Imagine that: Slightly peppier music, storylines crossing — or attempting to — and what appears to be Hayden Panettiere’s actual hair. Nashville, are you feeling okay? Because you’re not acting like yourself.
We open with Rayna and Luke doing a publicity shoot for a story about their engagement. It’s VERY Chicken-Fried School Fundraiser Photo Booth.
This one is better. Any lensman worth his salt should know you don’t let Rayna James hide her light — as in, her hair — under a ten-gallon bushel. But the most tremendous and symbolic part of the entire show, editing-wise and everything else, is that over the last shot of Rayna and Will, you hear the dulcet sounds of Juliette Barnes hurling her guts out into a toilet. It’s audio poetry.
Jules is experiencing the kind of all-day morning sickness that makes you wonder what deceitful nimrod coined that phrase. And they clearly let HP use her own hair this week because a) it actually appears to be coming out of her own head, on the sides and not just the part; b) she wears it back the whole episode, and it’s slightly curly, which I think is her natural state; and c) it looks way better. Juliette calls Avery mid-vom to tell him she’s pregnant, and it’s a really well-done bit by Hayden — she does the “Hi, it’s me,” thing, and then decides out loud that maybe she’s not his “me” anymore and that she should reintroduce herself, and the look on her face when she waits a few beats after saying “Juliette” and then specifies that it’s Juliette Barnes is classic. Nobody is talking about her on this show, and everyone should be.
Before she can finish her message, Glenn and her assistant start banging on the bathroom door and ordering her to come to rehearsal, and then she has to ralph again — and then realizes she never hung up the phone, so she deletes the message.
It is a bad sign if this is Rayna’s reaction to picking a wedding date. Their teams get together and try to find a slot in their tour schedules, and basically, it’s either now or 2016. Because these two won’t still be together in 2016, as that would be midway through season four and we shouldn’t assume that will be real, Luke jumps all over November even though Rayna would like him to slow his roll to a crawl. She’s not even wearing her most sincere jacket. I don’t think cream leather indicates that you’re very invested in anything other than shopping really late at night after too much wine.
Will is still trying to suppress his urges through working out at the gym with a really cute male trainer, which ends in the two of them bench-pressing each other.
Juliette has been blowing off rehearsals, and then when she does show up, she can’t get through a song and looks like she’s sweating out ten pounds of heroin. Which naturally leads Glenn to assume that she’s on drugs, at which point he and the assistant whose name I can’t remember break into Juliette’s house and start riffling through her drawers. She comes home and is about to shovel some ice-cream into her face when she realizes there are people in her bedroom, and she kicks Glenn and Girl out after Glenn explains that they’re scared because of her family history. Somehow on the way out they fail to even NOTICE the atypical open carton of Peanut-Butter Cup sitting on her table. Great talk, guys.
Maddie has two story lines this week. One is that Rayna and Luke find out that Deacon blabbed about his proposal, and while Rayna at least SORT OF understands why it happened once Deacon explains, Luke thinks Deacon is trying to sabotage his relationship with Maddie. And Rayna wears one of the plaid flannels that ABC got in bulk from L.L. Bean. She and Huck agreed to flip a coin for this one. Rayna won by default because he heard that as “lick a coin.”
Zoey is tortured by jealousy about Gunnar and Scarlett. This whole episode is about her thinking Gunnar isn’t committed, even though he asked her to move in with him. So she barges into his recording studio in the middle of him trying to tape that song he wrote with Scarlett…
… and he has in the span of one week managed to move all his furniture, paint the walls, and then move it back. But he hasn’t succeeded in making a soundproof booth, and so this version of his song will be backed by the sound of Zoey walking in, seeing him in the middle of recording, and then thoughtfully shouting words at him anyway. Well done, all. Zoey offers up her voice for the song when Gunnar mopes that it doesn’t sound as good today, but he declines, and she prickles. I hope this is the first step in a story about her becoming the new Peggy. There’s a perfectly good tub of pork blood out there dying to be found and used for psychological torture.
And Avery is still drunk. Zoey and Gunnar decide their trio should reunite and play this local party called Barnaroo, just to pull them all out of their ruts, and Zoey finds a random girl’s red lace panties hanging from a lamp and gets off a good line: “Who ACTUALLY leaves without their PANTIES?” That is also probably not a direct quote, but I forgot to write it down. If that didn’t do it for you, then imagine a version of that line that would, and then laugh as I did. It’s true, also. How DO you just casually FORGET the underwear you arrived in? Don’t you notice? I think the answer is, you don’t; you are hoping it will remind the dude to call you. But unless your phone number is written in the tag, like you are in elementary school, then it’s possible just leaving your panties is not going to do anything but remind him to launder his sheets.
