Just before going on a mini-hiatus for a couple of weeks, Nashville presented a series of increasingly strong episodes in which stuff actually happens. Rayna starts to let loose, and realizes it’s time to accept that her marriage is over. Juliette decides to leave behind her long-suffering manager and take control of her own career. In the face of Gunnar’s personal tragedy, Scarlett decides the most helpful thing she can do is finally hit that piece of Tex-ass. All of which was exhilarating in terms of both character development and sheer novelty, but it only makes sense that at a certain point those kinds of spontaneous, life-changing decisions will result in serious fall out. “When You’re Tired Of Breaking Other Hearts,” takes a moment to acknowledge that there are consequences to divorce, sudden firing, and sleeping with your roommate. (Also, Deacon learns that there are consequences to taking on the care of a puppy - sexy consequences. The kind that lead to afternoon delight with an unnecessarily rude but attractive veterinarian.)
Perhaps the most beaten down by karma this week is Juliette, who really gets her comeuppance for her occasional bouts of arrogance and denial. It was exciting to see her say goodbye to Glenn, the kind of “you don’t own me,” dramatic professional break that most employees have fantasized about at one time or another, but her freedom is complicated by the fact that neither she nor her staff have any idea how to handle the change on a logistical level. When the record label wants her to do an “intimate” 50 person show at a local shop (she may want to be seen as a serious artist, but for the moment she’s still a pop princess for whom “Intimate is code for small”) she retaliates by inviting all of her Twitter followers, predictably resulting in a total shit show. Among the screaming fans is Maddie, high off the thrill of calling her mom a bitch and lying to her dad about where she is spending the afternoon.
Apparently in the world of Nashville, karma imparts swift justice; soon after Maddie and Juliette’s acts of rebellion, both young ladies find themselves suitably punished, Maddie by physical injury and Juliette by public shaming for her thoughtless tweet. While it is laudable to show that things aren’t just hunky dory when a young, inexperienced girl decides she can manage her own multi-million dollar music career, this particular sequence felt so clunky and reductively preachy it was hard to take seriously. It felt like some kind of pantomime for Vine, the camera switching from character to character for just a few seconds apiece, capturing their hammy, stylized reactions to the scene before them; Maddie dancing, her mouth hanging ajar with excitement, Deacon, waggling his eyebrows with concern, Juliette’s bodyguard just shaking his head.
However the scene lead to Juliette’s far more serious punishment, a tongue-lashing from angry Mama bear Rayna, who pushes her to take responsibility for her actions. “You hurt people around you all the time. Wake up.” The wake up call not only prompts Juliette to pay the medical bills for everyone who was injured at her show, but to see the hand she might have played in her mother’s downward spiral. A verbal dressing-down from the queen of country is just that good. Watching Rayna scold Juliette like a spoiled child was incredibly satisfying and reminded me that their time on the road together ended all too briefly. Even their scenes together during the touring period were regrettably limited, their feisty dynamic taking a backseat to both ladies’ personal rather than professional issues.
Meanwhile, on the relationship front, Rayna now has to deal with the very quotidian woes of sharing child custody while in the process of divorce. Scarlett has to deal with the less quotidian and more specific problem of what happens after sleeping with her roommate and best friend at a really bad time, then being rejected by him because all he wants to do is track down whoever killed his brother. Considering the chemistry that these two have, their morning after was a real let-down. The writers choose to have Gunnar pull away from Scarlett, a contrived device designed to extend the will-they-or-won’t-they drama just a little bit longer (one episode longer, to be exact). While it’s true that Gunnar is in shock, hardened by loss and overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, he is also a loving puppy of a man who I don’t fully believe would run from the girl he has pined after for years when she finally shows an interest in him. It seems far more likely that he would crumble into her goody-goody arms, that she would be the one tempted to run away after acting so impetuously in the interest of comforting a friend. At the same time, however, I have to commend showing that the combination of Scarlett’s poor timing and Gunnar’s grief was bound to have some negative consequences, rather than acting as though hopping on the jock of a guy who just saw his brother in a body bag is just your run-of-the-mill dating scenario.
Luckily, despite adding significantly to his general freak-out, Scarlett wins Gunnar back from the brink of danger with the help of her uncle, a scene in which Charles Esten really shines (the otherwise reliable Sam Palladio can’t quite pull off the unhinged version of his character, even with his typically Southern-boy duds traded in for a black leather jacket and hoodie combo). As convoluted as the events leading up to it may have been, Deacon’s emotional lecture to Gunnar was extremely effective, urgent, and straightforward, invoking the powerful ties between both Deacon and Rayna, and Gunnar and Scarlet. Just hearing Deacon say the words “I lost the only woman I ever loved,” knowing exactly who that is, and knowing that everyone within the world of this show knows exactly who that is, is so poignant, and sad as any country breakup song.
It was a long time before I realized that Deacon’s story about encouraging his friend to drive drunk is not quite as comparable to Gunnar’s brother being beaten to death in an alley because he was leading a life of crime as the show wants you to believe. That is because, even in many of its weaker episodes, Nashville gives good payoff, whether it makes complete sense or not, the kind that can make you momentarily forget some of the contortions required to jostle things into that perfect moment. The same effect occurs when Scarlett takes her turn to reject Gunnar, just after a speech in which a mere gesture in her direction convinces him to go home with her rather than avenge his brother’s death. It feels completely off until later, when we realize it was just a delay tactic to allow for the moment of sweeping, stomach flipping, paperback novel romance when they run to each other in the dark house and he carries her off to his bedroom with one arm - very Gone With The Wind. Based on the fact that Gunnar has been cut out of the deal with Rayna’s new record label, however, a direct consequence of his actions, it seems unlikely that their newfound bliss will remain unwrinkled for very long.
- And, the winner for most quotable goes to Coleman, who lines up a series of zingers in just one short conversation with Deacon. First he echoes most viewer’s feelings about how irresponsible it was of Juliette to gift crotchety ol’ Deacon with a living thing with a drily delivered “That’s not a practical birthday gift, man.” Then he tells his friend “I’ma call you Mr. One and Done,” incisively suggesting he’s been saving himself for Rayna because “You ain’t just hooked on booze and pills, you’re strung out on Rayna James.”
- I know Teddy is really pushing Rayna’s buttons in this episode, but who takes off a ring with a rock the size of a baby’s fist and just tosses it into their purse, no matter how rich and angry they are?
- Nothing could be more humiliating for Avery as a character than being forced to provide the soundtrack for his recent ex girlfriend’s lovemaking with her new guy. That was cruel, Nashville. Also hilarious.
- Despite the description given by my cable provider, Katie Couric barely figures in this episode - what a smoke screen.