As always after a great episode of Nashville, I’ve got whiplash. So many decisions made, unmade, then remade! So many fights and makings-up! I love it.
Also, a PSA: I skipped recapping 4×04 because I was so woefully behind. From now on I will be doing every week. Now, on to the recap!
Previously on Nashville: Layla’s spotlight was stolen by Markus and she made out with Jeff in the hall after throwing a cowgirl boot at him. Luke offered to record Will’s songs even though Will is too gay to actually be on his label. Emily offered to help Avery with Cadence, only to get called a whore by MIA Mom Juliette. Juliette started popping pills so when Cadence was sick, she was too out of it to know what was going on. Bev went into two comas and finally died in a multi-episode arc that I’m sure was devastating to the five or six Bev fans out there in the world.
Layla’s Super Original Song
Bucky and Rayna are talking. Rayna, though she is generally great in this episode, is entirely ridiculous in this conversation. First she complains about being worried that her daughter is “going off with her boyfriend to a Luke Wheeler concert.” I found her phrasing kind of strange. She made it sound like, “Oh, my daughter is going off with her boyfriend Joe Schmo to a rock concert!” Whereas actually, her daughter is being flown in a private plane to her ex-fiancé’s concert by said ex-fiancé and ex-fiancé’s son who is dating her daughter. I mean, that sounds worrisome in other ways, but … OK, Rayna, maybe you have a point.
Then Bucky’s like, actually, let’s worry about Layla. Remember how you have a label that supposedly isn’t a vanity label? Rayna wonders if she could really still be upset about Markus taking her spotlight. Let’s recall that this was LAST NIGHT. I’m still upset about my cat knocking over my mail last night, OK? I think if I were humiliated in front of thousands of people, I would want a pass from my record label head for at least a week or so.
Speaking of whom, Jeff is busy fixing his tie in the mirror as Layla complains about his going to Atlanta. Layla is nervous about the notes Rayna supposedly has for her album, which is dropping soon. She calls Rayna “literally a living legend.” (How would you be un-literally a living legend?) Jeff advises her only to take the advice she agrees with. He then explains away his fancy outfit with, “Sometimes you gotta look professional.” They kiss.
Layla, I love you, but you’re SO DUMB. He is obviously flying to Atlanta to skeeze on Luke’s image consultant or whatever that terrible lady is called, try to get hired as the CEO of Luke’s new “lifestyle brand” (GOOP is taken, so maybe he could be called OOZE? Or PUS?), and “impress” Brand Lady by outing a bunch of rivals’ substance-abuse habits. (Meanwhile, Brand Lady keeps talking about showing various VIPs the “Luke Wheeler experience.” Gross. Everything about this is gross, like, the homophobia pandering is probably the LEAST gross part because at least it means that gay people have the special privilege of not being exposed to the rest of Luke’s grossness.)
Anyway, so Layla shows up at Rayna’s studio only to get the full Tami treatment when Rayna turns her deep, understanding, blue-eyed gaze onto Layla and says she’s worried about Jeff being her manager and her boyfriend. Layla puts up a pretty good fight when it comes to the actual notes on the music, saying that she likes how she sounds, but as soon as Rayna points out that Jeff sucks she runs out into the hall in tears. When she comes back, she says Jeff is an asshole but he challenges and inspires her, and she loves him. “My head tells me to stop, but my heart just won’t let go.” Rayna says that’s her song. Rayna, that is literally everyone’s song. But she and Layla start singing together and it’s a pretty good song.
Then Layla gets on the phone to do some gross flirty love talk with Jeff. He’s bought her tickets to Atlanta, so she gets really excited. Luckily for him, she’s not there yet, so he can flirt with Brand Lady all he wants. He even brags about having been a CEO at Edgehill. Um, how did that work out for ya, Jeff? Brand Lady says he is at the top of her list (why?) but Luke took him off, and that he’s prioritizing Layla too much: “Can you draw the line when you need to?” Jeff eagerly agrees to, essentially, screw over Layla at the next opportunity to land this job. Then Brand Lady has to turn down Luke’s offer of a celebratory drink when she lands him a deal, in order to not be a hypocrite. But she’s “tempted,” she tells him. Oh, Luke. Try to have some standards.
