Previously on Nashville: Will was gay, and Luke dropped him; Will met a girl who released her album independently; Deacon turned the Bluebird into the Deacon and Rayna and Beverly Show, so Frankie relapsed; Avery agreed to let Juliette have supervised visits with Cadence; and Vita stole from Deacon and Frankie, and Rayna found her car all burned up in the parking lot of a motel.
We open on Juliette. Juliette’s back, guys! YAY. Juliette (sporting a new tousled bob, and a soft pink sweater that I think represents her newly warm and fuzzy spirit), is changing Cadence in a pink-wall-papered, golden-lit room. It’s all one big Hallmark card to motherhood for a moment.
She kisses and sweet-talks the baby until the therapist, with Emily looking on smiling, tells her it’s time to go. Juliette gives her to Emily with a little bit of sadness but no fireworks and then tells her therapist, “I’m sad to see her go. But other than that I feel good.” They agree she’s ready to go home.
Cash comes into the Dead Sister Bar to pick up something for her father. Deacon asks why Frankie didn’t show up to the staff meeting that’s now in progress, and Cash says with surprise that it’s because Frankie’s celebrating fifteen years of sobriety. Deacon is like, “I wonder why he didn’t tell me about this,” because he has apparently forgotten everything that happened in the last episode. Or, more likely, he’s pretending to have forgotten it so he can act like he has no idea why Frankie’s mad and avoid admitting to himself what an asshat he’s been.
At her office in Highway 65, Rayna is leaving the hundredth message for Vita. Bucky tells her to stop, and that it’s not her fault. He doesn’t mention that she knew Vita for approximately ten minutes, and Vita spent nine of those ten minutes lying and the tenth stealing. Rayna pleads that the police aren’t doing their job and Bucky says with a genial eyebrow-lift that’s as close as he’ll ever come to expressing irritation that they need to be doing their jobs. Although of course he’s been doing his all along. Turns out Layla has a showcase tonight, that there are country radio programmers coming, and that a famous singer named Autumn Chase might be interested in taking her on tour. Rayna is excited to use the album to “change people’s perceptions of Layla Grant.”
Speaking of whom, Layla is in the studio with Avery discussing her set list for the showcase. She refers to herself as a basket case, and he promises she’ll be great. Gunnar comes in and tells Layla to “knock ‘em dead,” and invites her to the Exes’ set tonight at the Bluebird. Layla asks if Avery’s going before agreeing. Subtle, Layla. He wishes her luck before she leaves.
At Frankie’s “birthday” celebration, Cash holds a cake while everyone sings to Frankie, Deacon smiling and looking on from a corner. Frankie makes a little speech that he’s been feeling overshadowed, but when he notices Deacon he stops and thanks everyone and sits down. Deacon claps, pretending to be totally oblivious to the fact that Frankie was vaguebooking about him just now.
In the office of Wheelin’ Dealin’ Records, Will comes to see Luke and announces he is planning to record his own album independently. Luke says something polite about how that’s a viable option now. Will nervously asks him to take the hold off the songs he wrote with Kevin, but Luke gets a call from Colt. He ushers Will out, promising he’ll be just a minute. He opens the call with an excitement that’s pitiful to see, but Colt just cuts to the chase and asks for a parental consent waiver for him to join the army. Yikes. I foresee Colt turning into one of those libertarian cranks who lives off the land and, like, is obsessed with guns and judges anyone who likes art or culture because it’s not masculine enough or something.
Juliette arrives home to a giant pile of mail and a silent home, and some dude named Patrick comes by with a bouquet for her. She somewhat brattily informs him that she doesn’t need him anymore, since he was just hired to spin her absence in the press. But he tells her he got an offer for her to make a cameo in a Spielberg film, which would be a million dollars. “No,” Juliette breathes, opening the script he hands her. She’s thrilled, but resists, saying she has to focus on her regular life. “This is your regular life. You’re Juliette Barnes,” says Patrick.
He has a point. She obviously wants to work; it lights her eyes up whenever she thinks about it.
