Previously on Nashville: Gunnar brought his “it’s just casual” girlfriend on the road in a professional capacity, Gabriella blathered on about the lines between business and pleasure, [Janes: UGH Gabriella. I was hoping I could forget about her forever.] Deacon opened a dumb bar, Rayna signed Markus Keen and took away Maddie’s phone; Juliette almost killed herself and Gabriella kept Colt silent about it; and Juliette went to rehab, finally.
Maddie’s blonde now, and she’s taking obnoxious selfies with pursed lips, as any newly blonde sixteen-year-old would do. She texts a picture to, presumably, Colt, who responds, “Luv it! So hot.” As no sixteen-year-old boy would do. Deacon knocks on the door, and Maddie answers it with her head wrapped in a towel. When Deacon asks if it’s a little late to take a shower, she gets mouthy: “You’re going to tell me when I can wash my hair now?” He backs off—he hasn’t been a parent for long enough to be able to deal with this kind of BS—and asks if she wants to pick up the guitar lessons again with a very sweet bashfulness. Maddie brushes him off rudely, and then Daphne comes stomping down the hallway yelling that Maddie stole her phone. Deacon puts out this fire too. Seriously, how have these kids not driven him back to the sauce yet?
Speaking of children, Markus is singing a pretty catchy song (“Nobody around us, only the sound of hearts and raging fire slowly meltin’ the sky”) while Rayna, looking adorably tousle-haired and weary in a plaid shirt, texts Deacon to say she’ll be home soon. She gives him two thumbs up as he finishes and skitters in, hugging her and praising her producing skills. “So what’s next?” he says, and says they can’t go to sleep, they’re on a roll. Rayna, because it is six a.m. and she’s not on whatever crazy Liam cocktail Markus is on, tells everyone to go home. Then she gives him this flirty little, “Oh, you,” pointed finger and tells him he exhausts her.
Tour Bus of Strained Awkwardness. The tour’s going well, so Gunnar’s first question is whether he gets a hotel room, which everyone gets suuuper judgy about for no apparent reason. Scarlett ignores a call from Caleb, with no apparent regrets, then kicks Gunnar for staring off into the distance at his main squeeze, Erin the Sound Girl. The manager compliments her on her drive and self-possession, saying she’s changed since he last “tour managed” her. She takes the opportunity to brag about how much she cares about the tour, and to imply that Gunnar’s casual hookups and desire for a hotel bed mean that he doesn’t. Yes, Scarlett, we all know serious rock musicians prefer to sleep chastely on beds of straw while counting their dry grains of rice.
At the Bro Castle, Avery knocks on Will’s door and waits while Will sketchily thumps to the door and opens it, keeping the door cracked about two inches so his head barely fits through. Avery asks if Will’s OK and if he’s interrupting anything, and Will gives the least convincing denial ever. Since he’s already out of the closet and his sketchiness is all out of proportion to merely having a boy in his room, my guesses are, in order: he’s having “sexes with exes,” as Brothers and Sisters used to term it; he’s having some sort of orgy; or (twist!) he’s having an illicit hookup with Layla. But Will agrees hastily to “listen to” Cadence because Emily’s not there yet and Avery has to go record a commercial, and then slams the door in Avery’s face to go back to his orgy.
A psychiatrist emerges from a closed office to an anxious Luke and reports, “Mr. Wheeler, your son is incredibly withdrawn.” Luke says he’s the fourth therapist to say that this week. The therapist amiably agrees that Colt has trust issues and that he’ll refer him to yet another psychiatrist on the next leg of Luke’s tour. Poor Colt. Luke ambles into the room and asks Colt if he’ll come to the show tonight, and says that he’s been talking Colt up to Kid Rock, who’s apparently opening. “I don’t need fun, or Kid Rock, or any other stupid thing,” Colt says. Luke plays dumb, but Colt bursts out, “I need a dad who gives a damn about telling the truth.” Colt is awesome.
