NASHVILLE 4×10 Debriefing: Power play

Courtesy ABC

Nashville is determined to shake up everyone’s relationships before it bows out for its winter hiatus. Some lovers seal it with a kiss, others part ways for good. Siblings drift further apart, while parents and children try to repair what’s been lost. Music might join them all together, but it sure doesn’t heal all wounds.

Following Rayna’s “thou shalt not pursue your boss” commandment last week, Markus and Rayna seem to be pretending nothing happened, to save everyone the awkwardness. They’ve got bigger fish to fry: it appears as though Markus is having a full-blown panic attack at his imminent public debut of his album, suddenly realizing what a monumental risk this is for him. Luckily, he’s got Rayna there to remind him that this is just as big a risk to her, too, and they’re in this together. It’s enough to get him on camera to do some press, but when a cheeky journalist implies his naysayers are chomping at the bit for him to fail, he clams up, though Rayna steps in to cover for him, letting them all know that his album will speak for itself when it drops that night. Crisis averted, for now.

Unsurprisingly, the big concert goes off like gangbusters; Markus wows the crowd, and it seems inevitable that he is going to be a hit as a solo act after all. He’s jazzed, Rayna’s jazzed, Bucky’s jazzed — it’s a big ol’ party in this town. He scurries Rayna off to the rooftop where it all began, to celebrate with champagne in hand. Only, because this is Nashville, celebrating entails him trying to kiss Rayna, because, obviously. She lays down the law again, and everything is awkward. You’d think Rayna would have a protocol for something like this by now.

That protocol, though, appears to involve telling her already-admittedly-jealous-and-insecure boyfriend about what transpired. Look, I get it: Rayna wants to be honest with him, especially because it wasn’t a big deal to her. It was an annoyance, like a fly in her soup. Deacon, however, reacts in such a Deacon fashion it’s laughable— he flies off the handle, and his first instinct is to go beat the crap out of Markus. Rayna, though, is having none of it. She has zero interest in Markus other than as a client, so Deacon has nothing to worry about, and tells him as much. More importantly, though, she decides to go talk to him, despite Deacon’s objections, because he’s decided to leave Highway 65 and scrap the album. (“You’re going to talk to Markus while we’re in a fight about Markus?!” I admit, Deacon, you’ve got a point there.) Timing has never been either of their strong suits, but Rayna’s a businesswoman, and there is a giant mess to deal with right now.

Deacon festers, not the least reason being because this is The Beverly’s big opening night. He takes it as a personal affront that Rayna is choosing Markus over him, soothing his wounded ego while he’s putting himself on the line with his newest venture. He’s not wrong, necessarily, but unfortunately for him he comes across more like a whiny child than an adult with a legitimate beef with his partner. Making matters worse is the fact that Deacon had been planning on proposing to Rayna that night, after the high of the successful launch, but when Rayna shows up late, way after his set, his plan is put on hold.

Instead, he chooses to pick a fight with Rayna, sad that he’s playing second fiddle to the coddled star. Rayna’s having none of it, though. Her conversation with Markus didn’t go as planned: Markus couldn’t be convinced, and claims he’s going back to his old band, Boulevard, though it’s plain as day that he is lying his ass off to save face. Deacon shuts up for about five seconds, at which point Rayna reminds him that Markus was the label’s biggest coup. With Markus gone, the label is, for all intents and purposes, done. Not only will the financial impact doom them, but losing their biggest (and only) legitimate star means they lose their credibility. They won’t come back from this. So while Deacon nurses his bruised ego, Rayna points out that her business is essentially dead. That sobers him up, and he realizes that this entire situation was always more than his jealousy or Markus’ libido. It was about Rayna taking charge of her career and providing a voice in the industry, and now it’s in jeopardy. Instead of being supportive, he’s been on the attack, and he understands how devastating this is — more than a missed gig at his bar.

I have to say, I love that Rayna stood up for herself, here. I get why Deacon is upset, but at a certain point, he has to learn to trust Rayna, because as I’ve said last week, as far as we know, Rayna’s never betrayed him. It does a disservice to both of them for him to fly off the handle at people who aren’t a threat, because Rayna’s always pledged her loyalty to him. More than that, though, is that I love seeing the business side of Rayna — this is how women get things done, and sometimes work is going to come first. She doesn’t apologize for it, because if the roles were reversed, he would never have to, and that’s the reality of their world. It’s about time Deacon snap out of this caveman shtick, and start focusing on what’s really there — his relationship with Rayna — than what isn’t.

