In some alternate universe, there’s a sitcom called And Deacon Makes Three! starring Charles Esten as a widowed dad and the Stella sisters as his teenage daughters. The show’s catchphrase would be Esten breaking the fourth wall, shrugging broadly, and exclaiming, “Teenagers!”
We got a little glimpse of that show on this week’s episode of Nashville — mixed in with lots of sad stuff, too, natch — and I gotta tell ya, it was pretty good. Esten is obviously a good comedic actor — he’s got an improv background, after all (let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that improv is objectively bad) — and his befuddlement over how to handle Maddie and Daphne’s fight was very amusing.
As we saw in last week’s preview, Maddie finds out about the GIFs (props to the show for pronouncing it with a hard G, as God — if not the actual inventor of GIFs — intended). She’s extremely angry and hurt and kicks Teen Hobo out. The fact that Teen Hobo had just been casually living there was weird to begin with. Is this random plot ever going to go anywhere?
So Deacon comes home and finds out what Daphne did and realizes he has to punish her. There’s this great moment of hesitation where he’s obviously trying to figure out what the proper dad move would be here and he finally says he’s taking her phone away for a month.
“What?” says Daphne, aghast.
“That’s it?” says Maddie, aghast.
“Teenagers!” says Deacon to the camera. (Okay, not really.)
One weird thing about this punishment: Deacon doesn’t actually take away Daphne’s phone, but leaves it just sitting there on the kitchen counter to … torture her? (Guess he’s still getting the hang of this parenting stuff.) At one point, Daphne sees a flashing message on her phone, and after checking to make sure no one is looking, she reads it. It’s from Deacon: “Don’t even think about it.” A live studio audience would LOVE that joke.
Anyway, more on the James-Claybourne family hijinks in a bit, but let’s check in on Gunnar and Scarlett. They seem to be in a good place, so we know disaster is imminent.
Today’s word that the Nashville writers have discovered on the internet is “ship.” As in: “Online ship communities are buzzing” about Scarlett’s “baby bump,” reports Access Hollywood’s Maria Menounos. Okay, first of all, there’s no such thing as an “online ship community” — that makes it sound formal, like there are annual dues and someone taking minutes. Also, can we ban the phrase “baby bump” once and for all? Is that too much to ask?
“What in Sam Hill is a ‘shipper?’” asks Scarlett. (At home, viewers counter with: “Who in Sam Hill is Sam Hill?”) Naturally, the “shipping communities” think the baby is Gunnar’s and are actively trying to name the kid. They create Tumblr posts with suggested names on white backdrops in large New Courier fonts, as teens do. “Parker” is one suggestion. “Gibson” is another. (Joke’s gonna be on them when they find out the kid is a girl!)
Later, Scarlett does an interview with a reporter named Mackenzie who turns out to be a legit monster. In a slightly implausible coincidence, Mackenzie once had an affair with Damien George, and by studying Scarlett’s flustered reaction to this news, she’s able to suss out that the kid is Damien’s, not Gunnar’s. Scarlett doesn’t confirm it, but she doesn’t exactly deny it, either. The next day the publication irresponsibly runs with the story — thanks for helping with the whole fake news thing, Nashville! — and it’s all over the internet. The shipping community is inconsolable. Gunnar, too.
On to the story line I didn’t like: the whole Hallie-Avery-Juliette train wreck. Am I the only one who’s sick of Juliette making the same mistakes over and over again, getting worked up over nothing, and sabotaging her relationship with Avery for no damn good reason? This time, she’s upset because Hallie wants to release a song that reflects her actual rootsy inclinations, instead of the more poppy song that Juliette prefers. You see, Juliette doesn’t want Hallie to make the same mistake she made with the gospel album, but there’s a big difference: Juliette was a dilettante and Hallie comes by her bluegrass sound naturally. Both Deacon and Avery agree with Hallie — Highway 65 is all about giving the artists the creative freedom to be their authentic selves — which, in a stunning development, Juliette takes personally. Then she starts noticing that Avery and Hallie are enjoying their musical collaboration and she gets all huffy and jealous. Somehow, that’s all it takes to set her off.
“You’re not fooling anyone with your Little Miss Innocent act,” she snipes to Hallie, storming out of the studio. Ugh. The only thing that could possibly redeem this story line would be if Hallie actually is two-faced and Juliette was right about her. (Honestly, that would rule.) For now, it seems like Juliette is just humiliating herself … again. That being said, Juliette watching All About Eve at home was a nifty touch.
Later in the episode, and much to my relief, Maddie wanders into Daphne’s room and apologizes for having been a less than supportive sister. I honestly thought they were going to pin this whole thing on Daphne, as if Maddie hadn’t tried to literally emancipate herself last year. They hug and talk about how much they need each other and the whole tableaux made me a little weepy. (I haven’t even mentioned the fact that before she and Maddie made up, Daphne slept in Rayna’s closet, on top of a pile of her mom’s clothes. My emotions are still too raw.)
Maddie and Daphne wander over to Teen Hobo Headquarters and try to convince Liv (not Liz, as I previously thought — oops!) to come back home with them. “Naw, I’m good living the hobo life here in this giant loft apartment with my fresh-faced hipster hobo friends,” Liv says, or something to that effect. Remind me again why this plot exists?
Deacon still thinks the girls are mad at each other, creating a classic scene of And Deacon Makes Three! where he tries to smooth things over with them and they pull the wool over his eyes by pretending they’re still mad at each other. After Maddie’s phone rings and she hands it to Daphne — Deacon never said Daphne couldn’t use Maddie’s phone — the jig is finally up. Oh, those tricksters! Deacon is pleased as punch that they’re all a family again. This has been a Very Special Episode, indeed.
Two more things I liked about this ep:
1. We got not one, but two montage songs! One, a Hallie song midway through the episode; the other, that incredible duet (with almost an EDM vibe?) between Maddie and Daphne at the end.
2. The James-Claybournes ate Chinese food together on plates. One of my lifelong pet peeves is that everyone on TV and in the movies eats Chinese food straight out of the cartons with chopsticks. This was a historic moment for me. (I know, I should get a hobby.) Still doesn’t make up for “baby bump,” though.