The Love of Gunnar’s Night
Gunnar and Will start out the episode being all cute and domestic over breakfast, as usual. When Emily comes in to babysit, she and Gunnar touch hands grabbing the milk. Gunnar thinks this means they are in love, because Gunnar is Gunnar. (Emily, being a functional adult, barely notices any of this happening.) But even the force of true love is not enough to convince Gunnar to stay in the house with the, as usual, squally Cadence. Will and Kevin are going to see Luke playing one of Will’s songs in Atlanta, and Gunnar invites himself along. Bro road trip! Bro’d trip?
On the trip, the gents talk about avoiding Juliette in solidarity with Avery (are they twelve?). Will says it has to suck “being in love with someone who doesn’t want you around.” Gunnar is clearly thinking, “Yes. It does suck to be me, thank you.” Then Kevin and Will do a little gentle condescending towards Gunnar, the way happy couples do, asking about his romantic life. He didn’t sleep with Zoe, “But I had a spark with Emily this morning, over the milk. We touched hands, and…” he trails off, grinning smugly. “Well if that’s all it takes, I had a spark with Emily too,” quips Will. Hee. Gunnar insists she’s into him, and Will nips this in the bud: “First of all, no, she’s not, second of all that’s a terrible idea.” Kevin decides the trip objective is to get Gunnar laid. Gunnar’s expression is like, oh you guys, you’re so immature. But, yes please.
Backstage, Will tries to distract himself from his sadness about not being able to sing by finding “the love of Gunnar’s night.” Gunnar thinks he can get his own ladies! So he says “Heyyyy,” in an incredibly awkward voice, to none other than Juliette’s horrible blonde friend as she walks by. “No,” she says firmly without even looking at him, and it’s definitely the best thing she’s ever done. Will and Kevin take over and find a sexy girl with a piercing who admires Will’s coming-out. She asks if Gunnar’s the boyfriend. Gunnar hella shoots himself in the foot: “Oh, no, I’m not gay. There’s nothing between me and Will. I mean, he did kiss me once, but that’s not the same thing, right?” Now Kevin’s all, “You guys kissed?” (and keeps repeating it for way longer than anyone should find it funny, although to be TOTALLY honest I laughed every time). Gunnar tries to rescue this by introducing Kevin as the gay boyfriend, then insisting he’s cool with the gay thing, and that it’s fine if she, his pick-up target, is gay. She wisely extricates herself and specifically says it was nice to meet Will.
Afterward, Will defends himself: he can’t be a good wingman if Gunnar’s “choking right out of the gate.” This is all very cute guys, but let’s stop talking about catching women like it’s a sport. You’re not actual cowboys. But all is not lost: the sexy girl comes back up to Gunnar. She messes with him a bit, in a flirty way, but he gets all awkward when he offers to buy her a drink at the afterparty, and then he becomes convinced that his awkwardness is so unforgivable that he must slink away in shame.
Meanwhile, Will is not having the best night either. Luke is singing one of his songs, and he’s obviously upset. Kevin seems to have done sort of a one-eighty on the whole fighting homophobia thing: instead of being angry on Will’s behalf that Luke considers Will good enough to write songs backstage, but not good enough to be onstage, he seems about to get offended that Will thinks his life isn’t “good enough.”
Good-Bye Beverly. Please.
Scarlett goes down to Bev’s house to clean up her stuff. Rayna urges Deacon to go help, saying that it could help him get closure. Scarlett doesn’t expect help with this task, and arrives alone wearing some sort of inexplicable overalls ensemble and two tiny butterfly clips that will hold about two strands of hair each and are obviously woefully inadequate to the task of imposing any kind of order on her giant mane.
