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Nashville Recap: The Scarlett Letters

After a four week hiatus (no, you don’t count Nashville: On the Record), I was afraid they were going to do one of those time jumps and we’d see Scarlett leaving rehab, tanned, refreshed, with a copy of The Secret tucked under her arm. But no, there she is, still literally under the piano, mid-breakdown, just as we’d seen her last. Hooray.

I’ll say this for Nashville: They went all in with this episode. It’s no secret that Scarlett is a divisive character; there are people like me who love her musical talent but can’t even with her baby talk, her tattered wooden suitcase, and her 1,000-yard stare, and then there are people who are very invested in her story and believe that she is a worthy female lead on the show, right up there with Rayna and Juliette.

That second group of people sure had their moment in the sun last night. Because last night was a veritable Scarlett-palooza. It was All Scarlett All the Time. It was The Scarlett Show, featuring very special guest stars Deacon, Rayna, Juliette, and “the rest.” Just don’t make a habit out of it, Nashville. M’kay?

The main subject of conversation — after “is it a good idea to take a near-catatonic woman on a plane back to Nashville?” “Yep!” — was: Who is to blame? Deacon blames Rayna for dragging Scarlett on the tour. Rayna blames Juliette, for being the Mean Girl she knows she must’ve been on the road. Avery also blames Juliette, because he witnessed some of her mean-girl antics in person. Even Scarlett seems to blame Juliette (dag!) — or, at least she wants nothing to do with her at this point.

No one seems to blame the obvious catalyst for all of this, Scarlett’s crazy-eyed mother, who couldn’t look more villainous if she had an “I’m the Villain” stamp on her forehead and if they played the Psycho knife-slashing music every time she entered a room. Instead, they’re all: Give Scarlett her mama, that’s what a catatonic girl really needs. The funny thing in all this blaming of Juliette is that people neglected to notice that she was the only one who seemed to realize that Mommy Dearest was the real culprit. And then, when you combine that with the fact that Avery went into hero mode, carrying Scarlett off stage, riding with her in the limo, sitting vigil at her bedside, it’s enough to drive Juliette right into the arms of ... WTF?!?

Okay, hold up. No, seriously. Wait. What? Juliette hooked up with Jeff Fordham? But ... he’s ... he’s ... JEFF FORDHAM!! Had this been established at all? Were there sexual sparks that I missed? I thought those two hated each other — and not in that passionate, there’s-a-thin-line-between-love-and-hate, just-kiss-already way. More like, garden variety: We are two people who don’t like each other and will never, ever have sex. Ever.

Excuse me while I go bleach my brain. (Oh and P.S.: After having super regrettable hate sex outside a bar, maybe it’s for the best not to go skulking back into said bar while buttoning assorted items of clothing and looking super guilty. Just FYI.)

You could say this is just another one of Juliette’s self-destructive moments — and it is. But Avery kind of brought it out in her. I mean, he rejected her sexual advances and nobody rejects Juliette Barnes, damn it! And then Juliette overheard this choice exchange between Scarlett and Avery:

Scarlett: I don’t think I’ll ever love anyone as much as you.
Avery:
You have a permanent piece of my heart, Scarlett. You always will.
(Christ, now I want to go sleep with Jeff Fordham.)

Anyway, Avery’s not the only one obsessing over Scarlett (hey, it is The Scarlett Show, after all). Gunnar and Zoey are, too.  Zoey does the right thing and goes to visit her old BFF in the hospital and they have a touching reunion and I’m just so relieved that those two are ... nope, I can’t even muster enough care to finish this sentence. Gunnar seems a little indifferent to the whole thing, mostly because he has a golf date with Jeff Fordham and he really wants to break out those plaid pants and that straw porkpie hat.

So Jeff wants Gunnar to come back to Edgehill (as part of his “stable” of songwriters — not to be confused with Mitt Romney’s “binder” full of women). Gunnar points out that he is already getting six-figure royalty checks for “Ball and Chain.” But Jeff reminds him this is the “big leagues,” where there are “no more blown opportunities with A-list talent like Kelly Clarkson.” (This is the second time in this episode that they evoked the name of Kelly Clarkson. It reminded me of that old Chris Farley skit from SNL: “Remember that one time? When we had Kelly Clarkson on? Yeah, heh-heh, that was cool.”)

“I did not blow that opportunity with Kelly Clarkson!” Gunnar says. “No, your loony ex-partner did.” Then Gunnar gets all indignant: “Who the hell uses the word loony in this day and age?” he shouts, before storming off. Then he goes home and stays up all night writing a mournful love song about Scarlett. Because seriously, everything was about Scarlett this episode.

Okay, one thing wasn’t: Some reality-TV show producer wants to do a Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica style show with Layla and Will. Layla, of course, is totally onboard. Will isn’t so sure. That is, until Jeff provocatively says, “We both know why this is a terrible idea for you.” Then Will agrees to the reality show, just to prove Jeff wrong, and seals the deal by kissing Layla in front of Jeff. (Note to Will: Your “passionate kisses” with your “loving wife” would look a whole lot more convincing if you weren’t looking at Jeff Fordham the whole time as if it so say: Look at me! Kissing my wife! As heterosexual men do!)

Back on The Scarlett Show: Deacon fights with his sister and we get more of a sense of their messed-up childhood. Dad was abusive, mom was in denial; Deacon got out, Beverly didn’t —and she blames him for leaving her behind. Then Deacon realizes the family genes are pretty messed up and that probably has more to do with Scarlett’s breakdown than her Highway 65 record contract, so he apologizes to Rayna and they are perfect and cute, as per usual.

But that does lead to one of the show’s burning questions: What actually did happen to Scarlett? Scarlett calls it a “hiccup” until she sees the YouTube video (with crystal-clear onstage audio!) and notices it was less a hiccup and more projectile crazy all over the stage. Still, she’s convinced it was some combination of the drugs and exhaustion that led to the breakdown.

Beverly, on the other hand, thinks Scarlett had the patented O’Connor “psychic break” (I’m never going to complain about the near-sightedness that runs in my family ever again). So much so that she has Scarlett chained to the bed. Somehow, through superhuman strength (and/or a scene that was left on the cutting-room floor), Scarlett breaks free of her binds and runs out of the hospital, where she tells Rayna that she wants to go home and get back to her album and that she’s totally fine. That’s when Rayna serves up my favorite line of the show: “Honey, you’re standing out here in a field in your hospital gown. Not making a good case for yourself.”

By the end of the show, Scarlett has finally admitted that she doesn’t want to be a country superstar and Rayna has released her from her Highway 65 contract. But unless Mama O’Connor gets the hell out of Nashville, I don’t think Scarlett’s problems are over just yet. Who will save Scarlett? This sounds like a job for the First Lady of the United States! Either that, or Kelly Pickler.

Photo: Mark Levine/ABC