Deacon makes amends, and later confesses to Rayna that he was jealous, but he realized it wasn’t about Markus as a romantic threat. It was about the music; after seeing them together in the studio, he pined for the days when he and Rayna used to be that amazing team. He misses being able to create something out of nothing like that, and he took it out on them because it was easier that way. It doesn’t make him right, but it’s an excuse I can actually get behind, because we’ve seen how brilliant they are, both together and apart, as musicians. Rayna relents, as well, and tells him she misses that, too. Hey, I’ve got an idea — one of you owns a label, and the other owns Nashville’s newest “sacred” venue for performers, how about you use both of those things and get your new music out there together! (Uh oh, did I just guess what is going to happen when we come back next year?)

It must do the trick, because Deacon realizes this is their moment, and finally gets down on one knee to propose. It’s understated and quiet and beautiful, and Rayna is both surprised and not at all. They thought they’d never get there, and always would, all at once. With a nice bit of continuity, she asks what he’d change, and he says everything and nothing. Obviously, Rayna accepts without hesitation, and they finally — FINALLY — are engaged. Halleluia, it’s about time, you two! Now go make some of that fine music together.

Scarlett and Gunnar are also making music, though it isn’t quite so sweet. Their tour is over, and they’re back in Nashville, though Scarlett doesn’t seem to be as thrilled to be there as she should be now that she’ll be home with Caleb. After some initial awkwardness (because he’s a busy and important doctor, you know), he comes home, and they (temporarily) kiss and make up. But after their reunion, he informs her that he got a new job. Scarlett is ecstatic for his career advancement, but then he drops the catch: it’s in Seattle. He assumes she’ll join him, because she can write music from anywhere — and as we should all remember, her career will always take a backseat for his. It keeps her up all night, but apparently Caleb does some thinking of his own, too, and he tells her the next morning that he’s going to turn down the job, because it isn’t fair of him to ask her to move away from her job, too. Wow, is Caleb actually growing? Will wonders never cease.

She then breaks the news to Gunnar about the move, because she’s decided she wants to make this work; Gunnar doesn’t even hesitate, and muses that while it’ll be difficult for them to continue their partnership, they can find a way to keep writing, between traveling to each other (and as I scream at my TV, THE INTERNET). Scarlett is touched, but it gives her more food for thought. After performing with Deacon at The Beverly, she has a heart-to-heart with Caleb: she wants him to go to Seattle, but she won’t be following him. He deserves to be with someone who supports him and immediately tries to find ways to make it work, instead of first thinking about how this affects them alone. Caleb, predictably, shows his true colors at this. He spits that he should have known it would always come to this, and that he wants her out of the house by morning. It continues to prove that the Nashville writers tend to change characters’ behavior based on the plot needs of the week, but it doesn’t matter, because Caleb is gone for good.

Again as I discussed last week, I’ve had a huge problem with how this story has played out, not only for the renewed will-they-won’t-they merry-go-round with Gunnar, but mainly for how this paints Scarlett in the relationship. She’s been so subservient to Caleb, and I hate that she’s been made to feel ashamed for having her own desires and needs. Scarlett is not wrong to value her career, or be concerned that her boyfriend wanted to move without even really considering her needs. Her constant cries that this is her “fault” really rub me the wrong way, and I hope she realizes that Caleb was never truly supportive of her, and that she needs to value her own dreams before she can follow others’.

Someone else who has to start thinking of others is Avery. He’s still bound and determined to keep Juliette away from Cadence, but for someone who claims to be done with their ex, he sure spends a lot of time talking about her. Emily makes matters worse when she reveals she’s been to see her boss, and explains that Juliette’s been in rehab, and is now in a  treatment facility for her postpartum depression. Instead of being relieved that she’s finally getting help, Avery is livid that she’s dragged Emily into this, and sees Emily’s visit as a betrayal to himself and Cadence, and fires her as the baby’s nanny. Both Gunnar and Will accuse him of being irrational and crazy, but Avery hears none of it. He escapes to his lawyer, trying to figure out if he can get a restraining order of some sort, but his lawyer lays it down for him: he’s got all the power in this situation. But as we know, with great power comes great responsibility, and in this case, that means Cadence’s future.

(I still think the show is wasting every opportunity for a Three Men And A Baby homage. COME ON. Gunnar’s “I read stuff!” might be my new motto.)

In a completely unethical move, Juliette’s therapist seeks him out, and updates him on Juliette’s progress, which Avery believes is just a ruse to suck him back into her drama. The therapist persists, and says the only way Juliette can truly heal is by bonding with the child she walked way from, and Avery scoffs. Again: this is against about a thousand different rules and definitely breaches doctor-patient confidentiality, and I can’t even take this scene seriously. However, Emily later makes the point with much greater finesse: Avery may shut her out, along with his ex-wife, but at the end of the day, Juliette is still Cadence’s mother. He has every right to be angry, personally, and she may have signed away her rights, but Cadence is always going to wonder what happened to her mother, and part of her will always want a relationship with her, because it’s human instinct. The question, now, is whether Avery is comfortable being the person who denied her that, when Juliette is trying to repair herself so that she can repair her relationship with her daughter.

