NASHVILLE 4×01 Debriefing: Three men and a baby

Courtesy ABC

We’re back, y’all!

I didn’t realize how much I missed Nashville until it returned for its fourth season– I’m sure there’s a song in there somewhere, but we’ve got too much to talk about for that right now. Last season’s cliffhangers take center stage this week.

Did Deacon survive his transplant? Is Juliette relishing the single life after trading in her baby blues for Wheelin’ Dealin’ Records? Has Will embraced the spotlight since coming out? Has Gunnar crossed over into borderline stalker territory with his pursuit of Scarlet? Can I possibly ask more questions in this introduction? Click ahead to find out more!

First up, the question everyone’s been wondering: what fate befell Deacon after the flatline in the season 3 finale? Rayna’s sad face and empty bed are nothing but a ruse, everyone. Predictably, it is Beverly who crashed in that hospital room months ago and is now in a coma, having suffered an aneurysm during the liver transplant, because apparently she failed to disclose to the doctors that she was on medication for menopause which also acted as a blood thinner. Sad for her, but good for everyone else, because Deacon is now the picture of health! (Sorry, Bev.) Also predictably, he is now feeling immensely guilty that someone else has suffered for his sake, because Deacon can’t have nice things on this show.

Luckily, Scarlett is still around to tell him to snap out of it, because her mother was an adult who made her choice to go through with the surgery (after much pleading by her daughter, but minor detail), or to not tell anyone about her treatment. (That Bev, always a drama queen.) Scarlett is oddly pragmatic about it all, and I can’t decide if it’s because she’s in denial about her mother’s condition, or if she’s genuinely that mature about everyone owning their decisions. She is far less upset about her mother being near death than she was about Deacon’s cancer diagnosis last year, and it’s an interesting way for the show to play it. Then again, Bev was by all accounts a terrible, abusive parent to Scarlett, so maybe she’s right to be numb to the situation.

Speaking of having terrible parents, Juliette made good on her threat to leave Highway 65 for Luke’s label, and hog the spotlight once again as country’s biggest Bad Girl. Everything is coming up roses: her Patsy Cline movie is finally premiering and she’s getting rave reviews, and she’s back to being a fixture on the party circuit, while Avery is home with his parents and the baby. However, no season premiere is complete without Juliette upchucking, apparently, and that she does, becoming the Hollywood cliché at a party that is so obviously not her scene anymore. She calls Rayna in a teary, panicked mess, drunkenly forgetting that she severed all ties with her former label head, because when push comes to shove, Rayna’s the mother figure she always wished she could have when her own mom was busy being a meth head. Ouch. (Sidenote: MORE PLEASE. I love their relationship.)

Meanwhile, Maddie and Daphne are going through some parental woes of their own. Not only are they left alone for the seven-thousandth time while Rayna tends to Juliette, but their dad is a bonafide felon now, too. Maddie, as expected, is handling it as is her custom, with a snotty attitude and much drama. She won’t even bother to read his letters from prison, and tosses them in the garbage despite Daphne’s protests. On the other hand, the littlest Conrad is fuming that her wishes aren’t being respected, and no one seems to be considering how Teddy’s incarceration is affecting her. FINALLY! It’s about time Daphne is allowed to show some emotion other than cheerful obliviousness at what is going on around her.

Will’s public revelation of his sexuality isn’t coming up roses, either. Luke’s got him at a stalemate, refusing to give him any performance opportunities until the scandal dies down, so Will settles for growing a beard worthy of colonial Williamsburg, and loafs around his house (like actual Williamsburg) with his new boyfriend, properly festering. He doesn’t want to go out, and jam sessions with Gunnar aren’t working out as planned because of the latter’s mopiness over Scarlet (more later), so pouting is about all he’s got left. Kevin finally coaxes him into a night on the town, but it’s as awkward as can be. He’s not comfortable with the PDA yet, and women are seemingly still angry with him over duping them into believing he’s straight and having sex with them (instead of, you know, being angry that he used his very young, very naive wife as a cover in public, and sabotaged both their careers as a result). Heading to the local gay club doesn’t help either, because the only thing more awkward than Will avoiding stares at restaurants is Will trying to dance to electronica. Luckily he realizes it, and admits what’s troubling him: he doesn’t fit in in his old haunts (because Judgment), but he doesn’t fit into the local gay scene either (because Awkward). He’s a cowboy without a home, folks.

