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Nashville Recap: Out of Tune

NASHVILLE - "I'm Tired of Pretending"

You know how you really love a show and you finally convince your best friend to watch an episode, and when they do, it’s one of the weakest of the season?

I sure hope that didn’t happen to you last night.

Not that last night’s episode was horrible or anything. It just kind of sat there, like a dead fly on a guitar string, as they probably don’t say in Nashville. Now, next week?! Boy, howdy, that looks good. (But seriously, is this Nashville or The Walking Dead? Because the body count is totally mounting.) Nonetheless, this is the episode we must contend with first, so contend with it we shall. It starts out on a hilarious note, as Layla dedicates an (unsanctioned) encore to “Will and all y’all.” “All y’all?” Juliette says disdainfully, watching on closed-circuit TV backstage. “She’s from Connecticut.” (That must be the Nashville equivalent of that annoying girl in high school who goes to England for a few weeks and comes back with a British accent. Also? If there was an app called “Hayden Panettiere sarcastic comeback generator,” I’d totally buy it.)

I think one of my biggest problem with this whole Layla-Juliette rivalry is the casting. Aubrey Peeples is adorable and talented and all, but she looks like someone’s babysitter, or that one really helpful salesgirl at the Body Shop, not a convincingly formidable rival for Juliette. And while we’re on the subject of the cattiness between Juliette and Layla (not to be confused with the cattiness between Juliette and Rayna, or the cattiness between Rayna and Peggy, or the betrayal of Scarlett by Zoey ... I think you see where I’m going here), can we have at least one freakin’ functional female friendship on this show? Is that too much to ask for?

And before you say, "It’s not like the dudes are all holding hands and singing Kumbaya" (yes, I saw Teddy almost deck Deacon, too — again), remember that we once had Deacon and Coleman and we currently have Gunnar and Will. Heck, even Gunnar and Avery seem to be getting along swimmingly.

Get on that, writers.

So Charlie is back, confessing his undying love to Juliette. “Turn on the TV!” he tells her. And damned if it isn’t Extra with Mario Lopez and Maria Menounous “as themselves” delivering the shortest cameo in the history of cameos (I sure hope they didn’t market this show to their fans 'cause they’re gonna be pissed) and announcing to their viewers that “Charlivia” has split. (I’m literally giggling to myself as I write this because “Charlivia” has to be the worst celebrity portmanteau ever. Also, since when does Extra give chummy nicknames to business moguls and their wives?)

“I want us to build a life together,” Charlie says. “Here’s the thing, I don’t believe you,” Juliette says back. (That’ll totally be on the app.)

Something else I noticed last night? Juliette and Charlie kinda look alike. I mean, they’re both blond and beautiful, natch, with these super compact, gymnast-style bodies and shortish arms that kind of dangle a bit beside them. (What can I say? The mind tends to wander during a mediocre episode.) That said, Charliette appears not long for this world. Is it possible that Juliette is finally wising up to the dangers of super-sketchy dudes who make unrealistic promises to her? Or is it because Avery is the one who makes her feel like “the best version of herself”? Hmmm.

Speaking of Avery, that was a funny bit where Avery and Scarlett and Gunnar and Zoey were having side-by-side conversations. “Okay, this is seriously weird,” Gunnar said. (Sam Palladio is totally underrated as a comic actor.) Yes, all of a sudden, Scarlett is badly missing her BFF, so it’s time for Avery and Zoey to take an ill-advised road trip to St. Louis to join up with the tour. Everything should work out fine, as long as Gunnar and Zoey don’t have any gratuitous makeout sessions in the hallway — doh! Frankly, I’m not sure how we’re supposed to feel about this. When Scarlett finally does catch them, she seems quite upset but I suspect that’s more about the lies than the romantic betrayal. I mean, she’s with Avery now — although their relationship has already devolved to the “wanna watch TV together?” stage of bedtime activities. (And no, not that kind of TV.)

This, again, is a continuation of a problem I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. The show keeps featuring relationships that we’re not invested in and, what’s more, we’re not even supposed to be invested in. (See: Zoey and Gunnar, Charlie and Juliette, Deacon and lawyer lady, and so on and so on.) They’re placeholders, obvious temporary roadblocks on the path to happily ever after for the right couples. All filler, no killer.  But here’s the thing about Nashville. Right smack dab in the middle of a mediocre episode there can be a song performance that just stops you dead in your tracks and makes you want to shout poetry from rooftops. I’m talking, of course, about the duet between Maddie and Deacon at Two Old Hippies. God, that thing was beautiful.

I also felt tremendously sorry for Teddy, so proud of his daughter’s talent but so jealous over seeing her up there on that stage with Deacon. (My sympathy for him was short-lived, however, after he attacked Deacon outside the club and then spitefully pulled him off the lineup at the Music City Music Festival. Not cool, Teddy. Not cool.) Ha-ha, you gotta love Peggy being all faux chummy with Rayna, kissing her hello and saving her a seat up front “for family.” And Connie Britton does such a great WTF face. Interesting that Teddy finally told Peggy that Deacon was Maddie’s real father. I think it speaks volumes about their relationship that she didn’t know already.

The other important thing that happened last night was Lamar petitioned to be released into house arrest and wanted Tandy to vouch for him as a character witness, which would’ve been hella awkward, considering the fact that she’s the one who put him in jail in the first place. So Rayna did it, but was unsuccessful — “I can’t speak to my father’s business dealings,” she mumbled — and Lamar is back behind bars. Meanwhile, Rayna is getting suspicious: What really happened between Tandy and Daddy anyway?

The show ends with Layla slamming Will against the bed — again, not really buying her as a sexy femme fatale — and him sort of squirming away to go to the bathroom. Then she picks up the phone and dials TMZ, like it’s a frickin’ Duane Reade or something. (“TMZ, where may I direct your call?”) Who else thought she was about to out Will as gay? Surely she’s noticed that his sexual interest in her is minimal, at best. That actually would’ve been more interesting, in my opinion. But no, she left an “anonymous” tip that Juliette Barnes was the reason behind the breakup of “Charlivia” (still funny!). So the gloves are really off.

All right, my lovelies. I leave you all to examine that “coming next week” clip like it’s the Zapruder film. Have at it.

Photo: Mark Levine/ABC