Rayna arrives back at home, complaining that Markus is like a third kid. “Two’s hard enough,” Deacon says, in the understatement of the episode. Rayna thanks him for taking care of the girls, then asks if he’ll drive them to school, but he can’t because of some big construction milestone at the Beverly. “Girls!” Rayna calls. Maddie stomps down, and when Rayna comments on the hair says hilariously, “So now my hair’s grounded too?” She has the gift peculiar to rebellious teenagers of making literally everything sound like the greatest injustice ever perpetrated. Rayna doesn’t have time for this, and says they’ll talk about it with “your father” that night.
Bucky calls Rayna and asks about the 160 hours of overtime at the studio. Rayna says they have amazing tracks, and Bucky says they’d better since Layla’s album has to be pushed. She’s still up in Connecticut with family, Rayna exposits. But Bucky has another bomb to drop: Sony is interested in signing Maddie. When Rayna refuses, Maddie overhears and protests. Rayna cuts Bucky short for round 100, and tells Maddie that they’ve already discussed this. Maddie goes into high gear before stomping off: “You are ruining my life, Mom. You’re trying to prevent me from doing the things that I love, but you can’t. You just can’t!”
Scarlett is leaving a message for Caleb when Gunnar chases Erin off the bus. She describes a whole bunch of plans for before sound check, but Gunnar says, “I know we said work is work and play is play, but I got a hotel room to myself, and…” This oh-so-suave pitch lands Gunnar a hot afternoon sex date.
Avery is working on a jingle where his only role is to strum a couple chords at the end of a chant that starts, “If you want a car that’s purdy, call Big Al!” At the end of, apparently, a long series of attempts, the producer declares they’ve got it and releases him so he can call Emily and check on Cadence. Emily’s walking Cadence in the park. Avery asks if Will was weird with Emily, but Emily didn’t notice anything. Avery wishes he knew more about Will, and says that half the time he falls asleep putting Cadence to bed. Emily drops a big ole hint that I hope to God isn’t foreshadowing as she says everyone has their own way of getting over a breakup. [Janes: I love Juliette and Avery as much as the next person, but at this point, sometimes I think Emily and Avery both deserve to just get theirs.]
Construction at the Beverly. They’re making progress, and the reopening is ahead of schedule. Rayna calls from her car and asks if Deacon knew about the hair dying. “She had her hair in a towel all night, and… how’d it look?” Deacon asks adorably. Rayna updates him about the Sony thing, and says she’s confused and that Maddie’s defiant. Deacon is trying to direct a sign delivery, so he distractedly offers Rayna support and then cuts the call short. Just as she’s disappointedly hanging up, a fresh-faced, sunglasses-wearing, cheery Markus shows up with a latte for her. Meanwhile, Deacon objects to the idea of taking a break from construction because they have a grand opening coming up, and Frankie gives him this half-annoyed, half-patient look that I think represents how well he understands the addict’s lifelong tendency to go manic, to go too all-in and then to burn out. Deacon loses the argument; the workers get to take a break. They should; they’re probably the first construction workers in history to be ahead of schedule on a grand opening.
Scarlett knocks on the door of Gunnar’s precious hotel room, and he answers topless. She’s a little disconcerted, and he says he was about to get in the shower, with that face TV characters make when they are Obviously Lying (see also: Will earlier in the episode). Scarlett wants to go to a meet’n’greet with the fans ahead of sound check, but Gunnar doesn’t remember that on the schedule. Nope, it was just Scarlett being an overachiever. Conveniently, Erin decides to yell to Gunnar to invite him in the shower, which surprises no one except Scarlett. Even in the haste of her retreat she manages to make Gunnar feel judged over this, but not judged enough to put on a shirt and resist the siren call of a shower with his naked non-girlfriend.
Gabriella interrupts Luke conferring with some nondescript white guys, and asks for the room to discuss “some business matters.” In fact what she wants to say is that Juliette is doing well in rehab, but that they need to find a replacement for her on the tour – and that they need to look for a CEO for the brand. She manages to say this calmly, because Jeff’s death is basically just a giant inconvenience to her, but Luke almost bursts into tears, saying he can’t believe all of this, and that “A lot of pain has happened on my watch.” She reassures him that he’s a good man and that he’s doing the best he can. He kisses her and she actually almost looks… dare I say it?… sympathetic as she kisses him back.
