Previously on Nashville: People didn’t want to play Will on the radio because he was gay; Maddie filed for emancipation; Rayna threatened Cash; Scarlett and Gunnar got stuck in an elevator and then made out; Juliette asked for another chance with Avery, but he made out with Layla instead.
Rayna is getting ready for court. It’s an intense process, involving brow pencil and everything. “You are a good mother,” Deacon tells her as he puts on his suit. He says that Cash is pulling the wool over Maddie’s eyes, but that “no judge is going to rule in favor of a sixteen-year-old runaway.” For the sake of sixteen-year-olds who have actual abusive parents, I hope that dismissive statement is not true. Both parents look sad and worried.
It’s nomination time, and Emily is serving Juliette coffee and answering her subtle questions trying to figure out if Avery is having an affair with Layla. Juliette is the first nominee, and Emily and Glenn, tellingly, hug before they even hug Juliette. She looks thrilled; it’s quite nice to see, although we know that sweet smile can’t last.
Scarlett and Gunnar are sleeping in bed totally nekkid when someone bangs on the door to wake Scarlett up, saying she’s twenty minutes late for Rolling Stone and Gunnar isn’t in his room. Scarlett actually plays this cool. She wakes Gunnar as soon as the guy’s gone, and then gets in the shower, which, funny, that’s what I do when I’m already twenty minutes late for an interview with the biggest magazine in my field.
Just kidding. I would never do that, because I’m normal.
Speaking of showers, Will’s taking one when his song comes on the radio. He gets so excited that he turns off the shower, his head covered in shampoo, and yells adorably, “My song’s on the damn radio!” to himself. Then he accidentally hits himself in the eye with his shampoo-y hand and yells and holds his eyes. Cutest and funniest scene of the year.
Scarlett and Gunnar are dashing down in the elevator, and being all cute and girlfriend-boyfriend-y. Scarlett assures Gunnar it wasn’t just the Scotch, and they’re about to kiss when they get down to the ground floor.
Rayna and Deacon are getting the rundown of what to expect from an emancipation hearing from their lawyer. He explains all about how there will be cross-examinations and objections, but no outbursts. DO YOU HEAR THAT DEACON? He also explains that since Maddie’s a minor the public’s not allowed in. But Frankie’s somehow here, and he saunters in, tieless, and slurs to Deacon that Cash invited him. Next to arrive are Cash and Maddie, Maddie in a bun with about eight too many loose curls around her face, a pretty realistic “teen trying to look grown-up” ‘do. She and Rayna make awkward eye contact.
Avery picks up the phone to Juliette’s call. Layla sleepily wakes up and murmurs, “What’s going on?” just as Juliette starts to give Avery the good news. She totally did that on purpose so whoever called Avery would know he had a girl with him. Avery hastily excuses himself to… around the corner, where Layla can totally hear him, as Juliette interrogates him. He makes an infuriated grimace and says it doesn’t matter who he’s with. Layla hears all of this.
Juliette hangs up, stricken, and tells Emily that Avery’s with Layla. Emily pinches her lips, presumably not because she thinks divorced husbands should never date but because she knows she’s in for a whole new level of Julietteness from Juliette.
After the credits, Juliette is indeed yelling at Emily, asking if she’s been covering for Avery. Emily, who’s way too beaten down to draw any kind of actual boundary wherein she refuses to monitor the sex life of her boss’s ex-husband, just assures Juliette she didn’t know about it. Juliette says she feels like an idiot, and explains what happened in rather self-serving terms: that she went to Avery’s room last night and said she still loved him, and he said he still loved her. All three of those things technically happened, but that’s skipping all of the yelling, sadness and reproaches, so I don’t think Emily has the full picture when she asks why Avery would be sleeping with Layla if he still loves Juliette. Juliette comes to an epiphany and says Layla’s manipulating everyone: she took Juliette’s old manager, got a spot on Juliette’s old tour, and then seduced Juliette’s old flame. “She is TRYING TO STEAL MY LIFE!” she yells in all-caps at Emily. Emily asks why she would do that. Juliette doesn’t answer that, which is possibly nice of her because at least Emily gets to retain one shred of innocence.
Avery’s getting dressed while Layla sulks in bed. She asks if that was Juliette, and Avery explains. “Good for her,” she says in that passive-aggressive way, keeping her back to him. Avery puts his hand on her shoulder and tries to reassure her, saying he has to go but he had a great time. They kiss, but Layla does not look happy.
