The cult really hits the fan this week, huh? Up until now, the whole Darius Enright thing seemed cult-adjacent — clearly in the cult family, but we didn’t know for sure. After all, some of Darius’s aphorisms are actually … good? “The past is not your future and you have to have the ability to change your story” is pretty solid advice, especially if you’ve had a crappy past. But this episode reveals more of Darius’s methods and they are unsettling, to say the least.
It starts with Juliette’s therapy “breakthrough” about her childhood, which seems to have been written by people who have never had “therapy,” “childhoods,” or “breakthroughs.” First, as Juliette makes her way to Darius’s office, she hears a guttural, inhuman scream. Naturally, she’s concerned. “Oh, don’t worry about that,” Darius says with a shrug. “It’s just the next phase in your training, The Witnessing.” I’m sorry. The what now?
He doesn’t explain any further. Instead, he tells Juliette to reflect on the happiest moment of her childhood. This apparently involves putting her in a trance, of sorts, although there is no actual hypnosis involved. Darius is just that good. So Juliette remembers being 9 years old, in a big house, watching cartoons. An older man, whom she calls “Uncle” — dude is definitely not her uncle — is sitting, wearing a silk robe. She says he has “kind eyes.” (Dafuq?) There’s a wad of cash in a bowl on the table. Juliette’s mother is dancing in front of “Uncle” and asks Juliette to join her. I have a bad feeling about this.
Present-day Juliette gets upset, wakes from her trance, and says she doesn’t want to go any further. At this point, what do you think Darius does:
(a) Realizes he’s in over his head and directs Juliette to an actual therapist?
(b) Determines that Juliette is ready for … The Witnessing.
If you guessed “b” it’s only because you’ve already seen the episode. Any sane person would answer “a.” And lest there be any lingering doubt about the dark nature of Darius’s program, this Witnessing thing is right out of Cult Techniques for Beginners.
Darius has Juliette lie on a bed as members of the cult solemnly surround her. Yes, there are freaking candles. (Thus far, no robes or chanting, but that’s probably for Phase 3: The Reckoning, or something.) Darius, in a soothing voice, instructs her to go back to that room. Juliette returns to her memory — there’s a blonde figure on the floor watching cartoons but this time — oh God, oh man, oh no, it’s not Juliette. It’s her mother. Juliette explains that now she’s the one in the bedroom with Uncle.
Oy, so many questions. First of all, didn’t Darius initially ask her to describe her “best memory ever”? How on Earth did we end up here? Also, while I really appreciate the fact that Nashville didn’t attempt to recreate child molestation in some artsy, suggestive way, riddle me this: How is the image of Juliette’s horrible mother sitting in front of cartoons part of Juliette’s memory? She was in a completely different room!
Frankly, this is beginning to feel a bit like Childhood Trauma Porn to me. It really wasn’t enough that Juliette’s mother was an abusive junkie and that they lived in a trailer and that her saintly father died? Now she has to have been sold into a child-prostitution ring too?
What a mess.
While we’re on the subject of trauma, Scarlett has decided to volunteer at a place that does “Equine Therapy.” I have to give it up for the A-plus casting on the woman who runs the program, played by Lisa Banes — she’s as tall, handsome, and formidable as a rancher lady should be. Scarlett says she has always felt safest around horses (she’s just, uh, neglected to mention it a single time in six years). The ranch lady says Scarlett can observe the program, but not meddle in any way. So, first Scarlett watches an “angry teen” trying to coax her horse over a small fence. The angry teen gets frustrated, notices Scarlett smiling encouragingly at her, and snaps, “What are you laughing at?”
“Me? I wasn’t laughing,” Scarlett says. “I’m just smiling. I can see what a great job you’re doing.”
Somehow Ranch Lady decides this is Scarlett meddling with the therapy (I’m not exactly sure what Scarlett was supposed to do — not answer her?) and banishes Scarlett to mucking the stables. There, something happens that I truly didn’t see coming: They introduce a hunky potential love interest for Scarlett. And he’s not some stable hand, either. (We haven’t gone full D.H. Lawrence yet.) He seems to be a troubled young man — a war vet maybe? — and he’s the nephew of the Ranch Lady. I mean, maybe they’re not setting him up as a love interest for Scarlett, but he’s conspicuously swarthy.
The Ranch Lady witnesses Scarlett calming a skittish horse and is also impressed with her elite barn-mucking skills, so she lets her go back to observing the “troubled teen.”
What follows is quite possibly the greatest scene in the history of Nashville. The troubled teen is still trying to get her horse, Scout, to follow orders. Scout is being stubborn and the troubled teen gets frustrated, sinks to the ground and begins to cry. Then Scout comes over, nuzzles the troubled teen in the neck and — I swear to God — sweetly licks her hand and ear. Give that horse all the awards!
Okay, what else? I should probably mention that Hallie shows up and says encouraging things to Juliette and sings. (There, I just rammed that detail into this recap as artfully as the show rammed her into the episode.)
Deacon and Jessie are still going strong. Jessie invites Deacon out to dinner because she found the one restaurant in Nashville that doesn’t serve Brussels sprouts. Totally thought she was going to say barbecue and that’s on me with my East Coast “assumptions” and “biases.” (An aside: I’m totally here for Brussels sprout–aissance and have no idea what Jessie’s problem is.)
At school, Daphne and Jessie’s son, Jake, are made lab partners through this really complicated algorithm that involves counting every other row of desks and looking behind you. Anyway, Jake is as weird as we feared and freaks out at the very thought of dissecting a frog … and runs out of the class. He also calls Deacon a “rageaholic,” something he undoubtedly heard from his sketchy father.
Somehow, all this gets leads to Jake and Daphne getting detention. (In real life, Jake would get a note from his therapist saying that he’s a vegetarian and the frog dissection “triggered” him or some such thing, but I digress.) In detention, they spar a bit and have teen repartee that goes something like this:
Daphne: “You don’t have to talk to me.”
Jake: “Thank God.”
Daphne: “I said don’t talk to me.”
This is, like, Noël Coward–level patter for 14-year-olds. So I guess they might become a thing? Justice for Flynn!
The final story line we’re following has to do with Gunnar, Avery, and Will and their attempt to form a band that definitely ISN’T a boy band. Jessie is the first to make the boy-band analogy because, just like in her teen years, she can’t figure out which member of the band she has the biggest crush on. (Jessie is all of us.) Then she mentions that she used to love ‘NSync and everyone laughs at her. (Do not let them boy-band shame you, Jessie!) The guys all insist they’ve never seen a boy band in concert. “I’m not that gay,” Will quips.
Whatever the boys are, they are definitely having some chemistry issues on stage, because Gunnar is too emo and Will is too “Rico Suave,” according to Avery. He goes on to explain that Gunnar is like peanut butter and Will is like chocolate and they’re two great tastes that go great together and I’m thinking, “Wait, does Avery ship Wunnar, too?” Also, poor Avery: He’s always the boring, sensible dad guy in the middle. What a waste of all that hotness.
Gunnar angrily storms off to the kitchen to make a sandwich because, and I quote, “Being emo makes me hungry!” Then Will releases some tension by doing this sort of reverse push-up thing using the couch and desk. (I’m sure there’s an actual name for this move. I don’t “exercise.”) I guess he’s still on HGH?
The story line ends, I’m afraid to say, with the boys on stage, singing an extremely unconvincing version of “Tearin’ Up My Heart.” Their diffident boy-band poses gave me intense secondhand embarrassment. My advice when it comes to this whole boy-band phase? Just say bye, bye, bye.