NASHVILLE Debriefing: “Cheating’s not the end of the world,” or else we wouldn’t be on the air.

Courtesy ABC

Well, after a three week hiatus, I’m finally all caught up on Nashville, and not a moment too soon, because drama is the name of the game in country music, apparently!

Since we left off, there’s been baby daddy drama of all kinds, more love triangles nobody really cares about anymore (right?), some growing pains from girls young and old(er), and creepiness from everyone’s favourite sociopathic record label head. Good times, am I right?

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

So let’s get the relatively petty stuff out of the way first. Zoey (Chaley Rose) is predictably jealous of Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett’s (Clare Bowen) relationship, which would be understandable if we hadn’t been going through this same merry-go-round for a year now. I understand that Zoey is feeling insecure, given that she’s floundering in rehearsals for Juliette’s (Hayden Panettiere) tour, and is throwing herself into her relationship with Gunnar to regain control of herself, but I feel like they’ve been having this argument for over a season now, and it’s tiresome. To be fair, I think that it was unfair of Gunnar to start dating Zoey given that a) he still wasn’t over Scarlett and b) Zoey is Scarlett’s best friend, but on the other hand, Zoey knew what their deal was all along, before she starting seeing him, and really, what did she think was going to happen when she started dating her very emotionally fragile best friend’s ex? I’m only surprised it took this long for the situation to explode.

Well, explode might be a bit of a strong word, given how lacklustre this whole triangle is. Zoey finds Gunnar and Scarlett sneaking behind closed supply closet doors and immediately thinks the worst of them, even though they both proclaim their innocence. (And were moving around cases of water bottles — hardly a compromising position.) She makes a big deal over it, adding that she’s also pissed Gunnar won’t record music with her or do anything he does with Scarlett, basically. She’s got a point — Scarlett and Gunnar are emotionally tied in a way that might be unhealthy for “friends” — but she’s also the one who never voiced any of her concerns until now. It turns out, of course, that Gunnar and Scarlett were sneaking around because they were organizing a surprise going away party for Zoey before she left for tour, and she appropriately feels like a jerk for suspecting the worst. It’s clear the trust is broken between all of them, and I am starting to think maybe they’re all better off without each other, at least for a while. I really like that Scarlett states the obvious: “It’s like we spent a whole year apologizing to each other.” That’s the perfect way to sum up their collective stories since season 2, and I’m hoping we move on from this now. (Fat chance, I know, but a girl can dream, right?)

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

However, Scarlett’s no peach in this whole affair, either. Zoey extends an olive branch by asking her to come up on stage and sing with her the party, but it sends Scarlett back into a tailspin like last year, and she flees into the kitchen to regain her composure after a panic attack. Zoey asks if it was something she did, and Scarlett hilariously replies, “not everything is about you!” Oh really, Scarlett? Because it seems like everything is certainly about you in this whole melodrama, and has been since last year. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to see Scarlett as a hypocrite (which I definitely do), or if we really are supposed to see her as damaged goods who is misunderstood by her friends. I’m gonna give her a pass for now and assume she was just lashing out at Zoey in the heat of the moment, but I’m curious about the writers’ intent here.

Scarlett isn’t all bad, though. When Maddie (Lennon Stella) decides to con Teddy (Eric Close) into letting her go to a party that she isn’t allowed to attend legally, in order to hang out with her bad-influence friends, it’s Scarlett who proves to be her saving grace. I absolutely loved their scene together in “I Can’t Get Over You to Save My Life”: Maddie puts up a front at first like she’s angry that Scarlett embarrassed her and ruined her night, but in the car she confesses she wasn’t having fun and wanted to get out of there, only she didn’t want to lose face in front of her friends. She didn’t really want to be drinking alcohol or hanging out with lecherous boys, but she wants to fit in, and she doesn’t know how. It’s something Scarlett understands completely: she was told to go out and let loose by her boss at the publishing company, to learn how to write “fun” music that girls want to listen to these days (hence her attendance at said bash), but partying isn’t her scene either, and she’d much rather be hanging out with her 15 year old cousin than drinking the night away in the name of “fun.” She gives Maddie some surprisingly good advice: they’re both artists, which means they feel things deeply, good and bad, but the trick is to channel all those feelings into their writing. It comforts Maddie to know she’s not alone, and it actually inspires Scarlett to write her own kind of songs for girls like them. It might not be “fun,” but it’s sweet that Scarlett’s taking on the plight of the young, sensitive, impressionable music lovers who don’t want to get trashed every Friday night. Points to her for that.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