The Rolling Stone reporter is named Stephanie, and she’s nice about Gunnar and Scarlett being, presumably, 45 minutes late. She says they’re going to take pictures for the article. Gunnar and Scarlett are super goopy: Gunnar orders coffee for both of them, they retell the silly story from last week about how, surprise, they didn’t meet first at the Bluebird, and they hold hands under the table. Scarlett credits Gunnar for getting her to write music.
Maddie’s testifying at her hearing about how she’ll support herself. Rayna then testifies that she doesn’t want Maddie to worry about supporting herself now, and that both fathers agree. She brings up Maddie’s “living situation” and Cash’s poor judgment. Cash’s testimony is as annoying as you would expect: she says that Rayna and Deacon brought her in as a songwriting partner for Maddie and said she was great for Maddie. (The former story is 100% not true, by the way: it was Cash’s idea to write with Maddie. I don’t know why Rayna’s side doesn’t point that out.) She says she’s trying to get Maddie “out from underneath” her parents and that they’re “truly trying to keep her down.” Gross.
Somehow Rayna then gets back on the stand and says that Cash is trying to exploit Maddie and acting as her manager. Then Maddie’s back on the stand, denying this and saying that she asked Cash to be her manager. I’m extremely confused. Is everyone just taking turns giving thirty seconds of testimony? Anyway, it all concludes with Rayna pleading to Maddie that she loves her, and not to push her away. Maddie gives her a dead-eyed stare.
Avery’s putting Cadence down to sleep when Emily comes in, looking all reproachful because he’s sleeping with Layla. I guess Juliette’s crazy is a little contagious if Emily thinks this is something to reproach him about. Avery says it just happened last night. “So, right after Juliette showed up on your doorstep and told you she loved you,” Emily points out, and she’s not wrong. [Janes: Well, like you said before, it’s not like anyone was under the impression that he was welcoming her back with open arms.] Avery says it’s complicated and he wants a fresh start. Emily says “It’s your life,” which she clearly doesn’t believe, and then leaves after a parting shot: she hopes Avery is not doing this just to keep himself away from Juliette.
Meanwhile, Juliette has decided to call Luke and demand whether Layla knows about the rooftop, so I guess she really doesn’t care who knows that she’s unhinged. Luke says he doesn’t think so, and Juliette yells, “She’s sleeping with my husband!” Luke, who’s actually in many ways one of the most grown-up people on the show these days, is pretty calm, pointing out that it’s her ex-husband. Juliette yells that this must be Layla’s psychotic revenge. He says she’s being paranoid, and that people who work together often just fall for each other. “Avery would NEVER choose her, not unless she wormed her way into his good graces. This girl’s got an agenda, and I am gonna prove it!” Juliette screams wildly and then throws her phone across the room. Heh. One step forward, two steps back, as always with Juliette!
Luke gets another call and answers with a plea for the caller to be sane. Indeed it is: it’s Kenneth, telling him that Will’s getting radio play—but that an Ann Coulter stand-in named Cynthia Davis is ranting on her talk show about him promoting “avowed homosexuals.”
Back at the hotel, Scarlett is telling Stephanie the Reporter that she only has a problem performing alone, and she’s fine now that she’s with the Exes. Stephanie asks about Zoe, who was in the group before Scarlett. While she was dating Gunnar. Scarlett says she wasn’t bothered at first because she didn’t know about it. Hee. The reporter gloms onto this, and as Gunnar tries to save the situation, Scarlett takes her hand off Gunnar’s and says that it was “a chapter we saw different” [sic]. (I really have to wonder what the grammar in her much-vaunted poems was like.)
Back in the courtroom, Maddie’s lawyer counsels them that they won’t win unless they “turn the dial up” and use their “alternate strategy,” whatever that is. Maddie doesn’t want to do that, but Cash says, “Tara says that we have to.” This is the worst lawyer I’ve ever seen. She can hear Maddie saying she doesn’t want to do this, but she doesn’t jump in at all to make sure that Maddie is being heard, and just lets Cash peer pressure the shit out of her. Finally, Cash asks Maddie how badly she wants her freedom. Cash is the worst.
Maddie goes back on the stand AGAIN. What kind of bullshit disorganized “hearing” is this? How many times can one witness actually be called to the stand? Anyway, the lawyer asks some softball questions about Deacon, who lifts his head, looking dully worried. The lawyer asks if Maddie’s ever been scared of Deacon. Maddie hesitates, but there’s Cash, nodding at her to go on. Shut up, Cash. Maddie goes into the paparazzi shoving, the mirror breaking, etc. Then they get to the clincher: the lawyer asks if Maddie’s ever feared for her personal safety around Deacon. There’s a long pause while Maddie almost balks—but then, crying, she says, “Yes. And I would not feel safe living with him anymore.” She breaks down in tears. The judge does not look pleased.