Scarlett is back at the music publishing place, trying to write songs for other people, and her boss very directly informs her that she’s a complete downer and needs to write something lively — something, perhaps, that sounds like it was written by a lady who has ever experienced joy. Scarlett is like, “I can have fun (probably),” and the line delivery somehow actually includes the parentheses. Scarlett is also going through something of a naked phase, as she’s in what’s more like a vermicelli-straptop and a huge thick lacy bra. Which I’m pretty sure IS a bra…
… because of this shot. Scarlett explains that it’s difficult for her to have fun when her hair spends every free night mooring boats to their docks.
Maddie’s OTHER story is that she’s trying to be A Regular Teen, sawing off her jeans into shorts that make me EXTREMELY GLAD I don’t have a teenage girl and likely will never. She lies to Teddy and sneaks into Barnaroo with her friends, where she tries drinking and gets her neck chewed on by some kid who clearly got high and watched Twilight too many times, but luckily Scarlett sees her there and rescues her.
This leads to a nice if mumbly scene where Scarlett tells Maddie that the answer to feeling like an outsider is to work through it via song, not to make yourself something you aren’t. And she promises to be there for her — and FINALLY. I like that Scarlett and Maddie are acknowledging that they’re related, and Scarlett DOES have it in her to be a good Get-A-Grip Friend occasionally. If the two of them sang with Deacon I might get a little misty. It’s not for certain; I’m just SUGGESTING that it’s possible it would jam on my heartstrings.
Less exciting: the possibility that Scarlett is wearing a necklace made of her own hair. Maybe that’s what she does with the extensions that leap to their ostensible deaths.
Luke is off on tour in California, and Oliver Hudson flies out Laura Benanti — who plays a woman named Sadie Stone — to meet Luke. All part of the wining-and-dining he needs to do for his label. While Luke is busy with that…
… his backup singer hits on Deacon hard. So hard. Like a flurry of uppercuts to the prostate. He eventually has rage-fueled sex with her once she sees him storm off in a snit. He points out that he’s extremely in love with Rayna, and her response is that he must be either crazy or stupid. What’s unspoken is that she’s clearly a stupzytarian, because they instantly jump each other.
This jacket on Rayna has see-through lace sleeves. It’s UNACCEPTABLE. It is the kind of cheap, dated baloney for which I will not stand.
I don’t feel like going over the THIRD CONSECUTIVE AUDITION Juliette has for Patsy Cline — this time, a screen test. It’s with Derek Hough, who plays a big time movie star and also possibly a homicidal magician. It goes well. He hits on her, she refuses and explains that she’s probably going to throw up, and nobody gets sawn in half. YET.
Layla has conned Luke into performing a duet with him during his concert set, so they rehearse it. And it’s fine, but Layla’s idea of selling their union is to sing the whole thing while pawing at his face. It’s less like she’s stroking him and more like she’s fervently trying to moisturize him with human lube. It is also about as convincing as if you recast her with a balloon that had a face scrawled on it in Sharpie.
Avery insists on doing the song he wrote for Juliette last season, “The Most Beautiful Girl,” or something, except he turns it into a kicky hate ballad. And it’s A HUNDRED PERCENT BETTER. Even if he is drunk off his tree.
Teddy, meanwhile, is alone at a bar. He totally blows it with this woman who wants to chit-chat, and sighs sadly at his own lameness. But… seriously, is she not from there? Wouldn’t you turn it up a little hotter if you were sitting with the Mayor of Nashville and he looked super lonely and awkward? Also, half the bar should be Tweeting, “ZOMG totes at bar w Mayor McCheese and he’s drinking ALONE.”
Juliette looks so cute with her own hair. Please let her keep it.
Oliver Hudson tells Will that he can’t let washed-up Layla perform with him, because his single has dropped to No. 5, and all the squealing ladyfans will have their buzz harshed by the presence of his wife. I feel that Oliver Hudson is giving squealing ladyfans zero credit for any innate emotional intelligence, which is actually not a surprise from that character. Fine people of Fug Nation, have you ever actively avoided buying an album, or a concert ticket, for a cute, talented singer just because you found out he (or she) was married? Does anyone actually approach music from the standpoint of, “If I can’t potentially nail that person then I don’t want to hear that song”? I mean… realistically, most people have a microscopic shot at banging the single ones, too, so this seems like an extremely foolhardy approach to culture. And of the people who are hardcore groupie types, they probably don’t care that much if there’s a spouse because What Happens In Dirty Arena Bathroom Stays In Dirty Arena Bathroom. In sum: Shut up, Oliver.
