Nashville Recap: 5×01 “The Wayfaring Stranger”

Previously on Nashville: Scarlett and Gunnar got back together, Kevin and Will got back together, Maddie and her family got back together, and Juliette and Avery almost got back together but her plane disappeared.

A car pulls up to a gas station in the middle of nowhere. The attendant is excited to recognize a loose-haired Rayna Jaymes under the driver’s baseball cap. She gives him an autograph, then sees an old white dude in sunglasses singing “Wayfaring Stranger” (which also featured, I believe, at Scarlett’s dumb mom’s funeral). Rayna approaches him and asks him to keep singing, sounding tearful.

A title card flashes us to three weeks earlier. Thank goodness, we’re at the wreckage of the plane, because obviously no one cares about Rayna till we find out if Juliette is alive (even though, also, we all totally know she is alive, because a) she was in all the trailers and b) the rules of TV). The camera pans over at least one body, and other debris, near the wreckage—then close-up on Juliette, twisted on the ground. A young woman is on the phone calling emergency services and notices that Juliette is still alive. She promises her that she’ll be right there, then puts a blanket over her. Juliette sees a hazy vision of her rescuer, who starts singing a song to comfort her.

Scarlett and Gunnar appear to be post-coital, which I grudgingly suppose is understandable for newly reunited lovers even when your best friend’s estranged wife might have just died in a fiery plane crash. Avery busts in and tells them that they found the plane and it crashed twenty miles away. Scarlett leaps up to get the baby.

Will picks up his phone and gets the news, and then Maddie wakes up Rayna and Deacon to show them the footage on the news, where Juliette is reported to be the only survivor. Meanwhile, Juliette is wheeled into the hospital with a gnarly head wound.

And, credits. We’re back, y’all!

Juliette is sitting in a wheelchair in the hospital, staring out the window, while Bucky-or-Glenn natters about all the calls she’s gotten and Avery waits in the background, holding a still very adorable Cadence. Juliette smiles big at both her and Avery, but rolls her eyes at the doctor when she comes in, and makes a disappointed noise about her spinal cord. For those keeping count, it’s been three weeks, and only Juliette’s toe is moving, and two of her vertebrae were shattered (although the doctor pronounces it “vertebra”). She tells her that since nerve cells grow out of her brain, she should think good thoughts. Yeah, because that’s how science works.

Rayna’s packing her purse in her bedroom while Deacon distracts her with his biceps and his kissing. She’s going to go visit Juliette, which Deacon apparently has also been regularly doing, but separately. She also complains about Maddie, Bucky calling her with bad news that she’s not interested in (probably something to do with Highway 65, which should probably be renamed “Number 65 on Rayna’s Priority List” OHH BURN), and a gig she agreed to do for some start-up guy. I like how this conversation started out with Juliette’s life-threatening injuries and ended with Rayna pitying herself for… having a bustling family and professional life, I guess?

Anyway, she gets to the hospital and interrupts Juliette in a physical therapy session. Juliette tells her she doesn’t have to keep coming, but there’s a very genuine, shy smile on her face. She obviously appreciates it. And she even bothers to ask after Rayna’s life, which shows how much better she’s actually doing from when she was in the midst of her post-partum spiral. Rayna realizes she’s crying and promises she’s here for Juliette. Juliette promises that she’s “really good,” and Rayna agrees, “You’re amazing.” But Juliette confesses that there’s so much pressure to get better that she can’t handle. Rayna grabs her arm and Juliette says that she caused this by killing Jeff and messing everything up in her life. Dude, that was like twelve episodes ago, everyone’s forgotten about it. Rayna agrees with me, saying that everyone messes up. Then Juliette reveals that she thinks she was saved by an angel, who kept her alive by singing. Rayna decides to go the safe route and simply agree that the song is beautiful, and an angel wouldn’t save Juliette if she was already doomed.

Notice how long this paragraph was, by the way. The script’s a little treacly for my tastes, and seems about one step away from being printed to be sold on those discount spirituality book racks at CVS, but at least this was a fully developed scene with a beginning, middle and an end. By the time Nashville hit season 4, most of the plot developments were so rushed that the dialogue was basically like spoken summaries of scenes than actual conversations. If this is what Connie Britton meant when she said that Nashville would be less soapy this season, I’ll take it!

Bucky comes up to Rayna in her office at Highway 65, but luckily, it’s not a work-related message. Those are so boring, amirite? He’s just telling her that he got Maddie out of her contract with the other label, for a cool $275K. Oh, and he sneaks in a little work stuff: the Exes have been kicked off their tour, and Highway 65 has no revenue. They’re going to pay the electric bill with Rayna’s old royalty payments. Rayna tries to look sad, but since she doesn’t actually give a shit about Highway 65, she just looks slightly less radiant than usual.

That night, she sits on Youtube watching indie acts that are actually kinda fun-looking. Deacon finds her there and tries to comfort her by reminding her that they have each other and their family, and it doesn’t matter if they lose the house or fail. Uh, I don’t think you’d sing the same tune if it was your dumb bar named after your sister that was about to fail, Deacon. Rayna simply says, “I don’t want to fail.” I think that’s really the problem. She doesn’t actually care about this label—and yet failing at anything is not pleasant, either.

