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Nashville Recap: The Devil May Care

NASHVILLE - "You're Gonna Change (or I'm Gonna Leave)" - Rayna wants to change her sound and seeks out the help of a highly successful music producer, Liam McGuinnis, played by Michiel Huison ("Treme"); Juliette goes on a sham date with a squeaky-clean NFL quarterback as a PR move for her tarnished image; meanwhile, Lamar's plan to delay Coleman with a police traffic stop on his way to an important photo op for both candidates works too well, and Scarlett's relationship with Avery gets rocky, on "Nashville," WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET) on the ABC Television Network.

Finally, the big Avery episode we’ve all been waiting for!

Crickets

Sigh. Six episodes into Nashville and, while not one single episode has been a dud, the show still hasn’t quite elevated from good to great yet, at least not in my mind. To me, great means I’m making furtive glances at the clock because, damn, why does time seem to move at doublespeed when my favorite shows are on? And the end makes me scream with agony because I can’t possibly to be expected to bear a whole week without knowing what comes next, can I? By those standards, Nashville hasn’t quite done it for me yet. It has my full attention — I’m not checking my Twitter feed while watching — but I haven’t turned off my ringtone, either.

I think the biggest problem, as of late at least, is that Rayna and Juliette haven’t occupied the screen together. Their rivalry, their yin-yang, if you will, is the heart of Nashville and the show suffers when they’re not in scenes together. (Looks like that’ll be remedied in a big way, two weeks from now when they’re forced to record a duet. Yeehaw.) Also last night’s episode? Needs MOAR Deacon. That is all. (He did have the show’s best line, though: “What am I supposed to do: Hand him a balloon every time I see him?” when Scarlett accuses him of not sufficiently liking Avery.)

Still, last night’s ep, which was all about compromise and corruption, cleverly flipped the script on a few clichés. For starters, we have Avery. We’ve all seen the plot of the beautiful ingénue being preyed on by the predatory manager. But what about the prettyboy would-be “alt-country-punk rocker” (double sigh) being preyed on by Marilyn (Rya Kihlstedt), the lupine female manager who’s all leather pants and promises of college radio plays and come-hither smiles? I actually dug Avery’s song “Kiss.”  It seemed neither alt, nor country, nor punk — discuss among yourselves — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. On Nashville, everyone is a talented musician — including Juliette’s NFL dream date (more on him later). I half expect Lamar to whip out a banjo at some point.

Turns out, Deacon was himself once a pretty young thang with a guitar being preyed on by Marilyn, but he REFUSED HER ADVANCES, because he’s got integrity like that. She speculates out loud that he might have become more than Rayna’s guitarist if he had given her what she asked for. I have a hard time believing that a supposedly drug-addled (at the time) Deacon would’ve turned her down. But then again, I also have a hard time believing that Marilyn would’ve already honed her casting couch routine when Deacon was just starting out — hers seems more like a middle-aged woman’s game. But I digress.

Anyone else think Scarlett was super hard on Avery when he came home and confessed his (almost) sins? Yeah, he went over to Marilyn’s, knowing full well what she had in mind.

“My music speaks for itself,” he said. “Then why are you here?” she countered. And yeah, they had a makeout sesh on the couch. But he didn’t go through with it! That’s got to be worth something, right? It fell on deaf ears with Scarlett, who took her little adorable wooden suitcase and headed over to Uncle Deacon’s to lick her wounds.

For his part, ambitious Teddy is also making a series of tiny compromises to his own integrity that are beginning to pile up. He’s supposed to sign something called a “Clean Campaign Pledge” with Coleman but Lamar says he can arrange for Coleman to be pulled over for a traffic violation on the way to the event. (Lamar seems to preside over Nashville like some sort of demonic puppeteer.) Teddy balks at first, reminding Lamar that he only agreed to run for mayor if they kept things clean, but Lamar challenges his desire to win and Teddy finally caves. (Then seems to sign the pledge with invisible ink? Am I the only one who noticed that?) There’s an interesting moment, although it’s almost immediately snuffed out, when Coleman is pulled over. The cop is white, and he calls Coleman “belligerent.” Hmmm, I thought: Are they actually introducing racial politics into this show? Go show. But then, the female cop who finds the stash of oxy in Coleman’s glove compartment is black, so looks like they’re not quite willing to go there just yet. Yeah, that’s Deacon’s oxy that he picked up from Jolene last episode. A nice touch. (And one that I confess I was a tad slow on the uptake on. Me saying, “Ohhhh, that was Deacon’s oxy!” was not my proudest moment.)

So Avery is almost willing to sell his soul for success (and by the end of the show it appears he’s “All In,” to borrow a phrase) and Teddy chipped away at his own integrity to please his Devil-in-Law. But what about Coleman? That mysterious private eye guy — who upon closer inspection looks nothing like Deacon (my bad) — has handed over the seemingly incriminating photos of Teddy and Peggy. What will he do with them? (And who hired him to begin with?)

Elsewhere, Juliette, still in image rehab mode, has been set up by her publicist with a squeaky-clean NFL quarterback named Jim Jebow. Okay, his name is Sean Butler and he’s played by — wait for it — Tilky Montgomery Jones. (First born son’s name? Done!) Juliette is none too amused with this arrangement. “He’s boring and he sucks at football,” she says. Awww, Tim Tebow’s not that bad ... Wait. But they have their date—she flies him on a private jet to South Beach, he whips out his guitar and then puts the “club soda” in clubbin’ once they get to South Beach. And what’s cute—and surprising—about this little date is that Juliette might actually like this goody-two-shoes country QB. She even pays off a paparazzi to bury incriminating pics of him. And I must be getting old, because I found myself thinking “a nice boy like Sean might just be what Juliette needs.” More likely, she’ll use him, abuse him, and dump him quicker than he can say “Hail Mary pass” — but we’ll just have to wait and see.

While Juliette is trying to clean up her image, Rayna is trying to get her swagger back. She solicits rock music producer Liam McGuinnis (Michiel Huison of Treme fame) to help her “blow up the box.” First, he accuses her of being all about “moms and SUVs” — and leaves her standing in the alley! real nice — but she comes back the next day and makes her case that she wants to rediscover her voice. He’s moved enough to let her in — not before she turns and remotely locks her SUV (heh) — and they spend the day together, boozing, talking, and recording songs. (In this case, Rayna’s four shots of whiskey aren’t meant to be a danger sign, but an indication that she’s going back to her roots. Suffice it to say, the show has a complicated relationship with alcohol.) Now the record label is balking because Liam McGuinnis is not one of their approved producers, but Rayna is sticking to her guns. She works with Liam or she shops her songs elsewhere.

On Nashville, if you’re staying true to the music, you’ve got integrity. Everything else is just noise.

Photo: Jon LeMay/ABC