The celebration over, Deacon blusters over to Frankie acting like everything is cool. He even mentions how he didn’t know this was happening till Cash told him, which still doesn’t signal to him that anything’s wrong. He thanks Frankie for his sponsorship over the years, and Frankie takes it coolly. Still trying, Deacon invites him and Cash out to lunch, but Frankie tells him he already had plans with just Cash. Deacon watches them go, the gears finally turning in his tiny brain.
Juliette’s reading the script as Emily puts away her groceries for her, and moaning that it’s a “dream role.” She rationalizes that she only gets three hours a week with Cadence, so maybe she shouldn’t pass on the role. She also says it would be a “no-brainer” if she actually had more time with Cadence, which, frankly, I doubt. If she were spending, say, four days a week with Cadence or even just a whole weekend each week, I think she’d be yearning to work even more strongly! Emily offers to talk to Avery, but Juliette says she should go herself. YAY.
At Layla’s showcase, Rayna is schmoozing with people. “Look, she’s twenty-one years old. Didn’t you ever do anything embarrassing when you were that age?” she tells one doubter. Meanwhile, Layla’s fielding a pointed question of her own: someone asks how she’ll transition away from being a reality TV star. Layla handles it beautifully: “Look, I know it’s not easy to take me seriously, but I don’t regret anything that I’ve done. Every step—and every misstep—has led me to right here, so I’m not perfect, but I don’t really think that perfect makes for a very good song.” Love it!
Autumn arrives, and it turns out she’s played by Alicia Witt, one of those familiar faces who’s been in everything but isn’t quite a name yet. Autumn greets Rayna, and Layla starts freaking out when Bucky tells her that Autumn’s looking for an opening act.
Scarlett and Gunnar are hanging out in the Bro Castle studio working when Will storms in, ready to complain again. I have never felt so unreasonably unsympathetic to a victim of homophobia as I do towards Will. Like, now he’s pissed that Luke blew him off, which I’m sure is painful but is also sort of normal when you’re just starting out and you’re trying to have a meeting with a giant country music star. Then he says that he can’t write songs on his own (another sort of unreasonable thing to say, since he did write a great song on his own a few episodes ago; I think he’s just scared). “The only real success I’ve had is writing with someone else,” he says. Scarlett and Gunnar are like, hello? We write songs? But they can’t actually do anything about it till the end of the week because they’re busy with all their promotion stuff, and Will deflates, obviously feeling like this is going to fall through. Gunnar suggests Avery instead.
Will comes to the farm where Colt’s staying and confronts Colt, who’s doing the surly-mumbling-teenager thing and doing it well. He tells Colt this has “gone way too far,” what with Colt ignoring him and now joining the army, like this was something Colt did at him. (Well, actually, it probably is.) Colt spins around and says that he’s eighteen in three months and he’ll enlist whether Luke likes it or not. Then he excuses himself to get in the tractor and go do those chores he loves so much.
Back at Highway 65, Layla is busy using Avery as an emotional crutch: she is thinking of changing her set list because of Autumn, or she’s pretending to think about it to get attention from Avery; I don’t know the difference, and I doubt even Layla does at this point. He gives her some kind words of reassurance about her talent and says she can call him anytime. Just then there’s a knock on the door, and as Avery hangs up, he opens it to find Juliette on his porch. YAY.
After the commercial break, Avery comes out onto the porch and asks Juliette—in a not-unfriendly way, despite how it looks on the page—“What are you doing here?” She tells him she’s out of rehab, and he says she should have called first. On TV that’s almost always code for “I have a naked person in my bed right now,” but this time it isn’t. Juliette admits she was afraid he wouldn’t answer. Her voice is shaking as she says that she knows there’s “a lot that might never be resolved” between the two of them them, but that this is about Cadence. Avery looks teary for a moment, but says that the answer is no.
Showing just how far she’s come, Juliette apologizes: “I know that I’ve caused you so much pain. And I let you down and I let her down, and I regret it every day.” She tells him she’s overcoming her addictions and PPD, and he says that he’s genuinely happy to hear it but that she did it all in a protected environment, and he can’t trust it yet. She tries not to cry and says OK.
God, what maturity! I expected not just tears from Avery, but some level of the bitterness and sarcasm that has marked every word he’s said about Juliette lately. And of course hearing Juliette actually take responsibility for things is pretty great. The lighting on Juliette in this scene is very soft and golden again, which I think is supposed to make her look even more angelic than her soft, white, fuzzy scarf and low-key hair and baby face already do.
