True confession: I’m worried about New Juliette. Look, I’m not proud of this fact, but there it is. My biggest concern: How do you give us a healthy, happy Juliette who is also still Juliette? Because Juliette’s special cocktail of being desperate for love while aggressively pushing away anyone who shows her even the slightest kindness is what makes her tick. And while I want her to be happy — honestly, I do — I also sort of want her to be awful. Is that too much to ask?
“How do you feel?” her doctor asked her.
“Different, but in a good way,” Juliette replied, ominously. (And do not forget that just two weeks ago she was talking about “safe time” and “emotional spaces.” Like I said, I worry.)
Still, it’s just Juliette’s first week back, so we can cut the show some slack. Maybe last night it was all gauzy lighting and gauzier sweaters, because they have to show us she’s healed before they can, to borrow a phrase, Make Juliette Great Again.
So Juliette goes home and her house is very sad, filled with empty spaces and piled-up mail and these giant glamour shots of herself on the wall which seem particularly pathetic, under the circumstances — but no Cadence or Avery.
“Hello?” some dude shouts and I think, Now that is some rotten luck! What are the odds of her having an intruder the minute she gets home? But he’s not an intruder at all. He’s Patrick. A character we know so well and have seen many, many times, right? Good ol’ Patrick — he’s always dropping by unannounced like that! He tells her that Steven Spielberg wants her for his new film. (Sometimes I forget that Juliette is an “Academy Award–nominated actress,” and I then I remember and laugh.) One catch: It would require her to spend two weeks in Prague. Technically, however, this wouldn’t be two weeks away from Cadence — it would be six hours, because of the Draconian visitation schedule Avery has Juliette on. So Juliette is basically like, “If I knew for sure I could spend more time with Cadence, I wouldn’t go” — so she marches over to Avery’s place to ask for more hours.
Anyway, the look on Avery’s face when he sees her at the door is priceless. And not for nothing, he is wearing an adorable navy blue sweater of his own to go with her fuzzy pink number. Telepathic twinning?
At first he’s kind of a dick, but understandably. It’s one thing to agree to supervised visits with Cadence in a therapeutic environment, it’s another to hand over the kid, willy-nilly. It’s not like Juliette has a track record of stability. For now, he says, we’ll stick to the schedule.
She agrees to do the film, and then asks for one last visit with Cadence to say goodbye and Avery agrees because he’s a softie like that. And he can see—we all can—that she’s better with Cadence, more comfortable, more loving. He leaves them alone, at which point Juliette begins to sing a lullaby. Of course Avery is standing outside the door because having people stand outside doorways while other people sing emotionally is one of Nashville’s go-to moves. He cries, because he still loves Juliette (hooray!) and also because it’s written into Jonathan Jackson’s contract that he must cry one time per show. (No objections here.) More on these crazy kids in a sec.
Poor Will. He’s all excited about the prospect of self-releasing his new album except he has no songs to put on it. (In that sense, we are all Will.) First Gunnar and Scarlett tell him they’ll help him write songs and he’s all, “Boy, that’d be swell!” and they’re like, “How’s next Friday? We’ll pencil you in.” Cue: Sad Will Face. Then Will goes to Wheelin’ Dealin’ Records and demands the rights to the songs he co-wrote with Kevin, except Luke gets a very important phone call (from Colt — which we all know is a BFD, but Will doesn’t) and excuses himself. Then, dejected — at this point, he’s the Charlie Brown of Nashville — he turns to Avery, who starts to write with him, but then gets his own very important phone call (from Juliette) and is too distracted to work. A guy could get a complex. But his luck’s about to change! And, strangely, it involves Luke and Colt.
Is it strange that the Luke/Colt stuff was the most emotional material of the night for me? Suddenly Colt is hellbent on joining the Army, which is weird, because I remember when he was all “sick beats” and backward baseball caps and obsessed with things “going viral.” Now he’s a dude in a faded flannel shirt driving a pick-up truck who wants to enlist. At first Luke disapproves — he’s been on USO tours; he knows how scary and dangerous things can get — but he sees Colt is serious and finally agrees. He tells Colt how proud he is of him for being brave and following his convictions and they hug — finally! Not gonna lie, I got a little lump in my throat. Then, work with me here, Luke’s son joining the Army has somehow made Luke more accepting of gay people! That always happens! (Okay, as Luke puts it, Colt’s not afraid to do the right thing, so he won’t be either.) He re-signs Will to Wheelin’ Dealin’ Records. Moral of the story: That annoying phone call that interrupts your business meeting can be the annoying phone call that changes your life.
Also looking to have her life changed? Layla, who is doing an artist’s showcase of her new album.
“How do you expect to make the transition from reality star to country star?” asks some journalist who has been in a deep coma for ten years.
The big catch at the showcase is Autumn Chase (Alicia Witt), one of Nashville’s endless supply of Really Famous Country Music Stars No One Has Ever Mentioned Before who is looking for an opening act on her tour. She’s very impressed with Layla, so much so that she agrees to join her that night at the Bluebird to hang out and watch the Exes. Big mistake. Huge. The moment Scarlett and Gunnar hit that stage, Layla is dead to Autumn.
“Rayna really has an eye for talent,” Autumn says, all emoji heart eyes as she watched the Exes on stage. (Can you blame her?) And yup, you guessed it: She wants the Exes to open up for tour, not Layla. Ouch.
Elsewhere, there are lots and lots (and lots) of stuff about Frankie falling off the wagon, which I guess is important? Frankie is mad at Deacon for stealing his limelight or his thunder or whatever it is Frankie thinks he used to have. “You erased me!” he moans. Personally, I think Frankie is acting like a big ol’ baby but Deacon actually apologizes for steamrolling his life. Come to think of it, I guess he did kind of take things over. (It’s hard to empathize with Frankie because, like, who wouldn’t want Deacon taking over their life? I mean, where do I sign?) Anyway, Frankie goes back to his AA meeting and, after 15 years sober, he’s back to Day One. Man, that is rough.
As for Rayna, she doesn’t do much this episode except for harass the police about Vita’s whereabouts. Then the cop shows her a huge stack of missing-girl files — Vita’s just the latest girl he’s added to the pile. Suddenly, Rayna wants to do something about all the missing girls of Nashville (a good band name, come to think of it). Ugh. The idea of Rayna becoming some sort of activist crusader sounds dull, but I guess the die is cast.
Anyway, let’s get back to the good stuff: Juliette has her press conference for her movie and I think Justin Bieber might be in it? Sure looked like him at the end of the table. She confesses to the world that she had postpartum depression and that it “nearly took my life.” Big first step. As the press grills her, she realizes she doesn’t want to do this Steven Spielberg movie at all, she wants to be with Cadence. So she storms off the stage (now there’s the Juliette I know!) and goes home. That night, Avery shows up with Cadence. He figures since she’s sticking around, maybe she should get to spend more time with Cadence, after all. (Either that or Emily wasn’t available to babysit.)
“I didn’t drop out of the movie so you’d change your mind,” Juliette says.
“I didn’t change my mind because you dropped out of the movie,” Avery replies. They look at each other meaningfully.
Okay, if Juliette and Avery can have more adorable moments like this, maybe I can get used to Juliette Barnes 2.o. I make no promises.