I love a good title. And this week's Nashville had a good one: “You're Gonna Change (or I'm Gonna Leave).” Since that kind of summed up my general disappointment with the show for the past few weeks, I'm so glad it took its own advice. For the first time since the pilot, last night's Nashville showed signs of growth and forward momentum, as well as both of its leading ladies being pretty awesome. Good job, show. More of this please.
We open with a refreshingly humorous scene at a fundraiser for the Nashville zoo. Juliette isn't pleased about three weeks of publicity penance, gritting through a smile to her publicist Makena, “If any of these adorable baby animals take a crap on me, I'm gonna be veeery upset.” Rookie NFL quarterback Sean Butler, basically the Finn Hudson of Nashville, is the host of this shindig and he introduces himself to Juliette, who's not feeling the goody-two-shoes image he projects. (She's even less endeared to him when he thrusts a small animal at her and it promptly tries to start eating her hair extensions.) Nevertheless Makenna notices Juliette's Facebook likes soar after her animal encounter and thinks Sean's a good prospect for a publicity date/fauxmance, sending them out for dinner together. Since our jaded Juliette can't get over the teetotaling, homebody Sean, she decides she needs to corrupt him, whisking him off to South Beach because...well, like she says, “We're young, we're hot, and I have a jet.” Hard to argue with that.
Meanwhile, Rayna is playing the new demo she wrote for the label, who reluctantly says she can cut it. But Rayna doesn't want good ole Randy to produce it. She's got her eye on a Grammy-winning rock star transplant and asks Bucky to set up a meeting. Unfortunately when she shows up at the guy's door, he's not interested in working with the famous Rayna James, telling her “You're moms and SUVs. That's a language I just don't speak.” then egregiously adding that he won't charge her for this “consultation.” Rayna takes that as well as you'd expect, but...but...instead of flouncing back to her old guard, we finally see some of that mettle she showed in the pilot. She returns to pester him the next day, flattering the guy with mention of some obscure set he played in Belfast. He's shocked she's heard it and it's enough to get him to take a listen, which leads to talking, drinking, and...laying down some tracks. One of the things Nashville does so excellently is showcasing how people, especially those who maybe seem like total opposites, really bond through music. I can't wait till they actually apply this algorithm to Rayna and Juliette.
But for now Juliette and Sean are doing a bit of bonding on her plane, and not the Mile High Club kind. Sean serenades Juliette with one of her own songs (“I have a sister” he says to her pleasantly surprised inquiry) and they do a mini duet that doesn't sound half-bad actually. They continue to tease each other, genuinely starting to enjoy each other's company (though in a pretty platonic way). All goes well until they leave a nightclub and a paparazzo starts hurling digs about Juliette's mom. Sean gets in his face and politely but firmly tells the guy to lay off, then shoves him back when the photog tries to dodge around him to take a pic of Juliette. Unfortunately the guy falls over and breaks his camera but not before he gets a bunch of shots of an angry Sean looking wasted (despite having abstained.) When Juliette finds out about the pictures, she whisks the photog out to Nashville and hands him a fat check for all the photos, plus promises him he'll get the tip-off the next 10 times she ventures out. When the guy points out that she's not even in the pictures, she just smiles sweetly and says “Then I guess you really got the better deal here.” It's a lovely, magnanimous gesture (even if I did wonder how she could be sure he didn't make a copy!), and Juliette may be a tough nut to crack, but inside she's all gooey center. It's heartbreaking in a way to see how well this girl responds to any amount of real kindness shown her by someone not on her payroll. Sean comes and asks her “in” on a date with him at the end of the episode and I hope we get to see him again. This relationship could be quite good for her.
