Nashville Season 3 Premiere Recap: Put a Ring on It

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Photo: Mark Levine/ABC
Nashville
Show
Nashville
Episode Title
That’s Me Without You
Season
3
Episode
1
Editor’s Rating
4/5

My favorite part of last night’s season-three premiere was when Rayna turned to Luke and said, “You know, ambushing me onstage with that half-baked proposal was disrespectful and all kinds of manipulative and sure as heck didn’t bode well for a partnership filled with mutual respect and shared decision-making.” And then she turned to Deacon and said, “And don’t think you’re any better, Mr. Sensitive Broody Stubble Guy. You had no intention of marrying me until you saw Luke go there first. Your proposal was about as romantic as an emergency root canal.” And then she flipped that glorious mane of golden hair, tossed their rings back at them, and triumphantly strutted away.

Unfortunately, my favorite part of last night’s premiere never actually took place. 

Instead, it started with Rayna contemplating the two rings — Deacon’s humble, earth-worn, and silver; Luke’s the size of a small Chevy — as if she had but two choices in this life. And all the while, I’m yelling, “Door No. 3! Door No. 3!” (Don’t get me wrong. I’m Team Deacon all the way. But not like this.)

I loved the conversation Rayna and Tandy had as the show began because it was so strenuously devoid of proper nouns and specifics (“Was that him … ?”) to throw us all off the track. But I could tell, just from the pained look on Rayna’s face, the diffidence of her “I love you” over the phone, that she had chosen Luke. (Note to Luke: I’m no relationship expert, but when every time your girlfriend says I love you and a look of existential dread washes over her face, that’s probably not a good sign.)

To Luke’s credit, he took the news of Deacon’s quid-pro-proposal quite well. I mean, he was a real adult about it, giving Rayna her space, supporting her decision. Okay, there was that minor face-punching incident. But hey, Deacon kinda deserved it. 

As for Deacon, oh man. He was so sure. That kind of broke my heart, I must admit. He knows deep down that he and Rayna are meant to be together — and he also believes that fatherhood has completely reformed him. To him, his hasty proposal was nothing more than speeding up the inevitable.

Gah. So much Rayna and Deacon goodness in last night’s episode, despite the way it all shook out. First, that awesome montage that was basically their relationship in a nutshell: their molten-hot duet — with enough sexual chemistry to power a small village — intercut with images of Deacon being a drunken, irresponsible boyfriend. (And Luke’s hair. So many feelings about Luke’s hair … ) Then Rayna goes to see him and tells him the truth: Luke can give her the one thing he never can, “a clean slate.” Then there are tears and kissed hands and super-close faces and Deacon’s “Tell me you don’t feel that and I’ll let go” bit — which is the best bit of all. And she can’t! She can’t tell Deacon she doesn’t feel that! But she’s going to marry Luke anyway because … well, I’m sure she has her good reasons.

The funny thing about Luke. We all have no actual excuse for hating him. I mean, yeah, he wears a black hat. (Symbolism!) And he keeps trying to make “Wheels up” happen. And we kind of have a hunch that maybe he was the one who leaked the news of Maddie’s paternity to the press (but there’s no proof!). But otherwise, he’s a pretty nice guy. He just has a bad case of Not-Deacon-Itis.

Okay, on to my girl Juliette. Embarrassing-confession time: I forgot we weren’t supposed to know she was pregnant. I mean, last year, as the show ended, after she cheated on Avery with Jeff, we were all like, “Oh yeah, she is so pregnant.” And then when Hayden Panettiere’s giant got her pregnant in real life, we knew they were going to incorporate it into the show. (Or perhaps vice versa: Maybe she simply took Method acting to the extreme: “Put a baby in me, Wladimir. The role demands it.”) The fact that she looks rather pregnant didn’t help — and God bless Hayden for not being one of those stick-figure-with-a-basketball-under-her-dress types — but when the doctor on the show made the shocking announcement, I was literally like, “Oh yeah, we didn’t know that yet.”

As for her haircut, it was so illogical — my boyfriend broke up with me, I feel worthless, get me a pair of scissors? — it almost definitely had to be the result of some off-season shenanigans on Hayden’s part. I can actually imagine her showing up to the set on the first day of work and there being a flurry of activity in the writers’ room, as they began working up notes for the “crazed hair-cutting scene” to add to the premiere. Look, some pregnant women crave pickles and chocolate. Some chop off their hair. Deal with it.  

Um, can we talk about how Hayden just straight killed it on Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” last night? How beautifully sung, how arresting, how gut-wrenchingly emotional it was? Can we just send that performance to the Emmys immediately?

It was, indeed, the performance of the night, despite the gimmick of the live performances, which I could’ve done without, frankly. I mean, I know that Nashville is basically a soap opera, but it doesn’t have to be filmed on the same video as an actual daytime soap. Every time they cut to the live performances, the video quality got all shiny and flat and weird, and I felt like Susan Lucci might show up to steal everyone’s boyfriend. It wasn’t, shall we say, seamless.

As for the performances, they were both fine. Both Chris Carmack and Charles Esten are good singers and great performers. We all knew that already. But somebody must’ve said otherwise, because Charles Esten — er, Deacon — subtweeted the hell out of us when he started his performance by saying, “There’s no smoke and mirrors. No Auto-Tune. What you hear is what you get.” Well, I for one, feel properly scolded. 

The road-trip bit with Avery, Scarlett, and Gunnar was all kinds of adorable, even if I think the show is flat-out trolling me when they do things like give Scarlett a pink paper parasol (stop it, show!). But the three of them are great together. 

Loved Avery’s “You’re like my girl-bro” to Scarlett. And loved Gunnar’s Lenny and Squiggy moment (Google it) when, right after Avery says to Scarlett, “I always thought a better man would come along,” Gunnar comes ambling in from the woods, saying, “Well, I can’t be sure, but I might’ve gotten chiggers.” A+.

The best part of that road trip was Scarlett’s realization that you can run from Nashville, but you can’t hide (from an embarrassing viral video). “You’re that singer? The one who had the nervous breakdown, right?” the Jim Varney–esque gas-station attendant (his name was Cletus!) asks her. And in that moment, we know that Scarlett and the boys are coming home.

Next week! Something shocks Juliette on the sonogram! Is it:

a. Twins
b. An alien spawn using her as an earth-host
c. The surprising intensity of her own maternal instinct.

Please leave your theories in the comments.