NASHVILLE Debriefing: Christmas and cold shoulders


Ah, it’s Christmas in Nashville, and it’s appropriately awkward and heartfelt!

Rayna and Luke’s publicity tour extends to homegrown Christmas special that puts all their warts on display. Speaking of publicity, Will and Layla are sick of extending their fake marriage when the ratings for their show takes off, and they unexpectedly bond over being treated like meat. Meanwhile, Zoey and Gunnar repeat “breakup” more times than is necessary, but they don’t let it stop them from performing at Nashfest with ZAG. (HA! Spoiler alert, they totally do.) On the other hand, Avery’s in his own spot of trouble when Sadie Stone wants him to produce her new album, but Juliette misinterprets her interest as romantic. And Scarlett confronts her stage fright yet again. Someone get some mistletoe, stat!

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Rayna (Connie Britton) and Luke (Will Chase) are busy shooting their Christmas special (for charity!) at her house, dangerously close to Christmas, and the stress is getting to everyone. It’s real, but it’s not. Maddie (Lennon Stella) remarks that even though it’s their house, nothing they’re using for this shoot is actually theirs. Why, it’s almost like everything is fake for the cameras! But I’m sure that’s not a metaphor for Rayna and Luke’s entire relationship or anything. Luke recognizes that it’s a pain, but it goes with the territory. What he’s more annoyed about is the fact that Rayna can’t stop worrying about Deacon (Charles Esten), because she’s just found out the Rolling Stone article she so furiously tried to spin after Maddie and Colt’s dalliance now focuses on her relationship with Deacon a little more than she’d hoped. Predictably, Deacon is pissed, and Rayna is bewildered. “Sorry I threw you under the bus, Deacon, but I need you to forgive me because I can’t think of anyone but myself!” Okay, she doesn’t actually say that, but if she did, maybe this would be a little easier to stomach.

Gunnar (Sam Palladio) has a new gig co-writing with Sadie Stone (Laura Benanti), and she suggests that her manager would be interested in giving ZAG a boost, if they’re still willing to perform together. In return, Gunnar suggests that Avery (Jonathan Jackson) may be just the right producer for her new album, too, and everything seems to be coming up roses. Well, except for the fact that Zoey (Chaley Rose) is too busy loafing on Deacon and Scarlett’s couch post-breakup, and she and Gunnar are still awkward as hell around each other. And also repeat the word “breakup” about fifty times in the space of three minutes. Gunnar has let them all in on the good news, and convinces his bandmates they should keep their gig at Nashfest to perform for Sadie’s manager, Noel Laughlin (Scott Reeves) because it’d be a great opportunity for all of their careers. They agree, but as they meet Laughlin, Gunnar and Zoey can’t quite let go of their personal drama, and Avery’s had enough of dealing with his own ex to babysit the two of them. So they regroup, but as their set draws nearer, she changes her mind: she accuses Gunnar of orchestrating this just to get them back together, and he in turn asks why that would be such a bad thing. Zoey spits that, “If it’s selfish to not want to play mom to your kid, then yeah, I’m selfish,” which pretty much fits the bill, and in an act of even more selfishness, leaves her bandmates high and dry and walks out on them just before they’re supposed to go on. She’s choosing herself, only at the worst possible time. I absolutely understand why Zoey doesn’t want to be Instant Mom and it’s wonderful that she’s standing up for herself and her career, but she’s doing it in the most unprofessional way possible in terms of their music careers right now. (It doesn’t help that Zoey’s never been written as anything but Scarlett’s friend or Gunnar’s love interest, so it’s hard to for me to feel sorry for her when I don’t even know her.)

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

In other news, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) is green with envy when she overhears Avery talking to Sadie on the phone, and assumes the worst — that she’s his hot new date, and he’s moving on for good. She stalks him right to the festival, from Emily’s (Kourtney Hansen) car to a motorized scooter, and hilarious to watch. She’s crazy with jealousy when she spots Avery with Sadie. Unsurprisingly, Avery sees her, because she’s about as inconspicuous as a school bus, and rightly reads her the riot act after she accidentally brings down a tent with her getaway scooter, not only for being scarily possessive, but more importantly for blowing an amazing professional opportunity for him. She’s rightfully chastened, but Avery storms out before she can apologize. She makes things right by pleading Avery’s case to Sadie in the aftermath, singing his praises as a producer and musician, and assuring her label mate that there will be no more awkwardness. Avery then comes over to her house to thank her for putting in a good word for him with Sadie, and they share a loaded moment. Oh you two crazy kids, just talk already!

