So, it would appear my soulmate has arrived on Nashville.


She is Avery’s mother, and she spends most of the episode either drenching Juliette in ocular stink for entirely deserved reasons, or giving Avery some bracing yet supportive real talk. Truthfully, I initially missed that this was Mama Barkley and thought it was last week’s sitter re-hired, so when she started in on the cold hard truth-telling, I was like, “YES! Get-A-Grip Nanny!” But Get-A-Grip Mother-In-Law is good, too. TELL IT LIKE IT IS, Mama Barkley. She suffers no fools, and thus, no Jules.

Christina Aguilera is back this week, and brunetter than ever:

She wants to do a country album, so she has dyed her hair brown so that everyone thinks she’s super serious about it, and asks Luke if he’ll duet with her. He politely declines. Xtina isn’t awful on the show, but this does feel a little like marooning him; I wonder if he drew the short straw (instead of, say, Gunnar), because they’re not having him back next season and so they can set him adrift on Xtina’s flotilla.

Rayna remains the most competent at blouse-shopping:

She and the girls are rehearsing “This Time” — ugh, this damn song again — for a performance at Teddy’s big charity fundraiser. And if you’re expecting the mayor’s night of glory to end in SHAME because the feds march in and arrest him for paying off a prostitute… then you are WRONG, for reasons I can’t entirely explain. Isn’t great shame at giant galas a TV staple?

Daphne gets in several disenchanted facial expressions in this hour, the first of which is deployed when Deacon and Rayna compliment Maddie on something. While Maddie and Deacon bask in the joy of their shared DNA, you can feel the WHAT ABOUT ME emanating from this little moppet.

Juliette comes home from her trip and doesn’t even touch baby Cadence, instead zipping over to change into something for the fundraiser — at which they’re auctioning off a command performance, and Highway 65 plans to blow a bunch of its nonexistent cash on Juliette to mark her comeback. Avery is jarred by her disinterest in the kid, but later, when he vents to his mother about it, she’s basically like, “Quit your whining. It takes two to tango. Go to the benefit and FIX IT.” I’m a little surprised she didn’t say, “You are perfect and Juliette is a hag who is colder than a penguin’s undercarriage,” but Avery’s dad was such a jerk to Juliette that I’ve decided Mrs. Barkley is going to make this marriage work if it KILLS HER just to spite him.

Chests? Check. Thighs? Check. Will’s tense-jawed jealousy that Kevin is bringing another man to the benefit, because he made a date a month ago and maybe doesn’t want to break it for a guy who’s buried so deep in the closet that the shoe rack is in front of him? CHECK.

“Scarlett. WHY. I don’t understand.”

“S’rll smpl, Gunnr, y’tk two piecz of hurr ‘n’ twist ‘em round lil’ bit ‘n’ thatssit don’ bothr wit’ thuh rest of’t, ‘n’ here I am lookin’ lak Medusa of the South so’s y’won’t wan’ jump me.”

“I was talking about why you won’t just pick someone to replace Avery in the band.”

“Tha’ one felluh’s a mumblr ‘n’ I cain’t unnderstn’d dang-ol’ word out his moth.”

No, seriously, she actually vetoes a replacement guitarist FOR BEING A MUMBLER. It’s amazing. I actually DO like Clare Bowen but sometimes when she goes on a tear it’s as if every fourth letter is just a suggestion.

I am delighted Juliette returned to the spotlight in something red and blousey and FULL of shoulder pads. It’s like she spent her maternity leave watching Dynasty and taking notes. She is going go walk into that venue and sup on the blood of the lively. Beginning with…

… Jade St. John, who is wearing a truly hideous gown made of what looks like heathered jersey, and a jean jacket that would be cropped on a six year old. Juliette is NOT AMUSED, and later, Jade catches Juliette sniping at Layla in the bathroom — Juliette doesn’t have much kind to say about Jade, either — and the wheels begin to turn. You know how they say some people have never met a stranger? Juliette has never met a compadre.

When Luke sees the happy Jaymesborne clan, he seizes up and hugs Jade a little closer on the red carpet. Deacon’s joy is about to get more tangible, too: The hospital calls. There is a liver in Ohio with his name on it. Rayna immediately calls off the performance to be with him there, and Maddie insists on going, too, and I’ll give you three guesses how that makes Daphne feel:

Rayna, do not turn your baby into an arsonist, okay? Bad form.

