So..is it me or did not a lot happen this week? We learned a bunch more about Rayna and Juliette’s respective daddy and mommy issues, but I’m about ready for SOMEONE’s tour to get under way and I don’t care much whose it is.
Really, I’m just not sure how many more scenes we need to watch of Deacon being torn and Rayna being torn. At least, Juliette is not torn. She very decisively wants Deacon on her tour and when her manager Glenn fails to make that happen, she throws around a few ultimatums. To start, if Deacon wants their duet from last week's “Undermine” to be on the album, he needs to get his butt into the studio.
It just so happens he’s getting a bit tired of being strung along as Rayna first ignores him and then hems and haws about what kind of songs they should sing on their small-scale tour. (I’m sure the tour manager didn’t help, running down their stops and stressing “a lot of overnights” and the new tour bus’s “nice master suite.” Mmm hmm.) Scared of what the Bluebird performance stirred up, Rayna tries to backpedal suggesting they do their bigger hits rather than their earlier intimate stripped-down stuff. Deacon calls her on it, asking if she’s freaked.
It’s a nice juxtaposition to what’s going on elsewhere in Nashville as Scarlett and Gunnar take to the studio with Watty to record that demo. Although they were just fine dueting earlier on another lovely song at Scarlett’s (much to Avery’s chagrin), now that she’s in the same recording booth where Dolly and Willie once warbled, she’s having some problems. She flubs the song repeatedly, leaving Watty to talk privately with Gunnar about bringing in another singer. When he tells Scarlett this, thinking he’s letting her off the hook and stressing that “it’s all about publishing it really,” she’s troubled…and not just about the music, asking “you’re gonna sing with another girl?” Mmm hmm.
Our old pro Juliette is having no such trouble though, she’s starting to lay down “Undermine” (there’s a nice subtle nod where she specifically asks them to turn up her echo whereas Scarlett was having trouble adjusting to that very effect). Deacon comes in and they lay down the track and it’s a winner. Juliette can’t fully enjoy it though because she has other things on her mind—Momma’s in town. She tells Deacon that the song reminds her of her mother, without letting on exactly how strained their relationship is. All in all, they actually have a nice bonding moment….and then they go to bed! But after the sex, there’s more emotional forthrightness. Juliette brings up his snub of her at the Bluebird, saying she’d like to be the girl who gets chosen for once. He points out that he’s between her sheets already, but she says she means for her music. And she asks him to make a choice and paints a pretty rosy picture of their tour as a haven away from everything (meaning “Rayna”), a chance to play sold out venues with screaming fans, and to write songs together (and then some) when they’re offstage.
And you know, it’s pretty understandable why he responds that he doesn’t think that sounds so bad. The age gap looms pretty large here (Esten is mid-40s and Panettiere is early 20s, and I imagine their characters are about the same) and I can understand if that squicks people out (May-December is usually a huge problem for me too), but I have to admit, I like these two together. More than Rayna and Deacon at this point. YES. I SAID IT. I think it’s because at least they seem to enjoy each other (and it helps that Panettiere plays Juliette like an old soul in a young body). I think the show has made a fairly critical mistake in only really showcasing the discomfort and angst between Rayna and Deacon so far. Even their chemistry in the café singing “No One Will Ever Love You” was fairly heavy. Can we get a flashback of happier times up in here? Angst is great, but it’s feeling slightly one-note and maybe that pales a bit in direct contrast with the more interesting, layered relationship he seems to be building with Juliette.
Speaking of interesting relationships, Mama tracks down Juliette at her mansion this time (she’s pretty clever and industrious for a meth head, eh? Or maybe she just bought a star map?). Juliette refuses her entry, throwing her mother’s pleas that she needs Juliette back at her, saying her mother wasn’t there for her when she needed her and she can’t stay now. Juliette tells her security team to put her on a bus, but breaks down in tears as she walks away. (Gotta give kudos to Panettiere also for the earlier scene when she first sees her mother. She visibly jumps and is panicky and out of breath and it’s pretty affecting.)
We also get a lot of Rayna’s family life mixed in here. Her girls are preparing to sing in a talent show, and she and Teddy are having money troubles. Their options are all somewhat grim: 1) Go on Juliette’s tour, 2) Get a credit line/loan from the bank where Teddy used to work, or 3) Ask Daddy for a loan. It’s no shocker they go for #2, but those shady financial deals Teddy were involved with might be a problem—he hears there might be an audit involved and he hightails it out of there. Conveniently, Daddy does send a check for a cool half-million, but it comes with a lot of stipulations that basically amount to Rayna not having much of a career while Teddy becomes a politician. Rayna’s understandably less than thrilled when” PawPaw” (a less fitting adulation for Powers Boothe is hard to imagine, heh) shows up at the girls’ show. Afterwards Rayna’s ranting to her sis Tandy about the conditions and Tandy reveals that the big hatred Daddy has for Rayna’s career stems down to their mother: she had an affair for 10 years with a “singer-songwriter” type.
