You could argue that one of the overarching themes of Nashville — insofar as Nashville actually has any overarching themes — is how to be an authentic artist in the digital age. Which is why it’s so baffling that the show constantly gets the internet and modern technology wrong. Every time someone mentions things going “viral” or having “hashtags,” they act like it’s some alien language they need to bring Amy Adams onboard to translate.
On tonight’s episode, it happens at least twice.
The first time involves Zach Welles, who has hired an “interim chief strategy officer” named Alyssa Greene, played by none other than Summer Roberts herself, Rachel Bilson. (She’s looking all sorts of adorbs with oversize glasses that say, “Yes, I have given a TED Talk.”) Alyssa gathers the talent and staff at Highway 65 and talks about “brand partnerships,” prompting Scarlett to raise her hand, scrunch up her little nose, and say, “So you, like, want us to write songs for products?” I assumed this was one of Scarlett’s blonde moments until Alyssa enthusiastically replied, “Yes!” Huh? In our digital age, a brand partnership might mean a sponsorship of a concert or online contest or charitable event. It might mean product placement on tour. It might mean stunts, like the one Alyssa actually mentions where Red Bull hosted that lunatic who skydived from space. It might mean lots of things — but writing jingles for big brands is not one of them. I think Amy Adams will have to go back to the mothership.
Then there’s Rayanne Graff, a.k.a. Teen Hobo, and her Maddie GIF. Some background: The video of Maddie calling out the cops for their alleged racism toward Clay has become something of a cause célèbre and paparazzi are staked out ouside the James-Claybourne manse. Just for kicks and grins, Teen Hobo has taken a GIF of Maddie, mid-meltdown, and added a hashtag to it. (Her hashtag isn’t particularly clever, by the way. It’s #WhiteGirlsMatterToo.) Then she uploads the GIF to some site called Roastr (see what they did there?) and other people add their own hashtags — sample #DumbWhiteWhore (niiiice) — and the thing takes off. She has created something called a “meme” (/mēm/). The show basically acts as though Teen Hobo is the only person in the world with the power to create a GIF.
Honestly, the whole Maddie story line is problematic as hell. I admire Nashville for taking on racism and cops, but I’m just not sure how we’re supposed to feel about Maddie’s viral moment. Here’s my take: What she did was well-intentioned, but wrong-headed — a product of her own clueless privilege — and she could’ve made things a lot worse for Clay. She certainly shouldn’t apologize to anyone other than Clay for it, but then again, she’s also not an “ally to people of color” (groan) as the guy from The Nation (lol) told her.
But here’s Maddie’s problem: Nashville (the town) is strictly #BlueLivesMatter territory. Being perceived as going against the cops is not good for one’s country-music bona fides, hence everyone (including Deacon) pressuring her to show contrition. This has the ring of truth, although Bucky comparing Maddie’s confrontation with the cops to Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks bashing George W. Bush is a little extra, to say the least.
Moving along, Scarlett has finally acknowledged that she isn’t feeling Gunnar right now, despite the fact that his hair is in a good place, he’s committed, he’s emotionally available, and he keeps cooking for her. Girl, what is your damage? Deacon, who should start charging by the hour at this point, tells her not to force her feelings for Gunnar and they will probably come back. If he says so.
In other news, Hallie seems to be heading toward series-regular status, which I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, the woman can sing. On the other, I find Rhiannon Giddens a bit bland (as this is her first major acting gig, she very well might improve on the job). Anyway, Juliette gets Hallie a set at the Bluebird, invites a bunch of industry types, Deacon basically gets emoji hearts eyes as he watches her onstage. He wants to sign her to Highway 65 right away. Avery expresses his approval.
“You offering to produce [her album]?” Deacon asks.
“No, I’m begging,” Avery cracks.
Also, Hallie is secretly dating her married bass player. She contains multitudes.
What else? Zach and Will are having issues, mostly because Will feels torn between his artist friends and his executive boyfriend. He’s on the verge of breaking up with Zach when Zach slyly tells him that Budweiser is interested in teaming up with Will for one of those famed brand partnerships. “But if you’re not interested,” he teases. Will is interested.
Juliette reluctantly plays the song Travis Whatshisname wrote for Maddie and, needless to say, Maddie loves it. Juliette is feeling hella guilty — but not guilty enough to give Maddie back her song.
Speaking of feeling guilty about doing Maddie wrong, little Daphne is tormented over #WhiteGirlsMatterToo and the fact that Teen Hobo invented memes, apparently. Maddie calls her upstairs to her room, but it’s not to yell at her about the meme — that’s drama for next week. No, she wants to help her with a project: She sets up a live video cam and gives her version of an apology. (This being the internet-challenged Nashville, everyone is somehow watching this apology at the same time, as though she’s some supervillain who hacked into people’s TV sets.) Maddie apologizes for her tone and language, but doesn’t apologize for sticking up for her friend, which she says she would do again. Then she goes on to talk about what a great person and musician Clay is. “This one’s for you, Clay,” she says and starts to sing, with Daphne harmonizing like a boss. (I could seriously listen to those two sing all day.)
The episode ends with a montage over Daphne and Maddie’s duet: Scarlett watching Gunnar sleeping like a sweet little angel and still not being into it, Will launching a charm offensive on the Budweiser people, Deacon ascending the stairs from his … dungeon (?), Hallie listening to her studio recording session and totally feeling herself, and Clay leaving town (noooo!). When the song ends, Maddie hugs Daphne and tells her how much she loves her and my poor baby is overcome with guilt. But honestly, Daph, considering how badly Maddie has treated you over the years, you still have lots of credit in that account.