-ups!

I’m always a little leery of Luke, because he seems to be so calculating all the time, despite that affable exterior. He acts like everything slides off his back, but he also seems like he could turn on a dime in a nanosecond and cause some real damage. Besides, given that he and Rayna don’t seem to talk about serious issues, I think they’re destined to an implosion. Case in point: tonight Rayna takes him to her dad’s house, because she and Tandy (Judith Hoag) are finally clearing it out after his death last season, and Luke casually mentions to Rayna, that she really doesn’t have to worry about money or her label failing, because she’s got all her dad’s money now. Moreover, she can live off of being “Mrs. Luke Wheeler” from now on. He says it in a joking tone, but I detect some sincerity behind his teasing, too. (Maybe that’s what he’s after, in the end — Rayna’s fortune?) Rayna may have her head in the clouds about living in the real world, but to her credit, she doesn’t rest on her laurels when it comes to work. It’s yet another instance where she and Luke just aren’t on the same page, but neither are willing to admit it.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) is still reeling from her breakup with Avery (Jonathan Jackson), and throwing herself into the Patsy Cline movie auditions to get over it. She rehearses diligently and she dresses the part for the latest audition, because there’s nothing she won’t do for the role. Not surprisingly, she channels her recent anger into the audition and wows the producers, all but getting the part on the spot, until Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson) shows up with Layla (Aubrey Peeples) for a courtesy audition. Of course, he can’t help but nag Juliette about her weight, because as I mentioned earlier, this show is about as subtle as a freight train. On that very baby front, Juliette decides she’s going to have an abortion, as the last thing she wants is to be tied to Jeff forever. In a remarkably proficient use of a recent controversial news topic, her clinic informs her Tennessee state law requires her to have an ultrasound prior to her procedure, to date the fetus, which (very understandably) rankles her, because she knows she’s four weeks along, coinciding with the one and only time she had unprotected sex, with Jeff. (That… isn’t exactly how that works. That’s TV biology for you.) But her doctor informs her that according to the fetus’ size, she’s actually closer to eight weeks — which means the baby’s Avery’s! Despite the fact that they were using birth control, but whoopsies! The episode leaves us wondering what Juliette is going to do now, but come on, Hayden Panettiere is pregnant, so we all know what’s happening. The drama now is, what’s going to happen when Avery finds out?

Rounding out the episode is the latest round of Gunnar/Scarlett/Zoey drama. Zoey’s (Chaley Rose) about to go on tour, so Gunnar (Sam Palladio) asks her to move in with him so she has a place to call home when she’s back from tour. (Did we even remember Zoey was gone?) Zoey is hesitant, but a disastrous rehearsal for Juliette’s tour which demonstrates she has zero rhythm sends her running back to Gunnar as a safety net and saying yes, though it might have even more to do with seeing Gunnar and Scarlett (Clare Bowen) making sweet (platonic) music in his home studio and feeling a wee bit insecure over their moony eyes. I wish I could care about that at all, but I really don’t — these three have been a triangle almost from the start, and like Deacon and Rayna, I wish they’d just make up their minds already. (On the other hand: I have to admit Gunnar and Scarlett are dynamite together as singers.)

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Meanwhile, as I predicted last week, Layla is heading on a warpath through Nashville, and out to take everyone down in flames. Definitely no more Mrs. Nice Beard, and I for one am glad: they teased a much more cunning Layla when she hijacked Juliette’s song on tour last season, then whitewashed her for the poor, blinded little wife when Will (Chris Carmack) came along. I like that they’re dropping her sickly-sweet mask and letting her be the hell on wheels we knew she would be. She’s angry enough as it is with Will and their now-fake marriage, and once she bombs her audition, she decides Will is going to pay for it. “You owe me everything! I own you.” THERE IT IS. Buckle your seat belts, folks. For better or for worse, Layla’s going to make Juliette seem like Doris Day. (This is definitely the flip side of selling yourself to the media that nobody is warning Rayna about.)

Finally, Tandy decides to leave Rayna to her own devices in Nashville, and accepts a job offer at a nonprofit in San Francisco. She basically chooses Tandy, to be all Kelly Taylor about it. She’s lived so long being Lamar Wyatt’s daughter and Rayna Jaymes’ sister that she has to go find herself and do some good in the world. You go find your bliss in the land of bike shorts and sky-high rents, Tandy! You will be missed.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

I can’t keep up with this show sometimes! What did you think of tonight’s episode? Did you enjoy Laura Benanti’s blink-and-you-miss-it stint as Patsy Cline wannabe Sadie Stone? Did you want to tell Rayna to shut up when she told Luke rich girls don’t have it easy growing up either? And does Rayna really not know that Lamar paid to make her first record platinum? Will Maddie ever stop pouting long enough to sing another song? Is Deacon about to duel Luke on stage? Is Avery going to run back to Juliette when he finds out about the baby, or are we in for a custody battle? Could Jeff be any smarmier?

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.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: