Wow. Talk about FLOTUS and switch. For weeks we’ve been hearing about Michelle Obama’s big appearance on Nashville, and I couldn’t wait to see what she’d do: Exchange glam hair tips with Rayna? Tell Scarlett to get a grip? Tap Teddy for some high-ranking cabinet position in D.C.? (Hey, a girl can dream.) Instead, she basically showed up on closed-circuit Jumbotron at Fort Campbell, said something so boring they actually had to cut away from her (to adorable Daphne, at least), and left. I’ve heard of phoning a performance in; I’d never heard of Skyping one. It’s like the first lady thinks she’s more important than ... Kellie Pickler! (I, for one, vastly preferred her work on Jimmy Fallon’s Eww!)
Anyway, her anticlimactic appearance was in keeping with this ho-hum episode, which was weirdly low key after the foaming-at-the-mouth histrionics of the past two shows. You never know how much you miss Crazy Fugue State Scarlett™ until she’s gone.
The episode starts with Juliette trying to scrub off the shame of sleeping with Jeff Fordham. Girl, all the cleaning products in the world ain’t gonna get that stink off you.
To add insult to injury, Avery is all apologetic and lovey-dovey and even managed to work in a nice haircut between all those trips to Scarlett’s hospital room. Where was this Avery last week when we needed him? (Conveniently MIA to drive Juliette into the arms of Jeff Fordham, that’s where.)
Juliette is doing that thing she does — marinating in her own shame and pushing away the people who love her — while Jeff Fordham keeps showing up in red suits with that pointy beard and pitchfork of his. (Not really. But basically really.) By the end of the episode, he suggests that he’s going to tell Avery what happened unless Juliette agrees to re-sign at Edgehill.
Gunnar is struggling with whether or not he should tell Avery what he saw. Nashville’s official Twitter account was all up in this moral dilemma: “RT if you think Gunnar should tell Avery. Favorite if you think it’s not his place.” (“How about none of the above?” some helpful chap replied.) He’s just about to come clean to Avery when Zoey interrupts with the news that she is the newest backup singer for Juliette Barnes. (This was an episode of being saved by intrusions: “Did you ever want to marry my mom?” Maddie asked Deacon earlier. “Oh, look! A conveniently burning casserole!” fate replied.)
Will and Layla have started filming their reality TV show, which launches with Will singing his new bride a song as she sits awkwardly in a chair. So natural! “I told you,” the show’s producer whispers to a production assistant. “This couple’s a gold mine.” Not quite. A few scenes later, the producer is telling them to retake their kiss over and over again, because she’s just not feeling it. “So if you two need to take a moment, step into the bedroom, do whatever you need to do, and we can try it again, it’s fine by me,” she says. Sounds porny! But all the fluffing in the world is not going to help Will, who’s thinking about the hunky, close-talking trainer he met at the gym. Later, he falls into a rage, pulls a camera off the wall, then sneaks into the bathroom to schedule a “private session” with the trainer, if you know what he means.
Rayna is having a meeting with a bunch radio executives (or something) when she gets the call that Luke has been injured in Afghanistan. He’s been shipped to New York and she rushes to his side. He’s lying in a hospital bed, shirtless (the show seems to think we’re a lot more excited about seeing Luke Wheeler’s naked torso than we actually are), and tells her he needs some “sugar.” (Quoth Michelle Obama: “Ewww!”) Then they come up with the plan to give the concert at Fort Campbell and live-stream it to the troops in Afghanistan. Rayna invites Juliette, but Luke kicks her off the concert, until he finds out that her father was killed in an army training session and that she’s in it for the right reasons — Bachelor-style — so he agrees to let her back on the bill.
There is a lot of adorable bonding between Deacon and Maddie in this episode, causing Deacon to reflect on a what a screw-up he was when Maddie was first born. He pulls Rayna aside at Fort Campbell and tells her he forgives her for not telling him about Maddie. “All you did was protect our little girl,” he says. “And I’m grateful.” Then he corners Teddy and asks him to describe what Maddie’s birth was like. After hesitating, Teddy gets a dreamy look in his eyes and says: “They swaddled her up and I held her real tight until she calmed down. And in that moment ... That was a love I’d never known before.” (I’ll give you all a moment to collect yourselves before we continue with this recap.)
Then Rayna’s up onstage with her two girls (hooray!) and Maddie wants Deacon to join them. This was a Nashville that had me feeling sorry for people I don’t normally care about — first Layla, trying to talk to her husband through that closed bathroom door, and now poor Teddy. I mean, am I the only one who feels like Maddie is being awfully insensitive to Teddy’s feelings? Yes, I get that she’s excited about her new dad, and I’m all for Maddie and Deacon spending time together and fan-girling over Merle Haggard and stuff, but I feel like she’s rubbing it in Teddy’s face. Or is too much to expect a 15-year-old girl to understand that she’s making her father jealous? (“She’s wrong and right!” that one helpful guy on Twitter would tell me.) So Deacon climbs up onstage and they all sing a pretty song, like the one big happy family they secretly are, while Luke and Teddy glower in the audience. (An aside: Rayna’s voice has gotten so much better since the beginning of the show, hasn’t it?)
Luke clearly needs some reassuring, so Rayna gives it to him, telling him she loves him. (Why, Rayna? Whyyyyy?)
Also, Scarlett, fully recovered from her minor touch of the complete-mental-breakdown, is now threatening to leave Nashville. “Nothing’s keeping me here,” she tells Zoey. (Oh, Scarlett, don’t make promises you can’t keep.) (I kid, I kid.)
On next week’s finale: Avery apparently finds out about Jeff, Deacon finally (finally!) makes his move on Rayna, and Luke Wheeler proposes to Rayna onstage. Wheels up (or wheels down, or wherever the hell the wheels go), Nashville Nation! Now that’s what I’m talking about.