Nashville is a show with two distinct plotlines: Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton as Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong, minus the alcohol, pills and slutty behavior) battling upstream against the rapidly rising waters of superstar Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere minus Heroes superpowers, as Taylor Swift plus slutty behavior); and the second story line of Rayna’s husband entering the race for Nashville’s new mayor.
We get it – politics make a nice foil for the music industry, where everything is corrupt and everyone gets screwed behind everyone else’s backs, both figuratively and literally. Oh – there’s also a third plotline, which involves two Bluebird Café workers who sort of accidentally write a Civil Wars song, perform it, and then get discovered by some powerful dude (Watty White, a country Tommy Mottolla? God?) who wants them to make a demo.
Despite all this, Nashville is perhaps one of the slowest-moving shows in recent history – it’s a show about music, but most scenes involve Rayna sitting in a room talking to someone, or old dudes in suits sitting around talking to each other, occasionally spliced together between shots of Nashville’s various bridges. Sometimes, there’s people recording in music studios. Which, in real life, is pretty boring, too.
This week’s episode opens with Juliette posing for some promotional photos, presumably for her next album release. She smiles at the camera in a Carrie Underwood-esque strapless mini-dress like she’s just dropped cyanide in the Diet Cokes of the entire crew. Afterwards, she and Mr. Manager sit down to discuss their current biggest problem: Juliette wants Deacon Claybourne (by the way, why do so many character names on this show have extraneous “y”’s?), the world’s most popular bandleader and session dude on her tour. Problem: he’s team Rayna, except for when he’s sleeping with Juliette. Or Juyliette. Whatever. Anyway, she wants him “exclusively,” she tells Mr. Manager. After all, his ABC.com bio lists his influences as Hank Williams and Merle Haggard. Credibility!
He understands – exclusive, yep, yep, we’ll work on it – but right now he has worse news. Juliette’s mom Jolene, who apparently has taken all of Gwyneth Paltrow-as-Kelly Cantor’s booze and pills, is trying to track down her daughter. Some of the staff has paid her a hundred bucks to try and stay away. Now that’s a great idea: give a junkie a hundred bucks to not be erratic! Who knows, maybe that Benjamin will help her buy a new apartment, check into her rehab and get her life in order. Or not. Juliette tells Mr. Manager, “My Mom, Deacon: you’re my manager. Manage it!” Mr. Manager shoots her a look of fear. He’s going to need an entirely different leather jacket for all this.
Meanwhile, at the Jaymes household, Rayna and husband Teddy are making breakfast for their two kids, which apparently includes a discussion about sideboob. Right. On the other side of town, in scary East Nashville where all the guys still wear nylon necklaces from the 90’s and have things like old globes scattered around their house, blonde Joy Williams (a.k.a Bluebird waitress Scarlett) and her John Paul White (Gunnar) are working on a song at their suitably old-timey piano. They have the lyrics in front of them on a legal paid, which is apparently the official songwriter means of choice in Nashville . This time, it’s a tune called “I Will Fall,” written by Kate York and Tyler James.
But – uh oh. Scarlett’s boyfriend is home. He’s no Nate Yetton – this dude, Avery, does not want to support her career. He wants to make it in this business too, after all. But Gunnar’s one step ahead of him, telling Avery that his guitar sound reminds him of Link Wray – a name producers probably came up with by throwing a dart at a list of Rolling Stone magazine’s Greatest Guitarists tacked up on the wall. Avery says thanks, and then tries really hard to remember who Link Wray is. He decides that he was a one-time member of the Old 97’s, so he says thanks.
Back in sitting around land, Rayna and hubby are talking to some dudes in suits (no ties, natch) about how poor they are – maybe they should take out a line of credit on their house? But Teddy nixes that, it’s not good for the campaign. So tie-less financial Mr. Manger’s suggest that Rayna ask her rich daddy. You guys have to get some new material, Rayna says before storming off, probably to go sit in a room and talk with some other dudes in ties. Wait, new material? Was a that a double-entendre reference to the music industry? So many layers.
Somewhere in a Nashville alleyway, Jolene appears as Juliette and her food assistant leave the photo studio whilst talking about cheese. Jolene should get a job as a paparazzo – she can track down her daughter just about anywhere, and she probably could’ve had photos of Adele’s baby by now. Juliette leaves her there, looking somewhere between disturbed and tired, driving away in her white SUV.
And across music row, Scarlett and Gunnar are fixin’ to record a song. Scarlett’s having a tough time – she feels like she’s “listening to herself from across the room,” and keeps messing up. Because no one ever messes up in a recording studio, Watty decides they better stop for the day, also because it’s fun to just not use studio time that you have already booked. But Gunnar tells Scarlett not to worry – apparently they can just find another cute blonde with extensions to sing on the demo, because this is about getting a publishing deal, not becoming artists. And, like the rest of the audience watching this television show outside of the music industry, Scarlett looks confused. Publishing deals are too inside-baseball.