Deacon spends most of the episode by his sister’s bedside, welling up and being talked out of his guilt, as is his custom. Luckily for him, Bev starts squeezing his hand and breathing on her own, indicating that she’s making it through the other side of this ordeal, according to Scarlett anyway. (Apparently she’s earning a medical degree by proxy living with Dr. Plot Device.) The Clayborne-O’Connors are ecstatic, but given that they dropped the anvil of saying it can take days for a patient to fully emerge from a coma, I fully expect there to be lasting consequences to dear old Bev. Brain damage? Paralysis? Or the old chestnut, amnesia? Take your pick, but I’m betting on at least one of those to greet us next week.

However, the experience gives Scarlett enough confidence to tell Caleb she loves him for the first time. Which is sweet, except when you consider that they’ve been living together all this time and neither had been comfortable enough to say the words to each other yet. That doesn’t bode well for their relationship, which is too bad: while I don’t find them particularly compelling, I do like the growing self-assurance Scarlett gains around him, and prefer it (so far) to the wreck she becomes around Gunnar. Caleb is so obviously just a roadblock on the way to her rekindling the flame with her ex, but it’d be nice if some of that growth could follow, too.

I wish I could say more about Gunnar, but honestly, it’s the same lather, rinse, repeat as the past few seasons. He has feelings for Scarlett, she’s with someone else, he tries to bury them until they come out inappropriately — this time, kissing her while they rehearse some of their new songs. She leaves tearfully (and the next day says “I love you” to the good doctor — those two events aren’t related at all, I’m sure), and he stares into the distance Joey Tribianni-style. Yet, laying down the track to their newest song, about only realizing what you have when it’s gone, seems like it’s finally sinking in. Might this lead to a new and improved, more mature Gunnar? One can hope, but really, we all know it’s just foreshadowing his inevitable reunion with Scarlett.

Onto other messes: Juliette’s convinced herself that she’s right where she wants to be, because she wouldn’t be Juliette if she weren’t a self-destructive human disaster. In true Barnes fashion, once she decides something, she ignores all logic and influence to the detriment of even her true feelings, lest she be seen as weak. Leave them first before they leave you, after all. And also in her custom, she lashes out at anyone who gets too close. First at Layla, who’s finagled a spot on her tour thanks to Jeff, then at Rayna when she shows up at her show in LA thanks to the aforementioned call on the porcelain phone. She hits them both where it hurts; Layla, by accusing Jeff of using her for sex and ignoring her career in favor of Juliette’s, and Rayna by belittling Highway 65 as a vanity project with no weight in their industry. She clearly feels awful about it, but when the chips are down, Juliette gets bitchy. It’s what makes her entertaining to watch, but it also gets old, because there are only so many times someone can watch her do that before it gets tiresome, and she might have just hit that wall. She’s clearly pained, and I think she knows Rayna’s right, but she can never show her weakness, because that’d be admitting that she’s lost control of her life.

Case in point: ignoring Avery and Cadence for the past month, while she gets her career back on track. It’s classic Juliette, but it’s harder to cut and run now when two pieces of her heart are out there waiting, and it’s going to be interesting to see how she chooses to act on it. I loved how Rayna picked up on the obvious postpartum depression she was experiencing last season, that everyone seems to now be ignoring, but at the same time, Juliette has to admit there’s a problem first before she can get help, and that’s the pickle we’re in right now.

Avery’s remaining understanding, giving her space while he cares for their daughter alone, and growing the perfect wavy emo grunge hairstyle to show for it. But even his mom is telling him he’s got to brake the stalemate, because he can’t stay in this limbo forever. Of course, her suggestion is to move back home with his parents, since they did a pretty good job with him (other than that that entire first season where he was a raging jerk), and he’s tempted, but ultimately decides he wants his kid to know he gave his dreams one last hurrah before settling into life in he midwest. It’s admirable, but I also wonder how long we can watch Avery get kicked around before we forget what made his relationship with Juliette so much fun to watch in the first place.