At her showcase, Layla’s singing and wearing more of her hilarious Goth Widow gear, all black lace and messy bangs. But who cares if her outfits are silly? Her voice is fucking amazing. I seriously could listen to this girl for forty-two minutes straight every Wednesday. Autumn Chase is clearly taken with her, too, as is the rest of the audience, who clap wildly after her set. As Rayna thanks everyone, Layla breathes deeply, looking relieved and nervous. Autumn approaches Rayna and Layla and calls Layla “incredible.” Rayna has to leave to take a call from Nashville PD, and Autumn asks Layla how she “got so wise, so young.” She asks Layla to get drinks with her, and Layla invites her to the Bluebird that night.
On the phone with the police, Rayna asks if “there are any suspects,” and the police officer patiently tells her that they don’t even know if there’s been a crime. I mean, he has a point. How does Rayna know that Vita didn’t burn down the damn car herself to cover her tracks for one thing or another? He tells her to sit tight and hangs up, sounding impatient.
Deacon’s in the office of the Dead Sister Bar when Frankie comes in. Inquiries about how the lunch was are met with grumpy monosyllables. Deacon is still pretending that they’re best buds when he suggests that Frankie open that night for “The Clickin’ Six.” Frankie demurs, saying he’s not hipster enough, but Deacon jokes that it could make up for bumping him last week. “How generous of you,” Frankie growls, with righteous sarcasm. Finally Deacon gets up the nerve to ask if Frankie’s still mad about that, which Frankie, of course, flatly denies. “Then what is it, Frankie? Is it the Vita thing or what, cause I couldn’t help but think that some of that stuff you were talking about today in that meeting was directed at me,” he says. GEE, YOU THINK? Frankie switches gears to avoid this and asks what time he should expect to play tonight. Deacon rubs his face, perturbed.
Juliette’s therapist is making a house visit. “I’ve spent all this time and energy and effort working on myself and he still doesn’t trust me,” Juliette says of her conversation with Avery. Now that’s the Juliette I know—feeling entitled to being trusted and forgiven no matter how many times she’s burned the same bridge! The doctor says to be patient and do what she would normally do, but Juliette says she would normally work. “What’s holding you back?” asks the doctor. When Juliette says it’s Cadence, she advises, “You just have to ask yourself, is this opportunity worth it?”
At the farm, Colt’s grandfather is doing work in the garage when Luke comes up to yell at him about the army thing, which he refers to as nonsense. “That’s a hell of a description for a commitment to honor, duty, and supporting your country,” the grandfather snarks. Luke protests that he supports the troops, but Grandpa Grouchy makes an excellent point: “You’ll sing for ‘em, you just won’t let your kid be one of them.”
Avery and Will are working in the studio, and Avery suggests a line to add. They’re about to try singing it when Juliette calls, and he says he probably should take it. “Thanks for answering,” Juliette says. He curtly says he’s in the middle of something, but she responds with even more politeness, to say that she is going to go film the movie. “I thought you wanted more time with Cadence, now you’re telling me you won’t see her for two weeks?” he says. When she tries to explain, he says, “What, I wouldn’t give [more time] to you, so this is somehow on me?” She explains she couldn’t pass it up, and then asks if she can see Cadence tonight. Avery sighs.
Back inside the studio, Will’s playing around on his guitar when Avery stomps back in, his nerves (and temper) clearly stretched thin. As soon as Will starts trying to work, Avery interrupts with a giant, multi-part rant about Juliette. He’s in the kind of mood where all you can do is awkwardly mumble agreement and smile and nod, which Will does. Avery realizes he’s ranting and tries to settle down, but Will points out that he’s not really in a state to work and sends him off to go get a beer and relax.
At the Bluebird, Gunnar and Layla and Scarlett are hanging out. Gunnar and Layla are dressed like human beings, and Scarlett looks like she is wearing an Anthropologie dress she originally bought for her own prairie-themed Pinterest bridal shower.