Will (Chris Carmack) and Layla (Aubrey Peeples) are still dealing with the fallout of their sudden media popularity, not unlike Luke and Rayna. Layla is sick of being treated like a dimwit by everyone in public, and Luke is just as fed up of being asked to take off his shirt. I wondered if this would lead to some bonding over their unique perspective in all this, but that was not the case. Will has an idea of where they can go to get away from prying eyes and just be themselves for a few hours– only it ends up being at a very crowded music festival, with nothing but sunglasses and beanies to mask their identities. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work, since it’s the biggest gig in town and they’re (in)famous, but that’s not the point. Interestingly, Will still seems pretty big on wanting to be friends and hang out together at the concert, but Layla understandably wants some alone time to go check out the music. So they split, agreeing to meet up at the end of the night to go home.

Will’s first stop is to the beer tent, and as an aside, I’m wondering if they’re setting him up for an alcoholism story, because booze seems to be how he’s dealing with his closeted sexuality. Speaking of which, he has eyes for the bartender, who also happens to kiss his very male boyfriend in front of our shocked cowboy. “So you’re gay, huh?” is how he clumsily responds to this like this is the first time he’s seen homosexual overtures in public, and the bartender appropriately treats him like the doofus he is. Look at that, Will discovers there are, in fact, other gay men in Nashville! In all seriousness, though, he asks the guy how he deals with his “alternative lifestyle,” and he responds that it’s not a lifestyle, it’s just life — and moreover, disapproving attitudes aren’t his problem, it’s the bigots’. Will takes this to heart, but also takes a couple more glasses of beer, too. Later on, he drunkenly tries to help the bartender clean up his stand, then even more drunkenly tries to kiss him. He’s rebuffed, but not before the bartender pointedly asks “who are you?” If only Will knew.

Meanwhile, Layla conveniently finds herself at a merchant’s stand, and attracts a crowd when she puts on an impromptu show with one of their guitars. She’s good, and an oblivious Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson), who’d dismissed her demo minutes earlier as being worse than driving in total silence, stops to check out this fresh new talent he hears, only to discover it’s his own, contracted talent. He eats crow, and admits to Layla that he was wrong about her and that she’s great. She reveals she wanted to be Joni Mitchell when she was growing up, and he reveals he was in a band in college. She coaxes him into playing a little tune, and Jeff’s heart grows three sizes this night. (Oops, sorry, wrong Christmas special.) For the first time ever, Jeff almost seems human, and dare I say charming. (I know, I can’t believe I just wrote that, either.) So, obviously, he and Layla flirt a little, and he offers to drive her home. After which we find out that, absolutely predictably, they sleep together. Yeah, this is going to end well.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Scarlett (Clare Bowen) is still busy helping Terry (Mykelti Williamson) get back on his feet, and part of that is preparing him for a headlining show at Nashfest. He’s gotten a lot of publicity over his rags-to-riches story, and with Scarlett by his side, is handling it as well as could be expected. Scarlett thinks she’s just being a good friend, but what she actually seems to be doing is revealing a secret knack for being a good manager. (Future career move maybe?) Especially because she understands his anxiety perfectly. Terry kills it on stage and seems to be having the time of his life, until he starts having a breakdown and imagining his deceased family in the crowd — not unlike Scarlett’s meltdown last season.

She runs after him, but loses him in the crowd. When she runs into Zoey, she asks for her help, but Zoey is still pulling a Kelly Taylor and snottily answers that, “Sorry, I’ve got my own problems to deal with.” Scarlett doesn’t really know what that means other than it probably has to do with Gunnar, and she offers to help Zoey with that and take her home after fixing the immediate emergency of finding her flight-risk friend, but Zoey spits back that “I don’t have a home here, Scarlett!” Um, how about the one you’ve been crashing at since you broke up with Gunnar, namely Scarlett’s couch? But, it matters not, because Zoey storms off in a huff, and Scarlett has bigger fish to fry with Terry. When she does finally locate him, he’s found a new gang of itinerants to hang out with, and has gotten drunk in record speed. (Ah, the magic of TV!) Scarlett offers to take him home, too, but he lashes out that he’s right where he’s supposed to be, and that she’s the one who is the coward, because he saw how talented she is on stage, and she’s hiding just as much as he is.

