Deacon and Beverly
We open with Rayna at home alone, getting ready for bed, looking sad, with weepy music in the background. OMG is Deacon dead?
…wonders basically no one, unless they’ve never seen a TV show before. The next morning, as Rayna (with her hair straightish and looking super cute — this is not sexist because I will have LOTS of comments on Gunnar’s hair in a sec) demurs on the topic of responding to Juliette leaving her label and dissing her in public, she says cryptically that she’s “done a lot of letting go lately.” Then the girls come down, ready to visit Aunt Beverly with her.
Maddie, Daphne and Rayna stand over Beverly, who, in a moving touch, has shorn hair, her roots gone back to brown instead of the drugstore blonde, making her look so much more vulnerable. Exposition time: the girls ask a naive question about Rayna’s coma versus Beverly’s coma, and Rayna explains to the girls that Aneurysm Comas are different from Car Accident With Your Alcoholic (Step)dad Comas. I imagine this is the kind of explanation daytime soap opera parents have to give to their kids all the time. Like, “Oh, honey, comas caused by Random Freak Weather Accidents are so different from comas caused by Failed Murder Attempt By Poisoned Brooch Pinprick.” It’s just one of those soap opera facts of life that sooner or later, everyone you love will probably be in a coma at least once just long enough to shoot some promos that imply they’ve died.
Then Deacon walks in. Everyone who’s never watched TV before is SO SHOCKED. It turns out Rayna slept alone because Deacon’s been sleeping by Bev’s side. It is made clear now and throughout the episode that Beverly is clearly going to get better (Deacon says it in this scene); but Deacon still has the sexy tortured guilt waves coming off of him.
Later we see him singing an emo song to Beverly: “Life is full of ups and downs.” Scarlett, who’s been learning to use a hairbrush but hasn’t improved her enunciation, comes in to mix even more awkward exposition (something to do with Beverly taking secret hormones that thinned her blood) with a passionate, but extremely slurred, exhortation for Deacon not to “make her have made that choice for nothin’ by not livin’ the life she gave ya.” I give Clare Bowen props for memorizing that syntax at least, but I don’t get why her speaking voice is so much less clear than her lovely singing voice. Finally, Beverly squeezes Deacon’s hand and he bursts into tears of manly joy.
Meanwhile, the girls are fighting about whether to read their letters from Dad; Maddie rips hers up, but Daphne sneaks them out of the trash just in case he’s asking them to visit. (Maddie thinks it’ll be the same old, same old: “I’m sorry, I love you, whatever!!”) Daphne, though—poor child—still believes he’s innocent. When they start practically a fistfight over the letters, Deacon comes in to lecture them about how important their friendship is. Daphne, channeling her inner Maddie, yells that he’s not her dad. Maddie and Deacon barely even register this; Maddie just thinks it’ll all go away if Deacon marries their mom. Poor Daphne. She hears this from the stairs and she is not happy. I hope she starts laying down some truth with all these people. Teddy sucked, but he is her dad—and Maddie’s too, even if he shares billing with Deacon there.
Rayna and Juliette
At the Shenandoah Girl premiere, Juliette is preening for the cameras—as is Layla, who arrived first. Juliette grumbles to Patrick, who appears to be Jeff’s minion, about Layla being on “her” red carpet and guesses that Patrick is helping Layla out only because she and Jeff are sleeping together. Oh, Juliette. Always seeing the worst in people; and mostly being right.
At an afterparty in Juliette’s suite, an incredibly trashy blonde girl who looks a little bit like that girl from the Black-Eyed Peas (Ed. note: Fergie, and no she doesn’t) offers her a shot. Juliette immediately rushes to the toilet to vomit, then stares at herself in the mirror as her face begins to crumple. Rayna gets a phone call from Juliette just as she’s signing the paperwork to release Juliette (I guess it’s like 9am in Nashville and like 6am at the afterparty? Unclear). “Good timin’, girl,” she says to herself, and picks up with an almost friendly tone. Juliette sobs and says, “Rayna… I can’t…” Hayden Panettiere has wet mascara in an all-too-realistic black cloud all over her face from lids to cheekbones. She looks ROUGH. “Something is really, really wrong,” says Rayna when she hangs up, just to make the promo people’s lives a little easier.
Later, Deacon encourages Rayna to fly out to see Juliette, so she does, encountering a smarmy (and smarting) Luke. “I thought your days of flying across the country to see me were over,” he says. He doesn’t listen to her that he should be worried about Juliette or give her a day off, and looks pretty sad after she goes. Poor Luke.