Will and Luke are consulting on their response to Cynthia. Will doesn’t want to respond, and Luke suggests Ellen instead, which: fair. But Will says, “I don’t want to talk. At all.” He says the fact that it’s a good single is all that should matter. Luke says that they can’t just ignore the shot and offers to go on Cynthia’s show instead. He says she’s not as unreasonable as she sounds. That’s kind of a weird thing to say about a foaming-at-the-mouth bigot, but OK. Will agrees, sounding (wisely) nervous.
Scarlett and Gunnar return to their interview after a sound check, and Stephanie presses them on their personal relationship, asking how it started. They act cute at first, but when she presses them on who made the first move and Scarlett admits that it was because Gunnar’s brother had just died, things go south fast. As soon as Stephanie gets a call and steps away, Gunnar accuses Scarlett of giving him pity sex. By the time Stephanie returns, he’s angrily chewing on the neck of his water bottle and Scarlett has sunk into her seat.
At whatever concert hall Luke’s tour is at, Juliette is striding down the hallway just as Avery stops by Layla’s dressing room to talk. He starts listing the complications in his life, and just then Juliette arrives at the door and starts shamelessly eavesdropping. Layla agrees that last night was wonderful, but says she cares about Avery too much to add to his complications. She suggests going back to being friends. Avery says that she’s been “a great friend, and talented as hell, and uncomplicated, and that’s a beautiful thing.” (Oh, poor Avery. He is so no match for the women he dates. The fact that he’s looking at this grieving, manipulative, fragile, impulsive girl and saying she’s uncomplicated is terrific; besides being unintentionally funny, it shows how much his vision is skewed by Juliette still, and how completely he doesn’t know what he’s getting into.) Anyway, he says if she’s not scared to deal with his mess, he’d like to give their relationship a shot. I don’t think that’s what he came in there to say; I think her apparent selflessness did the trick. Although my guess is that she said that out of pride, sensing that he was about to dump her, not out of genuine selflessness. [Janes: It could be both!] Juliette looks on as they kiss, horrified.
Maddie is being cross-examined and has to admit that she was never physically hurt by Deacon. The judge tells her to step down, presumably for the third or fourth time, and she steps, sobbing, into Cash’s arms. Then her lawyer calls Deacon to the stand. She asks about the altercation with Teddy, a fight with a member of the Revel Kings (who even remembers that one), an altercation with Luke Wheeler, an accidental black eye he gave to Rayna before the show started… a whole litany of things that sound, frankly, not great for Deacon. Deacon starts out protesting, but finally he realizes what’s happening: he gives Frankie a horrified look and admits to all of it. He and Rayna look progressively more and more torn up as Deacon continues to admit to worse and worse things.
Outside of the courthouse, Deacon tells Rayna Frankie revealed things he told him in confidence. The lawyer exposits about their attempts at rebuttal and the fact that the judge is going to make a decision the next morning.
OK. A lot of this storyline is great (and I’ll go into more detail on that in a second) but I feel like the show is changing the moral universe on us. Often on nighttime soaps, male characters just kind of get in fights when the writers need something exciting to put in the climax. And you enter this sort of alternate reality where men fighting is totally normal (hey, maybe in Tennessee it is, I dunno) and it’s more of a boys-will-be-boys thing. It’s not something that would give you serious pause about, say, marrying a guy–or spawning with him. But in the real world, a guy who gets in a lot of fights is just a plain old violent guy. And this courtroom seems to exist in the real world, whereas Deacon and Rayna have been living in the fake soap opera world. It seems to undercut the way the show has been looking at Deacon as a romantic hero who’s made a few minor mistakes.
Luke’s teleconferencing into Cynthia’s show, with a blank monitor instead of being able to see her face, which obviously unsettles him. Will is watching, making scornful, disbelieving noises every time Cynthia says something offensive, which is every time she opens her mouth. She asks him cattily, “Why use your celebrity status to tell people what to think?” Gross. He says, however, that he’s only interested in good music and that Will being gay has nothing to do with it. (Will makes very happy noises about that.) Then Cynthia demands if promoting his music is “tacit approval of his lifestyle.” Luke takes a bit more of a stand, saying that that lifestyle isn’t an issue for Luke. But she presses him even more, asking if he would be happy if his own son were gay. Luke has to admit that he wouldn’t be happy because his life would be harder—but his feed cuts out the moment he says he wouldn’t be happy. Cynthia loves this, and with Luke no longer on her split-screen she starts yammering on and on about how whatever dumbass people watch her show should be protesting the radio stations’ “immorality.” She’s the worst. Meanwhile, an upset Will is rubbing his face on the couch.