She’s super excited about Autumn Chase and advises Layla to be herself. Gunnar makes a joke about the handsome wingmen who will help her seal the deal with Autumn. As if by magic, Avery and Will decide to text separately to announce they’re not coming—Will to write, Avery to meet Juliette. Autumn arrives and greets them, and Scarlett and Gunnar go off to sing. “Just for the record, Layla’s awesome,” Gunnar says sweetly right before leaving. An awkward silence, nervous on Layla’s part, falls as soon as the two women are alone.
Frankie busts into the Dead Sister Bar’s main room, late for his set. As I’ve discussed perhaps too much already, he already talks most of the time like he’s too falling-down drunk to worry about things like pronouncing his consonants (or his vowels), so the main reason you can tell he’s shitfaced here is that he’s swaying side to side as he walks—and smiling at Deacon. Frankie shakes Deacon and Cash off to get onstage, and he starts looking worried.
Back at the Bluebird, Autumn and Layla have hit it off: Autumn gently teases Layla that they’re similar because she went to Harvard Elementary in Houston, Texas (Layla turned down Harvard to do her show), and her first boyfriend turned out to be gay. Then the Exes are introduced, and start their set. “Rayna really has an eye for talent,” Autumn says. Both of them listen, Layla looking happy and hopeful.
Colt arrives back at the farmhouse after dark to find Luke waiting for him on the porch steps. He says, “Do you know what you’re getting yourself into here? But I mean, really?” Colt’s like, yes, duh. Luke talks about his experience driving over an IED. He says that even though (as Colt snottily points out) he was in a VIP convoy, it was terrifying, whereas Colt could be on the front lines. He grows teary as he says that he loves Colt despite the problems between them and doesn’t want him to get hurt. Colt gives a little speech about how he’s found something he believes in and is going to do it even if it’s a little scary. So Luke, impressed, asks to hear more about it.
Frankie’s playing and takes a break to chide everyone for talking during his set “like a bunch of schoolgirls.” People start openly laughing at him so he gets belligerent, picking up a thermos that is clearly filled with alcohol and threatening to fight people. “Oh my God, he’s drunk,” Cash realizes. Deacon sends her outside and goes up on stage to wrestle Frankie off.
After commercial break, Deacon manages to get Frankie onto a couch, yelling at him for giving up fifteen years of sobriety. Frankie’s all, Joke’s on you, I drank before when you took the attention at Riff Bell’s show. “I saved your bar,” Deacon argues. “You erased me,” Frankie yells, “the second you hung up that sign out there with your dead sister’s name on it… it’s all about you.” Well, it’s true, Deacon has been utterly insufferable about this bar. On the other hand, Frankie gave birth to Cash, who is far more insufferable, so I guess I’m not sure whose side to take. When Frankie tries to leave, Deacon gets off my favorite line of the night: “There’s two ways this is gonna go, Frankie. Both of them involve you sleeping it off. Passed out… or knocked out.” Frankie decides discretion is the better part of valor, and falls asleep on the couch.
Alone in the studio, Will’s struggling over his songwriting. He finds old sheets of lyrics by himself and Kevin and listens to the mp3 on his laptop, looking happy.
Rayna shows up to the police station and tells the detective that she wants him to know that Vita has someone to advocate for her and demand answers. He pulls down a giant stack of files from the shelf. I totally thought that was going to be Vita’s giant rap sheet! Sadly, it’s just a huge pile of other open cases of missing girls like Vita, all of whose names he knows by heart. He tells her he wants justice for all of them, but that “girls like Vita have a tendency to end up in dicey situations.” Justice and a healthy dose of victim-blaming, eh?
In the Bro Castle, Avery’s carrying Cadence while Juliette follows him, thanking him for agreeing to this. He hands the baby over, and when she starts fussing Juliette has to reassure him that she’s fine with it. Avery leaves, and Juliette starts singing to Cadence. I’m not going to transcribe the lyrics, but it’s about forgiving yourself and moving on, and let’s just say it’s not exactly subtle. That said, her voice is pretty—and Avery, who’s listening from the hall, isn’t worried about subtlety. He leans his head against the wall, clearly moved.