Oliver, to Juliette: “When are you going to have that baby?” Layla thwacks him in the gut and tells Juliette she looks great, to which Juliette coos, “I KNOW.” Juliette makes everything better.

Don’t pre-purchase curtains and a new carpet for that liver, Deacon. This episode does figure-eights all over his organs, only to land us in exactly the same place: Deacon has cancer. See, first, he can’t get the surgery because he has a fever and they need to investigate why. Then, he’s cleared, and goes into the OR, but it turns out the liver was from a person who had cancerous lesions in the lungs and so it’s unfit for transplant. It’s an extremely depressing game of Liver Me/Liver Me Not.

At one point Scarlett even asks Dr. Junior High if he can try and sway the surgical team into giving Deacon the liver, like maybe lying about his fever or something, and poor Dr. Foot-Stomp has to tell her that he is NOT going to compromise his integrity just because she’s his girlfriend — and CERTAINLY not while she is dressed like someone’s bag of knitting that hasn’t been touched in two years.

For real, he will defend WITH HIS LIFE that Hippocratic Oath and the six months of medical school he’s had to support it.

Teddy wins Dad of the Year points for saving Daphne’s night, by asking Luke to perform with her. As usual, every performer in this fictional Nashville has a perfectly harmonized rendition of every song in the world RIGHT at his or her fingertips, so they can decide with 15 seconds’ notice what to perform. These two do “Have A Little Faith In Me,” and it’s as darling as you’d expect. I’m so happy Maisie Stella got a moment, and Luke calling Daphne his good buddy was really cute. I might like Luke now that he’s not all up in Rayna’s jaymes.

Here, Luke is toasting Will’s work with Hot Kevin, and blithely drinking to a fruitful and long-standing partnership, as Oliver Hudson shoots Will a VERY amused and pointed look. It says, “Got any ink left in those songwriting penis I MEAN PENS?” Oliver Hudson has been working for me these last few episodes, y’all. I think making him disgraced and snarky (rather than smug and snarky) was the right play.

And then, the auction, for which Avery arrives just in time. It starts out with a $25,000 bid for Juliette, but Jade St. John immediately chips in $50,000 for the performance to be by Layla Grant. Back and forth it goes, until Bucky taps out at $200k and Juliette forces Avery to choke out, “$225.”  Jade then cruises straight up to $500,000, and Layla gets to sing. On the spot. By “command,” and totally unprepared. Which… no. In fact, the show even seems to agree with us on that, because we go from Layla walking up to the stage, to Layla re-emerging from backstage, with lots of awkward “HEY EVERYONE WASN’T LAYLA GREAT” talk from Teddy. I cannot believe the show punted on a musical performance in this manner. Maybe they didn’t have anything else for her (the one last week was really bad), maybe getting Xtina to sing later cost too much money… for a show that’s supposed to be steeped in music, it was awkward and strange and bananas.

This was an interesting sidebar, though: Scarlett needed a ride from Gunnar because her car sucks, so when she filled him in on Deacon’s condition, he took it upon herself to change her battery and drive her car to the hospital so she’d have it later. This leads to a chat between her and Deacon and Rayna — albeit brief — about how the pain between Deacon and Rayna partly helped fuel their songwriting, and even though Deacon hated seeing Rayna with someone else, he knew better than to give up the music. It was a tiny little thing, but at the same time, a very savvy use of the parallels between the two love triangles. And I liked that it was just one passing scene. It doesn’t always have to be 43 minutes of your head being beaten in with a mallet that says DO YOU GET IT?!?

So, Juliette and Jade have gone toe-to-toe so far, and then all of a sudden, Juliette hisses one public comment about how Jade can’t buy her way into Nashville and it drives Jade to tears. I hope it turns out she was making it all up to get Luke Wheeler into the sack, because that is some pretty weak spinal fluid, there, Jade. But then the show redeems this by having Luke take her to The Bluebird, where Jade — as is, again, the norm — whips out a flawless impromptu rendition of an old Luke Wheeler song called “Shotgun.” I plan to look for this one on iTunes, because it was good, largely because Christina Aguilera is truly at her finest when she is controlled. I love her on that “Say Something” song because she’s so restrained, and here she also reins in her showboat tendencies and just delivers a crushing vocal.