Back at the Jaymes mansion, Rayna is packing for her Silicon Valley gig. Maddie wants to play her a song she’s writing, and Rayna is legit not interested. I mean, I know she has to go on some trip or whatever, but… she can’t listen to a four-minute song? By her own daughter? That, last episode, she was in TOTAL ANGUISH over having possibly lost forever? What is up with Rayna these days? Daphne’s on Rayna’s side, though. She basically tells Maddie to shut up. But Maddie, instead of pitching a giant fit like she usually does, at the one moment where I actually think she’d be justified, just follows Rayna around with her guitar and sings a verse. Rayna actually tells her it’s beautiful. Maddie says she doesn’t have a chorus. “Maybe you don’t need a chorus,” says Rayna. No one takes this seriously, as they shouldn’t. Daphne offers to help write one, but Maddie snaps, “No.” Okay then.

Daphne, wise young tween that she is, changes the subject to Rayna’s trip. Why’s she going to Silicon Valley? “Bunch of rich people,” says Maddie, while sitting at the marble island in the giant kitchen of her mansion (and staring at her phone). “That’s good. We could use the money,” says Daphne while standing at the same marble island in the same giant kitchen. Then they discuss “Boogaroo,” the social media app run by the company that’s hired Rayna for a gig. Rayna kisses Deacon good-bye, telling him she can’t breathe. Deacon helpfully tells her he can’t breathe looking at her. This, unsurprisingly, doesn’t really help. Then she kisses the girls goodbye and leaves for the private plane Boogaroo sent, which gives everyone a moment of nervous pause.

Sitting alone the plane, Rayna uses her tablet to scroll through news articles about the CEO of Boogaroo. Then she crosses her hands over her chest as the plane hits turbulence, plainly freaking out. (Plainly! Get it? I didn’t even do it on purpose!) The flight attendant reassures her it’s just turbulence, but she still freaks.

After the commercial break, Rayna’s in Silicon Valley, settling into her hotel room, perfectly safe. Deacon calls to check in, and she tells him she had a panic attack on the plane—not in so many words, but he identifies it as one easily enough. He points out it’s because of Juliette, and Rayna says it didn’t even occur to her. Rayna is … not the brightest spangle on the dress.

On the TV, Juliette, surrounded by news reporters, is being wheeled into her house. The reporters aren’t sure if the wheelchair means she’s really seriously injured.

Rayna arrives at Boogaroo and is welcomed by a coordinator, then by a young man in a hoodie who’s thrilled to see her: Zack Wells, apparently the CEO, who leads her into the green room and shows her the spread they’ve laid out for her. Then he immediately admits to being a huge “fanboy” of hers. She says she’s a fan of his too… although she’s never used his app. Heh. Then he thanks her for helping them raise $1.5 million for scleraderma. She asks him if there actually are country music fans in Silicon Valley. (For the record, OF COURSE THERE ARE COUNTRY MUSIC FANS IN SILICON VALLEY! I mean, we don’t technically live in Silicon Valley, but two of the three Adversion writers are in tech, and we love country music!) But of course, Zack just fudges that he’s not sure, but he’s a fan. Rayna rolls her eyes in chagrin.

At the gig itself, Rayna pours her heart into the performance and Zack looks like he’s on Cloud 9. Then she realizes no one’s listening. I mean, it’s a charity benefit, not a concert in a church, so I’m not sure what she expected, but I guess it must be hard to perform to a completely disinterested crowd.

Back at home, Maddie sings the verse for Deacon and then stops, saying the song dies after that moment. He gives her a few suggestions, but she doesn’t quite agree with them, and they commiserate about how hard songwriting is. Then Maddie comes in, eager to show something to Daphne. Maddie is seven kinds of condescending to Daphne, thinking that she’s just interrupting for something irrelevant. When she realizes what Daphne wants, she yells at her that this is her song, and Daphne storms out, telling her that actually, it’s just half a song. Go, Daphne!

Back at Boogaroo, Rayna’s performance ends, and Zack apologizes to her, saying he wanted to strangle several of his friends. Then he offers to buy her a drink.

Someone else who’s been affected by the plane crash is Juliette herself, who wakes up from a dream of the crash and emerges into her living room to find Avery strumming on his guitar. She asks him to take her somewhere, and he simply looks at her and says he’ll call Emily. What a guy. I love these two. I don’t even care if my recapping devolves into fannishness. AVERY AND JULIETTE FOREVER, OKAY?!

Back at the Jaymes mansion, Scarlett and Gunnar are hanging out with Deacon and Daphne. Deacon teases Scarlett about some bird she nursed, even building it a nest. “Did it live?” Gunnar asks, in what I fully believe may be his only line of this episode. “Oh no, that bird died,” says Deacon hilariously. Daphne plays the chorus she wrote for Maddie’s song for everyone, and it’s great. But of course Maddie walks in in the middle and reacts with her usual wisdom and grace, aka none at all. She yells at Daphne that it’s her song and she doesn’t want Daphne’s help. Isn’t it time for Daphne to go through her teenager phase, and for Maddie to, I don’t know, grow up a little?

