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Nashville Recap: The Mother Lode

NASHVILLE - "Crazy"

“Are you with Scarlett or her mama?” — tweet from the official Nashville account

“Are you with Dorothy or the Wicked Witch of the West?” — tweet from the official Wizard of Oz account

“Are you with the charging hyena or the tiny leopard cub running for its life?” — tweet from the official National Geographic account

One of the above three tweets was actually posted during last night’s Nashville. I’ll let you guess which one.

So, yep, Scarlett’s mama Beverly (Fletch’s Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) came to town. Her backstory: She wanted to be a singer-songwriter too, but gave it up to raise Scarlett. At first, Beverly just seemed like Jolene v. 2 — another arrested adolescent who needed to be mothered by her own child. But then, well, she went all Mommie Dearest on us. I wonder if the producers warn the actress in advance: So, um, Dana, just FYI: We’re going to film you like an actual monster, with grotesque close-ups of your contorted-in-anger face, as you grip the wrist and neck of your quivering daughter, hovering over her menacingly. You good with that? Because they went full-on horror show with Beverly. I’m actually surprised they didn’t play the Psycho knife-slashing music every time she appeared in the frame.

Briefly, it seemed like Scarlett was going to confront her mother from a position of strength. After Beverly staged an impromptu little jam session with Scarlett’s band (“Your mom is awesome!” the roadie gushed), Scarlett marched onstage, kicked her off, and got behind the piano to sing a killer song called “Black Roses” (sample lyric: “Now you only bring me black roses, but they crumble into dust into my hand”). This was Scarlett going full-on Alanis Morissette — that is, if “You Oughta Know” was about an abusive mother and not the least-famous dude from Full House. (Look it up.) I could complain about the fact that Scarlett seems to have a complete personality transplant when she’s onstage — turning into this powerful, confident, self-actualized human being, as opposed to the whimpering, tentative being she is offstage — but this song was just too good to complain about. Alas, Scarlett’s moment of personal empowerment was to be short-lived. Immediately after the song, Beverly caught up with her backstage and it was again with the Psycho Mom routine. (This time, we got flashbacks to Scarlett’s childhood. Her mom used to lock her in a shed, like Carrie!)

A shaken Scarlett then pleaded with Juliette not to make her sing tonight. “This isn’t Dairy Queen, where you can just switch shifts with someone,” Juliette scoffed.

You see, here’s the thing: Juliette does know a thing or two about an abusive mother (although Jolene was a Mother of the Year candidate compared to Beverly), but she is simply made of tougher stuff than Scarlett. She can relate, but only to a point. Juliette’s answer to facing life’s adversity is to grow a thicker skin. Scarlett’s answer, well, lately, at least, has been to hit the booze and pills like she’s starring in a Nashville production of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. So she pours herself a generous glass of whiskey and chugs more of her pills. (“Just how many pills are in that bottle that Liam gave Scarlett? Does it magically replenish itself?” commenter Ziffy asked last week. Good question. Maybe he signed her up for some sort of Upper of the Month club?) Then she staggered onstage.

Is it wrong that I laughed when she scanned the audience: all those smiling, cheering faces, and then the close-up of Beverly, giving her an icy death stare? Obviously, there’s nothing funny about abusive parents, but there is something funny about an episode that lays on the misery in such a thick and inorganic way, it borders on parody. And maybe, just maybe, there was a tiny part of the show that knew they were going for camp instead of genuine emotion? Because when Scarlett has her breakdown on stage, ending up covered in blood and using her powers of telekinesis to kill the entire audience cowering and wailing under her piano, they cut to Juliette with a perfect deadpan: “Oh. My. God.”

So that may have won the prize for the most bonkers moment of the show, but there were several contenders.

The show starts with Rayna flipping on the TV to discover the gals from The View (in Nashville, all TVs are permanently affixed to ABC and its affiliates, apparently) discussing Maddie Claybourne’s YouTube video, which has somehow been re-posted to the web. (Colt, you brat!)