When it comes to the Conrad girls, Maddie and Daphne (Maisy Stella) got quite a bit of screen time in the last few weeks. (Including some stage time! I love their acoustic version of “Joy Parade.”) Along with Maddie’s usual teenage drama, Daphne is going through her own growing pains with her mom away on tour, too. I love that they’ve finally given her her own story, even if they made her a bit of a brat in the process. (She is 10, after all.) She begs mom Rayna (Connie Britton) to come home between tour dates, and Rayna’s solution is to fly the girls out to Idaho to spend her day off with them. However, she’s still contracted to film a car commercial with Luke (Will Chase), and when she nixes Daphne’s idea to film it with the whole family — because for once reality sets in and that’s not how TV works sweetie — she lashes out at her mom for working instead of really spending time with them.

On the one hand, this comes out of left field, because Rayna’s been touring Daphne’s entire life and she surely has been through this before, but on the other, Daphne is growing up and probably has a tighter grasp on what it means for her mom to be gone for months at a time than she did when she was younger. Her outburst that her mom “suck[ed]” sounded more like her sister than her, but that’s probably where she learned it from and knew it would get her some attention. Rayna made a teary confession that she’s always going to be there for Daphne, but it’s obvious she’s starting to wonder what impact being on the road is having on her girls, especially when she realizes all that she’s missing — like Daphne’s newly-pierced ears, or Maddie’s first salon highlights, thanks to a spa day with their dad. Rayna is right to be upset Teddy didn’t tell her first, but he also justifiably tells her that she can’t be there for everything — that’s the tradeoff she makes for going on tour. She probably doesn’t like hearing it, but the world doesn’t stop spinning for her, and I like seeing her grapple with that. Rayna breaks down at realizing that she is missing part of her girls’ growing up for her career, and it’s one of the more emotionally honest moments we’ve seen from her in ages. (I’ve been waiting for them to broach this since the show premiered.)

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Interestingly, this segues into one of the larger issues plaguing Rayna and Luke’s relationship. As we learned earlier this season, Rayna (finally) learned that she has to enter the twenty-first century and play the social media game, for better or for worse, to get her name out there and boost sales, a game Luke is a champ at. They become #Ruke (or is it #Layna?) for all their followers, and for once I actually side with Rayna about how preposterous the whole thing is — but, giving up her privacy is the sacrifice she has to make if she wants to ensure the record sales and publicity she’s maintained relatively effortlessly in the last two decades. Luke is all over it, posting selfies, even of their blended-family events, yet Rayna still isn’t comfortable with putting her private life out there, especially not when it comes at her girls’ expense. Maddie pointing out that magazines are posting paparazzi pictures of her leaving school, uniform and glasses and all, confirms her fears about the toll this is having on her family, and Luke’s insistence that the kids will get over it eventually doesn’t sit well with her, because she understandably doesn’t want her kids to get used to having their privacy invaded. It was heartbreaking to see Maddie deal with going through her awkward phase in front of the whole world, and I’m glad Rayna assured her that even a “homecoming queen” like herself went through feeling out of place. Even if her advice of “being your best self” bit her in the rear end at the end.