After commercials, though, she pushes him off and declares that “We shouldn’t.” She doesn’t think this is appropriate. But Luke says he’s “Getting a little tired of the business talk…. I like you, Gabriella.” He tells her she’s the one good thing to come out of the tour. Gabriella agrees (that was easy) but says that he should keep this quiet, and that she’s not good for his brand. Gross. Luke agrees, but says he needs to tell Colt.
Fans are complimenting Scarlett’s music and her haircut as she signs autographs and grins at them. Her manager pulls her away for sound check, and praises her for having the idea of doing the meet’n’greet. Just then, Caleb calls, and she has to regretfully say it’s time for sound check. She asks him if she can call back in twenty minutes, and he does that obnoxious thing again of acting like he should be sainted for being a highly paid oncologist: “I’m going to be meeting with an eight-year-old with lymphoma by then, so, no.” Scarlett apologizes and says it’s not a good time, and he badgers her about when it will be a good time, and says he’s the only one making an effort. “That’s not true, or fair,” says Scarlett quietly. She’s gotten really good at standing up for herself in that matter-of-fact, soft-spoken, but very necessary way. I like that. Don’t tell anyone I praised Scarlett, please.
At sound check, Scarlett asks Erin to make sure that her vocal is “turned up and completely isolated” tonight, and that she’s been hard to hear in the last couple shows. Gunnar jumps in and defensively says Erin knows what she’s doing. Scarlett says she’s just trying to put on a good show. And in her defense, no matter how Judgy von Judgenholt she is towards Gunnar in private, she gave that feedback so gentle you can barely even call it feedback, in a completely professional and respectful way.
Markus is in the studio, and Rayna is clearly flagging. He declares a break and enters the conveniently dimmed studio. Rayna apologizes for being preoccupied, and tells him not to have kids. It takes Markus about two seconds of kindly joking about “keggers” to get the whole story out of Rayna about Maddie and Sony. Rayna’s still freaking out about the video with Juliette (and Maddie’s lightning-bolt cleavage). Markus drops some rather unexpected wisdom, saying, “At their age, you know all they see is famous friends and private jets, but what they don’t see is that it’s a distorted view of the world. Pretty soon you forget who you are and why you even got into the business to begin with.” And Rayna points out that’s if you make it.
Avery arrives home to his studio to find Will holed up there, writing. “Thank God, I was starting to think you had someone locked in your room!” Avery says amusingly. Will admits, in embarrassment, that he was trying to work through his feelings about Kevin. “You’re going through a breakup, might as well put it to some good use. That’s what artists do,” Avery says. But Will is insecure, because he’s never written except with Kevin. Avery sweetly insists on hearing it, and Will gives a little half-smile.
The Exes in concert. They’re singing a fun little song about “one last kiss,” and giving each other flirty looks. But Scarlett, with an alarmed look, gestures upward to Erin. Erin’s been watching the show with open enjoyment, but at Scarlett’s motion she hastily puts her giant headphones back on and starts working with the various knobs and levers on the sound board thingy (I’m not even going to try to use any technically correct terms here). Scarlett, still not satisfied, does another little finger motion, and then it all goes to hell: the lights and the sound go out, while Erin freaks out in the background. “What do we do?” Scarlett says in a tiny voice as she and Gunnar stand on stage in the dark, and Gunnar says lamely, “I don’t know.”
After commercials, the lights are still out, and Gunnar suggests they do it “the old way.” So he and Scarlett segue into an acoustic version of one of their songs, “Come a little closer,” which they sing while shimmying towards each other and generally looking happy to be on stage together. I never really love their songs [Janes: Not even “I Will Fall”?? Blasphemy.], but they are extremely charming when they perform together, and that makes up for a lot. It’s obviously going great; the fans are wild; but Erin still looks devastated, knowing that she fucked up.
Cut to Will, strumming a chord for Avery at the end of his song. “Kevin was my first love. My only, actually. And he was so tied in with my songwriting it kind of feels like I lost both,” Will confesses. But Avery tells him it’s great and urges him to take it public. Will thinks it’s too personal, but Avery says all the great songs are. “I’m done performing, remember?” Will says as a last attempt. But Avery has a better idea.
