NASHVILLE Debriefing: “It’s been a day”

Courtesy ABC

When Nashville left us before the holidays, everyone’s troubles came home to roost, leaving us wondering how the show would untangle all the tricky webs it wove in the first half of the season. Last night’s midseason premiere picks up in the immediate aftermath, and no one is left unscathed from the drama — whether it’s Luke and Rayna’s botched wedding, Layla’s overdose, Deacon’s diagnosis, Gunnar’s paternity woes, or even Avery and Juliette’s marital-not-so-bliss.

The biggest story, obviously, is the #Ruke breakup. Luke (Will Chase), not exactly the most forgiving guy on the planet, is understandably livid about Rayna (Connie Britton) calling the wedding off. And he’s out for blood, literally and figuratively. He barges into Deacon’s (Charles Esten) home in a fit of rage, assuming Rayna has run back to him, and when Deacon insists she’s not there, the two of them end up brawling on his front lawn, after Luke calls Rayna a bitch — because even when Rayna isn’t around, she still inexplicably draws every man around her to act stupid. All he gets for his trouble is a bloody lip courtesy of Deacon, which sends him on an entirely different warpath. If he can’t solve his troubles with his fists, he’s going to get Rayna where it hurts, by putting her on the hook for covering all of their wedding costs, since no wedding means no payout by People Magazine. Rayna, naturally, is irritated, but I don’t think it’s totally unfair of Luke to make her foot the bill for a wedding she called off at the last possible second, when we knew she was already having doubts. (On the other hand, I don’t like defending Luke, so I’m not dwelling on it.)

Meanwhile, Rayna breaks the news to her girls, and they’re both mad at her, for different reasons. Maddie (Lennon Stella) takes the melodramatic teenager approach, and is angry that now-single Rayna isn’t running back to Deacon, and I’m actually with Rayna on this — it’s not about the fairy tale ending, it’s about Rayna finally dealing with all of her crap. (For now. We know that won’t last too long, because this is a nighttime soap, after all.) Daphne (Maisy Stella) is angry because she loves Luke and was excited for him to be her stepdad, and that his daughter Sage was going to be her stepsister, and now that is all over without any warning. That is why Rayna has to figure her own life out, because all of her decisions have untold ramifications on her family, but in the last year, it seems like she’s made her choices without really thinking about how they affect her kids. They’ve sure undergone a lot of turmoil in the past year, so it’s no wonder they’re lashing out now.

Rayna attempts to bury the hatchet with Luke by tracking him down as he’s using champagne bottles as target practice, right where they had their first date at his ranch. Rayna implores him to take the high road in public about their breakup, but you know, she practically left him at the altar only a few hours ago, so I think he’s got a right to be pissed off at this very moment. (There I go defending Luke again — stop doing this to me, Nashville.) She makes it sound like it’s about maturity and protecting their kids, but is it really? Luke shows his true colors, though, by once again taking credit for her career resurgence as of late, and painting her as a leech who used him to boost her record sales, then leaving him out to dry once she won a couple of awards. “If that’s how you feel about it, maybe I dodged a bullet,” she spits back, and I cheer, because it’s about time she finally buys a clue. Sure, he might be retaliating out of pain, but this isn’t the first time he’s accused her of this, and we know these insecurities of his have been building for months. This is the Luke we know and love (to hate), so I actually hope we see more of this behavior from him, because it’s far more interesting than yet another ex-lover of Rayna’s wallowing after her magical powers, or whatever it is that keeps them coming back to her.

Bucky (David Alford), who tries to have Rayna’s best interests at heart, warns her that she should probably release a statement sooner rather than later to “frame the conversation,” before PR-savvy Luke tarnishes her as a runaway bride and hurts her even more. Instead of going through a publicist, she marches right out to her front gate, and addresses the press congregated there, claiming the breakup is a mutual decision and she hopes she and Luke can remain friends. Predictably this rankles Luke, and he decides to respond by throwing a party that very night at his ranch, since, after all, he’s already got the food and alcohol ready. This will frame his conversation as relief that he dodged Rayna’s bullet.

Interestingly, his kids aren’t down with this at all, and instead head over to Maddie and Daphne’s to commiserate on their immature, messed-up parents, and it’s surprisingly endearing to see them all hanging out at Teddy’s eating popcorn and watching movies, while Luke is basically throwing a frat party for 500 strangers. When Teddy (Eric Close) questions the wisdom of their little gathering, given Luke and Rayna’s situation, Maddie astutely asks him if “[we’re] just supposed to turn our feelings on and off just because [our parents] say so,” once again pointing out the havoc their parents have wreaked on them all. First they dislike each other and their parents ask them to play nice, then they develop feelings for one another and their parents tell them to put a lid on it, then their parents break up and they’re supposed to stop speaking to each other — no wonder they’re so confused. Besides, I’m amused by their “Children Of Tempestuous Musicians Who Suffer The Consequences Of Their Parents’ Harebrained Decisions” support club, at least for the time being.

Plus, Maddie and Colt (Keean Johnson) get over their earlier spat (in which they blamed each other’s parents for the split) and realize that the bright side of their parents’ wedding being called off is that they won’t be related and can actually date without it being weird, like the last time they made out. It’s the most likeable the two of them have been together in a long time, and if this is the version we get of them together, then I’m all for a little teenage puppy love amidst the grown-up drama on this show. I’m not sure how much longer Colt (or Sage) will be around given Luke’s story, but as long as he’s not posting questionable content on YouTube anytime soon, it’s about time the kids have a little fun.

