This show is getting better, but seriously, “Rayna Is Happy About Her CMA Nominations But What Does It Mean For Her Artistically?” is not a storyline. When your main character has nothing to do with why your show is improving, it’s not the best sign.
Juliette has a pulmonary embolism, and apparently it’s a condition she’s prone to already but only manifested itself because she got pregnant. The doctor doesn’t want her touring anymore, nor traveling, but she’s welcome to finish the movie (which I guess is shooting in Nashville). Helpfully, the show also takes the time to tell us where the hell everyone even is: Juliette is in Cincinnati, Rayna is in St. Louis, and Luke and Will and Deacon are in Minneapolis.
It will irritate you to know that NOWHERE in this story does anyone call Rayna about Juliette, nor does Rayna therefore have any moment where she finds out that one of her two artists on her terrible label just COLLAPSED ON STAGE and isn’t going to finish her tour. I genuinely don’t understand the show’s aversion to having Juliette and Rayna intersect, and all I can come up with is the tired old They Must Hate Each Other, or that Team Connie Britton doesn’t care for TV portraying her as any kind of age-appropriate mother figure for a woman in her mid-twenties, or something. I don’t know. I’m not trying to be stereotypical about it; I just sincerely cannot fathom why else the writer would be so allergic to developing this relationship.
Zoey does at least call Avery, so at least SOMEONE is thinking. Sadly for her, later Juliette does fire her for getting up on-stage and singing in her place — which, really, feels like a proxy for the fact that Juliette SHOULD have fired her for wandering into her dressing room and flipping through the wardrobe racks. Zoey finishing the song at least seemed helpful in the moment. Although, are we going to pretend that didn’t happen? Did she not call Gunnar? Does she not have feelings about singing in a packed arena, solo? GIVE ZOEY SOME FEELS that do not involve Alexa Vega.
Who, by the way, is having a LOT of her own emotions:
She pinchy-faces that her parents hated Gunnar and Jason so that’s why she left town and never told him about the baby, and it was so hard for her, and blah blah blah. We have seen about twenty frames of this character and none of them did anything to create a personality or make me like her, so I am not especially interested in her pain.
Gunnar is equally pinchy-faced about how he has no other family left except for, now, this kid; this whole scene makes me wonder if both actors had sinus headaches. Also, some commenters last week wondered if the kid is going to turn out to be Jason’s and not Gunnar’s. I think… SOMETHING has to happen beyond just this reveal, because otherwise giving Gunnar a sudden ten-year old is extremely dull. Lots of “hey buddy let’s dip our fries in disgusting substances LOOK WE’RE THE SAME” and some music lessons and some pretend-caring. For a guy who jumped in a car to keep Scarlett from leaving Nashville, he’s had shockingly little to do with her since.
Pam is getting fed up with what a crabapple Deacon is all the time. He doesn’t want to get up and gather with everyone for the CMA nominations because of bitterness, and she SHOULD probably suggest to him that she’s going to find someone less self-involved to have tour-sex with, but she doesn’t.
Layla is wandering around drunk everywhere, and can’t even fake anything for the reality cameras anymore. This is going to be the worst show in the world. They don’t do ANYTHING. Surely the smoking gun of the footage where he admits he’s gay is going to come into play. YOU HAVE NO OTHER SHOW.
Rayna and Sadie — who I guess is on Rayna’s tour now? — are hanging out in St. Louis watching the CMA noms, and Sadie is sucking up to Rayna massively, as usual. She could Eve Harrington her, but I feel like we already did Older Country Legend vs. Younger Up-And-Comer with Juliette, and it fizzled. And she could Single White Female her, but we just had Peggy the Pork Blood Psychopath, so it’s almost too soon for THAT also. Maybe she can give Teddy’s life a new purpose.
There are some totally Taylor Swiftian facial expressions from Rayna as she and Will rack up nominations, both for their duet and their actual albums. She’s like WHAAAT Y’ALL.
And OH MY GOD Y’ALL!
And WHAT THEY LIKE ME Y’ALL!!! I know it’s her first record on her new label, but honestly, this show acts like the general public gives a shit about that. And it doesn’t. At all. Half of them probably don’t even know she’s ON a new label, much less her own, and none of them sat around listening to this record and thinking, “Well, this totally validates Highway 65 as a company.” No.
But then, of course, there is a bunch of post-CMA nomination analysis on GMA (is that a real thing? Does anyone actually bother with analyzing these?), in which Amy Robach speculates to Robin Roberts that Rayna and Luke as a couple are the only reason Rayna and Luke as artists got nominated. This seems patently ridiculous to me, because a) Rayna got nominated last year, so it’s not like she’s coming off a 20-year drought; b) Rayna had a number one single; and c) we are meant to believe that Luke Wheeler is the biggest male superstar in all of country music. They are not two washed-up people emerging from obscurity with a love story to sell albums.