Frankie emerges from the back room into the main room of the Dead Sister Bar to find Deacon waiting for him. He sits at a nearby table and apologizes. Deacon calls him a mean SOB, and Frankie says he didn’t mean it. But Deacon, to my great relief, admits that there was a lot of truth in what Frankie said, and that he got caught up and steamrolled Frankie. He sits down next to Frankie and apologizes for making him lose fifteen years. But Frankie takes responsibility for slipping, and for breaking his vow to Cash. Deacon promises he won’t be alone when he faces this.
At an industrial-looking cube farm, Luke asks Colt if he’s sure he wants to do this before telling a scary-looking dude that his son wants to join the Army.
Juliette’s at a press conference about the movie role, wearing a dress made out of fabric that I think my grandmother would have loved to use as a bathing suit circa 1989: khaki background, giant scarlet rose print. Someone asks her how she’s going to balance everything, including “being a single mom.” I love how everyone just assumes she’s the primary caregiver.
Juliette pauses and then suddenly spills her guts, saying that she wasn’t doing well, that she was headed down a bad path, and that she almost died and lost her daughter. “I apologize, I shouldn’t have signed on to do this movie. I need to be with my daughter right now,” she says. Um. What?! That was so silly. It probably wouldn’t have been if it were more fleshed out, but right now I have whiplash. Plus, it basically makes it seem like the only way to forgive herself is not to work, which… is not my favorite message. And doesn’t really address the fact that Juliette loves to work and is going to be bored as shit waiting around for those three hours with Cadence.
Luke and Colt are on their way out of the recruitment center when Luke stops Colt to say that he’s proud of him, and is learning from him. Colt steps in for a hug, surprisingly. Luke holds onto him, still looking scared.
Layla arrives at Highway 65 and gets a big hug from Rayna. Rayna says that Autumn loved her, but… Layla frowns. Cut to Gunnar repeating incredulously, “What do you mean, she picked us?” Yup, no one saw that coming. Scarlett and Gunnar both look freaked and a little guilty (more Scarlett than Gunnar). They leave in three days, apparently.
Holding a one-day chip, Frankie stands in front of his meeting and admits he’s back to one day. Cash is there in the front row with Deacon. He thanks Deacon, his “good buddy,” his daughter, and God, that he is winning today’s battle. Cash claps, tears in her eyes.
Luke is staring pensively into the distance when Will bursts in. He apologizes for not calling him back, but Will whines, “I get it, I’m not a priority, to you or anyone else.” Luke points out with a laugh that it was literally just yesterday. Will launches into a big rant about how hard he worked and how Luke has no right to keep his songs away from him. Luke agrees to release the songs, but he has something else he wants to offer: he says he dropped Will because he was afraid of how people would react, but he shouldn’t have given into his fear because he believes in Will. He apologizes and asks Will to come back to Wheelin’ Dealin’ Records. Tears in his eyes, Will shakes his hand and says, “You bet.”
This made me unreasonably happy! Also, although I think Colt has been kind of insufferable himself lately, I really liked this whole storyline of Luke’s moral degradation and Colt’s existential angst. It made a very solid arc that also happened to move along several other characters’ arcs (Maddie’s, Will’s, Layla and Jeff’s, and of course Juliette’s). And this resolution, where Luke finally earns Colt’s trust back and steps up for Will, is an earned payoff.
Rayna and Deacon meet up for their daily catchup at the James mansion. Deacon says the AA meeting was hard; Rayna says Highway 65 has been great. But she’s upset about the cases the detective told her about, all the girls who’ve disappeared, and how resigned he was. She announces she’s going to do something about it. Guys, what if there was a spinoff where Connie Britton stars in a musical detective procedural? How amazing would that be?
Layla’s leaving a teary message about the Autumn disaster for Avery , who had earlier told her she could call him if she needs anything. She’s curled up on her bed, holding back tears, and she starts sobbing as soon as she hangs up.
Meanwhile, Avery is at Juliette’s doorstep, bouncing Cadence. He says since she’s going to be around more, she should have more time with Cadence. He’s going to come get her in two hours. Generous! She says she didn’t drop out of the movie so he’d change his mind. He looks at her seriously and says, “I didn’t change my mind because you dropped out of the movie.”
Ah, I love these two. I don’t know if it’s the acting or the characters or both, but every time they have a scene together, it’s so good.
But poor Layla!