We’ve reached the night of the CMAs, and one big question remains unanswered: What the hell happened with Rolling Stone? Wasn’t a big part of doing the cover story that it would help her campaign for CMAs votes? I’m assuming that hasn’t come out yet, because Deacon will be super pissed and I suspect Maddie will be too on her father’s behalf. It seems extremely strange that we ended on such a downer note with it last week, only to have this entire episode pass with NO hangover from that — even just in Rayna’s mind, accepting an award, thanking a man she knows she just betrayed. Dot your Is and cross your Ts, show.

You are going to scream at what poor Juliette is wearing.


I would love to know when this was shot in relation to the Emmys, but I’m guessing a month later. She gave an interview recently about how she’s a tiny wee person and so all the pregnancy weight feels that much more massive to her, so maybe she was too self-conscious at this point to wear something as slinky as the silver gown. But unsurprisingly, I hate this. The top looks constricting and itchy, and she looks like a float in an All Souls Day parade. She fusses over it because she’s meeting Avery’s parents, who flew in for the awards because he’s nominated for “Don’t Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet,” and obviously with months of notice they couldn’t have flown in three days earlier and met Juliette in a casual setting at her house specifically to avoid this sort of drama. Let’s assume Avery’s father is a nut about frequent flier miles and so he was working around some VERY unfortunate blackout restrictions. Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Garner have a credit card they’d like to sell him.

Rayna is prepping for her big night looking exactly the way she always does: immaculate Fancy Dress curls and a big ol’ metallic gown. I wish Rayna had worn the short green Naeem Khan that Connie did to the same event — it’s much less stodgy (cleavage aside) for someone who is courting a new generation of fans. I know they shot this well before Connie would’ve even picked out that dress, but still. That TYPE of thing would serve Rayna well. This looks like a wedding gown — almost a kin to the one she picked out, actually — and that’s odd for someone who is as het up as she is about ONLY being seen as Luke’s bride. Never much for timing, this one.

These two are having a rough day. Will mentions offhandedly that his parents almost certainly will not be watching tonight — sigh, Will’s father should watch Heathers for a reminder to love his gay son BEFORE he is dead — and Layla is really depressed that everyone on the Interwebs thinks she’s too stupid to breathe. I enjoy when shows rip off plotlines from real life, and then pretend that real life thing never happened. Newlyweds was a decade ago. They could easily make a joke or a reference to that, but then again, maybe Jessica Simpson is officially a passe pop-culture reference. Remember when it seemed impossible that we would escape the era of Simpson and Lachey, and Richie and Hilton, and Spencer and Heidi? Who knew the Kardashians waited on the other side?

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Back to Will: He tries to jolly Layla out of it with encouraging words, but as he walks over to the mirror and fixes his suit, he’s speaking more to himself than to her: “You’re a good person. You’re not a freak. And you did this all by yourself.” I really like Will, in case that’s not clear. His character has an extremely clear and constant throughline: He desperately wants success, he feels like he has to hide this side of himself to have it, and he’s occasionally tripped up by trying to keep one bubbling just under the surface. What he wants at any given moment is completely clear, which is what makes a successful character. Conversely, I have no idea what Gunnar wants, aside from his lame sudden son.

Speaking of whom: Micah is apparently coming to the CMAs with Gunnar and Zoey, because plus-ones are in abundance in this town. Micah seems to have adjusted just fine to the fact that his mother buzzed off and dumped him with his new dad — a thing he found out off-camera, which is a shame. Gunnar is playing it off like she just needed a little break, but it MIGHT have had a prayer of making me care about this kid if we’d seen the heartbreak of his reaction to finding out that the ONLY parent he’s known for almost ten years decided she didn’t need to be around him anymore because his existence was cockblocking her. I mean. That is a SCENE. Make me care about this person please.

Scarlett is watching the telecast on the couch, sounding EXTRA folksy tonight, saying things like how she’s “turnin’ on the teevee,” and how doesn’t know them ol’ Will Lexington that well (what? He hung out at your place ALL THE TIME when you were with Gunnar) and don’t see him so much because “marriage gon’ do that to a boy.” Deacon comes back from a fishing trip with Maddie that I’m actually glad was not on-camera, and Scarlett wonders if he’ll watch the dang-ol’ CMAs or jus’ gwon bein’ all gloomy ’bout Rayna. He’s not going to watch. He’s totally lying. You always watch.