If you couldn’t tell, I still don’t trust Luke, even if I don’t think he necessarily means ill with Rayna. I just think he and Rayna are in very different head spaces, and whether or not it’s intentional, he is using their upcoming wedding — which is on for a month from now, because it’s the only hole in their respective schedules — as a publicity boost. If you think about it, he’s got it made either way: if they go through with it, they are a publicist’s dream, complete with their own hashtag, and if Rayna (likely) dumps him, he’s the lonely cowboy who had his heart broken in front of the cameras. I can’t tell if he really loves Rayna (or more the idea of her), but he definitely loves what Rayna does for his image, especially when they’re posing with their picture-perfect modern family. This is going to blow up spectacularly, and I can’t wait to see how.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about Deacon (Charles Esten), because as with Zoey, Gunnar and Scarlett, it’s a little rather-rinse-repeat these days. He’s feeling sorry for himself over losing Rayna (again), and is grouchy (again). He’s angry that Luke cuts his set down, but what would he expect from a man who’s marrying his ex, an ex he proposed to after she was already engaged? He wallows in self-pity, but a backup singer (Brette Taylore) thinks he’s cool and they end up sleeping together. He tells her he’s still in love with Rayna, she tells him he’s wasting his time and needs to live a little. Which he does. With her. In a laundromat. They miss their bus and buy a motorcycle to catch up. They sing together. I don’t see how this will end any better than his previous rebounds, but that’s Deacon’s deal these days, isn’t it?

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

The big story these past few weeks has been Juliette and her pregnancy. Avery (Jonathan Jackson) won’t listen to her when she tries to contact him, and Deacon doesn’t have time for her, either. She eventually leans on Rayna for advice and confesses her secret, and in a lovely moment, Rayna stands by her side, even when a scare takes her out of an impromptu ambush business meeting with potential Highway 65 recruit Sadie Stone (Laura Benanti) and sends her rushing to Juliette’s side. (I love when these two duke it out behind their fake smiles, but I think I love it even more when they cut the crap when something serious comes up, like with the Maddie-Deacon reveal.) Juliette had decided to give up the baby for adoption, which we all knew wouldn’t really come to pass on a network show because that would be far too convenient, but her conversation with Rayna changes her mind about her maternal instincts. I knew it was coming, yet regardless of the change of heart, I appreciated how much the buildup divulged about Juliette. She has such low self-esteem that she doesn’t think she can love the baby the way it needs to be loved, because she didn’t know that kind of love herself growing up, but Rayna points out that the fact that she is worried about that proves that she already does know how to love selflessly.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

I’ll admit that most of the time, Juliette is my favorite character, in all her self-destructive train wreck glory, and these episodes have proven why. She lashes out at those closest to her — like when Glenn (Ed Amatrudo) and Emily (Kourtney Hansen) toss her room suspecting her of being on drugs — but when push comes to shove, she turns to them because she loves them. Glenn admitting to Juliette that she is like a daughter to him and all he wants is for her to be happy, and to believe she can be happy, was so touching, and Juliette later returned the sentiment when she confessed that it killed her to disappoint him for that very reason. Their relationship has always been stormy, due to Juliette’s incredible volatility, but the fact that she keeps coming back to him after she could easily find someone else to manage her career says a lot. He is her family, and her running to his house in the middle of the night, admitting she’s scared, definitely tugged at my heartstrings. I believe Glenn is genuine, and I hope he never betrays her, because seeing their relationship evolve to this point has been surprisingly heartwarming.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Glenn lives up to his fatherly duty when he tries to intervene with Avery on Juliette’s behalf after he finds out about the baby, and later when he reads Avery the riot act after he barges onto the set of the Patsy Cline movie, ranting about the pregnancy reveal. Which he’s kind of justified in doing, seeing as Juliette told him in a text message, but he also refused to take any of her calls, so how else was she supposed to reach him at this point? He’s a disaster, understandably, and Jackson was terrific in Avery’s breakdown when he finally confronts Juliette. For a character who started out as such a tool, he’s demonstrated incredible vulnerability, especially in this story; his pain was palpable, and though telling Juliette that he needs to “nothing” her because anything else hurts too much was hard to watch, it made me appreciate Jackson’s raw delivery. Avery’s been circling the drain ever since the breakup with booze and chicks, culminating in him ruining Zoey’s party with his drunken antics and getting arrested for mistakenly breaking into someone’s car, but Juliette’s news is enough to sober him and send him running to help from Gunnar of all people. He’s worried maybe he should just leave Juliette alone to raise the baby, since he’s such a mess, but Gunnar points out that he has a right to be there, too.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Meanwhile, Gunnar has some baby drama of his own, about ten years too late. High school sweetheart Kiley (Spy Kids’ Alex Penavega, all grown up) has just moved to town, and he runs into her at a gig; she’s waiting tables at a nearby diner and her arrival is yet another grenade to set Zoey off. (Seriously, those two need to talk already.) It’s obvious from Gunnar’s awkwardness that things ended badly, and it turns out Kiley took off without telling him a decade before, and he hadn’t heard from her since. He later meets Kiley’s son Micah at the diner, and he puts two and two together when he finds out Micah is nine and a half. Despite an initial denial, Kiley admits to Gunnar that Micah is his — talk about a plot twist! Because we didn’t have enough secret children on this show, let’s throw another one into the ring, right in the middle of another love triangle. (Which is about to turn into a square, I take it?) What is Zoey going to say about that? Look, it’s ridiculous, given that we’re still dealing with Maddie navigating paternal relationships with Teddy and Deacon, and Rayna possibly not being Lamar’s daughter, and Juliette’s current situation with Avery, but I long ago accepted that this show is unabashedly a soap opera, so why not throw in another plot device? Maybe they can all do an episode of Maury! (Is Maury still a thing?) Besides, I found Gunnar a lot more enjoyable in his brief scene with Micah than I do with either of his love interests, so I’m rolling with it. Only his budding bromance with Avery tops it these days, lately.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Speaking of bromance, Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson) is currently after Teddy, inexplicably. He donates a bunch of money to the girls’ school for their music program (though really, wouldn’t they be going to a fancy private school with one already? I digress), and wins a golf date with the mayor at the silent auction, all in the guise of procuring a business meeting Teddy had otherwise refused. I still don’t know what his motive is: he wants Edgehill involved in more city sponsorships, but Teddy doesn’t quite get why. Still, Teddy doesn’t know everything about Jeff’s history with Rayna, so while he’s wary at first, he keeps indulging the guy, anyway. Maybe Jeff is just trying to hit Rayna where it hurts, by convincing Teddy to become the “cool dad” and undermine the girls’ loyalty to Rayna, but poor dumb Teddy thinks Jeff is just trying to be his wingman, especially after inviting him out to a party at which he meets a history nerd love interest.