It’s food for thought: Avery finally relents, a little, and agrees to supervised visits, on his own terms. Everyone seems to be happy with this situation, for now, except for Avery, who can’t shake his nerves. It’s a nuanced dilemma; while we have seen Juliette’s turmoil on the road, and how desperately she missed her life, Avery hasn’t. All he knows is that Juliette left him and the baby, and wouldn’t even speak to him. He doesn’t know that she hit rock bottom, or that she checked herself in for treatment, and I can see how he’d be skeptical. But he also knows her history, and as Emily reminded him, that she’s not a monster, so this vitriol was way over the top. I like that Emily acknowledged that he is justified in his anger, as a man and a husband, but that it won’t do Cadence any good to pretend her mother never existed. I admit that I’m still a little uncomfortable watching this all play out given Hayden Panettiere’s real-life struggles, but I am intrigued about how it all shakes out in the next half of the season.

(Moreover, I’m glad that Avery let go at the end, even just a little, in order to see him relax a little with his friends at the bar — the Triple Exes Plus One are a gang I would love to see more of on my TV.)

Will has another struggle of his own. He goes to the studio for his next writing session with Wade Cole, but there are no reservations under either of their names. He’s bummed about the screwup, but Wade shows up just in time to save their bacon: why not just go to his house? Will is surprised by the offer, given his wife’s beliefs, but Wade assures him it’s fine — besides, she’s not home. Danger, Will Lexington! The day goes swimmingly, and Wade offers to cook them some steaks and find some beers to celebrate. Will agrees, but at that moment, Wade takes that acceptance as an invitation, and puts the moves on him. First I pump my fist, because I CALLED THIS MONTHS AGO, but that is short-lived, as Will’s confusion puts the kibosh on any romance. You see, Wade is gay, but unlike Will, he played along with the industry, and it’s gotten him to the top. Why couldn’t Will have just done the same? It would have been totally fine, and they could be secret gay cowboys together in their mansions and beds made of money, or something. Will pauses, but eventually hits back that he’d rather be himself than live a lie like Cole. Aw, you guys, Will chooses Will! That being said, I am so proud of him. He’s come such a long way from the closeted reality star, and while he bungled up his relationship with Laila, he seems to finally be coming to terms with who he is. You go, Will.

Luke isn’t having an easy go of it, either. Along with sacrificing his relationship with Colt for his “brand” (what does that even mean again?!), he’s got some more legal matters to face. It seems his business manager has been embezzling from his personal accounts, and he now owes the IRS $40 million. Yowza. They agree to keep it out of the press as long as he finds a way to make the repayment schedule pronto, which means liquidating his assets. It’s no use, though, because the photographer from the ill-fated photo shoot last week somehow found out about the case (because, Nashville), and now it’s all over the media. The brand is dead, as is his relationship with Gabrielle, who doesn’t take his accusations lightly, and rightly reminds him that this had nothing to do with her; the “brand” happened before she came on board, and more importantly, she’s never had anything to do with his personal accounts. That’s all on him and his manager, so he can stuff it with his blame. With his venture dead, he seeks out Colt to mend their fences, since the roadblock between them no longer exists. It’s too late, though: Colt is sick of playing second banana to his business, and he cuts ties with his father.

For a guy used to being in control, this is going to hurt, a lot. I said last year that I enjoyed seeing the ruthless side of Luke way more than the wounded artist side, because I thought that was way more interesting compared to the other characters on the show. We’ve mostly seen the “good” Luke all season, but I like that we’re getting glimpses of the guy who would sell just about anything of his personal life if it meant record sales when he was first introduced, and that all of his gambles are doing him in just now. I’m looking forward to seeing how he reconciles his single-minded drive with his personal loss.

Last but not least, Maddie and Daphne seem to be reconciling, with Maddie listening to Daphne’s newest song over breakfast. Instead of outright telling her it sucks, as she is wont to do, she actually praises her sister, though she’s still of the belief that it isn’t “grown up” enough for them. Daphne isn’t taking this crap sitting down: “We’re not adults!” Daphne, truer words were never spoken on this show. Plus, Maddie? I’m an adult, and I’d totally buy that song of your sister’s. Anyway, Maddie is trying her best not to be a total brat, and it seems to be working relatively well, until she meets an acquaintance of Deacon’s, played by Once Upon A Time’s Jessy Schram. She’s yet another country singer to whom Maddie looks up, and she’s blown away when Cash offers to write a song with her too, understanding how the teen wants to sound more mature. Maddie happily accepts, but we all know this will drive yet another wedge between her and her sister when she founds out. The Conrads may not ever make it into the studio at this point.


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.

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