She realizes she can’t help someone who doesn’t want it, but can help someone who needs it: Gunnar and Avery, to be exact. She catches them trying to fix their set now that Zoey is MIA, and she offers to take the stage with them to sing her parts, since she knows all their songs, anyway. Why, it’s like Zoey was never here! (That’s sort of the problem, but that’s another issue.) They’re too frantic to be nervous, but Gunnar is firm: “I’m not doing this for my career, I’m doing it for Micah.” But Scarlett, suddenly the voice of reason, astutely tells him that, “You gotta do it for yourself, too.” That’s what Gunnar’s got to figure out, but he’s pretty obtuse at the moment. They go on at the last minute, and not surprisingly knock everyone’s socks off, too. Including Terry’s, who hangs back to listen to the performance from the back of the crowd, and smiles at Scarlett getting her act together. Is he going to get his together next? I hope so, but you never know in Nashville.

In any case, Noel calls Gunnar the next day to tell him the offer is still on the table, but they have to get out and tour immediately to build buzz. Gunnar is flattered, but turns him down, because he doesn’t want to be away from Micah (Gunnar Sizemore) anymore. As much as Zoey is a pill, this is exactly what she meant: she’s on the career track and saw ZAG as a stepping stone to that, whereas Gunnar treats it as a fun side project that can raise his visibility in town. Zoey wasn’t wrong about their different priorities right now, it’s just too bad she had to do it in such a disastrous exit. Anyway, Zoey takes off for Los Angeles, where she will presumably join another tour that can offer her the big lights she dreams of, and Gunnar is stuck in Nashville playing Mr. Mom. You know, I get where Gunnar is coming from, but you’d think he’d at least discuss the opportunity with his bandmates before turning it down for all of them. (For all he knows, Avery and Scarlett would be interested.)

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Rayna is exhausted from being on-camera for three days pretending she likes this version of Christmas, and from worrying over Deacon’s cold shoulder treatment even more. Luke reiterates that this is what she chose: she came up with the wedding date, and she orchestrated the “honeymoon tour” that is about to take them around the world and away from home. Once again proving what different pages they’re on, he offers that his kids have spent Christmas on the road every year, and every holiday has become a new adventure for them. On the other hand, Rayna has always spent Christmas at home with her family, and undertakes the same traditions year after year. Luke reminds her that they’re about to create their own blended family, so they’re going to come up with new traditions of their own, but Rayna stubbornly seems to react like this is brand new information — it’s always been the Rayna Show, after all.

Rayna also can’t let go of the Deacon thing, and decides to go make things right with him. Luke is kinder than I’d expect and agrees, and Rayna shows up at Deacon’s to plead her case. He knows she had to do what she did to protect Maddie, but when it comes down to it, he’s still in love with Rayna, and always has been. (Oh goodie, this old chestnut.) Rayna basically tells him he needs to build a bridge and get over it because she’s getting married in two weeks, but it begs the question — what is she doing at Deacon’s then in the middle of the night? In the end, Deacon seems to be getting the message, and finally rips off the old picture of Rayna on his guitar case, but this is Nashville, so you know that is going to be short-lived, one way or another.

In the closing scene, she and Luke wrap their Christmas special, on the fake set in their real home. The stage lights go out, and the magic is very much gone. Rayna is left all alone in the darkened room, pondering her future — but is she thinking of Luke or Deacon? She’s at a crossroads, and the glitter of the season, and Hollywood, is definitely over. So what could possibly be next?


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: Christmas and cold shoulders

  1. […] night and she immediately makes a beeline for Jeff, who she’s been texting for days after their soirée last week. Will puts two and two together, and in turn orders Jeff to fix this mess. Interestingly, Jeff […]

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