Markus and Rayna have moved to the Couch of Sustained Eye Contact, last seen facilitating Liam and Rayna’s making out in season two. Markus, in a gravelly voice, is describing what it was like to feel empty even while he was successful and getting every rock-star perk imaginable. “Success becomes excess,” he says succinctly. They agree the earliest days were the roughest, and Rayna, at Markus’s urging, tells him all about her dad kicking her out. Markus listens, complimenting her at ever-closer intervals, as she says she wants to protect her girls from the dangers she faced. Then he rubs her arm and says she turned out all right. She pulls her arm away, and he tries to save face by suggesting they go back to work, but she says she wants to go home to see her girls.
Yikes. I can’t believe Riley Smith, teenaged sexpot of my youth, is hitting on Connie Britton, middle-aged sexpot of my … um … later youth. It makes me feel so old! On the other hand, good for you, Connie Britton.
In the kitchen, Maddie is complaining on the phone about Rayna. Daphne walks in and makes a shocked face. “Here’s your stupid phone, don’t tell Mom,” Maddie says. But Daphne was shocked about the Sony deal. “They only wanted you,” she surmises. Maddie actually softens for a second and says that they’re in different places, and Daphne’s younger. But Daphne storms off, saying, “Nobody needs me!” I love when Daphne gets to pitch a fit for once. Maddie looks a little guilty, but I’m sure she won’t let it get in the way of her own pity party.
Deacon’s demoing a wall at the Beverly, and Frankie asks him if everything’s okay at home. “From what I can tell, you’re starting to go a little dry drunk on me here.” Deacon says Frankie’s not his sponsor anymore, and that he’s just trying to keep them on schedule. He pounds on the wall again, but Frankie points out he’s hitting a crossbeam and about to pull the whole place down. Deacon brats, “I guess I can’t do nothing right these days, huh?”
After the show, the tour manager compliments Scarlett on the “save.” She grouchily says it wasn’t part of their set and asks what happened. The tour manager explains some complicated jargon about how Erin blew the sound. Luckily for Gunnar he’s not around: Scarlett grumbles that she doesn’t want to deal with this, but “Gunnar probably won’t.” Just then, they round the corner to see Gunnar laying into Erin (no, not that way). “It’s not my fault this place has a weak electrical grid!” she’s pleading, but he isn’t having it. He says that he could tell she had no idea how to handle the situation. She finally admits that she’s shadowed a lot of big sound setups, but she wasn’t necessarily ready to run a show by herself. “I vouched for you because I thought you knew what you were doing,” he says, “and now I look like an idiot.” As Erin’s protests grow weaker and she looks like she’s about to burst into tears, Gunnar gets more and more pissed: “If you can’t do the job, you need to get the hell off my tour.” Scarlett is watching the whole thing from around the corner, looking sober.
Rayna’s waiting on the couch when Deacon arrives home, passive-aggressively announcing that he’s surprised she’s not at the studio. Rayna says with the situation with Maddie, she needed his help, and “all I got was, whatever you decide.” Deacon says he has no idea what Maddie needs, and he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do when she won’t even look at him and he doesn’t know what he did to push her away. Rayna says she’s a teenager, and when he says it’s more than that she says it doesn’t matter, they’re supposed to be coparenting. Deacon finally relents and says, “I’m here.” He sits by the couch, and Rayna says they have to be a united front. Tensely, he says he’s scared to death of doing it wrong, but asks what they should do about Maddie. Rayna says she wants to run an idea by him.
Alone in the bar, with the chairs upside down on the tables—just like in the old days when they’d clean up at the Bluebird—Scarlett says she saw him handling things with Erin and says she’s surprised. Gunnar gets rightfully pissed, saying he’s tired of her acting like he’s not taking the tour seriously. Scarlett says she’s trying to thank him, and that being away from Caleb is hard for her, and she’s sorry if she took that out on him. Yeah, it’s definitely not your jealousy that he’s banging a hot girl who knows her way around a DJ booth. But Gunnar forgives her easily and admits that he understands why she’d be worried, but that it really is just fun with Erin. “At least we can rely on each other musically,” Scarlett says.
