Remember a few months ago when Nashville took several weeks off and they made a big deal about it and even gave it a fancy name, winter hiatus? Well, this time they just kind of pulled the rug out from under us, huh? No warning, no euphemistic catchphrase (mid-season siesta!), just ... gone. It was the TV-show equivalent of being dumped by text. So, where were we? What’s the status of Gunnar’s big bro? (Oh, yeah, dead.) Are Rayna and Deacon communicating? (Sort of, but, alas, not horizontally.) And wither Scarlett’s banjo? (Just kidding. No one currs.)
The show starts with Deacon serenading his new pup. Basically, Deacon, who is usually Mr. Angsty Pants, is kind of the soft and cuddly center of today’s show. Not only does he spend a lot of time with that puppy, but at one point he literally wields a stuffed bunny.
That’s okay, though; there’s more than enough angst to go around. Gunnar wakes up to discover that sex with Scarlett has not, in fact, brought his brother back from the dead, and this makes him very angry. He takes out his anger on Scarlett, who has an excellent track record with men. Good job, Scarlett; good instincts. Avery is all sad because he’s heard the new mixes of his songs and they’ve turned him into a “dubstep” artist. (I hate when that happens.) He glowers as Dominic shouts at him. (Every time Wyclef Jean is onscreen, I just wish he would break into a chorus of “Fu-Gee-La” and stop with all this horrible shout-acting he does.) And Teddy isn’t so much sad or angry as defiant. He won’t let Rayna spend more time with the suddenly bratty (and sad) Maddie, and he even conspires with deputy mayor Coleman to erect the new Subway-sponsored stadium on a plot of land that does not belong to Lamar. Where did this backbone come from? Not since Jared has one man transformed himself so thoroughly. (Sorry. I love a good Subway joke.)
So ... stuff.
Deacon brings his “defective” (heh) pup to the vet and meets a dishy veterinarian named Stacey, who looks like a younger version of Jolene, but with bangs. (The casting team of Nashville really needs to get some facial-recognition software.) (Also, for those who DVR The Americans — you should! — she’s the same actress who plays Noah Emmerich’s wife on that show.) The deal on Stacey is that she’s not from around these parts. “I’m thinking San Francisco by way of … Colorado,” Deacon posits. And he nails it! (Not only is he gorgeous, talented, and often shirtless, he’s apparently Mr. Cleo as well.) Stacey doesn’t like country music (she’s more into dubstep, I assume) and seems to think the people in Nashville are just a bunch of rubes. (“I’ve been here five weeks and I haven’t found any dim sum yet.”)
So Deacon offers to take her to lunch: And by “take her to lunch,” he means a quickie back at his place. Oh, Deacon, you dog. (By the way, I actually find it kind of refreshing that Stacey doesn’t like country music. I wasn’t sure that was even allowed on this show. But still? To not get the “A Boy Named Sue” reference when Deacon finally does name his pup? That’s just dumb.)
Not incidentally, I haven’t even mentioned Juliette yet, but that’s because she’s saddled with the same default story she always gets: She’s angry at her mother, but secretly needs and loves her mother. And she’s trying to wrestle control of her career away from the label, which has set up an intimate concert at a small club called Two Aging Hippies. But Juliette doesn’t do “intimate” and she goes behind their back and sends out a Twitter blast to all her fans and it’s packed with crazed tweens, among them Maddie, who has suddenly started talking like Shoshanna from Girls, for reasons unknown.
Inside the club, it’s like a scene from the Ramones at CBGB in ’73. Those tweens can mosh! Okay, not really. But it is overcrowded and the kids rush the stage and somehow, some sort of IKEA shelving unit falls on Maddie, and Deacon has to leap off the stage and save her. (Don’t worry, she’ll be okay. Just a bruise, no concussion.) At the hospital, Rayna thanks Deacon for taking care of Maddie. “She’s like family to me,” Deacon responds. (Oh man, if only he knew.)
Later, Rayna calls Juliette and positively rips her a new one for her irresponsible behavior at Two Aging Hippies. This is a new wrinkle in the Juliette/Rayna dynamic — with Rayna giving Juliette some much-needed tough love. That being said, memo to the producers (sigh, again): The Juliette/Rayna/Deacon triangle is the heart and soul of the show. When Rayna spends more time with Katie Couric than with Juliette, you know something has gone horribly awry.
Did I mention that Avery has broken into the studio and stolen and burned all of his master tapes? Good thing those are the only copies and nothing is kept digitally these days! He also gives Dominic back his royalty check and even that fancy new car. Then he tells Marilyn to find some new boytoy to make sweet, sweet love with. He’s free!
Obviously, the biggest story line revolves around Gunnar and his grief. He and Scarlett are supposed to audition for the head of Rayna’s record label, but Scarlett wisely suggests they cancel. “Why would you do that?” Gunnar snaps at her. He tells her that he just has some stuff he needs to take care of first — namely, talking to the cops, who seem to have minimal interest in solving his brother’s murder. Scarlett waits for Gunnar as long as she can, but he’s a no-show. So she grabs her trusty banjo and heads to the label herself.
“I can’t imagine what’s keeping him,” she says to Rayna, Bucky, and the label head guy. (Here, a reasonable person might’ve instead said, “His brother just died and he’s lost and grieving” — but, hey, maybe that’s just me.) So they ask Scarlett to play on her own. She breaks out the banjo — oh dear God, it has some sort of homespun suede rope strap — and sings. And it’s so good, she seems to be accompanied by an actual chorus of invisible angels (or possibly backup singers). Usually Nashville is pretty good at making live performances actually seem live. Not so much this time. We all see where this is heading, right? The label wants to sign Scarlett as a solo artist! (Wouldn’t it be awesome if Scarlett, despite all of her rustic-naïf innocence, was actually a major operator? First she left Avery in the dust. Now possibly Gunnar.)
So Gunnar has decided to take his brother’s investigation into his own hands, and he goes to this seedy biker bar (at least I think it’s a biker bar — either that or they were holding auditions for a ZZ Top cover band). Gunnar’s wearing a hoodie, so you know he’s super emo at this point. Luckily, Scarlett has dragged Uncle Deacon to the bar to rescue him, which he does, relaying a story about his own survivor’s guilt after his best friend died in a drunk driving accident (Deacon felt responsible). If you’re keeping score at home, Deacon has now cuddled a puppy and a stuffed bunny, saved both Maddie and Gunnar, and precisely guessed the geographic upbringing of a complete stranger. Is there nothing this man can’t do?
Gunnar and Scarlett fight and then have sex, montage-style — as we see Avery breaking out a new, vaguely Freddie Mercury–esque song at the Bluebird Café. This gives the unfortunate impression that Avery’s song is actually accompanying Gunnar and Scarlett’s lovemaking (awkward!). But hey, Scarlett has moved on. Only time will tell if she and her precious banjo will be moving on from Gunnar too.