It’s awkward in the limo for these two, because right before they left, the Contrivance Fairy put down her bagel and dropped by to stick a huge pre-nup amongst Luke’s things. She is rattled that he’d assumed they would sign one, and in the car she needles him about it and says he has to know she would never take what’s his. Luke explains that his first wife fleeced him and so he’s just trying to protect everything he brings into the marriage. “I’m fine with a 50-50 split here on out,” he says, which if I were Rayna, I would punch him for — not because it’s not easygoing, but because it seems to imply that he thinks he will rake in more cash than she will and so he’s GENEROUSLY willing to let her have a piece of that. Maybe Rayna should stop and wonder what would happen if Highway 65 is a raging success and Luke is a drain on HER finances that she could use to, say, pay back her sister’s loaned millions, or keep her house. You never know.

But of course, they HEY Y’ALL their way out of the car and do a lively interview all about whether he will ever join Highway 65. “As much as I’d love having Rayna call ALL the shots, I’m sticking with Edgehill,” he says, as she smiles, because I guess you can’t punch a man in the ear in front of the cameras. Sad for viewers, good luck for Ross Mathews.

Rayna brings in Sadie, too, who promptly takes a selfie, which feels like something you would do in the middle of an interview if you were eighteen. She then gets a text WHICH SHE READS while she is on-camera, and stumbles away so she can glance at it.

My guess is no, Pete, since you’re in her phone as “unknown” and therefore she doesn’t have your number saved. And so Sadie gets a backstory. Who is Pete? I hope it’s Pete Rose. Or PETE CAMPBELL, time-traveling to Nashville from the late sixties, which would be a fantastic storyline and I think he would find Juliette Barnes to be a formidable verbal opponent.

This is the episode where I started to like Layla, because she is SCREAMINGLY irritated by everyone’s perception of her, thanks to Love & Country. So when the lowly entertainment reporter asks if she thinks it’s ironic that she started on a reality show only to end up on one, she gives him an incredibly snippy schooling in how to use the word “irony,” which was well-delivered and made me laugh. I like that they’ve started to make these two friends who are stuck in the trenches together, rather than angry all the time, and it’s nice to see Layla get a little zest that isn’t just boilerplate competitive bitchery.

There is genuinely no good reason for Avery’s parents to meet Juliette for the first time at dropoff on the red carpet. She JUST set foot outside her car, too. There is no security anywhere — I know they’re invited guests, but still, his parents would not be hanging out waiting for her limo — and basically there is NO WAY this had to be the plan in any world except Planet Plotforce.

It is ALSO the anniversary of Juliette’s mother’s suicide, so we get a lot of terribly uplifting flashbacks to her traumatizing youth and the night of her death. So obviously Avery’s father is just what she needs right now.

When Teddy arrives, he sees Hooker Natasha with a super elderly rich client of hers, and starts staring lasciviously at her — to the point where Oliver Hudson is like, “Holster yourself, Teddy Hosevelt, this would be BAD OPTICS.”

I need to point out that Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley have hosted this show for many years. So you’d think they would be better at canned banter, but no, the stuff they have to read for Nashville comes off. Like they. Have never. Spoken. To. A camera. Their. Entire lives. Mostly on Brad’s part. Is he that stuff on the real CMAs? Also, let’s be frank, I’m not certain at ALL about that white cowboy hat with the outfit. Carrie might look cool, though. We’ll never truly know.

Every single Perry is going to accost Rayna backstage for hair tips. The one who’s a cross between Crispin Glover and Steven Tyler might not even wait that long.

This shot of Scarlett celebrating Deacon’s and Rayna’s win for “Song of the Year” is deigned to show you that she’s wearing some kind of old-timey patterned shirt over a satin slip dress, like a mental patient crossed with a Depression-era waif.


She also has on ratty knee socks. Essentially, she is Miss Hannigan now.