When Deacon arrives, he’s pretty hostile, asking to see Scarlett’s “keep, throw away, donate” piles to make sure she’s not throwing anything precious away (like she did to BEV’S LIFE), I think is his snotty implication. While Scarlett and her inadequate hair clips weep over memories of Bev’s narcissistic tirades about Scarlett leaving her behind, Deacon is busy shitting all over Scarlett. “Just a bunch of old photo albums, I assume you don’t want ‘em.” Scarlett says that he has no idea what she’s going through. “You just take what you want and you get out.” She storms out. Deacon looks vaguely guilty. Usually I’m too busy being annoyed at Scarlett’s personality to notice Clare Bowen as an actor much, but she’s kicking ass in these scenes and has been all season.
Meanwhile, Deacon is overtaken by his own memories. You know they’re memories because they’re very bright, very blurred, and very… jerky, as if everyone was living on a scratched DVD back then. Anyway, the memory is of a phone call Deacon had with a happy Bev who declared she had so many parties to go to she was already late for another one. Slowly, Deacon realizes what was probably happening: scratched-DVD Bev, sad and alone at home, in jeans, heating up a microwave dinner. Stuttering playback aside, I thought this transition on Deacon’s part was pretty well-done. Scarlett always knew the truth about her mother: her memories are of Bev being a total asshole, but she’s still grieving. Deacon, on the other hand, has always somewhat ignored Bev’s issues, in part because it would have made him too guilty to feel like he couldn’t solve them and in part because it seems he feels, unjustly, that he partially caused them.
Just then the phone rings for Deacon. He shows up to a bar and finds Scarlett on a stool talking drunkenly to a very drunk old man. He knows the bartender (of course). Scarlett sees him and gives him massive side-eye, informing her new friend, “this is my disapprovin’ uncle Deacon I was tellin’ you about.” Deacon tries to get her home. She goes, “No. I can sit here and have a drink with a friend if I want to, because I’m not an alcoholic.” I don’t know how she gives such a perfect delivery, but it’s hilarious: both bratty and righteously angry and so, so below the belt. I love it. Guys… do I like Scarlett now? What is happening?
They go home to have it out. Deacon says he left Bev first, and Scarlett says well, she pulled the plug and Deacon wasn’t there, so he does not know how she feels. Excellent point. She calls him a selfish, selfish person. It’s pretty brutal. Deacon calls Rayna to tell her he needs to stay longer: there’s Stuff to work through. When Scarlett wakes up, feeling horrible, Deacon apologizes and says she made the right decision. She looks too broken-down to be happy, but sits beside him and hugs him. It’s very sweet.
Maddie Grows Up
In the back of Luke’s plane to Atlanta, Maddie and Colt blithely discuss their teenaged sex plans. They are very good communicators for young’uns. I have high hopes for their sex life in the future. They try to arrange alone time when Luke is about to meet a VIP for drinks: Maddie says she needs to change and casually asks to change there. Luke seems oblivious at first, but when Colt asks when they should meet him, he’s gives Colt a sharp look and says, how about as soon as Maddie is changed, mmkay? Of course they have no intention of listening to this. Maddie comes out, not naked or in lingerie or anything thank God, but in a very daring dress that has, basically, a lightning bolt cut out of it from neck to navel. She aggressively tackles Colt’s lips for about five seconds, and then gets all freaked out and says that maybe they shouldn’t do this right now. Poor Colt is like, “I’m… sorry for standing there while you mauled me?”
So Maddie, by simply giving Juliette a significant look when they run into each other backstage, convinces Juliette to give her a little sisterly pep talk. They end up by the side of the stage since Juliette’s dressing room is the scene of a party worthy of Jay Gatsby. Juliette looks both maternal and EXTREMELY tiny next to the gangly Maddie. Maddie complains that her mom doesn’t want to let her grow up: “You’re just lucky you were emancipated when you were my age.” “Don’t wish your family away,” Juliette says brokenly. Maddie, not in any way noticing that Juliette is talking about herself, says that when she feels bad, she thinks, What would Juliette do?