Colt is sitting and brooding on the edge of yet another hotel bed. Luke sits down with Colt and says that he will always be honest with him, and that he and Gabriella are an item now. “Obviously,” says Colt. “You were with her the night Jeff died, weren’t you?” Luke has to admit to this, since he just made a big fuss over his own honesty. Colt dismisses him with a cold, “Is that all?” Luke looks like he’s been punched as he has to face the fact that he’s destroyed the relationship.
At the Bluebird, Will is freaking out, saying it’ll be too weird to hear his song. Avery gives a good shot at a pep talk, but just as he’s called to the stage Will dashes away. Avery gets onstage and sings a sweet, sad song that conveniently could be about Will and Kevin or about Avery and Juliette. Will stares through the windshield at Avery, who has the whole audience rapt as he sings, “It doesn’t matter how many times I let you go, you’re always with me, written in the history of my heart.” [Janes: Downloaded.] Just in case you don’t get it, here’s a little sepia-toned flashback of Juliette! Do you get it now, though? Oh, here they are again, kissing. Here they are at their wedding. And, here she is laying Cadence to bed in some rare access of normalcy. OK, I think that’s sufficient, you totally get it now, right? Just in case, here’s one last nail in the coffin of subtlety: a shot of Juliette staring angrily and tearily at (presumably) Avery.
OK, you definitely get it now. I have faith in you, dear viewers. You can be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the act of drawing connections between nakedly sad songs of love lost and the singer’s recent tragic divorce, as long as there are at least six flashbacks indicating the connection to you.
At the James house, Rayna and Deacon have called a family meeting. “Why do we need to have a family meeting?” Daphne demands. “Is this about my hair, because I’m not changing it back,” Maddie says, flopping on the other side of the couch with her arms crossed. The parents make them sit closer, and say they want to work through the whole Sony thing. Rayna also brings up what’s going on between the sisters themselves, and she and Deacon give them gentle little speeches about the changes that they’re going through—speeches that are sweet and wise in their way, but destined not to work, because when you’re a teenager the chaos feels permanent, and everything adults say about it is too calm to make sense. Finally Rayna winds up with wanting them to sign up with Highway 65 with the condition that they do it together. They’re both excited at first, but Maddie’s face visibly falls at the idea of signing with Daphne, even as Daphne sweetly looks over at her to see what she thinks. Poor Daphne.
Avery finds Will in his room that night and says that his song made people feel something. Will sits up—he’s been hanging out in bed with a football, which doesn’t seem like the best Kevin replacement, shapewise, but is endearingly, and perfectly, in character for Will. Avery thanks him—“I’d almost forgotten what playing real music feels like.” Then he gives Will some bonus good news: a publisher in the audience wanted to give Will his card.
Deacon and Rayna go into their room, alone. “We’re doing the right thing signing them, right?” she asks. Deacon agrees and promises to be here for her from now on. She puts her arms around him and they start making out.
Meanwhile, Daphne is squealing with excitement in Maddie’s room that they’re going to be real recording artists. But Maddie efficiently pokes a hole in Daphne’s effervescence with a very cruel pin: “The only reason she signed us at all is to keep me under her control.”
Gunnar opens his hotel door to Erin’s knock. She apologizes, saying it was her bad and that she should have been upfront about her experience level. Gunnar lectures her again about how small venues can be tricky. “I want to learn how to work them all and I really want to stay on the tour,” Erin says, and asks him for tips. He agrees quietly, and she bids him good night with what almost looks like a curtsey. “That’s it?” he calls after her, and she turns back at his invitation to saunter into his room.
Scarlett is lying in bed having yet another tragically passionless long-distance phone call with Caleb. She apologizes. He apologizes. She blathers about growing as an artist and learning “how much I need you.” Gross. Caleb murmurs some comforting words, but when she starts to segue into the story of her triumph during the blackout, he says he has an early morning. They hang up, and Scarlett looks depressed, only to become a lot more depressed when she realizes she can hear Gunnar and Erin having wild, fun sex in the next room.