At home at the Jaymes mansion, Deacon and Rayna are not having a good evening. Deacon can’t believe Frankie broke his trust, and admits that he would be scared of himself too. But Rayna still thinks Maddie was being manipulated, and hopes the judge is a reasonable person. (I think they’d better hope the judge is an unreasonable person who thinks drunk driving and bar fighting is a super cool thing to do, actually…) Rayna goes upstairs, leaving Deacon in the kitchen, and falls onto the bed in Maddie’s room. Which leads me to a serious question: Why did Maddie run away without her Beatz headphones?
Scarlett and Gunnar are still in the interview, and now they’re being grilled about their brief flirtations with separate careers. Except Gunnar is flat-out refusing to talk, like the giant toddler he is. Scarlett gives the whole story about how Gunnar missed an audition. Stephanie asks why Scarlett said no when he proposed—and when they look alarmed, she says she’s already talked to Autumn. So Scarlett admits that they had already broken up when that happened, and then says that she thought he just proposed because he was sad about his brother. I don’t think Scarlett realizes that dead brothers aren’t quite the aphrodisiac to other people that they are to herself. At this point Gunnar rudely cuts the interview off. As Go Fug Yourself pointed out, this reporter is an idiot if she doesn’t smell drama here.
Rayna comes downstairs to find the kitchen empty. Where is Deacon? Yup, he went to the Beverly like the hotheaded idiot he is, where Frankie is having the time of his life introducing some singer–whose name I don’t know, but according to how Frankie pronounces it, it is something like “Mmmfffurgurgle Hurgleburble.” When Frankie comes offstage, Deacon brings him outside to talk.
Outside, Deacon asks how Frankie could do that when he’s Deacon’s sponsor. Frankie says it’s because Deacon’s wife threatened to ruin Cash’s career (and yes, I had to rewind this on Hulu about eight times to figure out what the hell Frankie was saying. Is he drunk again? How is he actually slurring worse than Scarlett?). Deacon says that Cash has leeched onto Maddie and has no career of her own, which is an excellent point. But Frankie has a good comeback, in the form of a sucker punch to the jaw. Then he calls Deacon a leech and says Rayna’s a “downright bitch.” Deacon takes a swing at him, and as his nose becomes a truly disgusting fountain of blood, Frankie keeps yelling something that I can’t be bothered to try to decipher, but which I’m sure is insulting and petty like everything else Frankie says. Other people appear to pull Deacon off Frankie, and Frankie yells that Deacon tried to kill him.
Well, this should end well.
Later, as Deacon is slammed into the back of a police car, Rayna calls him desperately, worried.
Luke tries to reassure Will that they got their message out, but Will is scrolling through Twitter and can tell that no one really bought. He blames Luke for not lying low like Will wanted him to. Luke protests that someone had to say something if Will wasn’t going to. Will chuckles scornfully, but Luke is totally right, and he grudgingly says he appreciates it. Luke reassures him that even if things get worse, “You have my word, we are in this fight together.” Aw. See, Luke is the only grown-up on this show.
After hanging up with Will, Luke comes into Juliette’s dressing room to wish her luck, but finds her crying. Juliette explains that Layla isn’t manipulating Avery, that she “gave him an out and he didn’t take it.” Well. Maybe she’s just a more subtle manipulator than Juliette, whose tactics are more on the phone-throwing, tantrum-having side of things. But that’s even worse than she thought, Juliette adds: “He had a choice and he chose her? Layla Grant?” Hah. Luke asks why she hates Layla so much, and Juliette admits it’s easier to hate her than deal with what she did to her.
Again: loving grown-up Luke! What a great payoff to his arc earlier this season.
As the Exes prepare to go onstage, Scarlett reproaches Gunnar for making her carry the whole interview herself. He says something nasty about not wanting to give the reporter two versions of events. Scarlett plays dumb, and Gunnar bursts out to say that he proposed because he loved her, not because of his brother, but she chose to see it in the worst possible light. He sounds like he’s about to cry. It’s pretty sad. Then he returns to jerky form, saying she’s always going to be a judgmental person who’s afraid of getting hurt.
Just then they’re called up onstage. Gunnar storms ahead. Scarlett steels herself, screwing her earpiece in tighter. They begin singing, and their dancing is all awkward because Gunnar won’t play nice, so Scarlett gets pissed and takes center stage, singing without even trying to dance with him. This is the song that’s their first single—the one she wrote without him. Which I think adds to the idea that she’s pointedly upstaging him.