When Rayna poaches Sadie Stone from Edgehill to Highway 65, the gloves come off for Jeff, and he decides to prey upon Maddie and Daphne’s recording ambitions by subtly wearing Teddy down on the issue, to get back at Rayna and hit her where it hurts. I have to say, as gross as Jeff is, I’m looking forward to seeing these developments: I always wished they’d focus more on the actual music industry in the show (instead of the baby daddy business), and this has the potential to get really juicy, since Rayna and Teddy have always been united in their desire to keep the girls out of the industry as long as possible. That being said, I wonder what Jeff’s plans really are, and I wonder how creepy this can get.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

In other news: Juliette befriends her co-star (Derek Hough), who figures out she’s pregnant and helps her hide it during their love scenes. She also passes out on stage, and Zoey sees her chance and takes over the number to save face — that won’t end well I’m sure. When she realizes Will (Chris Carmack) won’t hold up his end of the bearding deal, Layla (Aubrey Peeples) goes after Jeff next, blackmailing him into turning her next album Gold or else she’ll out her Brokeback husband. At least her spiral into evil makes her more interesting! Will begins an affair with his personal trainer, who then dumps him after refusing to sign a nondisclosure agreement. He goes looking for some strange in a park thereafter, only to get beaten up and mugged by homophobes. That cat’s gonna get out of the bag sooner or later.

Well, there are the last three weeks in a nutshell — sort of. It’s more of the same, but full of crazy twists, too. Are you looking forward to Avery and Juliette hashing it out? Were you as uncomfortable seeing wonderful Broadway vet Laura Benanti sucking up to not-so-musically-acclaimed Connie Britton (bless her heart) as I was? Is Luke on notice? Is Zoey going to buy a clue? Is the homeless man with the beautiful voice outside of Scarlett’s studio going to turn into a star like in the real-life headlines last year? And what is Jeff’s damage?

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: “Cheating’s not the end of the world,” or else we wouldn’t be on the air.

  1. […] of which, remember Teddy’s hot date last week? I totally thought she was a call girl, and it turns out I nailed it, so points for me! As […]

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