Worse, Rayna is like O NOES about the whole thing. It’s absurd. She couldn’t buy publicity for her record at one point, and now she’s got her skinny jeans in a wad because she’s worried her relationship is stepping all over her artistic cred. Artistic cred, by the way, that she never actually had. She tells Bucky that the fervor around “Ruke” or “Layna” or whatever “takes away from her financial and creative investment” in her album and in Highway 65. Hey, Rayna, you know what would ENHANCE your financial and creative investment? CMA NOMINATIONS AND ALSO A WIN. I mean… I can’t even. That is the dumbest thing. Rayna, you are the worst business person, and without Tandy here there is nobody around to tell her that she’s being stupid because Bucky is incapable of doing anything but nod and pick up his cell phone. YOU AND LUKE SANG A NOMINATED SONG TOGETHER, RAYNA. Also, PUBLICITY. YOU NEED FREE PUBLICITY BECAUSE YOUR LABEL HAS NO MONEY. They’re not faking their marriage, so just enjoy the attention and the fringe benefits that come with it. I get that Rayna thought she was doing a different kind of record, but let’s face it, nobody can tell. Maybe this is Amy Robach’s way of saying that the record stank and wouldn’t otherwise have gotten nominated, and if THAT’S true, then Rayna should be doubly grateful of the attention because YOUR STUPID COMPANY NEEDS IT BECAUSE YOU ARE MANAGING IT INTO THE GROUND.
Rayna, naturally, does not call her artist Juliette to congratulate her on her song nomination, because why would she pay attention to anyone but herself? Amy Robach starts sniping on what a terrible year it is for Juliette because she only got the one nod, for “Don’t Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet,” and how she can’t really enjoy that because it was a co-write with Avery Barkley (there is no way they’d mention a largely anonymous songwriter by name, either). As if that’s a failure creatively, and as if people don’t co-write songs ALL THE TIME. It’s like nobody writing for this show is a person in the world.
Avery comes by to see how Juliette is doing, and the two of them have a very awkward and tense conversation that is cut short when Derek Hough arrives with flowers to see if Juliette might consider paying the rent BEFORE he has to tie her to the train tracks.
Avery flees because he thinks Juliette has moved on, which she hasn’t, but Derek does suggest to her that they could hook up and try to make it work. This seems like… an unreliable time to start a relationship: “You’re pregnant with a baby AND some blood clots but LET’S SNUGGLE.”
Gunnar confides in Scarlett about his child, and she is like, “Huh, nice, go hang out with him.” Her reaction is very unsatisfying, as if Gunnar is interrupting her time spent singing with Homeless Bob with his annoying personal problems. She does tell him to go make the most of the time the kid will be in Nashville, before detaching the draft excluders she’s sewn to her head and putting them back in front of the bedroom door where they belong.
Teddy gets a call from his new boyfriend Oliver Hudson, to see if he wants to go on another double date. He does, so he permits Maddie to go hang out with Luke’s son Cole at a local diner, as long as she brings Daphne and is home by nine and doesn’t go anywhere else. This is going to go as well as you might imagine, but Teddy can’t see that, because he’s too busy imagining gelling up his hair and having a lady make him tingle.
Scarlett is wearing a cozy-looking cardigan-coat when she brings Homeless Bob some stuff. He won’t take her charity, so he agrees to do some odd jobs at Deacon’s place to cover a meal and a load of laundry. And of course while his angelic voice croons a blues tune, Scarlett finds a photo in his pants of a lovely and happy family, so she asks him about it and he gets VERY prickly and storms off in a huff. Suddenly this feels like an episode of 90210. Is Brandon going to invite him to Christmas dinner? This show really has NO idea what to do with Scarlett right now.
Luke thinks Rayna’s obsession with why they got nominated is stupid, and he says she should just focus on campaigning and winning to shut up the doubters. I know people campaign for Oscars and stuff, but I have never heard of that with the CMAs or even really the Grammys. That would be hilarious, though. I would love it if Rayna started running CMA attack ads on Miranda Lambert. “Miranda wants you to think she’s a down-home country girl… but she and her husband have TWO HOUSES and drink whiskey through rolled-up hundred-dollar bills. Do you want relentless extravagance representing YOUR Country Music Association? Vote Rayna Jaymes for Female Vocalist of the Year. Rayna Jaymes: One Voice, One Mortgage Payment.”