At Boogaroo, Rayna’s getting an earful of Zack’s childhood problems, so that the show can pretend he’s not just a deus ex machina. Then he asks her why she’s not recording. He tells her she’s amazing and he wants to hear anything she wants to sing. She finally says, she’s not recording because she doesn’t have anything to say. She blames it on Nashville, and the pressure, and her label, causing her to forget who she is as an artist, but I think it’s not really about that. It’s about her having too weak of a psychological center: she’s forgotten who she is as an artist because she barely knows who she is as a person. In a way, Rayna is the least mature character, and the one who has grown the least, in the course of the show. For four seasons, she has put off making any choices until the last possible moment, tumbling through life as if it’s entirely out of her control, whether it’s choosing boyfriends or letting her label fail. The only reason she has remained likable this whole time is that she’s played by probably the most likable human currently on this planet. Anyway, Zack Ex Machina suggests she find a way to start getting passionate about music again.

Speaking of people who have actually grown up a lot, even if their enunciation has not improved AT ALL, here’s Scarlett , coming to give Maddie the big-sisterly talk she desperately needs. Maddie whines that she knows she was mean to Daphne, but it was her song. Scarlett points out that the song was beautiful, and tells Maddie that she herself has been saved by many people when she was stuck at a creative point. She says it’s hard to be a creative person, and that she’s lucky to have collaborators.

Meanwhile, Avery and Juliette are living in an entirely different timeline where it’s the middle of the night and has been for the last several scenes. They’ve arrived at the scene of the crash, but Avery doesn’t think Juliette’s going to see anything. Juliette insists she’s going to get out of the car.

Rayna’s back at her hotel. She sighs and stares at her flight alert (she’s rocking some great candy-pink nail polish) and then calls Deacon and tells him she can’t get on the plane. He mansplains that she shouldn’t give in to her panic. She tries not to cry, and to explain that she can’t do it. He tells her he’ll call her in the morning and it will be better then.

Avery and Juliette struggle through the grass until Juliette finally agrees to let Avery push her wheelchair. But immediately he pushes her over a rock or something, and the chair stops. He picks her up, telling her, “Put your arms around me.”

In her hotel room, Rayna watches a video of an old white man singing ‘Wayfaring Stranger.” I legit can’t tell if it’s the same dude from the first scene.

Avery puts Juliette down at the site, and she says this can’t be it if there’s nothing here. “I thought I was gonna die,” she says, “Why didn’t I die?” Avery holds her as she cries. Ugh, I love it. Everyone shut up while I watch this moment.

Rayna wakes up in bed to a knock on the door from room service. Of course, it’s Deacon, who she greets in excited disbelief. He apparently caught a last-minute flight “Cause my girl’s in trouble.” She just pulls him into bed with her instead of talking about the plane.

It’s morning over in Nashville, too, and Avery and the disappointed Juliette are still in his car at the crash site. She asks him to take her home—and he leans over and kisses her! YAY.

In bed, Rayna and Deacon cuddle and joke about Rayna’s sex hair. Then Deacon announces that they’re gonna get her on that airplane. I love how he thinks the power of their love is magical enough to save her. You’d think Deacon of all people would’ve learned that love isn’t always a magic spell. Rayna tells him that she’s lost because there’s so much coming at her all the time, even though it’s stuff she asked for and that she loves.

Gunnar and Scarlett come down to the Jaymes living room in the morning to find Maddie with her guitar. Scarlett’s in a strappy silk nightdress that, while it is ankle-length, still seems weirdly inappropriate for a sleepover at your uncle’s house. Gunnar gets one more line about how they stayed over to help Maddie and Daphne not kill each other. Scarlett jokes that it was for the free food. Then Maddie calls to Daphne, who hesitates before her cautious answer. Maddie asks her to play the chorus again and admits that she might have liked it. She says it wasn’t fair that she didn’t really listen before. Maddie starts by singing the verse and Daphne continues with the chorus, which actually gets a little smile out of Maddie. They fist-bump when the song’s over. OK, I know this isn’t how real life works, but since this is TV, can this sincere apology be the end of Bratty Maddie?

On their way home, Juliette and Avery stop at a roadside farmstand for smoothies. As Avery’s ordering, Juliette overhears singing from a church across the street and wheels herself over to it. The choir soloist is her rescuer from the night of the crash. Juliette smiles tearily.

Back to Rayna’s road trip and the man at the gas station. We see almost the entire first opening scene again. When she says she’s rather hear him sing it, he asks if she’s not a singer. She admits to singing. “In the shower?” he says and grins somewhat lasciviously. Instead of running away from the creepy old dude, Rayna just smiles. He tells her if she would let herself sing, she might find the joy she’s looking for—so she sits down to sing with him.

Well I thought this was a good episode, despite missing the very talented Aubrey Peeples and Will Chase. I have a good feeling about its future on CMT. But someone please give Gunnar a storyline! This is sad!



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