There are two other storylines at play this episode (the faster pacing was also a welcome improvement this week). Teddy’s political career is in trouble and suddenly Mayor Coleman Carlisle is being pulled over by cops for not using a turn signal. It seems like some serious racial profiling but no doubt Daddy Conrad had a hand in it. He swears to Teddy that he did not, however, have a hand in the pill bottle one of the cops finds in Coleman’s car. For some reason he just didn’t toss those away after getting them from Deacon last week. It’s a blow to his campaign certainly but don’t count him out just yet. That shady character taking pictures of Teddy and Peggy last week was a PI surveilling them for Coleman, who thinks the pictures will destroy Teddy’s reputation and his marriage.
And finally we get the break-up we’ve all been waiting for as a cougar-y manager named Marilyn Rose takes a shine to Avery. It’s the usual old story, she agrees to help his career for a little “personal attention.” Deacon gets a bit embroiled in this, warning her to leave his neice’s boyfriend alone, and telling Avery he’ll help him out, but when it doesn’t pan out, Avery does fall prey to Marilyn’s charms….almost. They start sucking face, but he puts on the brakes, saying he can’t, and goes home to Scarlett. But it’s too little, too late. Gunnar and then Deacon have tipped her off to Marilyn’s wiley ways, and she screams at Avery that he cheated. He tries to tell her he did the right thing and put a stop to it, but she’s horrified that he was even considering it and she packs her bags and takes her quivering lip to Uncle Deacon’s. I suppose I should be rooting for her to have finally gotten a spine and dumped Avery, but…I still just don’t like her. There’s something incredibly childish about her that I just cannot get on board with.
Speaking of getting on board however, we finally get to see Rayna come into her own and have a moment where we can really root for her again, as she fights for what she wants rather than just letting things languish. She plays her newly mastered song (which, uh, didn’t sound all that different to the demo to me, but whatever!) to Marshall and he loves it until he hears who produced it. Apparently rock star guy dissed him onstage at an awards show a few years back (HA!) and he refuses to work with him. Leaving Rayna to lay down the law or she’ll find another label: “He’s mah guy. This is mah sound. … This is where I’m going. Get on board!” It’s such a pleasure to see Connie Britton play a scene where she has some real agency.
I think this is going to be a real turning point for Nashville, thankfully. In the previews, it looks like next week we’ll finally see the premise that should have materialized in episode two kick off: Rayna and Juliette perform a song together. Also, now that Scarlett’s moved in with Deacon, we should have a bit more unification of storylines for our key players which should lead to good things. I’m so glad Nashville changed, so I didn’t have to leave (it off my DVR list).
Mayor Carlisle’s wife seemed pretty awesome, yeah? You’re damn right he doesn’t owe Rayna or her family anything, lady. You tell him!
Rock star producer telling Rayna that she was “electric” singing “Buried Under” was about as convincing as the producers in the pilot joking about how badly Juliette needed autotune.
Clare Bowen should always sing and never talk. Her attempt at a Southern accent is painful AND it’s nearly impossible to understand her when she gets into mumblemouth mode, like in the scene with Gunnar.
That PI said he’s seen an affair but dude, the pictures of Teddy and Peggy looked super innocent to me. I mean they didn’t even have any suspicious angles where it looked like maybe they could’ve been kissing if you squinted. Amateur hour!
Peggy’s Teddy fixation is starting to make me think she might be boiling a bunny later by the time the season finale rolls around.
A little light on music this week, but it was such a good episode, I didn’t mind.
“Kiss” – Jonathan Jackson finally gets a full performance and he sounds pretty great on this song written by Sean McConnell. It’s curious as to why Avery wanted to come to Nashville of all places to get a non-country career started (I guess it’s supposed to be alt-country, but to me it just sounds…alt), but regardless, the boy’s got the chops, at least.
“Buried Under” – The fancy studio version of Rayna’s song….did it sound all that different to you?
“Love Like Mine” –Written by Kelly Archer, Justin Weaver, & Emily Shackelton, this is the plane duet song by Juliette and Sean. I like how in character this song is for our tough cookie with the gooey center, all about how breakups hurt but she won’t cry.
Fun fact: The song playing in the nightclub in South Beach that Juliette and Sean go to is “Body Work” by Morgan Page featuring Tegan & Sara.
Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.