A moment of silence because we’ve officially entered the post–Rayna James era of Nashville. I wondered how the show would handle it: Would there be a time leap, à la Jane the Virgin? Would they pick things up right where they left off? Well, I got my answer right away as the episode starts with the words “10 Weeks Later” flashing across the screen. This is apparently long enough for Juliette to have written, recorded, and released her gospel crossover album. I’ll have what she’s having!
The reviews of the album are in and they’re … hilariously bad! Words like “treacly mess” and “culturally tone deaf” are bandied about, which is exactly what actual snarky critics (like me!) would say if a country-pop star suddenly decided to moonlight as a gospel singer. I actually felt a bit of relief over the bad reviews, in that maybe they signify the end of the Juliette Finds Religion plot. Except, if so, what was the point of that whole story line? And did anyone else catch that weird bit at the coffee house, when Juliette was waiting for Maddie? She gets a text from Hailey and suddenly everything gets blurry and unsteady, as though she’s entered some sort of fugue state. If the point of that moment is Juliette Is Upset and Isn’t Taking Hailey’s Calls, she could’ve simply looked at the phone, frowned, and put it away. She didn’t have to go all Scarlett Under the Piano on us. So we’ll see if that was a thing — a sign of an impending breakdown — or just an overzealous director having fun with the focus button.
Meanwhile, Deacon and Maddie are doing as well as can be expected. They’re pouring themselves into their work — she’s recording her album, he’s dealing with that Silicon Valley savant Zach Welles over at Highway 65 — and taking comfort in each other. It’s my beloved Daphne, however, who’s having the hardest time of them all. She’s deeply depressed and in danger of flunking the seventh grade. At least part of her depression stems from the fact that Deacon isn’t her biological father and she feels alone. Deacon is very loving and tender and patient with her, even going so far as to stay up all night helping her build a model Amelia Earhart airplane she needs to pass history (and by “helping,” I mean he pretty much builds it himself).
Anyway, the next day, Daphne precariously brandishes her model plane in front of the school when some knock-kneed kid crashes into it — an avoidable accident we all saw coming from a mile away (model planes and teenage boys are a bad mix) — so naturally she decides to ditch class. She takes to the streets where she meets none other than … Rayanne Graff?
For those of you who don’t know who Rayanne Graff is, she was a major character on My So-Called Life, a perfect show put forth into this universe by Nashville’s very own Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. Just like this homeless teen fortune teller (lol) that Daphne meets, Rayanne Graff had long, problematically appropriated braids, bohemian garb, and was a VERY BAD INFLUENCE on our innocent heroine. Is history going to repeat itself? Survey says, probably!
So this Rayanne Graff girl (whose real name is Liz) takes Daphne to some crust punk flophouse where they find more troubled teens and where, for some reason, Daphne and Rayanne Graff sing the Daria theme. At least I think that happened. I might have been having a ’90s acid flashback.
Anyway, back to the mystery that is Zach Welles. How are we supposed to feel about this guy? Remember when Rayna kept talking about how “weird” he was, but he didn’t actually seem weird? Now, he seems like a perfectly supportive and loving boyfriend to Will — the kind of guy who will ironically sport an “I Want Will” T-shirt just to make Will laugh. But at Highway 65, he’s something of a nightmare. He keeps using words like “mindshare” and “currency of attention.” Worse still, he wants to fire Bucky. Nobody puts Bucky in the corner. So I guess he’s a jerk? But, like, a jerk who is actually a pretty good boyfriend? It’s all very confusing.
The biggest drama of the episode has to do Scarlett’s paternity test. Who’s the baby daddy: Gunnar Scott or Damien George? More to the point, who does Scarlett want the baby daddy to be? Right now, she seems pretty strongly Team Gunnar, but it’s really hard to follow the thread on these two.
Anyway, they get the results of the test and Gunnar opens it right away in the car, like “ripping off a Band-Aid” as he puts it, and … Gunnar Scott, you are NOT the father.
Gunnar hugs Scarlett and says the totally right thing — “It doesn’t matter. I still love you” — but later admits to Avery that he is pretty much wracked with doubt. “I’ve just failed her so many times,” he explains.
“And she’s failed you,” Avery replies. “That’s what people do. They fail each other. So, fail better.” (That advice probably sounded better in his head.)
With that in mind, Gunnar heads off to Scarlett’s place with a head full of steam. He tells her that he loves her and wants to be with her and — it’s implied — wants to be the father to little Damien Jr. (I guess he never saw the movie.) Something tells me this isn’t resolved just yet.
There’s also a small plot involving Juliette giving songwriting advice to Maddie, who resists Juliette’s dope hooks, thinking they’re anathema to her artistic integrity (or something). But Juliette and Clay, oddly enough, show her the error of her ways and she records Juliette’s version of the song and it is good.
The episode ends on yet another poignant scene at the James/Claybourne manse. Maddie and Deacon have approximated Rayna’s recipes of “silly noodle casserole” as a surprise for Daphne, but Daphne wants no part of it. The whole thing devolves into a shouting match where Daphne yells, “Screw you!” to Deacon. She’s a good kid at heart, so she realizes right away that she crossed a line, and crouches next to the couch, looking horrified. But Deacon tells her he understands her anger, because he’s angry too. “For now, baby, it’s okay not being okay,” he says, adding that he and Maddie will always be there for her, no matter what. Then he cautiously touches her sleeve — she had been recoiling from his touch all episode long — and she hesitates, then takes his hand, and then Maddie takes her hand, and the episode ends on a Deacon, Daphne, Maddie group hug. So is this the world we live in now? Every episode ending with our sad, broken family desperately clinging to each other for dear life and me crying my eyes out? I did not sign up for this, Nashville!