Blown away, a much softer Rayna goes to her father and tries to talk it out with him, but gets a whole lot of shade in return about how he sees her doing the same thing her mother did and putting herself before what her family needs. Ray is less than impressed with his cruelty and basically tells him if he treated her mother the way he treats her, no wonder she cheated. On the way out she assures him she’ll never take a red cent from him. She also finally calls Deacon and tells him that she knows she should be letting him go…but she can’t. She can’t separate him and the music. “I feel like I'm holdin’ all these hearts in my hands, and I'm tryin’ so hard not to break them, when mine’s in pieces,” she says, sounding like a living breathing country song indeed. Someone write that down!
Watty comes to Juliette to break some bad news: her mom caused a commotion at the bus depot, getting into a fight. He suggests they have to keep her close to prevent her doing more damage. This whole plotline is a little nutty though, right? Are we supposed to believe that everyone doesn’t know the truth about her mother even though she’s a huge star? In a day and age when it’s breaking news that Jessica Simpson’s dad just came out of the closet, it’s hard to buy that she’d be able to keep this secret under wraps.
Meanwhile, Gunnar puts a bug in Avery’s ear about Scarlett’s lack of confidence, and he talks her into doing her best and even offers to be there in the studio. On the surface it’s a nice gesture, but it should be noted that my husband piped up at this juncture “Someone’s gonna be a gold digger!” And it does seem as though that’s the case maybe, as he takes the opportunity to introduce himself to Watty with a rather ambitious gleam in his eye, as Scarlett and Gunnar record their third duet for the demo, “Fade Into You.”
It’s another haunting, intense ballad and makes a great backdrop to some angsty developments. Interwoven with the performance, we see Lamar looking at old pics of his wife and being visibly verklempt, Deacon finally saying no to Juliette’s tour, and Juliette’s mama moving into her mansion. Poor Juliette, those hits just keep on coming. As the song fades out, Juliette takes one more and it’s a doozy.
She’s strolling the aisles of a grocery store, buying a heck of a lot of junk food. But just when you think the show’s setting up a secret bulimia storyline, it takes a left turn into even worse territory. Juliette picks up a nail polish, looks around suspiciously, quite obviously sees a group of young girls in the same aisle look her way, yet still stuffs that polish into her purse…as the girls video her with their phone doing it. Really, Nashville? Really now? That’s a cheap trope worthy of a CW show, and I’m gonna need you to step it up a little.
One thing that remains flawless is the music. Not just the actual songs, but the way they’re truly woven into the fabric of the show and the stories. Glee and Smash use a lot of music in each episode, but often fairly inorganically. Nashville actually uses their songs to really drive the plot forward, the way it would work in any good Broadway musical. It’s rather impressive how well they’re pulling that off. Since it is such a highlight, we’ll devote a section to chatting about the music in each week’s episode.
“Telescope“: I like that we’re going to hear the same songs continued through the episodes because these are songs they’re recording and performing, not just one-offs. This sounds like a Miranda Lambert song, with its driving beat and aggressive “I’ll hunt you down” attitude. It’s kind of interesting that it comes up yet again when Rayna’s girls sing it at their talent show…even if it is disconcerting hearing a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old crooning lines about the “secrets that you left in my bed.” As a sidenote: Maddie and Daphne are played by real-life singing sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella, who have quite a pedigree.
“Undermine”: It’s kind of amazing that the producers are able to find already written songs like this one that fit so well with the show’s themes. Kacey Musgraves performs and co-wrote the song with Trent Dabbs. The songwriters and showrunners talk about the song in this fun video clip from the behind-the-scenes “On the Record” video featurettes posted on the ABC Nashville website each week:
“I Will Fall” – This is the lighter, sweet duet that Scarlett and Gunnar are practicing in her apartment. This one was actually my favorite of the episode and I was hoping we’d hear more of it. Maybe in a future episode… Kate York and Tyler James wrote the original and you can listen to it on YouTube.
“Fade into You": Amazingly this is NOT a Civil Wars song, though it sounds very much of a piece with the pilot’s “If I Didn’t Know Better.” Written by Trevor Rosen, Shane McAnally, and Matt Jenkins, it’s another haunting, minor-chord heavy ballad that highlights how well Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio’s voices compliment each other. Nashville’s selling this one and it’s already for sale on iTunes.
Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.