But Juliette’s been outwardly pretending to have a blast. When Avery texts “We’re still here,” she says it’s no one (“Is it Chris Pratt?” asks Trashy Blonde Friend). And she sings a Patsy Cline song with Steven Tyler, a giant, brilliant smile on her face. It seems like she’s actually enjoying herself on-stage, but is miserable off-. Meanwhile, Rayna stands backstage. Trashy Blonde Friend asks if she’s a friend of Juliette’s and then announces, “Old friends are cool. I’m her best friend.” Rayna gives her a series of hilariously dry looks, a mixture of, “Seriously? You don’t know who I am?” and, “Oh, girl, it’s time for you to learn that groupies are not actually friends.”
When Rayna finally gets in to see Juliette, Juliette plays totally innocent. She says she must have butt-dialed Rayna, which Rayna calls as the bullshit it is. Rayna calls out her warmest, most mature self (always more evident when taking care of Juliette than at any other time, which is why I’m thrilled this happened) to offer friendship and support and help “finding her way home.” Juliette, either out of defensiveness or actual paranoia, accuses Rayna of just wanting a piece of her like everyone else, and kicks her out. On her way she manages to kick Rayna in the shins a couple times by saying Highway 65 is a “pointless vanity label” and “a joke.” (I guess the writers have been reading Internet commentary.) “You break my heart, girl, I swear,” says Rayna sadly as she leaves. She’s very Tami Taylor in this scene.
Rayna’s optimistic with Deacon, saying only that she shouldn’t have thought she could fix all of Juliette’s problems, and that Juliette is good at lashing out when she’s upset. But later we see her googling her own label and finding out that Juliette’s below-the-belt hits were not far from the truth. The episode ends on a sad note, with Rayna standing in Highway 65’s eerily quiet lobby, looking upset.
We see Avery cradling Cadence on the couch in a home that looks so absolutely like the home of a nice, unpretentious middle-class family in Ohio that it makes me really like his parents. He’s watching Juliette on the news. Someone asks about Cadence, and Juliette says, “She’s so good. She’s at home with my incredibly supportive husband.”
“She was always a long shot,” says Dad, who’s being kind of an asshole. Avery, pained, asks him to say nothing. Mom wants to know if he’s heard from her, if he’s reached out. “She’s the one who said she doesn’t need us,” says Avery. Poor Avery. But, standing over Cadence’s crib, he manages to compose a text to Juliette that just says “We’re still here.”
Later we find Avery in his parents’ kitchen, staring at Juliette on a magazine cover. He still misses her, he tells his mom, but she seems happier without him. Is this marriage over? she asks. “I take my vows seriously,” Avery says. In a complete 180 for no apparent reason, his mom is suddenly on team Take the Kids and Run. She and Avery’s dad want him and Cadence to live with them, so they can be with people who actually care about them. He could get a job. “It may not be a glamorous life, but it’s a good one,” says his dad.
Avery ponders this option, staring at photos of himself at swimming pools and on childhood sports teams. But eventually, he tells them he can’t do it. “When Cadence looks at me, I don’t want her to see someone who gave up his dreams without a fight or stopped working on his marriage just because it got hard.” He declares that Nashville is home—and shows up back at his old apartment with the baby.
Scarlett and Gunnar
Unlike Rayna, Gunnar’s hair game went majorly south over the summer. He has some sort of long-on-the-top, short-on-the-side thing but I’m not sure exactly what because I did not want to look directly at it. (His face still looks great. (Ed. note: Divorce)) He’s meeting with their manager, who suggests recording tracks separately from Scarlett since there have been scheduling issues.
In fact, of course, Scarlett has been avoiding Gunnar so that she can hang out with Caleb, whose name I entirely forgot until someone finally said it at the end of the episode because he’s SO. BORING., and live with him and wear weird silky romper pajamas with silk flowered robes over them. They are celebrating having lived together for a month (Caleb gives Scarlett a vintage necklace), but they can’t say “I love you.” It’s like, “I love… [long pause] havin’ you here.” “I love… [long pause] bein’ here.” This would seem like a huge obstacle if not for the fact that Caleb means literally nothing to anyone except that he’s getting between Scarlett and Gunnar for some reason.
Scarlett does agree to come rehearse with Gunnar before they record, though, so she arrives in his dimly lit studio, hugs him hello kind of awkwardly, and studiously refuses to discuss anything that may have happened in the season finale, a.k.a. that time they sang together, made awkward eye contact, and held their faces super close together before the camera cut away. So they get started singing again. Except of course the same thing happens. The song is very pretty; the refrain goes, “You only wake up when it’s over.” I see what they’re doing there. Anyway, their crazy eye chemistry takes over again; she smiles at him cutely and drops her gaze a few times; then all of a sudden they’re making out on the couch, going almost horizontal before she throws him off.
Gunnar argues that what’s between them is real, but Scarlett’s not having any of it. “You make me feel like I’m out of control… He makes me feel safe.” Gunnar asks why she keeps ending back here with him. “You’re not in love with him,” he says. But Scarlett says she would like to be.