We can get through this pretty fast: Rayna wins. Everything. All of it. The first time, she goes up and thanks Deacon; the second, Liam. And never Luke. She is thanking them in a professional capacity, and at the appropriate time — Deacon co-wrote the song, Liam produced the winning album — but of course Luke’s ego has chafed itself to a fiery nub. I understand it, but also, use the force, Luke. Stretch out with your feelings or some shit.

Instead, his response is to stretch out with his liver and get drunk. Stonking drunk. Pore-oozingly drunk. This is a wonderful public coping mechanism from someone who probably ought to understand the value of a poker face.

Next, the producers tell Will and Layla that they’ve had to change some of their banter on the TelePrompTer at the last second — but then they go out and don’t do any speaking at all; they just perform. They don’t present anything until later in the show, and it feels weird that this show chose THAT moment to plan ahead and lay groundwork; it’s almost more realistic that they’d get stuck and have to tell them right before they walked out to present. I can’t believe I am breaking down that small choice. Moving on: They sing a moony duet about love and Layla gets visibly irritated that all the screaming fans use her solo to run over to Will and drool on him. Speaking of having no poker face.

First: Would the freaking BAR AT THE CMAs be this EMPTY? Where are all the drunk and rowdy people that I have NO DOUBT populate every awards show? Where have all the cowboys gone?

Second, I was nervous that Luke would sidle up to Sadie and end up nailing her in the bathroom. This whole hour, because of something vague I read on Twitter, I kept expecting Luke to get caught having bathrooms sex with someone and that he and Rayna would break up in a fiery argument. But no. Sadie just cries into her booze and tells Luke that her ex is harassing her for a cut of her success, because her song is about him. It’s not a very interesting problem yet, and Luke gives her extremely kind advice not to let The Mysterious Pete ruin her night nor take away what she’s achieved on her own. There is no bonking.

Not true of these two, though. Teddy stalks her through the buffet line backstage, and her date catches them. Natasha covers for it by saying she’d just wanted to meet the mayor, but Teddy, SHE IS A HIGH-CLASS ESCORT. Anyone she is with is going to know what you’re up to, and you ARE the Mayor, so KEEP IT TOGETHER MAN. But he can’t. She’s SUCH a good listener, see. So, to stoke his ego, he flirts and then eventually meets her in a storeroom somewhere, and she’s so flattered by his jealousy that the two of them have sex right then and there while her date is… I don’t even know; buying a Cialis from Oliver Hudson and then finding a hotel suite with side-by-side bathtubs. Busy long enough not to notice her absence, unless Teddy is one of her more… eager… clients. She does give him that bang on the house, though, which is tremendous customer service.

Gunnar gets a call from Kylie’s parents, about whether they can take Micah. While he’s outside trying to have this conversation that cannot possibly wait, Oliver Hudson comes right up to Zoey to discuss her future. Zoey steps away about two feet from Micah and learns that Oliver is interested in her as a singer — finally, someone is — and wants to listen to her demos. And of course, in that time, Micah has vanished. Because he’s almost ten years old but doesn’t know to tap her on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me, I need to use the bathroom, Zoey,” or ask her for his ticket so he can find his seat again, or anything that a normal child would do who is not under five. She is a SNEEZE away from him. He did not need to bolt.


Predictably, Gunnar’s hair rises like bread dough when he gets worked up about it. And when it’s all resolved, he does not appear to give Micah any helpful fatherly reprimands about how that was a stupid thing to do. So I have high hopes about how this paternity thing is going to go for him.

Avery’s parents are pretty sure it’s going to be HORRIBLE for him. His father lays into him about how he and Juliette have a weird relationship, and no apparent plan, and how Avery doesn’t have a real job and only got this nomination because Juliette threw him a bone. “I didn’t raise you this way, and from what I hear about her, she wasn’t raised at all.” Aw. That mean meanie just don’t GET our Juliette. Avery’s mother is sort of ineffectual about it — shushing him, but not disagreeing — and Juliette overhears, which prompts the CREEPIEST THING this show has EVER done.

