Last night’s Nashville should’ve come with a trigger warning for anyone who’s ever been in a passive-aggressive relationship.
Seriously, the hostility and thinly veiled contempt between Luke and Rayna was off the charts. But there was a key: The more terms of endearment either of them used — especially Rayna — the more pissed they secretly were.
“Well, I am up for five [awards]. But don’t worry, darlin’. I’ll save a few for you,” Luke said.
“Oh, just five? Your future wife’s up for six. But who’s counting?” Rayna quipped back.
“I didn’t come here to lose tonight,” said Luke.
“Neither did I, sugar pie,” replied Rayna, through gritted teeth.
Later, we had this gem:
“You smell like booze,” Rayna said.
“I had a few shots backstage, but who’s counting?”
“Not me, darlin’,” she said, shooting hell-daggers at him.
Finally, there was this delightful exchange, after Luke hogged the stage when they won together for “Ball and Chain”:
“What the hell was that, babe?” seethed Rayna.
“I just figured you needed a break from thanking people,” Luke replied, with an “I hate your guts” grin.
Nothing to see here, folks! Just a couple of fun-loving people who really love each other a lot behaving in a totally loving fashion.
Yep, the CMAs brought out the worst in America’s least-favorite couple. And I ate it up with a giant spoon.
That being said, not totally sure I bought all of Rayna’s behavior. Take the prenup she found in Luke’s briefcase. (Country-music stars need briefcases?) Granted, maybe Luke should’ve told her he was drawing one up, but no shot Rayna would’ve gotten so defensive about it. She’s a businesswoman and music superstar with assets of her own to protect. A prenup between the two of them was a no-brainer, and turning Rayna into some sort of naïve rube who didn’t understand that was a bit insulting.
But still, I’ll take juicy drama over character continuity any day! (Not really. Fix it.) So, anyway, Rayna and Luke snarked in the limo all the way to the CMAs but managed to put on their game faces before walking the red carpet. And Luke’s “Let’s go rack up some shelf bling” as they exited the limo is my new favorite catchphrase, and yet another example of how stars really aren’t just like us.
Elsewhere, everyone was getting gussied up for the awards — everyone but Scarlett, that is, who was watching the show on the couch with a bowl of party mix, in her jammies and ... a set of false eyelashes so big, they could be seen from the International Space Station. (I know that right before I get cozy for a long night in front of the TV, I like to put on eyelashes that I stole from a drag queen’s makeup kit in Vegas.) Anyway, Deacon came home from his fishing trip with Maddie (take that, continuity police!) and claimed he didn’t want to watch the CMAs with her, but then all Scarlett had to do was say the magic words — “Oh, Rayna looks so beautiful!” — and he was hooked.
“I thought you weren’t watching,” she teased.
“Shut up and eat your party mix,” he grumbled, settling in on the couch.
I loved how hard Deacon and Scarlett were both rooting for Rayna, jumping up and down and hugging every time she won. And, of course, they picked up on the Ruke Resentment, all the way across town.
“Is it just me, or do they really not seem happy right now?” Scarlett said.
“Ain’t just you,” Deacon said happily.
Speaking of “is it just me”s, did Deacon and Scarlett seem a little too cozy on that couch? I mean, I get that they’re close, but ... I was tempted to call in Maddie and Colton’s Incest Police.
One of the funnier bits of the evening involved Layla trying to prove to the world that she wasn’t a ditz — and failing spectacularly. In keeping with her Alanis-wannabe stage, she corrected a reporter on his use of the word “rony. In fairness to Layla, she does seem to have a better grasp of the word — but it wasn’t exactly the red-carpet talk he was looking for. Later, the producers made a last-minute switcheroo of the awards script, playing up Layla’s “lovable dingbat” persona.
“I deferred Harvard!” she shouted into the mike, not knowing that she was about to become a meme.