Naturally this leads to Juliette announcing a surprise at the end of her performance: “an incredibly talented girl.” Out comes Maddie, looking grown-up and quite pretty, not that she’s not beautiful without all the makeup too. They hug and start playing a fun, romping song, as Colt and TBF dance (not with each other… although that would be a plot twist worthy of Nashville’s craziest episodes). “You left your secrets in my bed, in my bed,” Juliette’s singing. I can’t understand what the hell lyrics Maddie’s singing, but whatever, she sounds pretty good. They have lots of fun, but yeah, Rayna is not going to like this whole “in my bed” theme.
Afterwards Maddie is thrilled but Luke is pissed, because now he’s going to be in trouble with Rayna. It really does suck to be put in the wrong with someone who, if life was fair, should be apologetic towards you for the rest of her natural life. Juliette, fairly: “Rayna is always mad.” Then she gets mean: “How often were you around to discipline your kids?” Luke’s like, heh, two can play at that game. “Don’t go around trying to play Cool Mom with someone else’s kids just ‘cause you’ve abandoned your own.”
At least Colt is impressed. He calls Maddie “an amazing woman,” so she drags him onto Luke’s tour bus and they, presumably, get at least a little bit naked. Unfortunately, once they reappear, Luke sends Maddie home. Colt is mad, but Luke says he can’t always be his friend: he has to be his dad sometime. I guess Juliette taught him a lesson, or something?
Rayna has her hands full with Maddie, trying to keep a straight face when Maddie insists that she’s an adult and that Rayna just wishes she were as cool as Juliette. Rayna says if Maddie thinks Juliette is cool, they have serious problems. I guess this means that my parents also failed at raising me, because I still heart Juliette.
Juliette’s Downward Spiral, Part Eleventy Million
Juliette wakes up flat on her stomach in the golden sunlight of the morning, looking like an utter wreck. Trashy Blonde Friend, known on these pages as TBF, warns her that the injection site might be sore, but don’t worry! Here are some MORE PILLS! Excellent idea all around. I’m sure someone checked the label thoroughly for possible interactions with other medications before offering this to the young pop star. Juliette staggers to the bathroom in her worn fleece leggings, considers the pills, and suddenly looks disgusted and flushes them.
Meanwhile, Avery has worked up the nerve to sign his divorce papers. “It’s you and me, baby girl,” he says to Cadence sweetly and sadly. But Juliette is regretting everything: she knows that there’s nothing going on. She tells TBF, “I’m capable of anything, but they’re better people…” TBF, who really doesn’t know how to read the room, responds to this by telling Juliette about an article about body language and the way their faces are turned means they’re having sex. Sorry, TBF. Everyone knows that when it comes to sex and body language, it’s all about whether your legs are crossed towards each other. Juliette turns genuinely hostile: “Do you even listen to yourself when you talk?” TBF thinks this is a joke and wanders off to freebase some more champagne or something. Juliette shakes her head, thinking – and picks up her phone to text Avery. Avery, who’s just about to hand off the divorce papers to a messenger, thinks better of this when he sees the text. He calls Emily to complain, but Markus shows up just then in shades, an hour late for their session, and informs Avery he’s excited to work together and that he wants Avery to shoot straight with him.
Psychologically, I think it’s pretty clear that when someone tells you they appreciate honesty out of the blue for no reason, you should assume the exact opposite is true. Who does that, other than real-estate agents and slick guys on Tinder? I mean, if you’re a generally honest person around whom other people can safely be honest, why would you need to reassure the other person that you just looooove honesty, like you think not lying is something to brag about? But Avery seems completely on-board. Good luck, Avery.
On her way out of the hotel, Juliette leaves a message for Emily, saying in a quiet, defeated voice that she’s sorry and doesn’t know what she was thinking. A busboy drops a suitcase, and TBF yells, “Dude! That bag costs more than you make in like, two years. I mean, am I right?” Juliette looks after her in horror and tells Emily she misses her. She hangs up looking nauseated.