It is a flashback of Juliette ditching her mom’s boyfriend’s young daughter so SHE could go party, which is exactly what Juliette’s mother did to HER. And they do this HIDEOUS special-effect to try and convey a teen Juliette. It’s scarier than any actual doll. It reminds of those Steve Madden ads from years ago, and… basically, Nashville should never be allowed to do this stuff again, ever, because SOMEBODY on the team thinks he or she is good at it, and that somebody is not correct.

We also get a Juliette/Rayna scene that is SUPER warm. They hug, they say nice things, Rayna asks how she’s doing… I like it, but it also seems to gloss over their prickly history. But I’ll take it, I guess, just for the novelty of them crossing paths.


Eventually, Mr. Wheeler wins one WITH Rayna, for Musical Event of the Year (their duet, “Ball and Chain”). He thanks Gunnar, and then basically implies that Rayna singing this duet with him is the only reason Rayna’s career has had this recent success. This does not go unnoticed by Rayna, nor by Deacon and Scarlett, the latter of whom all but Boomhauers her disbelief.

So once they’re off-stage, after Luke has brooded and had a few more drinks, Rayna charges after him into the men’s room and pushes him to tell her why he’s acting like a jackass. Luke seethes that she is thanking every man under the sun but him, and blurts out, “The only reason your album went gold is because I proposed to you on the day you released it.” He lets out a breath and then adds, “You said you’d never take what’s mine? You JUST DID.”

It is at this point that I encourage everyone to scream CRAM IT DOWN YOUR BLOWHOLE at the screen. Who’s to say Luke’s album even came in SECOND in the voting? He might be CORRECT, as from all indications it’s a bad album, but I don’t think in the universe of the SHOW it’s considered bad. Just in the universe of my ears.

Also, this loud confrontation took place in the men’s room AT A MAJOR AWARDS SHOW. And it’s EMPTY. (And small, despite the enormous venue.) Is this because nobody is drinking anything at the bar? Are they in the VIP Backstage bathroom? Because honestly, half the people in the audience are also VIPs who can go backstage. People’s bladders did not freeze in time just so Rayna and Luke could scream and rage at each other and magically have no one hear. If that technology exists, I’d like to order some. BladderFreeze, from the makers of OxyClean.

And fresh of their confrontation, he wins Male Vocalist of the Year, presented BY Rayna. “Guess this is one she couldn’t win over me,” he says self-deprecatingly, and then proceeds to thank her first. Of course. To make THAT point. In the press room, some idiot asks if Rayna WOULD have beaten him if she were a man, and that is legitimately the dumbest question in the world. If Rayna were a man, she would have a different career, sing different songs, have different crotchal shenanigans, not be someone in whom Luke had any particular emotional or physical investment… It’s a clumsy stab at a sound bite and I wish someone on Nashville had been like, “You are an embarrassment, Ed.”

Avery finds Juliette to apologize to her for what his parents said. She sadly notes that Mr. Barkley is right, because she had a lousy role model, and we’re all doomed to repeat our parents’ sins. “If that were the case, I’d be a judgmental, unforgiving jackass,” Avery points out, and Juliette shoots him a very pointed “Uh-HUH” expression that makes him catch his breath. IN FAIRNESS, Juliette, you did SLEEP WITH SOMEONE ELSE. A lousy childhood is a reason, not an excuse. But I want you two kids to get back together, so… Avery is welcome to use this here climbing wall to get up over himself.


And he does, in fact, get all snarly and red-eyed at his father, and then turns to Juliette and tells her that he will be better, and THEY will be better, because they’re not their parents. He also tells her that her mother wasn’t all bad, because in the end, she was trying to protect Juliette. It’s very sweet, and he finishes by taking her hand, and this is the expression he gets in return:


I love them so much. That is the best face. All Juliette wants is for someone to love her and respect her and have faith in her better nature, and that is all I want FOR her, even when she is a pill. Apparently I am her mother now. Sniffle. You two jump each other’s bones please. Or just cuddle by the fire. Whatever.

Layla finally walks out on-stage to read her brand-new line, and it’s this: “I wore my hair up in case anything goes over my head.” While the producers sweeten the laugh track on that clunker of a line, Layla’s face gets taut and she adds, “Just so you know, I deferred HARVARD.” Poor, defensive child. Also, given your current status as National Joke, it might not be great to brag about that decision, as it might have been the wrong one.