In the midst of all this, Deacon is still reeling from his health crisis. It turns out he has a tumor on his liver, and he’s going to need a transplant sooner rather than later, because chemotherapy and radiation aren’t an option for this particular cancer. Scarlett (Clare Bowen) immediately volunteers part of hers, which he initially refuses, but it’s all for naught, because it turns out they’re different blood types, so she’s not an eligible candidate anyway. Which means Deacon has to go on a transplant list, and right now the odds aren’t looking too good for him. When Rayna finally comes over to clear the air and confess her love for him, because of course she couldn’t help herself for longer than one episode, adding that she simply needs more time before pursuing a relationship with him again, all of us watching had to be yelling “he doesn’t have more time!” Instead, Deacon obviously tells her she should take all the time she needs. It’s bittersweet, because we know he’s racing against the clock, but he also looks like Christmas morning came all over again at the idea that Rayna wants him back. Am I wrong for wondering if Rayna is going to end up being his match in more ways than one, now?

One of the other cliffhangers from 2014 was Layla’s (Aubrey Peeples) fate, after Will (Chris Carmack) and Jeff (Oliver Hudson) find her drowning in a pool. She isn’t dead, but she sure wishes she were. Jeff, of course, is more concerned about what this will do for all of their public images, and twists Teddy’s arm into helping him cover it up. Teddy does what he can about the underage drinking and public disturbance charges from the party, but the one thing he can’t make go away is Layla’s choice to press charges if it turns out she was unwillingly drugged or pushed into the pool. Layla is understandably angry, not only for “failing” at committing suicide (“I can’t even get that right”), but also at finding Will having sex with a woman at the party. She feels like Will’s sexuality is now just an excuse not to be with her. Will tries to sympathize with her about feeling suicidal, but it’s little comfort, since, as Layla reminds him, “You don’t have the guts to be honest, so everyone else has to shut up and suffer along with you.” Those words cut at Will, and he decides to finally try to end their show, with Jeff’s help, because it isn’t fair to make Layla live his lie. Jeff, whether to save his own skin or out of some affection for Layla, blackmails the producer into canceling the show, so that they’re all off the hook. (I definitely wondered what his motivation was when he sat by Layla’s bedside.) Layla is gobsmacked that it’s over for good, while we’re left wondering if Will is thinking about ending some of his other secrets.

In other drama, Gunnar (Sam Palladio) is still reeling from learning that Micah is his nephew, not his son. In a touching scene, the two Scotts have a little jam session of their own, proving the musical genes run strong in their family. (I have to admit that’s the most I’ve liked Micah since he first appeared.) Gunnar still can’t bring himself to reveal the truth to Micah, despite the fact that he’s heading to court to keep him. Not surprisingly, Gunnar loses the custody battle to Kylie’s parents, since they’ve been Micah’s primary caregivers for nine years and Uncle Father Gunnar has been around for five minutes. Though I haven’t been a fan of this whole baby daddy story, I did feel for Gunnar, though, when Micah lashes out at him once he finally learns the truth. Grandma Linda (Elpidia Carillo) is all too smug about Micah’s reaction, which is in line with her awful treatment of Gunnar since she showed up, but in a complete about-face, when she comes to pick up Micah’s things, she lets Gunnar know that he isn’t the boy she hated all those years ago, and that he can call or visit Micah anytime. It’s a small comfort, but Micah is still steaming, even refusing to take his guitar home to Texas with him.

Last but not least, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) and Avery (Jonathan Jackson) may have tied the knot, but they aren’t any more mellow than they were pre-nuptials. They’re all smiles when Juliette arranges for movers to bring Avery’s stuff over to her house, but once the reality of an apartment’s worth of Guy Stuff filling her mansion hits her, Juliette is having none of it. Naturally, Avery is pissed that Juliette isn’t making room for him in her life, and it all comes to a head over an old armchair of his. After a talk with Gunnar, Avery realizes that fighting over something as trivial as furniture is a pretty stupid way to start a marriage, and sure enough, he comes home to find Juliette having found the “perfect” spot for his chair — right next to the baby’s crib in her nursery. He’s going to be spending many hours with her there, after all. It’s sweet, and while it’s obvious Juliette and Avery have a boat load of problems, it seems the love is still enough to bind them for now.

Meanwhile, Sadie (Laura Benanti) is still spooked from her encounter with her ex, and has a black eye to show for it. Because this is America, her first course of action is to buy a gun — the bruise evidence enough for the clerk to bypass the identification requirements — but when he returns, she’s too scared to act on it. However, it is incentive to get her to file a restraining order against her ex, which leaves me questioning why she hadn’t done so before. Yet, I’m still wondering if her gun has Chekov’s name all over it at this point.

This might not have had the fireworks that the fall finale had, but we’re definitely feeling the aftershocks. How soon before Rayna and Deacon fall back into their old ways? And what does Luke have up his sleeve? Is Will finally coming out of the closet? Will Layla finally get a story of her own? Who will Gunnar condescend to now that he’s all alone? And what bumps lie ahead for Juliette and Avery?

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: