Not going to lie, I was more than a little skeptical when I saw that Nashville was tackling policing and racism — stay in your lane, Nashville! — but the scene with Clay, Maddie, and the cop effectively chilled me to the bone.
Here’s how it plays out: Clay and Maddie are driving his somewhat beat-up station wagon in an upscale neighborhood when a cop pulls them over, allegedly for “rolling” through a stop sign. Clay is immediately measured and super calm in his behavior. “I’m reaching for my wallet, which is in my pants,” he says evenly. He knows not to make any sudden movements, or alarm the officer in any way. The fact that he has to say, “May I reach for my registration, which is in the glove box?” is heartbreaking. No young white person has ever felt a need to provide that kind of soothing running commentary to a cop. (Joseph David-Jones, who plays Clay, is great in this scene.)
And then there’s Maddie. She’s justifiably upset because the cop can’t even tell them which stop sign they allegedly flew through, but she gets agitated, escalating a situation that Clay is trying to defuse. The cop asks Clay to get out of the car, but not her, which inflames her even further. “Is there one rule for me and one rule for him because he’s black?” she accuses.
She gets out of the car and starts filming the encounter with her phone. There’s also a couple in the neighborhood filming, which is how the whole scene will eventually make its way to YouTube. Clay keeps telling Maddie to calm down, but she won’t listen. Eventually, they’re both “detained” for failing to follow an officer’s command. (They’re later released into Deacon’s custody.)
Meanwhile, after almost dying in a plane crash, finding God, misplacing God, recovering a memory about her dear dead father, and performing triumphantly with a gospel choir onstage, Juliette is now … back to where she started. She’s freaking out because the album tanked and she has no material, and that’s before she finds out that she’s been bumped from Jimmy Kimmel. Anyway, Glenn tells her she’s been through a lot and she’s doing just great. (But not before suggesting she’s faking her limp — what the hell, Glenn?) “I don’t want to hear about how great I’m doing,” Juliette says. “I want to hear about how great I am.” That’s our girl!
Juliette is desperate for a hit song, but all the best songwriters are otherwise occupied. So she decides to contact some songwriter dude named Travis, who apparently has been racking up No. 1 hits. She goes to his house and he seems genuinely happy to see her, even agreeing to work with her. He rightly observes that her quip, “You can’t keep a bad girl down!” would make for a great song lyric. So far, so good. But in a far-fetched twist, he hands her a demo of a can’t-miss hit song … that he wants her to deliver to Maddie. We all know where this is going, don’t we?
On the other hand, I have no idea where Gunnar and Scarlett are going. Are they living together now? Does she still have feelings for him? Last week’s public eye-sexing notwithstanding, things seem pretty chaste between them. As we drop in on them, they’re just hanging out — Gunnar is actually making grilled-cheese sandwiches — when Damien randomly shows up. “We’re having a baby!” he exults. Suddenly he’s the comic relief, full of boisterous energy and plans, forcing an awkward group hug. Then he starts calling the baby Rupert and saying it will surely follow his family tradition of going to Eton. Slow your roll, Damien. (Tiny aside: I love that when Nashville goes British, they go full British: Rupert. Damien. Eton. Stick around long enough and Damien’s best friend, Nigel, is bound to show up.) Anyway, Damien’s behavior is ridiculous, but it does give Sam Palladio — who is actually British — a chance to do a broad, fake British accent while mocking him. Good stuff.
Turns out, Damien has put the down payment on a mansion where he wants them all to live, like a family. At first I thought he meant all of them, including Gunnar, but apparently Gunnar is not invited. One thing about Damien and Scarlett: Unlike Gunnar and Scarlett, they can’t keep their hands off each other. Gunnar leaves them alone for five minutes and they get all handsy (and, uh, lipsy). Damien keeps saying they can make it work, but Scarlett is less than sure.
Meanwhile, Bucky is still hanging out at Highway 65 because he has no place else to go, I guess. He reports that the Bluebird invited Deacon to perform at something called a “writers in the round.” Deacon hesitates at first — he hasn’t picked up a guitar since Rayna died — but Bucky tells him exactly what he thinks Rayna would say: “Hey, Deacon, you’re made of music. It’s the best part of ya and the thing that’s always healed ya.” This uncanny channeling of Rayna is enough to get Deacon to change his mind. The next issue is getting babysitters for Daphne and Rayanne Graff, which is offensive, frankly — they’re old enough to be babysitters — even if they are wearing alarming clown makeup. Juggalo, maybe?
The point is, Daphne says they’re just going to watch TV and hang out. “We’ll just be right here, sitting on that coach,” she pleads, pointing. “I know where the couch is,” Deacon replies. Heh.
So Deacon goes to the Bluebird and leaves the girls to their own devices. The Juggalo makeup is never explained, but they don’t trash the house beyond having a bubble fight in the kitchen.
So what does everyone make of this divorced woman, Jessie Kaine (Kaitlin Doubleday), who has suddenly breezed into town? Is she some sort of potential romantic interest for Deacon because OH, HELL NO. I’m not saying that Deacon has to be celibate for the rest of the series — no, wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying. But if she isn’t a potential love interest, what’s her purpose? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Later, Deacon and Scarlett have a scene in which she flops on his couch and proceeds to burst into tears. He asks if she needs a hug and she declines it, saying any human contact would make her cry even more. “I wish I was having puppies so I could give one to everyone and we could all go on our merry way!” she exclaims. (Somehow, that line went from script to rehearsal to performance to the actual show and nobody stopped it. The mind reels.) Then she and Deacon talk a bit and he gives her your standard advice about being honest with everybody, especially herself, and she says, adorably, “Can I have that hug now?”
After that, she meets up with Damien and confronts him about his big plans to be settled-down father guy.
“You’d like to be that guy,” she says.
“I would like to be that guy!” he agrees.
“But you’re not that guy.” Oof.
Damien is amazed by this bit of sparkling insight and goes into this whole spiel about how Scarlett knows him better than anyone else. (Run away, Scarlett. Run away.) They continue to have the longest conversation ever about whether or not he is “that guy” — I swear, it goes on forever — and finally he admits it: Okay, you got me, I’m not that guy. With that, Scarlett seems to get mad at him, which feels a bit unfair, being as she led the witness and all. “Walk away,” she instructs him angrily. “Just walk away.” And she turns and leaves.
Scarlett goes home to Gunnar and tearfully tells him it’s over with Damien. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not watch you cry over another guy,” Gunnar says, getting up in a huff. But because he’s Gunnar and can’t stand to see Scarlett upset, he walks over and consolingly strokes her face before going upstairs. Aww.
As expected, Juliette bogarts Maddie’s song and then briefly considers coming clean about it — she was a woman of God for a hot minute, after all — but then decides to keep it for herself, after all. Oh, boy, this is going to backfire.
Clay tells Maddie that he doesn’t want to see her anymore, for reasons that aren’t completely clear. He’s upset that she escalated things with the cops and he’s annoyed that he’s now being stalked by paparazzi for comments on their relationship, but I’m not sure how that’s her fault. Anyway, based on the previews for next week’s episode, it seems that Maddie’s outburst at the cops is going to turn into a viral meme … and teen hobo Rayanne Graff is somehow involved?
Color me concerned. Nashville took on racist policing and managed to do it in a sensitive and insightful way. But if this ends up being all about Maddie’s pain, I’m not sure I can get behind that.