Rayna then tells Bucky that she maybe should campaign for these suckers, because – and I quote — “It’d be nice to fly in the face of those critics.” HOLD THE PHONE. So she is upset people think that publicity got her nominated, but now she’s going to use publicity to win? Does she not hear herself? And how is using MORE publicity flying in the face of the people who think that’s all she has? I guess by campaigning ALONE, and not with Luke, but… Rayna makes me so TIRED.
Juliette looks very pretty here, as she tells Glenn that she’s not giving a statement about the baby until she knows what the deal is with Avery — but apparently the movie producers, though cross that they didn’t know, are fine with her finishing the film. (Of COURSE they are; this is a publicity boon for them.) Isn’t it nice how neatly things are tying up for her? I’ve grown accustomed to this show planting story seeds that never grow.
Juliette does go to see Avery, who crashed out on Zoey’s couch. “Did you drive all night for me, or the baby?” she asks. He does not know. She explains that she wanted to tell him, and tried, but that one night he told her he wanted nothing to do with her and so she accepted that. She tells him that she knows she has to live with ruining their trust, but: “There’s only two ways I’ll do this. With you, all-in, or without you completely. It’s your choice.”
Luke, meanwhile, has flown in Sara Evans to sing with him at his concert. As part of HIS publicity push. And he will certainly get attention for it, because…
… Sara Evans has chosen to wear see-through lace legging-pants. SWEET MOTHER OF ALL THINGS HUDGENS, WHY ARE THOSE PANTS HAPPENING. She looks like a pirate from the polterwang up, and someone’s Madonna Halloween costume from the thighs down.
How do you suppose this WORKS? Does Nashville invite Sara Evans on the show and then hand her those pants and tell her to get to work? Or does she turn up with her own wardrobe? Either scenario is awkward, frankly, but the show seemed to shoot around them as carefully as possible — like, there are very few good clear shots of those monstrosities, which makes me think someone was like, “RED ALERT. Evans has lost her mind. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.”
Deacon has had another fight with Pam. See, during his set, he was going to do a song he wrote for her, but the crowd was cheering for Luke and he got royally hacked off about that, so he stormed off in a tizzy. Pam challenged him on his attitude — she has a point, too; why not make the most of being on this MASSIVE tour instead of just acting bitter and phoning it in and then going to brood in his hotel room? — and pointed out that she’d kill to be front-and-center, but she’s going to smile and throw her heart into backup-singing just the same. So here, Deacon is watching her do that, and realizing that he has needed some kind of pep talk from her EVERY SINGLE WEEK now and it’s getting tiresome. It must be slim pickings on that tour for her to be putting up with him still.
Predictably, Maddie feels like a baby when she can’t go off and party with Cole and his friends, so she invites them to Rayna’s empty house, where things get out of control. Poor Daphne has found herself in the middle of a teen party movie but can’t find Maddie, and so she panics and calls Teddy.
But Teddy can’t come to the phone right now because he’s about to skinny-dip with Natasha in Oliver Hudson’s pool.
Later, they bro out over what a great night it was, everyone off getting laid in their own corners. And Teddy starts mooning over how Natasha is so smart and a great listener, presumably because all she does is tell HIM that he’s a genius. Oliver grins that there’s a reason Natasha is worth her fee, and Teddy freaks out that Oliver hooked him up with a professional escort. So, yes we now also have two ABC shows where someone in a power position is using prostitutes. Oliver doesn’t see the problem — like on Scandal, he argues that the discretion and the good fun and no commitment is ideal — but Teddy is upset. On the surface it’s because now he’s Teddy the Man-Whore Lady-Whoring Mayor of Nashville, but it’s also frankly because he had someone who was lapping up his every word and telling him he was super interesting, which I guarantee you hasn’t happened in a long time. Even Peggy, who was obsessed with him, didn’t seem to find him fascinating; just comforting, and available.
Let’s check in on Layla: Yep, she’s still drink, still thisclose to outing Will in front of everyone, still stroking her cut on her hand, still angry. She puts the moves on Will in their hotel room and he turns her down but says that he does sincerely care about her. “That makes one of us,” she sobs. If she kills herself, that show is TOTALLY leaking the footage of him coming out to her.
This shot just made me laugh. Deacon, at the show after-party, is playing the song he wrote for Pam. And the whole bar digs it and starts singing along, as does Pam, and Luke totally rolls his eyes and gives a WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS expression to the rafters. It’s so petty. You WON, DUDE. She’s engaged to YOU. BE CHARITABLE.