But Juliette’s feeling good – Deacon showed up to her fancy-pants recording studio to track “Undermine,” perhaps the most unsubtle name for a song that is supposed to a reflect a plotline ever invented, including Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow. By the way, where are all the engineering assistants that should be hanging around these recording studios? They’re supposed to be in the background, looking at Facebook.
Though over at her daughters’ school recital, Rayna is dealing with a bigger issue – Big Daddy Jaymes sent her a half-million dollar check with a bunch of stipulations attached, including that she can only release a greatest-hits album and do fifteen tour dates (which seems probably more generous that what her label is even offering at this point). They run into each other, and Rayna tells Big Daddy James to “go home or go to hell, but you can’t stay here,” which is – gasp — a pretty good line for a country song, if you ask me.
Rayna’s daughters, played by real-life sisters and Youtube stars Lennon and Maisy Stella, rock the talent show. Their song and mini First Aid Kit performance is easily the best in the show yet. Can they just go on tour with mom? Can we just watch them and be saved from one more round of “Undermine”? Probably not. Whatever – Rayna’s sister just told her that their mom cheated on Big Daddy. No one cares, because it’s just another scene of people sitting around, and because everyone hates Big Daddy anyway. More sitting in a room and talking, when Rayna goes to confront her father. Is he mean because he was cheated on, or cheated on because he was mean? We’re not sure yet. One thing we are sure of: Rayna’s hair looks amazing. Later, we see Daddy looking at old-timey photographs of his family, looking sad.
In the other part of the rich person area of town, Jolene shows up at her daughter’s fancy gates. Juliette tells Jolene that she’s begging her to please not take her man! Actually, she just tells the stereotypical security guy to take her to a “bus station” or something. He nods. Aside: where is this security guy when Juliette is constantly showing up at the Bluebird alone and hanging out in alleyways, tracking down Deacon? He should be fired. But now Juliette and Deacon are in her kitchen – he slept over after their recording session – and she, in perhaps the biggest fallacy yet, suggests they order something for breakfast. No way any places in Nashville deliver out to that rich person area of town, because only about five places deliver at all. And all five are pizza and Chinese. But maybe she’s going to call her food assistant and order some cheese. Anyway.
Men in suits talking again. Teddy is trying to get a loan, but discovers that the Music City credit guys are getting audited. Uh oh – he had some sketchy dealings with these guys that we haven’t learned the full details of yet. He mutters some excuse and gets out of there.
Back in East Nashville, Avery is trying to convince Scarlett to practice singing into a whisk, so she can get her courage up to record again. Maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all – he found Gunnar at the Bluebird and told him that he’s nothing but a good, supportive boyfriend. At this point, it’s hard to know what’s more unlikely: that two musicians living in East Nashville might actually have a nice-looking whisk, or that aspiring songwriter Avery doesn’t have an actual microphone laying around somewhere in his house. All of the sudden, he’s her biggest cheerleader – heck, he’ll even come into the studio with her if she needs it. Which he does, and stares creepily at Scarlett and Gunnar while they sing. Wait. Dude’s totally up to something.
But now, back at Juliette’s house, Mr. Manager breaks some more bad news to his client: Jolene was found at the bus station with a “handful of oxy.” He suggests that they bring junky mom to the house until they can figure out what to do with her, in perhaps the worst piece of manager advice, ever. But maybe Jolene knows something about her daughter that they don’t want out? Or they are worried that she’ll end up in Us Weekly’s Worst Dressed Junky of the Week section? Juliette changes into an I’m-miserable baggy floral shirt.
Over in Belle Meade, Rayna and Deacon are sitting on the stairs of Percy Warner Park. Because that’s where famous people go to talk. In heels. Most people can barely make it up those steps in sneakers. Rayna’s conflicted about what to do with Deacon. Do they go on tour together? Does she let him go? Does she still love him? She cries, in public. Her hair looks great.
Despite storming away, Deacon then once-and-for-all turns down Juliette’s offer to come on her tour when she again shows up at the Bluebird. He’s just “not that guy,” he says. When she gets home, Jolene is there waiting for her with the stereotypical bodyguard. Nothing is going right. Deacon’s dissed her. Her mom is back in her life. So what’s a girl to do? To the moody backdrop of Scarlett and Gunnar’s “Fade Into You” (which is also the name, by the way, of an amazing Mazzy Star song), she wanders into a local drugstore with her I’m-famous-but-incognito fedora on.
Some girls spot her down the aisle, and start recording her with their iPhone. Juliette’s browsing the nail polish section, but – wait. Did she just drop one into her purse? Oh yes, she totally went Winona Ryder on us. And those girls have it all on video. How else is she supposed to deal with everything crashing around her? But now, presumably with the entire world about to see her breaking the law, our good girl is about to lose her pristine-sequin image. Will she also lose everything else? Maybe. Will Deacon actually think she’s cool now, because she’s edgy and troubled? Probably. Will stealing, corruption and back-stabbing with a side of sad personal back-stories serve as the themes linking the music biz, politics and family? Of course!
But mostly, that security guard should totally be fired.