Really, Nashville? Again with the car crash? I’m trying to imagine how the conversation in the writers room went on this. (Note: Names totally made-up to protect the guilty.)
INT. NASHVILLE WRITERS ROOM
The writers are sitting around a conference table. They look tired. There are half-drunk coffee cups and crumpled take-out wrappers everywhere. They’ve been here for a while.
BOB: I still think ending on Deacon saying, “Come home, baby” will be good. It’s sweet, elegant, and poignant.
DOLORES: We don’t do poignant.
FRED (inspired): I’ve got it! As she’s driving home in the police car, still on the phone with the Deacon, her car is sideswiped. KA-BLAMMY! Fade to black.
Approving murmurs go through the room.
BOB (incredulous): We can’t do that! Rayna got into a major car crash at the end of season one. It was a whole thing! And Juliette is still recovering from her plane crash.
FRED: Good note, Bob. Counterargument: What if we could? (Takes a $100 bill out of his pocket, rolls it like a cigar, and lights it.)
Room bursts into triumphant applause.
Yeah, pretty sure it went something like that.
In some ways, the car crash is the perfect ending to this episode, which starts out as the most boring episode of television ever produced — Daphne gets her period! Juliette goes to Bible study! — before turning into a rather compelling submission for Connie Britton’s Emmy reel. It’s an utterly bananas twist for an utterly bananas show.
Let’s start with Juliette, who tries to convince the choir at Hallie’s church to record the gospel album with her. It goes pretty much as expected: They think she’s an interloper, a dilettante, and one congregation member even points out that Juliette is not black. This first conversation ends on a sour note, as a tiny bit of the old short-tempered and sarcastic Juliette creeps in around the edges (God, I miss that Juliette.) But she tries again, this time really baring her soul, talking about how she used to be a bad person and the plane crash gave her a second chance and how God has a plan for her and she doesn’t want to blow it. The gospel album is her path to redemption. “You might open some hearts and minds that are cold, just like mine once before I met you,” she says. They’re convinced.
I wasn’t particularly interested in all the stuff that happened at church, but I was very interested in the stuff that happened between Juliette and Avery at the studio. Here are the various thoughts that ran through my mind as I watched Juliette sit in on Avery’s recording session:
1. Does this song actually contain the lyric, “I’m going to kiss you in the eye of the storm?” What’s the deal with Nashville and songs about weather? (Next week: “Sleet Don’t Get Me Down.”)
2. Just once, I want a super-hot guy to make adoring, flirty eyes at me while he records a country-rock song in a studio. Is that too much to ask?
3. What’s up with Juliette’s face?
Turns out, what’s up with Juliette’s face is that Avery’s song is too … secular for her taste. (Or something.) At home that night, he asks her what she thought about the song and she hesitates.
“Ooooh, boy,” he says, adorably.
“It’s good,” she demurs. “It’s just that you’re not this angry kid anymore. Don’t you think you’re past this?”
“No, but thanks for the feedback,” Avery says, testily, which is pretty much the exact same way I respond to constructive criticism.
Anyway, if this is the direction the show is headed with Avery and Juliette, I might just get behind it. It reminds me of the time I dated this guy who, out of nowhere, became a vegetarian. One day, we’re happily eating burgers together; the next day, he’s ordering quinoa and quietly judging me. It didn’t end well.
The saga of Scarlett’s hair continues, too. Much like Nashville doesn’t seem to know what to do with Scarlett’s story line, it doesn’t seem to know what to do with her hair. The last few episodes, I thought she was growing it out, which was fine, although not a particularly impressive commitment to last year’s daring pixie. This episode it’s cut short again, but all, kind of … poofy and hair-sprayed. Do not give Scarlett the hairstyle once sported by my late Jewish nana, Nashville. Do not. On a more positive note, I need that dress Scarlett wore in her breakup scene with Gunnar. It was nearly Forgetting Sarah Marshall levels of cruel to look that good while breaking up with him.
The entire breakup is pretty cruel. In theory, I appreciate breaking up with someone before you cheat on them, but Scarlett basically lies (“I can’t be with anyone right now”) and then acts super mean about things (“I don’t feel anything for you”). What’s more, literally no one is convinced by her dithering, “I don’t know what I want!” routine. Earlier in the episode, when she tells Deacon that she hadn’t slept with Damien, he knowingly replies, “… yet.” Now, Gunnar correctly interprets her whole breakup speech as: “LOL, who am I trying to kid? I totally want to screw Damien George!” (I told you Gunnar got smarter this season.) In fact, Scarlett doesn’t even wait a respectful few days before hooking up with Damien — I think she goes straight from the breakup to his hotel room. Now that’s cold.
Elsewhere, as promised, Daphne gets her period. Poor Daphne. Maddie gets recording contracts and hot boyfriends and dramatic emancipation plotlines. Daphne also burns a cake. The best part of all this is when Deacon suggests they throw Daphne a “period party,” and then adds, “Not a thing?” when Rayna laughs at him. God, they’re cute together.
After going to the club with Maddie and seeing Clay perform (she was impressed!), Rayna decides to take the World’s Most Incompetent Security Guard to Highway 65 with her, so she can do some late-night paperwork, as one does. Her security guard checks the office, proclaims it stalker free, and goes to wait in the car. While she’s sitting there, listening to music through headphones, who should materialize but a knife-wielding Carl Hockney, who — in a weird detail — now likes to be called “Wayne.” (Writers room note from Fred: “Wayne is a much better serial killer name than Carl.”)
But man, Connie Britton is great in this scene, pivoting from being terrified, to attempting to placate “Wayne,” to actually relating to him. (Rayna is just naturally empathic like that.) It’s one of the longest scenes in Nashville history — about as close to a bottle episode as they’re ever going to get on this show — and it’s pretty riveting. It ends with Rayna calling 911, as Wayne slumps dejectedly in a chair. He sees that she made the call, and lunges for her with the knife just as the cops and the World’s Most Incompetent Security Guard burst in. They’re able to disarm him, mostly thanks to Rayna remaining compassionate and calm, and haul him off to jail. Then Rayna, in the cop car and in tears, totally shaken up by the experience, calls Deacon. It’s all very sweet. Elegant. Poignant, you might even say. And then … KA-BLAMMY!
Here’s the thing. Last year, there were rumors swirling that Connie Britton was leaving the show. Those rumors were roundly debunked at the time, but if I didn’t know better, I’d be panicking right now. Nobody puts Rayna James in a convenient coma so Connie Britton can explore her options with Ryan Murphy. Nobody.