Nashville Season Premiere Recap: Guess Who’s Back?


“The Wayfaring Stranger” and “Back in Baby’s Arms”
Season 5 Episodes 1 and 2
Editor’s Rating 4 stars


“The Wayfaring Stranger” and “Back in Baby’s Arms”
Season 5 Episodes 1 and 2
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Connie Britton as Rayna Jaymes. Photo: Mark Levine/Country Music Channel

Well, this is slightly awkward. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as stoked that Nashville got renewed (revived?) as the next gal, but let’s face it, we already watched what we thought was the finale. We shed a few tears, we wrote our “Where Nashville Went Right … and Wrong” think pieces, we shook our fists at the sky over the Juliette Barnes cliffhanger, and we moved on with our lives. But now it’s back, sort of like when you say an overly dramatic and teary good-bye to someone, only to find yourself waiting for the same elevator with them a few seconds later. Should we avoid eye contact?

Of course, the No. 1 question on everyone’s mind as the show returns on a new network (CMT — check your local cable listings!) and with new executive producers (Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick — they did My So-called Life!) is an essential one: How much will the show change? Judging by the opening scenes it seems like, holy smokes, it has changed a lot. There’s Rayna James all alone in a vintage convertible, her hair cruelly covered in a baseball cap, pulling up to a gas station where some Miles Teller-looking dude asks for her autograph. Then, she hears the strains of a familiar song and wanders to the back of the station, where a blind man is singing, “Wayfaring Stranger.” Has Nashville turned into a Sundance film?

Fear not, in the next scene — three weeks prior — we cut to the immediate aftermath of the plane crash. Juliette is lying amid the rubble and the dead bodies (yikes!), when she’s discovered by a woman who calls 9-1-1, puts a flowy blanket over her, tells her to hang in there, and … sings like an angel. You see, in Nashville, everyone sings like an angel. Homeless guys, runaways, long-lost best friends, bartenders. Also, in a conveniently Nashville-ian twist: Juliette’s plane crash was just a few miles from town, so everyone can hop in their cars and get to the scene right away.

We cut to the hospital, where we discover that Juliette has shattered two vertebrae and is in a wheelchair, although probably not permanently, but maybe permanently, her doctor warns, if she doesn’t get a better attitude. (Has she even met Juliette Barnes?) Rayna comes to visit Juliette a lot at the hospital and somehow seems more affected by Juliette’s brush with death than Juliette does. Avery is there, too, doting sweetly, and baby Cadence was apparently so overwhelmed by her mama’s plane crash, she aged four months in one day.

Meanwhile, between Juliette’s plane crash, Gunnar and Scarlett getting kicked off Autumn Chase’s tour, and that one rock-and-roll guy jumping ship, things aren’t going too well at Highway 65. This forces Rayna to hop on a plane and fly to Silicon Valley to play a corporate party for the social-media app Boogaroo (which has nothing to do with music festival Bonnaroo, in case you were wondering). On the plane ride over, she has a panic attack. Man, this Juliette thing has hit her hard.

The owner of Boogaroo is a suspiciously charming and overly chummy guy named Zach Wells (Cameron Scoggins) and he is Rayna James’s number-one fan. Alas, the same can’t be said for his guests, who all but ignore Rayna as she performs at the party. Oh, the indignity! After the gig, Zach gives Rayna advice about her career and makes a lot of assumptions about her, which is pretty damn cheeky, if you ask me.

In the hotel, Rayna calls Deacon and tells him she can’t bring herself to get back on the plane. I’m not totally sure what’s going on with her? I mean, I get that Highway 65 is tanking and Juliette was in that scary plane crash and maybe Rayna feels like she’s lost the thread on why she loved music so much in the first place — but this midlife crisis (or whatever it is) came out of the blue. She just recently married the love of her life. Yeesh, enjoy it a bit.

Of course, the love of her life is the best dude ever, so he turns up at the hotel the next morning, pretending to be room service. “Why are you here?” “Because my girl’s in trouble.” These two! They have sex, and there’s this meta bit about Deacon messing up Rayna’s hair. (True story: Rayna’s hair is physically incapable of being messed up.) Alas, the reunion is short-lived. Rayna wants to road trip back to Nashville and she wants to do it by herself. Then, she somehow finds the perfect car, the perfect cowboy boots, and the perfect outfit and hits the highway alone. Byyyyye, Deacon.

At this point, I should probably mention that Maddie is still acting like Maddie, unfortunately. (If baby Cadence can grow a full head of hair and age four months, was it too much to hope that Maddie might grow up, too?) She’s home now, so that’s good, but she’s still being mean to Daphne, which is NOT COOL. Today’s drama: Maddie has written the beginning of a song that has no hook. Daphne has a perfect hook for it, but Maddie doesn’t want to hear it because she wants to write it alone. She also yells at Daphne and accuses her of stealing her song. She is history’s worst monster. Then Gunnar and Scarlett, who are just randomly hovering on the outskirts of this episode, gently explain that music is a collaborative art form. Eventually, Maddie caves and apologizes to Daphne and they sing the song together and Daphne’s chorus is perfect and Maddie does not deserve her. Still, I am so here for it if one of Herskovitz and Zwick’s showrunning edicts is: “More Daphne and Maddie singing together!”

Meanwhile, Juliette has come home, still in a wheelchair, and she is suddenly overcome with the need to revisit the site of the crash. “I’ll call Emily,” Avery says. It would appear that Emily’s full-time indentured servitude continues.

They drive the convenient 20 minutes it takes to get to the crash site and then Avery carries her in his arms (I can’t handle this) across the field. Of course, nothing is there. They fall asleep in Avery’s car and, in the morning, Juliette hears that voice again. For a brief, horrified second, I thought that maybe Juliette’s rescuer wasn’t real and this was going to be a Touched by an Angel situation, but no. There she is, in the flesh, singing to the congregation. The look on Juliette’s face when she hears her sing … just give Hayden Panettiere all the Emmys.

If Juliette is having a religious experience, Rayna is having one of her own — well, kind of. The old blind man seems to see right through her. “Singing is good for the soul,” he tells Rayna. “You might find the joy you are looking for.”

“Why’d you say that?” Rayna replies.

“Because I’m an all-seeing blind man who is also a plot device!” the blind man replies. Okay, it was implied.

Off we go to episode two, where characters who got short shrift in the premiere are sure to be heavily featured! Bring on that good Will Lexington content! “Back in Baby’s Arms” can basically be broken into four neat compartments:

We have, yes, Will’s story, which involves Kevin being jealous of his rising star. Turns out the gays have found Will (what took them so damn long?) and all these suspiciously cute and elaborately coiffed boys are now showing up at Will’s shows and a sleazy (but slightly sexy?) clothing designer is hitting on Will at a restaurant.

Then we have the Gunnar and Scarlett story, which also revolves around jealousy. Autumn Chase keeps texting Gunnar, although he hasn’t written back, and then Rayna wants to release “All of Me” as the album’s second single because it’s so “passionate” and so “them.” But oops, there’s one slight problem: “All of Me” was written by Gunnar about a girl with gold eyes and Scarlett doesn’t have gold eyes. “Nobody has gold eyes,” Gunnar counters, insisting it was a universal love song, not representing any one person. Hmm.

The third plotline has to do with Juliette trying to find out more about her guardian angel, who sings in the choir and is very shy and that’s all we’ve got for now.

Finally, the fourth story involves Rayna returning from her trip newly inspired. She’s all hyped up because she wants to make a “concept album” with Deacon about their relationship. Problem is, Deacon isn’t too keen on reliving all aspects of their relationship, which, let’s face it, mostly involve Deacon falling off the wagon and hurting people he loves and screwing up a lot.

So, yeah. Compared to the excitement of the premiere, episode two is a bit of a letdown, but it had its moments, both good and bad.

A few highlights:

  • Everyone calling Rayna’s concert album a “duet album” and her getting annoyed.
  • Rayna falling asleep in Deacon’s arms when they were about to have sex. The two of them are so cute and giggly and natural in that scene, it almost seems like an outtake.
  • Will trying on that suit. I got nothing here; he just looked hot.
  • Deacon giving Scarlett advice and making cute jokes: “You bring him some carrots and a bale of hay and you apologize.”
  • Gunnar changing the lyrics of the song to “the girl with the blue eyes.” Swoon.

A few lowlights:

  • Zach Wells saying, “I’d like to hack your cloud — uh, pick your brain.” No, Nashville, people in Silicon Valley do not actually talk like this.
  • Rayna relentlessly nagging Deacon about the concept album. Jeez, woman, give him some space!
  • Will actually being tempted by that designer guy. No, Will! Stranger danger! Stranger danger!
  • Rayna having a stalker. It’s probably Zach Wells, right? But what was up with that close-up of the broken windshield? Was that supposed to mean something to us? I’m stumped.

And there you have it! Our little show has risen from the dead — like a phoenix, or one of those characters trapped in the basement on The OA — and I for one couldn’t be happier about it. Good-byes are overrated anyway.

Nashville Premiere Recap: Guess Who’s Back?