On this week’s episode of Nashville, “YouTube sensation” Ashley Willerman (Bridgit Mendler) had approximately ten minutes of screen time. Gunnar had three minutes. Scarlett had one minute, 30 seconds. Will Lexington had all of one minute.
I’m not saying that’s a deal-breaker, but it is a problem. At some point down the line, maybe we will love Ashley Willerman and want to run hand in hand with her in a field of flowers — hey, stranger things have happened! — but until then, she’s another of this show’s many annoying randos, clogging up screen time with journeys of discovery none of us care about.
So, how did we get here? Let’s start with Maddie, who has secured an internship at Tracks Studio, which will surely be good for building character and stuff. Right out of the gate, she’s learning all about the phone and office-paging-system buttons. “Whatever you do, don’t push this one,” her manager tells her. “Push this one and we’re screwed.”
“Wait … which one?” Maddie says, panicking. “Just kidding. You’re going to be great,” the manager replies. And with that, I care more about a woman with a walk-on role than I do about Ashley Willerman.
When Ashley arrives, entourage in tow, she’s ushered to the studio where she’s going to record her album. She wants to add all this “natural sound” to the album — she’s been recording trains for weeks — but Avery, who’s producing, says they should try to play it straight. “What do you think?” Ashley asks Deacon, who’s adorably sucking on a lollipop and clearly just wants to be a hired guitarist for the day.
“Who, me?” Deacon says.
“Yeah, you’ve been doing this for, like, 100 years, right?”
“This April,” Deacon deadpans.
Ashley starts to sing and … well, it’s bad. (On balance, Nashville has had very little intentionally bad singing.) She has this hiccup-y vocal styling that is very annoying. “What’s that thing she’s doing with her voice?” Deacon asks. “I don’t know. She was doing it yesterday, too,” Avery says.
Meanwhile, Maddie has gone on a coffee run and she spots a young guitarist (Joseph David-Jones) who has a lot going on sartorially — hat, bandanna, scads of man-jewelry — busking in the street. At the coffee shop, the barista notices her staring at the busker. “Dreamy, isn’t he?” the barista says. I was literally writing in my notes, “NO ONE TALKS THAT WAY,” when I got a good look at the busker and, yeah, dreamy is honestly the only word for it.
He starts to sing, and it turns out this dreamy busker also has a great, bluesy voice. Maddie, awkwardly balancing several coffee cups (she would make a horrible waitress), staggers toward him and … yep, drops one of her coffees. He stops playing and runs to help her, leaving in the lurch the small crowd that has gathered to listen to him. Definitely Nashville’s version of a meet-cute. Anyway, his name is Clayton Jones and he is going to be Maddie’s new love interest this season and I am here for it. (You see? This? This is how you introduce a new character.)
Back at the studio, things have gone from bad to worse: Ashley refuses to listen to Avery’s advice about reverb or anything else, so he quits in disgust. Maddie has been sent on a sandwich run because Ashley allegedly has “low-blood sugar,” which is perfect. (I’m sure there are many people who actually suffer from low-blood sugar, but there are just as many fakers who use “low-blood sugar” as an excuse to whine. Well played, Nashville.) Then Ashley has a meltdown because Maddie forgot her whole wheat bread.
“You can have my sandwich,” Deacon offers.
“But then what will you eat?” Ashley says.
“I’m not that hungry,” Deacon replies.
I really don’t think they did the math here, folks.
The next day, Ashley tells Deacon he’s not playing with enough energy and then snidely says to Maddie, “I hope you’re not planning on making a career out of this” because she had the temerity to put whipped cream on a caramel macchiato. Maddie calls her a bitch and quits. Oops.
At home, Juliette is obsessively looking up her “angel” Hallie Jordan on the internet. When that doesn’t work, she decides to take matters into her own hands and drive out to her house. Juliette, still in her wheelchair, stares skeptically at the steps leading to Hallie’s house. “You need help?” Emily asks. No, Emily, she’ll just slither up the stairs like Leonardo DiCaprio in the ‘lude scene from The Wolf of Wall Street.
Just then, Hallie (Rhiannon Giddens) emerges from her house and embraces Juliette; she’s really glad to see her, but has to go feed orphans or save the whales or whatever selfless people do for a living, so she can’t stick around to chat. She gets in her car, which doesn’t start right away, and Juliette gets notions — by the time Hallie gets out of work, there is a brand-new Range Rover Discovery waiting for her. (I don’t think Juliette has properly read the personality of one Hallie Jordan just yet.) She calls Juliette and thanks her for her generosity, but tells her she can’t accept it. Hallie, girl, think this through! Take the car!
Now Juliette feels terrible, like she’s the kind of shallow trash who thinks material things are more important than human lives. (But … but … that Range Rover, though.) Feeling chastened, she tells Emily to return the car to the dealership.
Those were seriously the saddest five minutes of Nashville ever.
That night, Juliette tells Avery she’s convinced she’s never going to walk again. Besides, she says, everyone knows she should’ve died in that plane crash. Baby Cadence cries and Juliette goes to check on her — because who better than a nearly suicidal woman in a wheelchair to check on a crying baby? — and Baby Cadence pees on Juliette’s leg and Juliette feels it. Wow, pee has been getting a lot of play in the news lately.
The next day, Juliette goes to visit Hallie again. This time, she breaks down crying — Hayden Panettiere is DOING WORK this season — and Hallie tells her to embrace God and, oh man, I think she actually might. Is it wrong that I don’t want Juliette Barnes to find God?
“What are we?” Avery asks Juliette later that night, trying to suss out the status of their relationship.
“I’m not sure. Are you okay with that?” Juliette replies.
“No,” Avery says. “And I won’t be until you are.”
Um, what? No, really. I have no idea what that exchange means. Someone please explain it to me.
A couple other loose ends before I get back to the Maddie drama:
- I think you guys might be right that Randall, the Clay Aiken wannabe intern who’s wants to show Scarlett and Gunnar these cool things called “music videos,” is Rayna’s stalker. It’s almost too obvious, so maybe it’s a misdirection? Also, what’s up with his taking that little ceramic box on Rayna’s desk with Maddie’s picture on it? It’s not like it smells like Rayna or anything.
- Or maybe Rayna’s stalker is the guy on the street who wants to give her his demo, but settles for a photo with her instead? (Side note: Even this random creeper has forgotten that Daphne exists. Great.)
Okay, that’s enough of that. Back at home, Deacon confronts Maddie about her behavior in the studio. He says she was immature and unprofessional, then advises that sometimes you have to just “take it on the chin and watch your mouth.” Later, Maddie crawls into bed with Daphne. “Can I ask you something? Am I turning into a bitch?” she asks. “A little,” Daphne replies. YOU SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER, DAPHNE!
Daphne’s reality check leads Maddie to apologize to Deacon — not just for her behavior at Tracks, but for the way she lied about him in court. “Baby, thank you,” Deacon says, tearing up. Then, hugging her, he says he knows it was partly his fault for being so hotheaded. “I wish I’d been a better dad,” he says. Her reply? “You’re my dad and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.” Oh God. Sniff.
The episode closes with a patented Nashville song montage. Nine out of ten times it’s Scarlett and Gunnar, with their beautiful, plaintive voices sending us out — but this time it’s Juliette, resolutely singing that she’s “on her way.” Here’s what happens in the montage:
- Avery picks up some music. He’s clearly thinking about restarting his performing career.
- Hallie can’t start her car, because she’s still living that humble life.
- Maddie goes back to the studio and apologizes to Ashley. She accepts her apology in, like, ten seconds flat, which isn’t even remotely believable, but it works for the montage, I guess.
- Maddie goes on another coffee run and flirts with Clayton again. Then, for the second time in this episode, she backs away from him, all giggly, and nearly walks into oncoming traffic. Young love is dangerous, people.
- Juliette looks determined.
- And that’s it. I can’t wait to see what happens next week on The Ashley Willerman Show!