Oh, Nashville, why you gotta play us like that? Last night’s episode was a series of false alarms, misdirections, and fake-outs. When it was all over, I felt so used.
Let’s start with Juliette, Avery, and Layla. So Juliette is now on tour with Luke and everyone is speaking in metaphors. When Glenn asks Juliette if she’s nervous about performing again, she replies, “Oh, it’s easy to get 20,000 people to love you.” (Translation: But not the one man I love.) As for Layla, she can’t handle the truth and retreats to the tour bus, where she’s surprised to find Avery. “Why didn’t you stay for the show?” she asks him. “I’ve seen it before,” he replies, wearily. (Translation: He’s not going to let himself get sucked in to Juliette’s games again.) And apparently the tour bus is equipped with a working recording studio (that’s the last time I get excited when my Bolt bus has WiFi) and Layla and Avery start working on a song together, doing the dreaded thing were they put their heads close together and listen through the same set of headphones. And everyone at home is all, No, guys, don’t do it! That could only lead to ...! But it’s too late, it is done. Avery and Layla have kissed. Luckily, Cadence senses a disturbance in the Force and starts crying, ending the brief, awkward, crime-against-nature lip-lock.
Juliette keeps trying to find ways to get closer to Avery, first suggesting that he travel on her private jet instead of the tour bus, but he declines. Then she asks him to play guitar with her on “Dirt” (she claims it was Glenn’s idea — a lie) and he says he’ll think it over, but eventually says no to that, too. Later, she goes to his hotel room and tells him she still loves him — and what’s more, she knows he still loves her. What’s so great about this scene — other than the amazing acting job by both Panettiere and Jackson — is that Avery doesn’t deny that he still loves Juliette. He just doesn’t want to get hurt again, doesn’t want to be played for the fool. Remember, he’s seen it all before. Things get intense between them — as they always do — and it almost seems like Avery’s about to cave, when Cadence cries again. (Whose side is this kid on?) “You don’t have to make your decision now,” Juliette says. “But when you do, you know where to find me.” A few scenes later, there’s Avery wandering the halls of the hotel. He stops in front of a door. At the same time, a knock on Juliette’s door. Thank you, Country Jesus! She answers, eagerly, and it’s ... Emily with Cadence. But wait, that could only mean — no, Avery, don’t do it! — yup, he’s at Layla’s door instead. Which also means he pawned Cadence off on Juliette so he could hook up with Layla? That is a world of wrong, Avery.
Let me say for the record that I don’t hate Layla. I actually feel sorry for her. Yes, she’s playing some sort of creepy, All About Eve game (remember when Juliette was the Eve to Rayna’s Margo Channing? Those were the days.) But she’s probably already convinced herself that she’s actually in love with Avery and, let’s face it, he’s just using her to distract himself from the woman he really loves. She’s only going to get hurt. Put it to you this way: Avery wasn’t sitting in his hotel room crying over ... Layla.
Okay, onto misdirection number two. And this one stung. Maddie is still planning her emancipation, although it seems like she’s really being pressured by Cash and this lawyer lady she hired. I mean, why all the urgency? Daphne’s little found-poetry texts to Maddie are getting more and more desperate, but the lawyer advises her not to answer. (Because it could be a trap? I’m not sure that lawyer understands how text messages work.) Rayna goes to visit Teddy to plan their next move, which is hilarious on many levels:
1) The show just dropped Teddy on our laps, out of nowhere. There was no, “Next week on Nashville, a fan favorite returns!” Just boom. Teddy. Enjoy.
2) Teddy’s stuck in prison, sitting there in this sad, drab prison jumpsuit, and Rayna doesn’t even ask him how he’s doing. I mean, I know she’s got a lot on her mind, but a simple, “How’s the food?” or “Any neo-Nazis who want to make you their bitch?” would’ve been nice.
3) Teddy’s hair looks weird.