Sadie Stone fangirls over Rayna, who recognizes her and commends her prodigious talent. “You’re the real deal,” she says. Oliver slithers up and taunts Rayna for the fact that he is smart enough to try and sign Sadie, and Rayna just laughs and leaves. This is why Highway 65 runs straight from Nashville to Poorhouse, USA. You are the WORST LABEL MANAGER, RAYNA. SIGN SOME PEOPLE. MY GOD.
No, she’s too busy surprising Luke on-stage — they’d had a tiff about her reticence to get hitched in November — so that he can serenade her with his new song. It’s all, “She’s a gooooood woman and she’s good to me,” which is totally catchy and also a complete beer-can-crusher of a song. In the sense that it sounds like kind of compliment you get from a dude who delivers it after chugging a Bud and then smashing the can against his forehead.
I have been dying for Juliette and Deacon to have a scene, and indeed, she shows up at the arena — she’s in California for her screen test — to ask his advice about her pregnancy. He can’t handle it. He just had to watch Rayna and Luke love each other up (Luke waved off the trio performance with him and Will to do it) and he’s furious and in a love funk and he hasn’t had his rage sex yet, so he storms around and then tells Juliette to lay it all out there with Avery — or, just never tell him AT ALL and set him free. And then he storms out of there with his hormones in a wad. It is… not what I had hoped, but it would have been remarkable if he’d been able to calm himself down enough to dole out something lovely. Sigh. Please do this again later, show, with something sweeter.
Also, I realized we hadn’t seen Deacon’s face yet in this recap. Here you go. He’s a little sticky and warmed-over from the anger, but he’s still our Deacon.
Luke surprises Rayna with a GIANT TATTOO of her name and an arrow inside… a heart made of horseshoes? This relationship is so doomed. Also, his tattoo is pointing at her. It’s the “I’M WITH STUPID” of tattoos. He’s going to have to call Johnny Depp when the time comes to get that sucker removed. Perhaps he can just reduce it to Ra, and become a superfan of the Egyptian sun god. Or “AY,” and he’s a devotee of panic.
Layla gets all dolled up and shows up at Oliver Hudson’s place, and for a hot second I thought she was going to jump his bones. But no. She’s just trying to look grown-up for her blackmail: Either her next album goes gold (it’s so Layla to stop there and not reach for platinum) and she sings with Will, or she shoves her husband straight out of the closet. It’s a smart move. Now she has Oliver and Will underneath her on the power pyramid.
This is the worst. Juliette goes to Avery’s house, but sees him taking some random tart home, and drives off; Random Tart, meanwhile, grinds up on him and starts purring that she wants to do him the way Juliette did. He kicks her out and then sits down and plays his hideous “Beautiful Girl” song as the dirge it was originally intended to be, and it’s SO BAD, and this whole moment is very Coyote Ugly to me. Later he’s going to stand on the roof and be inspired by dance jams, and then neglect to fight the moonlight.
Oh, and Alexa Vega of Spy Kidz (and sister of Makenzie, who plays Grace on The Good Wife), has joined the show as Gunnar’s first love Kylie. From a decade ago, in Austin. Zoey had seen them chatting at the Barnaroo concert, so she flipped out at Gunnar about how he freezes her out of anything significant. They sort of make up, but the next day, Gunnar goes to see her at the diner where she works. There’s some backstory stuff about how her parents thought Gunnar was a bad influence and convinced her to leave without saying goodbye, but now she’s back and deeply tortured when Gunnar tells her that his brother is real, real dead. They hold hands and cry together. It sucks for Alexa Vega that on her first day she had to act heartbroken about the death of a character she may not have known was ever a thing on the show, so it doesn’t entirely resonate, but… I like Gunnar, and I’m sad when he’s sad, so sure.
AND PRAISE BE, Juliette goes to the one person left who might understand her position: Rayna f’ing Jaymes.
This is Rayna’s face when she sees the ultrasound that Juliette brandishes from her purse. I desperately hope the scenes of them together next week do not disappoint. I need to like Rayna again, and putting her with Juliette — or even re-pitting them against each other — is the most logical way to do that, next to her groveling at Deacon’s door and then having him kick her out, thus forcing her to spend several episodes trying to win him back. But we have time for that. First up: fetal advice. And since they are totally writing in Hayden’s pregnancy, I can only assume this advice will be touching and lead to some awesome Juliette/Avery scenes. DO NOT LET ME DOWN, NASHVILLE.