In the final award of the night, Rayna wins Best Sparkly Everything Ever Unicorn Flower Puppy Tree, and once she gets on stage, she thanks first her daughters, and then finally Luke. Which, dude, you really should have waited to see if she was going to do that anyway, because now you’ll never know. She says, “What’s mine is yours,” and then pauses and adds — in a sentence that is almost foolish given how quickly any gossip reporter with his/her salt will leap on it — “To all the men out there, we’re never trying to take anything from you. There’s plenty of sunshine for all of us.” Or, Rayna, how about, “To all the men out there, if you assume everything is automatically yours to be taken, you are welcome to eat a giant bowl of bull shit.” Perhaps a bit more scandalous. But given her very public coupling, not MUCH more scandalous, as everyone will surely take that sentence and run with it straight to a GIF shop of Luke Wheeler pouting that night.

Gunnar tells Zoey that Kylie’s parents never speak to her, which Ican’t blame them for given what we know of her. This translates to them being very unwilling to take on a grandchild, and that means Micah is here to stay. Zoey realizes that this is an awful fate because Micah is super lame and going to buzzkill her career, although what she actually says to Gunnar is that she loves him terribly but came to Nashville to escape being a young mom with no time to gun for a recording contract. So she dumps him so that he can choose Micah with a clear conscience. Poor Sam Palladio. I’m sure this is just to bring Scarlett back into the fold,  but he is super appealing, and I really LIKE when they let him perform, but he’s marooned now on Micah Island. Let’s just count down the days until an aggressive grandparent changes his or her mind, or Kylie comes back with Lord Tulsa and shows a renewed interest in her womb fruit.

Will and Layla are bumming again. Her Harvard crack has been remixed into a viral video, and he lost Best New Artist to Sadie Stone. If Sadie is THAT hot a commodity, how the hell were only Edgehill and Highway 65 bidding for her? Anyway, poor Will. I want to hug him. These two are so lonely and so on a collision course with catastrophe.

Juliette, however, is back to her wise old ways:

After Avery drops her off at home, she smiles tentatively that she’s too pregnant to get off her dress by herself (a valid concern, but also, how did she plan to do it if he hadn’t been her ride? She came in a limo — where did that guy go? Where is Emily? Is Glenn too busy scrubbing off wig glue to help?). So Avery gallantly unzips it for her…

… and promptly has an aneurysm because he’s touching the smooth, supple ladyback of The One Who Got Away. He bumbles his way out the door, and as it closes behind him, Juliette gives a tiny smile of WINNING because she totally is. She is in his head. She is BACK, y’all. THE BARNES DOOR IS OPEN.

And of course, if we’re talking about things that are open:

Luke sprawls out in one of Rayna’s chairs and apologizes to her for being a dink. She seems to appreciate his honesty and also his insecurity, so they make up and promise to love and honor and not get spooked about pre-nups and stop being bathroom screamers and zzz. She ought to be a whole lot angrier about the fact that he stomped around in a drunken tizzy and told her that he was responsible for her current success, and  basically snuffled around looking like he swallowed a porcupine. Maybe she felt sad for how pathetic he looked.

Even more so once this text comes in:

So in one corner, we have a bag of whine implying she can’t succeed without The Wheeler Bump (it’s like The Colbert Bump but less charming and academic), and in the other, her co-winner is telling her that she deserves her success and her win. It givs Rayna a big smile, and Deacon — who noticed the tension and also is not dumb and has met Luke — totally knew what he was doing when he sent it, I think. I mean, maybe it was just a classy gesture, but I think it was also to draw a big arrow pointing to his forehead that said, “THIS GUY. THIS GUY RIGHT HERE DOESN’T THINK YOU OWE ANYONE ANYTHING. ALSO, UP LATE. WILL BONE.”

And that’s the end of the episode, which… is a strange way to go out, but I guess it can’t always be car crashes and weepy duets and sexual healing and torture holes and Phone Penis, and… wait, I’m getting my shows crossed. If Deacon had sent her a scrotal selfie, that would be unusual. But perhaps not wholly unwelcome, on Rayna’s part, if we’re being totally honest.

Tags: Nashville