So Emily calls Avery, who takes her call because Markus is doing his usual thing of telling self-aggrandizing stories instead of working. Emily is like, “I didn’t want to bother you at work, but Juliette left me a message…” (OK, if you didn’t want to bother him at work, maybe don’t bother him at work?) “She wants to talk. Something’s definitely up.” Avery resents Juliette thinking everyone is at her beck and call. Emily says maybe she’s come to her senses “and wants back into our lives.” Our lives? Uhoh. I keep getting nervous that the show is going to make Avery actually live out this awful love triangle. I don’t hate Emily or anything – I just think at least some male fictional character someday should be above falling for the pretty woman who watches his kids.
As Markus moves from telling stories to shooting hoops with his buds, Avery is calling his lawyer, who warns that if Juliette fights back, “Full custody will be ugly.” He says it’ll be one and a half million, which I think refers to legal fees? But just then Markus takes over and makes Avery hang up, urging him to go make some music. But as soon as Avery makes a suggestion, Markus is like, “What are you doing talking?” Shockingly, Markus actually hates honesty and wants it to go hide in a corner. He totally fires Avery as soon as Avery tries to defend himself.
After her performance with Maddie, Juliette, buzzed on adrenaline, marches up to Gunnar (more on how he ended up there later), demanding to know why Avery isn’t calling her. She says dismissively that she knows he’s mad about that abandonment thing, but come on. (Oh, that old thing!) Gunnar, luckily, sets her straight.
It seems like everything is about to work out for Avery and Juliette: he’s going to find out that she never meant to ignore his call, and they’ll get back together and Emily can be the love of Gunnar’s life. We even see Avery ranting to Emily about Markus, and Emily pointing out gently that it sounds like he’s talking about Juliette. Instead of making out with her, Avery makes her babysit again. Take that, tabloid gossips! Avery and Juliette 4eva!
Juliette seems to be sharing my optimism about Avery. She asks TBF if she’s the stupidest person alive. TBF rightly points out that Juliette has never acted in any way like she cares about her kid. So Juliette fires her. “You can’t fire me, I’m your friend,” protests TBF, proving she is in fact the stupidest person alive. Gunnar’s new lady-target laughs out loud at this, so Juliette fires her too. So the lady-target marches off to make out with Gunnar in a corner somewhere, which I’m struggling to care about. Meanwhile, Juliette tells Jeff to get her jet ready: “I’m going to Nashville, and you’re not invited.”
But, oh! What excellent, romcom-worthy timing she and Avery have – he’s in the lobby at this very moment. I brace for a perhaps premature, but sure to be wonderful reunion. And then it turns out I got excited way too soon. Juliette immediately says in a tender voice that she didn’t know he called till tonight and was on her way to Nashville. But he launches in: he has wanted her to reach out, and if it were yesterday this would be different, but Cadence could have died. “Best case scenario you were so messed up on drugs you had no idea what was happening because you’ve surrounded yourself with people who don’t tell you the truth.” Ugh, Avery’s so right, and this twist is so wonderfully cruel. Juliette feels innocent, because she truly didn’t know he had called or that Cadence was in danger, which is completely human; and yet in the end she’s almost equally guilty because she willfully absented herself from a kid who could at any moment have an emergency. She really did think she could just apologize and say she loved him and he’d come flying out to Atlanta just to reunite, as if her double abandonment were no worse than forgetting to buy the milk on the way home.
So, Avery wants a divorce. Oh, this is so sad. He offers to do it anonymously (apparently you can get divorced under aliases in other counties? Which, sure.), but in return he wants her to terminate her parental rights. He can’t have Cadence grow up thinking she can depend on her mother when she definitely can’t. Juliette has twenty-four hours to make a decision.
See you next week, and I hope they’ll stop twisting the knife in my Juliette-and-Avery-loving heart… but I doubt it!