That’s a question for another day, though, because Avery returns to Nashville with Cadence and moves back in with his bros, Gunnar and Will, since that mansion of his won’t do anymore. That’s right, everyone: we got us a countryfied Three Men and a Baby! Not gonna lie, I’ll be a little disappointed if they don’t mine that well a little until Juliette gets back.

Proving she’s a budding force of nature, Daphne does some lashing out of her own. She devastatingly pieces Teddy’s discarded letters back together, because it’s the only part of her dad she has left right now. Maddie predictably loses it, in a fit of “if I can’t have them no one can,” forgetting that Teddy is Daphne’s dad, too, and she’s being ignored in all this hoopla. That’s when Daphne finally melts down: when Deacon tries to break up their fight, she spits back to him that he’s not her father, and can’t tell her what to do. It’s about time she act out over the never-ending family drama in their household; it’s juvenile, absolutely, but she is twelve (?) years old after all, and she’s seen a ton of crap in the last few years. She storms off, but when she overhears Maddie begging Deacon to marry her mom soon so he actually can discipline Daphne, it’s impossible not to feel sorry for her. Her dad’s in jail, her beloved aunt dropped off the face of the earth, her mom seems to pay more attention to her former client than her, and her sister’s too busy conspiring with her bio dad to care about her feelings about the man who raised them both. She’s a prime candidate for going off the rails, and I wonder what will happen to her next.

Rayna’s doing some soul-searching of her own. Though she fronts with Juliette that her outburst doesn’t affect her, it’s obvious on the flight home that the words sting. (Using a private jet just to talk Juliette out of yet another poor life choice? No wonder Highway 65 is in trouble, Rayna. That seems like an egregious use of company resources. Sometimes commercial isn’t so bad, guys.) Add in some pointed remarks from local radio personalities about the viability of the label with all the artists bailing, and you’ve got a dilemma for Ms. Jaymes. We all know she will persevere in the end, but it’ll be interesting to see if it affects her business acumen. I’ve got to say, I’m intrigued by the possibility of seeing her deal with the actual business of the music industry, instead of merely mooning over men over and over.

So there you have it: Juliette is in denial, Rayna is worried, Deacon is relieved, Scarlet is confused, Gunnar is sad, Will is awkward, and Avery is determined. What’s next for country’s favorite screw-ups?

Other notes:

  • As always, Connie Britton’s hair is on point.
  • Funnily, it seems like the show is now styling Lennon Stella’s hair to match her TV mom’s too. Guess it runs in the family!
  • Still on the hair topic: Scarlett’s extensions are bananas, but I like the new color for a change. Gunnar, on the other hand, has a very odd haircut, which I suppose is meant to convey his country hipsterness.
  • While I might not love Scarlett and Gunnar as a couple, they sure do make beautiful music. (Actually— not metaphorically.) Loved their song this week.
  • On the same note: there was a distinct lack of music this week. I counted Deacon’s song to Bev in the hospital, Juliette’s cover of Cline’s “Crazy” in LA, and the two Exes’ duet.
  • In the same vein: how cool was Steven Tyler’s cameo during Juliette’s show? (I’d love to see them do Aerosmith’s “Crazy,” too.)
  • Did anyone else feel like the show has seriously trimmed the fat of its huge cast? Teddy’s in jail, Jeff is off while his alter ego is someone else’s dad, Sadie’s gone, Luke and Layla were reduced to a few lines each… There are some seriously talented actors on this show, but it’s kind of nice to limit some of the stories now.
  • Avery’s parents’ house has the same furniture as everyone’s grandparents’ homes. (Mine definitely had that couch.)
  • Like I said in the intro, I didn’t realize how much I missed the show until it came back. Nashville, you are bananas, but you are sweet, soapy music to my ears.

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 4×01 Debriefing: Three men and a baby

  1. […] when you’re supposed to be shooting your album’s key art. Gunnar is still smarting over the aborted kiss, and even more over the fact that she’s bringing her new boyfriend along to band meetings. (He […]

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