Welcome to today’s edition of Characters We Don’t Care About Are Very, Very Angry!
Let’s start with Riff Bell. Turns out, he’s a dick! Once the Wheels Up, Riff Down tour (or whatever the hell they’re going to call it) was announced, it sold out immediately, but Riff’s got a small gig at the Beverly to iron out some of the kinks first. Except he’s got more than few kinks to iron. Riff is extremely rusty and he’s taking it out on Luke’s band.
“You call this a professional outfit. These guys suck!” he bellows, storming off the stage.
The bandleader explains the situation to Luke: “He’s terrible. Pitchy on vocals. Sounds like he hasn’t touched a guitar in 10 years.” Thank you, Simon Cowell.
So Luke follows Riff out into the parking lot and they have a fight, which we all care about a lot because we’ve grown very invested in their relationship over these last two episodes. And Riff says that he’s going home to be with his children. “Unlike your kids, mine like having me around,” he snipes. He seems nice.
Moving right along to Frankie! Frankie is very, very upset on a variety of fronts. He’s upset because he wants to call the cops on Vita — who, you’ll recall, is not an energy drink, but a very talented, down-on-her-luck singer who may or may not have stolen $500 from the till. He’s also upset because Riff is taking his slot at the Beverly. And maybe he’s also upset because of his hair, but that’s pure speculation on my part.
The final very angry person is Layla, but it’s not really right to lump her in with Riff and Frankie, because she’s a series regular. She’s upset because Avery is on a date with some red-headed MILF he met at the park (to be fair, I’m upset about that, too) and she takes it out on poor Glenn at a photo shoot. Oh, Glenn. One day you will have a client who is not a flighty, temperamental diva, but today is not that day. He manages to talk Layla down by saying she’s acting like Juliette (and giving her some fatherly advice as only Glenn can) and she finally chills out. “Hey Glenn,” Layla says, “if you ever see me acting like Juliette again, kick me. She’s the last person I want to become.” (Except for the part where she wants to hook up with Juliette’s ex-husband, work with Juliette’s ex-manager, and take over Juliette’s old life. Tomato, tomahto.)
Other people on the show are less mad than sad — and it mostly has to do with Maddie’s feelings for Cash. First Colt comes by Maddie’s school, saying actions speak louder than words and hands her flowers. (I waited patiently to see what his actions were going to be and then realized the flowers were the action. Go small or go home?) Maddie is happy to get the flowers and happy to see Colt until, you guessed it, Cash comes driving up in some sort of impossibly cool vintage car; she hops in and they drive away, leaving both Colt and Daphne, who has somehow materialized just to make this tableaux even sadder, on the curb.
Later, at the Beverly, Cash debuts the new song that Maddie wrote. It’s all sassy and girl power-y and has lyrics like, “Don’t lie to me just to get inside my pants” and “Don’t kiss me if you don’t mean business,” and Colt is kind of side-eyeing Maddie like, “whoa, you’ve changed.” After the show, Maddie rides off with Cash (once again, literally leaving Colt on the curb), but the next day, they spend some time together and it, uh, doesn’t go that well. “You think writing about sex makes a song good?” Colt asks. “It makes it honest,” replies Maddie, Teen Girl Who Has Had Sex Once. “It seems like you’re pretending to be something you’re not,” Colt grumbles. From there, the fight devolves into Colt saying that Maddie should do something meaningful with her life like helping people and “not basing your whole life on whether or not an audience loves you.” And Maddie (understandably) takes umbrage and they break up. By the end of the episode, Colt is staring meaningfully at some army recruitment posters and all I can think is, “There goes his hair.”
Also sad? Say it with me people: Daphne, Saddest Tween in the World ™. This was particularly brutal because Daphne wants to play her new song for Maddie, but Maddie has important boy drama to discuss with Cash so she shoos her away. (Seriously Maddie?) Rayna finds Daphne upstairs, moping in her room and asks what’s wrong. “She makes me feel like I’m nothing!” Daphne moans of Maddie, and then she hugs Rayna and, with her face pressed against Rayna’s chest, emits the saddest little sniffle I’ve ever heard. I don’t know how much more of this I can take!
So, other things happened involving lesser degrees of people being sad and mad. Gunnar and Scarlett debut their album for Highway 65 and the label execs love it, but when Rayna suggests a particular song as the first single, Scarlett and Gunnar exchange a look. (At first I thought I had imagined the look — it’s mostly a very happy and celebratory occasion, after all — but the look was definitely there.) Later they explain why: The single was written and mostly sung by Scarlett and therefore doesn’t represent them as a duo. Eventually they decide to share songwriting credit on every single song. So they are the Lennon and McCartney (and, once they get back together, the Yoko?) of the country music world.
While that’s happening, Will is talking to Three Dollar Vinyl, a gay record label. “How do you know it’s gay?” Gunnar had asked. (Usually Gunnar is dumb as a post, but this time I was right there with him.) “Queer as a three-dollar bill,” Will explained. (Me and Gunnar in unison: “Ahhh!”) Will drives out to meet with the label head, but it’s clear he’s more about signing a gay country singer than signing this particular gay country singer, so Will leaves. He goes to a coffee shop, where the barista is selling copies of her CD. “What label are you on?” he asks. She tells him that she’s self-published and goes into a rather lengthy, wikiHow-like explanation of how it can be done. Will gets notions.
Back at the Beverly, looks like the joke’s on us because Vita actually did steal that money! (Sorry Cash. Sorry Frankie. Sorry random extras we thought “looked suspicious.”) Turns out, her sister owes money to some bad guys. She swears she was going to pay it back. Rayna wants to help her, but she can’t.
Meanwhile, how dare you doubt platinum recording artist Riff Bell? He goes on stage at the Beverly — after he and Luke have made up — and crushes it. Then he invites Deacon on stage and Frankie gets very angry and jealous and storms into the storage closet and steals a drink. In this equation, Riff is Cash, and Deacon is Maddie, and Frankie is either Colt or Daphne but with a drinking problem. It’s all very confusing.
Feeling guilty, Rayna goes to check on Vita’s car down by the river, but it’s been blown to bits, presumably by the bad guys who are after Vita’s sister. No one was in the car, the cops assure a horrified Rayna. But there, charred on the ground, are all of Vita’s earthly possessions, including her trusty old guitar, which she memorably called a “symphony of scars” (great line) in her song. Suddenly, this all feels like some sort of spinoff where Rayna is an award-winning country artist who also fights crime in her spare time, but I guess we’ll see where this goes.
Next week our long national nightmare is over. Juliette is back!