When Deacon randomly starts babbling on about Rayna while standing at Beverly’s bedside, and how he thought they’d never fix what they had, Scarlett looks a little… conflicted. I don’t totally understand how this relates to anything even though it’s clearly meant to be Meaningful. Scarlett doesn’t want to fix anything, she just goes and finds Caleb and tells him she loves him, right next to Beverly’s bed. Beverly is unconscious, so her level of excitement that this couple has overcome their huge relationship obstacle is approximately equal to mine.
Gunnar shows up to the recording studio and finds out he’s recording his track alone, as Scarlett already did hers. The producer tells him excitedly that it’s the best he’s ever sounded. But it’s not the same, he says to himself mournfully. Just to be clear, he actually says “It’s not the same,” out loud.
Will and Kevin
First, a warning. Since Will and Luke are sharing some storylines, and since Chris Carmack will always be Luke from the OC to me, and since they both have Generic White-Boy Names, I will at some point refer to Will as Luke. Try to forgive.
Will is staying in bed all day and has grown a Depression Beard, and Kevin (like Caleb, I can’t remember his name because he’s another somewhat milquetoast guy who’s basically there as a supportive and loving prop for a main character’s journey) is not thrilled. “I’m not really feelin’ it right now,” says Will. But Kevin doesn’t want to be locked up watching TV anymore. “Then I guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” says Will rebelliously.
To Gunnar, he whines that Luke tooold him to stay inside. Gunnar lays down a little tough love here, pointing out that Will is exaggerating. “You have to stop being afraid of who you are now,” says Gunnar. “Or at least take a shower.” So Will cuts his beard and goes to dinner with Kevin.
At dinner, Will is super self-conscious as soon as Kevin comes within twelve inches of him. He’s not being paranoid, either: a girl comes up to him and makes a huge scene, yelling that he’s a liar. Confused, he asks if they know each other. The girl is like, “We slept together. Which is weird considering you’re gay.” She calls him disgusting. I feel like this girl has her priorities a little out of whack, like, this guy slept with her and then forgot he’d ever seen her before, but she’s mad that he lied about his sexual orientation?
Kevin suggests they go somewhere where this won’t happen. They end up at a club dancing approximately three feet apart so they’re barely even being gay at all, but Will is miserable. He holds out for about two minutes with a horrified grin on his face and then leaves. He tells Kevin, “I don’t belong in my old places, I don’t belong in there. I don’t belong.” When we next see him, he’s hanging out in his own kitchen with Gunnar and learning, somewhat to his chagrin, that Avery and Cadence are moving in.
Layla’s looking fierce on the red carpet, but in private she’s a mess. We see her on the phone, inanely talking about poses that will make her look better in photos to someone who turns out to be Jeff. When there’s a knock on the door she’s all, “I miss you,” and hands the phone to Patrick. Jeff and Patrick want her to have dinner with a producer instead of getting publicity with Juliette tonight. Jeff apparently tells her to go shopping, like the jerk he is.
As soon as she’s out of the room, Patrick is all, “She bought it,” and asks who should set the meeting with Valerie. So I guess the dinner is real but the reasoning isn’t, like, Jeff is trying to keep Layla away from Juliette? Poor Layla. She knows nothing about anything except that keeping your hand on your hip makes your arm look skinny.
After Juliette’s talk with Rayna, Layla interrupts Juliette in her giant suite on a presumably fake pretext of looking for Patrick. She tries to make conversation about Steven Tyler but then immediately, needily demands to go to the afterparty with Juliette. Oh I’m cringing so hard.
“As a woman,” Juliette says evilly, waving around her champagne glass like a villain in a soap opera, “it pains me to see you have so little self-respect. You in bed with Jeff Fordham? You must hate yourself.” Then she goes for the kill, saying she was smart enough to make it a one-time thing with Jeff. I love Juliette so much. Layla obviously didn’t know about this, and it stings. Trying to summon some long-unused pride, Layla says Juliette was a piece of ass to Jeff, “but he loves me.” Juliette basically throws her head back and laughs. “I didn’t think I could think any less of you, but there you go, making it happen. You think you looove him? You think he loooves you? At the end of the day, who do you think he’s gonna put first? Me, not you.” She calls Layla a failed reality star, and after Layla storms out, she throws her wine vaguely in the direction of the door. Later, she tells Patrick she wants Layla gone. “Send her back to Nashville, push her in front of oncoming traffic,” she suggests.
That night, Layla leaves another message for Jeff. “It’s me again.” Oof. I don’t want to know how many unanswered voicemails this girl left tonight. She says she knows he’s managing Juliette and she’s a bigger star, “but I need you to remind me that I’m number one for you when it counts.” She holds back tears. Poor Layla.
all images (c) ABC