It needs to be said: Nashville clearly overestimates how much we care whether Aunt Bev lives or dies. Last week we briefly cared about her coma because we thought it might be ... Deacon’s coma. This week they ended the show with her flatlining. Trust us, Nashville, the Bev status is less an emotional roller-coaster than a mild case of gas.
But anyone’s who has ever watched a soap opera already knew she was toast because she was being way too nice. She was smiling gently at Rayna (Rayna!), telling Deacon she loved him, apologizing to Scarlett for not being a good mother. It was emotional, it was beautiful, it was a new chapter in the life of Bev and the lives of her family. So, by the time-honored rules of soap operas, she must die. Or live and go back to being the worst again. Time will tell. Pass the Maalox.
Now, you want a real emotional roller-coaster? Allow me to introduce you to Avery and Juliette. Those two. I swear.
First off, Jeff Fordham is back. This is good news for us, bad news for random Not! Jeff Fordham guy from last week, because Jeff fired him. (Heh.) Jeff is concerned that Juliette has not been seen publicly with Avery and baby Cadence — probably because she has also not been seen privately with Avery and baby Cadence.
“This is the closest I’ve come to seeing my wife in weeks,” Avery moans, watching Juliette tear up on Live With Kelly and Michael. (Avery watches Live With Kelly and Michael?) So Jeff goes over to Casa de Three Men and a Baby, risking life and limb by confronting Avery. Initially, Avery wants nothing to do with him, but when Jeff tells him that Juliette is “desperate to see you and the baby,” poor, emotionally needy Avery buys it. I mean, of course he does. Jeff is telling him exactly what he wants to hear. And it also may be a little ... true?
Somehow the saddest sight in the world is Avery, with his skinny jeans and his patchy emo beard, shlepping baby Cadence with him in that little baby basket, a diaper bag slung over his shoulder wherever he goes. In this case, he takes Cadence to Juliette’s house, hoping to reconcile. Instead, another one of her parties is raging on. He starts to leave, but Juliette kicks everyone out and tells Avery that she loves him and Cadence. He buys it because, well, she means it — in that moment, at least. Juliette is a mess. And so am I. When Avery and Juliette kiss, I think, Squee! Happy ending! (When my emotions get involved, I forget all those time-honored soap-opera rules.)
Anyway, I lied. The saddest sight in the world is not Avery toting baby Cadence everywhere, it’s baby Cadence in a pair of enormous Baby Beats by Dre in the front row of Mommy’s concert. Did anyone actually think this through? Needless to say, Cadence starts crying, and not just because Jeff Fordham is in the vicinity. Now, I love you, Avery, but time to take baby Cadence away from the loud, throbbing music and into the lobby. Instead, he stands there, pointing at the stage and saying things like, “Look, it’s Mommy!” as Cadence wails. From the stage Juliette keeps singing like a pro, but she hears her because Cadence is the loudest baby in the history of babies. She’s the Luciano Pavarotti of babies. This coupled with the fact that Avery — poor, eager Avery — kept talking about how he and Cadence couldn’t wait to go on tour with her ... is it really all that surprising that Juliette peaced out?
But here’s the truth, Nashville. I love all the Juliettes. I love Self-Destructive Juliette. I love Mean-Girl Juliette. I love Vulnerable Juliette. But somehow, her character has gotten 50 percent less fun now that she’s Emotionally Abusive Mother and Wife Juliette. I want to be able to revel in Juliette’s gloriously awful behavior. But this shit? Is depressing.
Speaking of depressing: ugh, Will. He finally comes out of hiding, coaxed by Luke to come to Juliette’s record-release concert, only to be treated like a leper at the party and then get unceremoniously dumped by Luke’s label. The thing is, Luke wants to do the right thing. “Small town doesn’t always mean small-minded,” he tells ... that random woman who is suddenly following him around everywhere. (Guesses? She seems to be some kind of PR person because she uses the phrase “personal brand” a lot.) In that moment, Luke seemed righteous, decent. But the minute country superstar “Wade Cole” doesn’t want a photo op with Will at the party, Luke cuts and runs. The man has zero integrity. I seriously hoping this means Will goes back to Highway 65*. But for now, poor fella just needs to lick his wounds.
Speaking of Highway 65, the label is in trouble. First, that same “Wade Cole” guy bags out of his contract, citing Rayna’s trouble keeping her talent — sheesh, like it was Rayna’s fault that Sadie Stone had an asshole husband she had to shoot dead. At this point, her label is basically riding on ... Layla. This is good news because Layla is talented (we see you creepin’ at her Bluebird concert, Glenn), but bad news, because she’s not exactly a brand name. Also, as emotional stability goes? She’s somewhere between Husband-Shooting Sadie and Under-the-Piano Scarlett.
So Rayna decides she needs to pursue a new artist. That morning she had gone into the girl’s bedroom, only to find that they were loudly rocking out to their favorite band, BLVD, which had just broken up. (We all know that the real thing teenage girls do when their favorite band breaks up is make YouTube videos of themselves crying and turn #BLVD4ever into a worldwide trending topic —but I digress.) Rayna doesn’t think of it twice until she hears Maddie and Daphne perform a BLVD song at their talent show — and it’s good. (Then again, Maddie and Daphne could make “If You’re Happy and You Know It” sound like a winsome and melancholy alt-folk classic.) So Rayna wields her magic celebrity powers to get a seat on an airplane right next to Markus Keen (Riley Smith), BLVD’s lead singer and songwriter. She flatters him, flirts with him, tells him that rock drools and country rules (or something like that), and he does the whole “Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?” thing — to which she replies, “Yes!” She wants to sign him to Highway 65. He says he’ll think about it and, like, moments later, his representatives are sealing the deal in the Highway 65 boardroom. If anyone understood the timing of that particular business transaction, please explain it to me. Anyway, go Rayna.
Elsewhere, they finally gave the Hunkologist a personality — and it’s a bad one. “Music is fun,” he says to Gunnar. “But it’s not like you guys are saving lives.” Ouch. I’m Team Gunnar all the way, but if he’s going to win Scarlett back, he needs a new stylist, like, yesterday. For starters, he doubled down on that horrible rooster hairdo from last week, and then, at the photo shoot, he was wearing this monstrosity of a polyester shirt (unbuttoned!) and an assortment of ... necklaces. He’s one floppy cap away from being a full-on “Wild and Crazy Guy.” Then again, Scarlett’s hair has gotten one shade darker this season and her eyebrows have gotten 20 shades darker, so maybe they are a match made in heaven.
Which leads us to the true match made in heaven, our very own OTP, Rayna and Deacon. They got in a few lovey-dovey scenes (although not nearly enough, Nashville, not ever nearly enough), but the best part was when Deacon said that they were going to get “hitched up and married.” (I loved that moment so much I didn’t even care that it was totally redundant.) Now, Aunt Bev, if your death/extended coma/ongoing health crisis gets in the way of Deacon and Rayna getting married, I swear I will hunt you down.
* An earlier version of this recap referred to Highway 65 as Highway 67.