While Whoopie and Barbara take the high ground — as they always do (*cough*) — both claiming it was none of their business, at least Sherri Shepherd was willing to roll in the muck. “Everybody loves a dirty little secret,” she said. “And this child is a lovechild!” “Who cares about her paternity. Is she vaccinated?” Jenny McCarthy asked. (I kid.)

So the secret is out. This clearly called for a family meeting, a show of solidarity among Rayna, Teddy, and Deacon. But wait … where’s Deacon again? Oh, yeah, he’s licking his wounds at the summer house, which is luckily filled with lots of cassette tapes and record albums for him to hurl around in anger. Rayna shows up with Luke Wheeler in tow (he insisted) and there’s an empty booze bottle on the lawn. Ruh-roh. Deacon emerges from the bedroom — I think wounded, groggy, bedhead Deacon is my new favorite Deacon — and explains that he didn’t drink, he just spilled out the contents of the bottle and chucked it on the lawn. (Let’s all give Deacon the benefit of the doubt and assume he was going to pick up — and recycle — that bottle later.)

The convergence of Teddy sleeping with Megan and Maddie’s paternity being revealed is actually a stroke of genius from the show. Rayna thinks Deacon is there to hide from the publicity. Deacon thinks Rayna’s there to discuss Teddy’s role in his breakup. They have a brief “Who’s on First” moment. (Deacon: “Did she call you?” Rayna: “Who?” Deacon: “Megan!”) Then Rayna gives him the 411 about Maddie and tells him she wants him to come on ABC’s Good Morning America with her and Teddy.

“I can’t be in a room with him because I’ll kill him!” Deacon says.

“Why?” Rayna asks.

“Ask Teddy,” he sneers.

They cut to a scene of Rayna ragging on Teddy for not being able to “keep it in his pants,” but frankly, I’m not really sure Rayna’s in a position to slut-shame anyone. As the expression goes: Let she who can keep her lady parts in her own lady pants cast the first stone. On the other hand, Rayna’s little “I can’t even with you and Megan” snort of disgust was one of the highlights of the show.

Anyway, they all agree to go on Good Morning America — as seen on ABC! — together, for the children. Luke tags along, jealously guarding his woman, like the Stage-Five Clinger he’s become. Things go okay, even if Deacon kind of hijacks the interview a bit, but for some reason, the whole thing is too much for Luke to take and he storms off in a jealous rage, abuses the seat of a car, and tells his driver, “Take me to the airport.” (Hopefully just to pick up Sage from his or her boarding school.) Later, Rayna and Deacon have an overdue, air-clearing heart-to-heart about why she withheld the truth about Maddie’s paternity for all these years. I’m sort of on Team Deacon here. Yeah, I get that Rayna didn’t want to disrupt Maddie’s life, especially since Deacon was so unstable, but he deserved to know.

Okay, so like a billion other things happened in this episode (an actual billion; I counted), some of which I’ll recount in these Random Riffs:

• Gunnar got a $400,000 royalty check (!) and sweetly used it pay for Zoey’s demo, which she promptly brought to a talent agent who advised her to go to L.A. and chase her dream, and now she might be leaving him. Oops.

• Daphne was all upset about Maddie only being her half-sister and having all these secrets from her, and she (adorably) lay on her bed, moping, and Maddie came in and (adorably) started playing their song — The Lumineers “Ho Hey” — and then, after moping a bit more, Daphne (adorably) chimed in, and it was adorable.

• Juliette asked Charlie Wentworth (legitimately had forgotten  he existed) to get her more radio play, and he misunderstood and tried to kiss her, and she sort of kissed back, but then told him she was in love with Avery. More significantly, she seemed slightly freaked out by how not freaked out Avery was by Charlie’s presence. She’s not used to quietly confident men and, wait, shouldn’t he be throwing things?

• I had this horrible nightmare where the show ended with Scarlett having an onstage breakdown and then the voice-over guy said, “In three weeks ...” and then it wasn’t even a new scripted episode but some sort of performance show called Nashville on the Record. Man, it felt so real. *Shudders*

Photo: Mark Levine/ABC