I’ve grown (grudgingly) fond of Layla, but nothing puts more fear in the hearts of Nashville viewers than the prospect of even more characters. And we got two last night:
First, Sadie Stone’s ex, “Pete,” who seems to be harassing her. (And Luke seems awfully willing to be a giant shoulder for her to cry on. Hmmm: Watch this space.)
Then, Avery’s heretofore unmentioned sister. We found out about her when Avery was yelling at his pompous jerk of a dad: “You had a plan for everything. What did it get you? A daughter who never talks to you. A son you keep pushing away.”
On the one hand: Hooray for Avery for sticking up for his father. On the other: nooooo! Did we learn nothing from "Too Many Cooks"? (This is the last week I can still reasonably make a joke about that, right?)
So Juliette had lots of memories of her horrible childhood with Jolene, presumably to give context to her fears that she’ll be a bad mother, but mostly to give episode director Eric Close (oh, hai, Teddy!) a chance to show off his nifty flashback technique. Nicely done, Mr. Mayor.
Then Avery’s mean ol’ dad said something insensitive about Juliette and she rushed off backstage, and Avery followed her, and she expressed her fears that she would be a terrible mother just like Jolene, and Avery said, “If that were the case, I’d be a judgmental, unforgiving jackass just like my dad!”
Needless to say, the world’s most awkward silence ensued.
Since we’re discussing awkward things, Teddy is still wooing that prostitute. (He really seems to have no basic understanding of how prostitution works.) And I guess she likes him back, so ... yay? (Theirs was literally the opposite of a meet-cute.) I would say, How could the mayor of a major city be dumb enough to pursue a romance with a hooker? — but when you think about it, it’s actually the most realistic plotline the show has ever done.
Zoey and Gunnar brought Micah to the CMAs, and Zoey is so not into being this kid’s mom. It’s actually my new favorite thing about her. So anyway, Micah went missing and Gunnar unfairly blamed Zoey and when they got home, she was all, “Yeah. Didn’t sign up for this” — and broke up with him on the spot! Wow. She really hates kids!
Back at the CMAs, Rayna kept racking up awards. And she managed to thank every man in her life except for Luke.
“First and foremost, I must thank the wonderful, the one and only ... Deacon Claybourne,” she said after her first win.
“I could not have done it without the genius of … Liam McGuinnis,” she said, after winning another.
(Later, she went on to thank the inventor of the curling iron, her favorite barista at Starbucks, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and that one guy who made meaningful eye contact with her at a show in Memphis in ’04 before finally acknowledging Luke.)
Again, I didn’t quite buy her behavior. Not that Rayna wouldn’t thank Deacon and Liam, but she’s a celebrity — she knows how the game works. You’ve got to thank your fiancé, or that becomes the story. It certainly became the story in Luke’s mind, as he got plastered and started acting like an even bigger jerk.
“The only reason your album went gold is because I proposed to you when you released it,” he said to her. And ... that was the moment we moved from passive-aggressive to just plain-old aggressive.
When Rayna won for Entertainer of the Year, she went full-on Beyoncé, thanking all the “the female artists out there who are paving the way for generations to come,” and adding, “To all the men out there: We’re never trying to take anything away from you. There’s plenty of sunshine for all of us.” I’m surprised a giant FEMINIST banner didn’t drop behind her.
Yes, she did finally thank “my man, my love, Luke Wheeler” but even managed to throw in a passive-aggressive reference to their fight over the prenup: “I share this with you, babe. What’s mine is yours.”
Also, she called him "babe"! A clue!
Back at the house, they made up — kind of. But when Luke went to kiss her, she recoiled in horror, allegedly because he smelled like booze. “Go take a shower!” she demanded.
“Don’t you fall asleep before I get back,” he replied.
“I’ll try not to,” she said. Which was code for: Of course I’ll be sound asleep. Why do you think I asked you to take a shower, dummy?
Also, she got a text message from Deacon congratulating her on the win, so you know she’ll have sweet dreams.
Anyway, the CMA episode really did live up to my expectations. Everyone looked great and acted horribly. What more could you ask for?