Juliette, wearing a cute little hoodie, knocks on Layla’s dressing room door. She’s smiling in a sweet, nervous way as she asks to talk.
Cut to the end of Juliette “confessing.” She says that Jeff had a big heart and died saving her life. Crying, she says she’s sorry “for taking away the man that you loved” and that she hopes to give Layla comfort and closure. Then she asks if Layla’s okay. With tears drying on her cheeks, Layla says, steel in her soft voice, “Look, I appreciate you finally coming clean, but this changes nothing between us.” Ooh, gauntlet thrown. Juliette stops crying and says she knows.
Rayna visits Deacon in jail, and the minute she sits down he’s trying to wiggle out of responsibility, saying that it’s all Frankie’s fault. Rayna asks why he went there and what he thought would happen. Deacon keeps saying that Frankie came after him, but Rayna says if he didn’t want this to happen, he would have told her—because she would have stopped him. “You listened to everything they said in that court and you went there anyway.” POINT FOR RAYNA. Deacon says lamely, “I’m sorry baby.” Rayna gives him a disappointed look that contains the history of the thousand times she heard those three words from him before this show even started, and hangs up.
I’m thrilled that for once, Connie Britton really gets to show her acting chops—not that she doesn’t do a good job with Rayna usually, but the character’s motivations tend to be much flimsier most of the time. And I’m also liking how this problem is so complex: yes, Cash is the actual worst, and it’s easy to root for Maddie coming to her senses and returning to Rayna and Deacon. But this moment shows how naive Rayna and Deacon are to think that the concept of Maddie being emancipated is absolutely ridiculous. They do have problems they haven’t really dealt with, Deacon especially; and when Maddie brought this up before the wedding Rayna barely even listened to her. (They should’ve drilled into that a bit more in the courtroom—how devastating would that have been?) So there’s a lot of complexity in this storyline, and a lot of threads that have been developing for years. It’s quite well done.
Juliette, wearing a slutty sparkling dress as usual, runs into Avery in the hall and asks him if he’s happy. “Good, you deserve it,” she says. He thanks her and wishes her a good show. She smiles through tears, visibly letting him go. Luke comes up behind her to ask if she’s all right, and she tells him she let Avery go and told Layla the truth. He puts an arm around her, adorably, and says something about how hard doing the right thing is. Then he asks if he can help. Well, Juliette has one idea. And no, it’s not kicking Layla off the tour. So, she’s definitely showing growth!
Scarlett and Gunnar bid good-bye to Stephanie, who thanks them and asks one last question: after everything they’ve been through, why is it working now? Oh, wow. She is totally blind to the fact that they were about to punch each other’s lights out the whole day! Scarlett says pointedly, “It only works ‘cause we’re the exes.” Gunnar agrees. And yet another obstacle comes between them.
Juliette is onstage singing, and Luke comes in to join her after the first verse. They have a really fun, smiley chemistry between them (whether that’s friendly or romantic is hard to tell, but he’d hardly be the oldest man she ever slept with—remember her and Deacon?! Because I don’t, usually). But it’s great to watch; it’s the most fun Juliette’s had in quite a long time, and Luke too, actually.
Avery and Layla are watching, and Layla muses, “Ever wanted to hear something from someone for so long and then when you finally do it just doesn’t really matter anymore?” Instead of saying, “Yes, that happened last night when Juliette said she still loved me and wanted to get back together,” Avery furrows his brow and says he doesn’t know what she means. Not the shiniest sequin on the dress, that Avery. Meanwhile, onstage, Juliette and Luke are grinding like teenagers at their first dance, which Avery notices—and which Layla notices him noticing. They leave together.
Will’s still hanging out alone on his couch at the Bro Castle with a beer. Poor Will! He needs more friends! Anyway, some talk show is recapping the Cynthia-Luke debacle and saying there’s been no public comment from Will. (God, I really hope this finally spurs him to talk. It isn’t fair that he has to, but sometimes life demands unfair things of us, and I want to see him step up.) But what there has been is vandalism: a truck drives by and leaves his car alarm beeping, and the car covered in homophobic graffiti.
The judge has somehow gotten ahold of Deacon’s mug shot from the previous night, and says that she is granting the emancipation and voiding the contract with Highway 65. She issues a temporary restraining order against Deacon—and tells Rayna that if she contacts Maddie, she’ll get hit with the same thing. Wow, that sucks.
Rayna is crying towards the table. Cash hugs Maddie and whispers, “We did it.” Shut up, Cash. Rayna stands and sobs in Maddie’s general direction, and Maddie says quietly, “I’m gonna be OK, Mom,” before leaving with Cash and her lawyer. Rayna falls back into her chair, crying.