Commercials have not worked out well for our plucky gang over at Highway 65. Of course, there was the old dining-room-table-baby-crib switcheroo in Gunnar and Scarlett’s furniture commercial (low blow, Birch Tree Habitat). Now, Maddie’s mascara commercial is about to get real smudgy.
But first, did anyone else laugh out loud when the commercial director was bossy, temperamental, and British? Is this the only kind of director the writers can imagine? Can they throw in an angry Austrian? A pissed-off Pole? (Rumor has it, Americans can direct things, too!)
So Maddie is being somewhat of a prima donna, complaining that the suit is too tight, the dress too ugly, the water too wet, and what have you. She goes home and throws a bit of a temper tantrum in her room, as Daphne is basically like, “Sucks to be you.” Then the worst thing ever happens: Deacon comes into the room and commands Maddie to go to a party (being hosted by the Mascara 24 team) and Daphne to go to bed. We are entering some serious Cinderella territory here, folks. #FreeDaphne
Maddie goes to the party and Alyssa Greene is there, being a lot more supportive of Maddie’s snark and eye rolls than one would expect. Is she … pivoting? The president of the company, “Tom,” calls Alyssa over and we get our first hint of trouble on the horizon. He doesn’t think Maddie’s song “Tidal Wave” properly conveys “mascara.” I’m with him so far.
“Maybe for $800,000 a minute it should be a song about mascara,” he says. Alyssa looks concerned. (To be honest, for $800,000 a minute I’d sing about wanting to eat the mascara, but then again, I’m not an artiste.)
Then, in one of the most contrived moments in the history of the show — and that’s saying a lot — this crowd of middle-aged cosmetic execs starts chanting, “Mad-die, Mad-die!” because they want her to sing. Unlikely, but I’ll allow it. But Maddie is too tired and too over it to sing, so she begs off. Then the crowd turns to Alyssa and starts to chant, “Alys-sa, Alys-sa!” even though she’s not a singer. This is a totally natural thing to do and definitely not because Rachel Bilson’s contract stipulates that she gets to sing at least one song. (Side note: Is Rachel Bilson coming back next season? Because man, did they waste this charismatic actress. Come to think of it, maybe the song is a gateway to next season. She’s going to put all this corporate branding stuff behind her and SING!)
The next day, on set, after Maddie is instructed to give good tidal-wave face, whatever that is, the inevitable occurs. “Tom” has laid down the law. He wants to change a lyric in Maddie’s song from “Got me racing my heart now and I’m fading out,” to “I got my Mascara 24 and I’m not fading out.” Bwah! Everything about that is awful, from the actual lyric (which literally makes no sense) to the cringe-inducing change. Again, just to be perfectly clear, I would 100 percent do it (call me, Mascara 24!) but Maddie freaks. To be continued …
On tour, Avery suddenly has his very own “cool girl” roadie. I have no idea where she came from, but she’s hot, wears jeans and leather vests, and talks about how relationships should be fun. Meanwhile, Juliette continues to be an enormous drag this season, calling Avery on the tour and complaining about every aspect of her life. (Remember when Juliette actually was fun? Good times.) Cool Girl is all, “Man, the old ball and chain, amirite?” And Avery responds, “Relationships are about being there when they need you.”
“Constantly?” Cool Girl says. “What about your freedom?” (I hasten to point out that Avery is on a tour bus going around the country with his band. Seems pretty free to me.)
Inevitably, Cool Girl lays her cards on the table and says to Avery, “If you ever want something a little less complicated …” and touches his hand. Instead of saying, “Back off, evil temptress!” Avery says, “Thanks,” which I suppose is slightly better than, “I have 20 minutes. Is now good?”
Other than Avery having a Cool Girl roadie who hits on him, the other big surprise in this ep is that Gunnar plays the drums. Did we know that? All I can say is that the pan to Gunnar on the drum kit made me gasp.
Before we get back to the Mascara Ad of Doom, let’s get up to speed on Deacon, who has been asked to perform in the Winner’s Circle or the Gold Circle or the Circle of Life or whatever they have at the Grand Ole Opry. This is apparently a pretty big deal — it would be Deacon’s first showcase performance there — but he’s waffling. He’s very stressed about work and money things and still too stuck in his grief over Rayna to move forward. So Jessie Caine decides to … kidnap him. What another odd turn of events on the show. Kidnapping a friend and forcing him to commune with nature is a move you make with a longtime bestie, or maybe a spouse, not some guy you’ve recently met. But that’s exactly what Jessie does and there’s this hilarious moment where Deacon gets out of the car, all huffy and indignant, walks toward a lake, and then looks up at the sun peeking through the trees and … he’s cured! Well, okay, maybe not quite cured, but he’s feeling more grounded and peaceful, which is exactly what Jessie Caine had in mind. Honestly, if a friend had done that to me, I’d be too pissed to admit that it worked.
“Why does a bird sing?” Jessie muses later. “For a million reasons. But mostly because it can.”
“Cool story, Jessie,” Deacon says. (Actually he doesn’t. But I wish he had.)
Then they talk about Rayna and Deacon admits that he can’t move on (which is totally normal; it’s only been a FEW MONTHS).
Jessie, who is suddenly Deacon’s guru, says that’s okay, “But do you think she would want you to be in so much pain you forgot yourself?”
It’s so annoying when Jessie Caine is right.
So Deacon decides to play the Opry. But first! He gets called by Zach to deal with the Maddie emergency. Turns out that after they suggested the lyric change, she stormed off the set. He goes into her bedroom and tells her that sometimes adults have to do things they don’t want to do.
“Then I don’t want to be a grown-up,” she cries. (Fair.)
She explains that the music came from her heart. “It’s my song … every note is a piece of me. You more than anyone should understand that.”
Deacon looks at her. “I do, baby,” he says softly. “I actually do.”
So he goes to Zach Welles and says that Maddie isn’t doing the commercial — in fact, Highway 65 is out of the commercial business altogether. (Fool me once, etc., etc.) Zach gets pissed and throws a little hissy fit, saying that if Maddie withdraws from the commercial, he’s withdrawing his money from Highway 65.
This leads to the best part of the episode, where Deacon gathers Gunnar (via Skype), Scarlett, Will (remember him?), Daphne, and Maddie and asks them how they want to go forward.
There’s a lot of conversation and then we have one of those “from the mouths of babes” moments.
“So this is about fear,” Daphne says. “If we’re afraid, we can do what Zach wants us to do. Or we can do what’s right … what’s the point of Highway 65 if it isn’t what mom wanted it to be?”
Everyone is quiet and filled with shame because Daphne is so much smarter than they are. They all agree that they’d rather have no label than one without integrity. Idiots! JK, good for them.
(One aside: I wonder how a bunch of famous and popular singers can possibly raise money? Hmmm, if only there were a way …)
So Deacon tells Zach he’s done and then performs at the Grand Ole Opry and it’s a lot of singing! I mean, we got, like one whole song and three parts of songs. You go, Chip Esten! In the final song — which is super Jesus-y — Deacon is really feeling himself, holding up his arms in triumphant, godlike fashion. The crowd goes wild. Backstage, Daphne sees Deacon hugging Jessie Caine and gives them the side-eye to end all side-eyes. Meanwhile in the audience, a look passes over Zach Welles’s face that I completely misinterpreted as, “Maybe I should support artists, not cosmetic companies.” The reason I know I misinterpreted it is because I saw the “coming next week” (for the season finale! waaaaa!) and, well, things are looking pretty dire at Highway 65. Put on your tidal-wave faces, kids!