My favorite thing about Deacon and Rayna being married, other than their adorable, glowy domestic bliss, is the fact that Deacon doesn’t have to have any more random girlfriends. You know who I mean. They came, they went, they had names like Jordanna and Kelly and Brandi (I just made those names up, but I bet you didn’t know that, did you?). They never stuck around long enough for any of us to care. They were the office temps of Nashville.
I’ve described Nashville’s penchant for fleeting, meaningless filler characters as a game of whack-a-mole. One leaves (buh-bye, Erin!) and two more pop up. Okay, Vita Martin (Jeananne Goosen), the singer with a shady past, seems promising — at least the girl can sing. But what is the point of Luke’s new touring buddy Riff Bell (Steve Kazee)? Just what this show needs — another bland, bearded white dude! I mean, I just got a handle on the names of new characters Frankie and Cash (which totally sounds like it should be a buddy cop show on the USA network), and now I’ve got Riff and Vita to contend with? (I know these names sound fake but I swear they are real.)
So Rayna takes an instant shining to Vita — who had just shown up at the Beverly, looking to sing and maybe get some work — and wants to sign her to Highway 65. But Vita’s got secrets. When she gets to the “Have you ever been convicted of a crime” portion of her application to the Beverly, she panics and runs away, rarely a good sign. Also, she lives in a van down by the river (not quite — a car in a parking lot of a motel, but same diff).
“I’ve been arrested before,” Vita admits, when Rayna comes to find her. “I’ve done some things I’m not so proud of … The only thing that’s helped me get through my life is music.”
“You and me both,” Rayna replies.
So they have an understanding.
As for Biff — uh, Riff — he’s an old touring buddy of Luke’s who used to be a big star, but traded it all in for domestic bliss. This is meant to contrast with Luke, whose entire family (and life) is falling apart. His fans are mad at him — for being rich? I wasn’t quite clear on that part — his son isn’t talking to him, and ticket sales to his new tour are way down. Plus, he has an imaginary daughter named Sage, an awkward lie he’s been telling for 16 years. (I kid, but seriously? Is the whole “Sage doesn’t really exist” thing some sort of inside joke on Nashville? She’s the opposite of all the Riffs and Biffs and Vitas of the world — we actually want to meet her but she’s nowhere to be found!)
Looks like Riff and his entire family are going to be joining Luke on his tour, just to remind Luke what an empty shell his life has become. (Also? In case you were wondering, snipe hunting is a real thing. I looked it up. Weird…).
Let’s close the book on Erin, shall we? Scarlett catches her kissing some shaggy-haired dude in a ca r— she apparently likes all different hair types — and tells Gunnar about it. Gunnar confronts Erin, saying he thought casual meant monogamous. (Oh, Gunnar…). Erin leaps at the chance at monogamy, and then a few scenes later, he dumps her, because he wasn’t really jealous and therefore he knows she’s not the one. Kind of a dick move, Gunnar. Then he tells Scarlett about the breakup and she runs off awkwardly because — you guys, the greatest thing — she has a date with the cute taxidermist! I totally called this last week! Yes, he’s just another random romantic roadblock, but at least there are now taxidermy jokes to be made! (Sample: Is that a stuffed chipmunk in his pocket, or is he just happy to see her?) (Sample: Scarlett needs to break up with that dude, he’s a real stiff.) I’ll keep working on it.
Will is back, too, deciding he wants to be a performer after all, because, of course. He gets up on stage at the Nashville Palace, starts to sing this pretty song, until some homophobic asshole in the crowd starts yelling things like, “We’ve already got a queen of country!” and “Get off the stage, queer!” The thing that really bugged me about this scene is the fact they should’ve kicked that guy out immediately. Instead, the waitress politely cajoles, “C’mon let him play.” “I think he’s played enough,” the guys snarls — and throws a bottle at Will on stage. And before I can get out the words, “Not the faaa …” it hits him squarely on the nose. Yes, Will’s pretty, pretty face is a bloody mess — turns out, his nose is broken — and he looks as stunned as the rest of us. The cops tell him he could file a “hate crime” report against the guy, but decides to take matters into his own hands. The next night he goes back to the club — and Gunnar and Scarlett nervously follow him, assuming he’s looking to pick a fight. Instead he gets back up on stage, “No one’s ever keeping me from singing again,” he says triumphantly, as the crowd cheers.
“I think it’s best you all leave,” Gunnar says to the homophobe and his buddies.
“You and your backwoods friends!” Scarlett adds.
And the bully, humiliated and defeated, is forced to skulk away in shame. (In case you were wondering, this was what every teen movie in the ‘80s was like.)
So Will seems to be getting his mojo back, but the same can’t be said of Avery. He goes to visit Juliette at the treatment center to discuss going public with their divorce, but the doctor comes out and explains that Juliette is in a fairly delicate emotional state and has decided that “now is not a safe time to be engaging with you.”
This is concerning: The Juliette I know and love would never use phrases like “safe time” and “delicate emotional state.” What have they done to her?!?
So Avery loses it. Honestly, if I were at a treatment center, I’d at least pretend to have my shit together, for appearances sake. But he’s so messed up right now, he can’t even do that.
“The last thing Juliette needs is this kind of drama,” the doctor says scornfully, kicking Avery out.
We are in some sort of bizarro world, people, where Juliette is the seeker of safe spaces and Avery is the one causing drama.
Avery goes back to the studio to work with Layla and, if I didn’t know she was plotting some sort of creepy, Single White Female deal, I would think it was cute that they were bonding over their shared misery.
(Unrelated aside: Who was the giant, semi-scary-looking hairy dude in the studio with Avery? The first time he popped up out of nowhere, I screamed.)
By the end of the episode, Avery has forced Juliette to release a statement about their divorce, and he has taken off his wedding ring. Dag.
Another relationship not going well? Maddie and Colt’s. Turns out they did do it in the tour bus (gasp!) and now he’s gotten all weird and teenage boyish on her. Of course, he’s going through a rough time himself, but that is no excuse, Colt! Get your act together! Maddie gets a pep talk from Cash — who, again, is a real character, on this show — and they sing a beautiful duet together about men that have done them wrong that is secretly witnessed by Daphne, Saddest Tween in the World ™. Then Maddie calls up Colt and demands some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. You go, Maddie.
Finally, there’s $500 missing from the till and, of course, Frankie suspects Vita. Dude, your daughter’s name is Cash. Open your eyes, man. Look, I have no idea who stole the money, but I’m guessing it’s not Vita. Too on the nose. (Sorry, Will.)