Oh, and inevitably, Jade and Luke shimmy off into her hotel room. I hope she wakes up with a third entirely different hair color.

Jade also invites Layla to open for her on the tour, permanently. Oliver Hudson flips out and tells Layls she absolutely cannot do it. When Layla protests that this will result in them losing big bucks in cash and commissions, Oliver doesn’t care; he is being protective of her, he accuses Jade of being a user and a ruiner, and yada yada yada he’s afraid Layla will leave him and Layla is charmed that he would actually kick cash out of bed just to keep her around.


So she tells him so, and they make out, presumably back together for at least one week.

Daphne, meanwhile, asks Teddy if she can live with him for a while because she’s really not into Team Jaymesbourne anymore. “You’re my ONLY dad,” she says. Aw, sweetie. Nobody but Teddy seems to care how this is affecting you, and that’s partly because he is being possessive over the one thing he has that isn’t also partly Deacon’s.

Avery and Juliette fight about her rude outburst to Jade, with him reminding her that it was a charity event, and not everything in the world needs to be about Juliette Barnes all the time. She quietly skulks in to apologize — but still doesn’t touch the baby — and confesses to Avery that she is just scared she’s washed up at 25, and she won’t have a career to go back to if she doesn’t act fast. Avery, typically, is understanding but also thinks It’s All Good. Given that Juliette is one of the most hormonal and emotional people WITHOUT factoring in the impossible flux after childbirth, it’s shocking to me that every single person wasn’t on PPD watch with her. If you’re already prone to mood swings and you just trashed your own baby shower, that’s probably a pretty legitimate red flag that your post-baby emotional needle will be vibrating itself into tiny pieces.

Will haltingly tells Hot Kevin that he was hugely jealous of his date, and that even though he’s still “figuring this out,” he wants to be exclusive. Hot Kevin is cool with that. Hot Kevin is CLEARLY going to be the one who coaxes him out of the closet, right? He’s certainly cute, but I can’t tell if he’s charismatic enough to carry that story into next season.

Scarlett and Dr. Pacifier make up, and she also tells Gunnar that they should just keep going as a two-person band because the music they make is great and they were friends first. Gunnar agrees. We have two weeks in a ROW of full-on common-sense maturity, y’all. What is happening here? Is logic the new black?

Then Rayna kills the mood a bit by dropping by The Lord’s house to talk about Deacon’s situation. She does so by asking if The Aforementioned Lord is angry with her about something, and then asks Him to show her the way. So, she doesn’t pray for Deacon. Or about Deacon. She makes this monologue all about herself. It is EXTREMELY TYPICAL of Rayna “Me” Jaymes, and yet I totally know how hard it is to avoid that trap. In some senses, whenever you pray, there is a self-serving element — that’s just human nature. You pray for the wellness of people you love, but it’s not unselfish, because their continued health also makes your life better. It is hard to be 100 percent altruistic. It just is.

This shot just breaks my heart. Maddie wants Deacon to promise he won’t die, and he of course can’t do that, because he just got led down the primrose path and then came back empty-handed. Getting one liver seemed like enough of a miracle; he doesn’t figure he can expect two. Chip Esten’s face is full of everything in this moment and it’s so very sad.

Juliette, meanwhile, is lying awake, a single tear trickling out of her eye. A PPD storyline with her makes great sense, because Juliette has the richest backstory and worst emotional baggage of anyone here. She can probably say and do vile things, and ignore the hell out of that kid as part of her struggles, and we’ll still sympathize because a) she had a damaged childhood, b) she had a beyond complicated relationship with her own mother, c) she has never been on an even keel, and d) we know she has a good heart and WANTS to do the right things, even as she also wants validation and success and widespread love. She’s a great character, so she’s the right pick for this. I hope the show mines it for all the riches it can offer — while also not breaking her apart from Avery because they’ve been happy for about three seconds and I JUST CAN’T.

Tags: Nashville