Well, Daphne can’t have been looking very hard for Maddie, because it turns out she was just in her bedroom the whole time talking to Cole about how Parents Just Don’t Understand and stuff. She feels lonely without Deacon and Rayna, and resents that Teddy now goes off making plans at night — this from a girl who NEVER wants to hang out with Teddy, by the way — and has no one. “You have me,” Cole says. Maddie leans over and kisses him, but the cops bust in right then and break up the party. I don’t totally buy her malaise here. Also, what of Scarlett? Did we not just have them bonding over peer pressure and music and how they can talk to each other? I am SERIOUSLY OUT OF PATIENCE with this show having episodic amnesia. IT JUST HAPPENED. REMEMBER IT. Honestly, are they just farming out episodes to freelancers who don’t talk to each other?
Rayna finds out that Dancing With The Stars wants her and Luke to play their song. But she wants to do it alone. Sadly for her, Dancing With The Stars can’t promote her alone; it only wants the two of them together. So she promises them an exclusive on a bonus single that doesn’t actually exist, and that works. She shrugs to Bucky that she has four months to figure out what the hell that’s going to be, and I look forward to her having to crawl back to Deacon for help.
Blah blah blah parenting. Everyone is going to be fine. Rayna has decided they need to hire a nanny while she’s on tour. This would be a great way to loop in Scarlett, y’all. I’m just saying. But I’m sure it’ll have to be someone hot and nubile for Teddy instead.
As ever I think Rayna would be more interesting if she were presented as slipping into a career myopia — out of desperation to stay relevant — rather than Sensible Balanced Mother. I actually think part of the problem is casting, and not jus because I think Connie B. has a Tami Taylor complex. I think they went for the name — and the hair — rather than someone with the true vocal chops for the part, and it’s limiting what they can really play and the types of songs she can perform. It WOULD lend some credence to “her career is washing up” as a storyline, but then that would require calling attention to the fact that they cast an actress who is not a strong singer, and I’m sure no one will allow that. It’s a quandary. It’s not that Connie Britton is BAD; she just clearly isn’t a natural vocalist, and she was clearly given the part for other reasons, but now they have to live with it and find a way to make it interesting, and they’re not.
Juliette is wearing a potentially crazy shirt when Avery comes over; he tells her that he has decided to forgive her, and when she starts to melt and run to him, he stops her. He isn’t ready to trust her and be with her, so he won’t choose either of her two options for raising this kid; they will have to find a third way. Juliette is sort of sad and startled, but she doesn’t kick him out, either.
Rayna confesses to Luke that she froze him out of Dancing With The Stars, and although he does not say it, I can’t imagine Luke was thinking anything OTHER than, “THANK GOD, because that spray-tanned, sequined shitshow is the opposite of my image.” They agree to compete for the nominations but support each other the whole way. I am looking forward to seeing how he changes once they’re married — assuming she goes through with it. I could see this heading to a place where Rayna is trapped by her choice, because of publicity and whatnot, and he turns out to be a creepy abuser or something.
Teddy is feeling inadequate and horny, so he calls Natasha for more meaningless praise and accomplished blow jobs.
Gunnar convinces Kylie to let Micah stay with him the night before they leave town, and Micah is cool with it because Gunnar is his cool new friend who has a drum set. Gunnar asks if he knows anything about this dude in Tulsa, and he doesn’t — “I never know much about any of them,” he says, which is telling — but he sucks up and suggests that guy will never be as rad as Gunnar is. So, THE DAY THEY ARE LEAVING, Micah heads up to get his bags and Gunnar begs Kylie not to go, because again, he has no other family. Gunnar is really adept at emotional manipulation, which his brother always was too, so clearly it’s genetic. And Kylie agrees. AFTER SHE HAS PACKED UP HER PLACE. So I guess they’re going to go home and unpack? And she will tell the random dude in Tulsa she’s never actually met that she’s not coming yet? Presumably she was renting; had she given notice? Clearly she has to move in with Gunnar now, right? This whole thing smells SO FISHY to me.
And Zoey is back and catches them having a family moment, and she is NOT PLEASED. If anyone can get to the bottom of Personality-Free Kylie and her moppet, it’s Zoey.
And then Juliette has a press conference announcing that she’s pregnant, and Avery is the father, and she won’t be touring anymore. No consultation from Rayna at all. Nothing. But now that she’s out, I wonder if the show will time-jump — the CMAs are this week, I believe — so that it can stop hiding Hayden’s pregnancy for half a second. And also then have some people perform some halfway decent music. T-Bone Burnett, this is my semi-regular plea to PLEASE COME BACK. Or, remember Gunnar and Scarlett covering that “Civil Wars” song? Just take lesser-known stuff and cover it, if you have to, so that we can avoid total hideous duds like “This Time” ever again. Something. Anything.