After meeting with Rayna, Teddy meets with Maddie and comes clean about being blackmailed into signing her Edgehill contract (a story line that had completely slipped my mind, if I’m going to be completely honest). “Blackmailed how?” Maddie asks. And suddenly, memories of the soccer mom-hooker come flashing back to me. “There was a ... woman that I was ... involved with,” Teddy says, diplomatically. “So all my parents are liars then?” Maddie says. Oh kid, you don’t know the half of it.
Rayna has made an ill-advised — if badass — move, meeting with Cash and saying this: “Nashville is such a small town. If you keep going down this road, I guarantee you that I will make sure that no one, from Music Road to Lower Broad, ever works with you again.”
“Are you threatening me?” Cash says.
“Promising,” Rayna says.
If you can somehow have a mic drop that is also a really, really terrible idea from a parenting perspective, Rayna just had one.
Later, she tracks down Maddie and it’s suddenly snowing — adding to the poignancy. Rayna pleads with Maddie to just take some time, pump the brakes. “Don’t let some court and some lawyer decide how you want your life to be,” she says. It seems like she’s really getting through to her, until Maddie talks to Cash. “She says she wants to try to work it out,” Maddie tells her. “Well, guess what your mom said to me,” Cash replies, with poorly disguised glee. Uh-oh.
It’s all looking pretty grim until Maddie shows up at that night’s benefit concert to perform with Daphne. Little Daphne, bless her fragile heart, is elated, and Deacon and Rayna are all proud and relieved that they’re a family again. Maddie and Daphne sing and it’s as though two angels descended from heaven to bless us with their flawlessness, per usual. And then, just when everything is perfect ... the worst thing in the world happens. Maddie and Daphne get off stage and there’s a kind of diffident family group hug and Rayna says, “I’m so happy you’re home,” and Maddie gets an ice-cold look on her face and says, “I’m not” and walks away. Daphne follows her, frantically. “Where are you going? What are you doing?” she pleads. “I’m not emancipating from you, we’re still sisters,” Maddie assures her, “but you have to let me go.” And now she’s gone for good, leaving Daphne in tears and me going all-caps in my notes: “I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS, MADDIE!!!” Meanwhile, while all this drama is taking place, Rayna is performing her first song in, like, forever, which no one is even paying any attention to because our hearts are all so broken not even the soothing (auto-tuned) sounds of Rayna James can heal us.
Before we get to the final misdirection, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Luke Wheeler has suddenly become America’s foremost gay activist. He’s doing everything in his power to get country music to overcome its systemic homophobia and put Will Lexington on the radio. He even got Robin Roberts involved, so you know he means business.
The final misdirection involves Scarlett and Gunnar. It starts with the oldest soap opera trick in the book — ye olde broken elevator. Scarlett is not talking to Gunnar, which seems like a slight overreaction to what she thought she saw outside Autumn’s hotel room. Gunnar tells her nothing happened and she believes him. They start drinking from this expensive bottle of whiskey and reminiscing (turns out Scarlett met Gunnar at some street fair before the Bluebird, which is a somewhat useless detail from the show’s perspective but a great prompt for fan-fiction writers, I suppose), and then Gunnar suggests they play “If I Didn’t Know Better” (still Nashville’s all-time best song, in my opinion) and it’s beautiful and they’re just about to kiss when — doh! — the elevator door opens. Gunnar walks Scarlett to her door, and I have a few thoughts:
a.) Has Scarlett’s “Southern” accent been thicker in this episode or is it just my imagination?
b.) Why don’t they seem drunk?
c.) Are those two going to finally hook up or just continue to flirt and sing and almost-kiss and slowly drive me mad?
Just when it looks like the answer is going to be “slowly drive me mad” — Gunnar has said good-night and Scarlett has closed the door — she opens the door back up and he’s still standing there and they fall back on the bed, passionately kissing. Finally, the misdirection has used its power for good!