A thought I had while watching tonight’s episode: Is Nashville even a soap opera anymore? Yes, I realize it’s only the second episode of the season, but so far there have been no car (or plane) crashes, no secret (or faked) pregnancies, no pig’s blood, no love triangles, no elaborate blackmailing schemes, no murder, and no drug overdoses. Indeed, tonight’s pleasantly low-key episode gives us a widower and a burnt-by-love woman tentatively fumbling toward romance, a talented singer trying to decide if she has an obligation to honor her gift, a depressed woman possibly drawn to a cult (okay, that one’s a little soapy), and two best friends — one gay, one straight — clearly falling in love (I’m sorry, but it’s STILL THERE).
All right, let’s get to it.
The episode starts at a farmers’ market — again, SO NORMAL — where Scarlett sees Gunnar and makes an “ugh” face. At first I thought she was reacting to his hair, in which case, Scarlett would be all of us. (Don’t they have an on-set stylist? Why do his roots look like that?) But, no, she was reacting to just seeing him — apparently they haven’t spoken in a while. Attempting to avoid eye contact, she picks up a zucchini and stares at it meaningfully and encourages Deacon to do the same. I laughed. (You had to be there.)
Then they bump into Jessie Caine and, again, so true to life. I’m always bumping into randos I’m trying to avoid at the farmers’ market.
She and Deacon have the first of what will be several deeply awkward exchanges throughout the episode that ends with Deacon wishing Jessie’s son good luck on his … soccer practice. (Jessie could’ve just let that one slide, but instead she’s all, “It’s a practice, you numbskull.”)
Over at Chez Juliette, there’s a Chinese food scene that is very triggering for me. First of all, only people on TV — or only people with no available dishes, I suppose — eat Chinese food straight out of the carton! Second of all, why did she and Avery order the same thing? Have they never heard of family style? There’s a whole universe of Chinese food beyond noodles, guys — live a little! Finally, Juliette is god-awful with the chopsticks, ultimately using them to stab at her noodles like a spear. Thankfully, Avery puts her (and us) out of her misery and hands her a fork.
Avery has also found Juliette the name of a good psychiatrist, but she tells him that she’s already seeking help, in the form of guru Darius Enright, who, she’ll have Avery know, has had several best-selling self-help books.
Avery looks unimpressed.
Juliette goes to the Cult Compound, expecting to meet Darius, but is instead greeted by a not entirely warm woman who gives her a tour of the facilities. The woman explains that people actually live at this compound and they do lots of meditating and cooking and volunteering together — and oh, by the by, they also give up 30 PERCENT OF THEIR SALARIES FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF LIVING THERE. Needle scratch. How is this not the biggest red flag ever for Juliette?
The cult has this weird tough love thing going on, where they all but drag Juliette to a Habitat for Humanity–style project and make her climb on a ladder and use a staple gun to install foam insulation. I’m pretty sure you need to be a licensed carpenter to do that. Juliette hurts her finger and no one helps and they’re all, “First-aid kit is over there, bitch.” I expected this place to be a lot more kumbaya and touchy-feely than this. But at the end of the day, Juliette has accomplished her goal and everyone is grinning and high-fiving her and I guess she’s one of them now, or something. She decides to stay for dinner.
As mentioned, Gunnar and Will are still falling deeply in love and they don’t care who knows it anymore. (Okay, not really. But … kind of really?) First, Will does this cute, bashful thing where he asks Gunnar if he can duet with him again. Then, after Gunnar says yes — of course he says yes — they sing a love song called “You Got Me Right Where You Want Me,” as Avery watches jealously from the back of the room. Then they stage a very complicated intervention/kidnapping of Avery — whom they’ve decided is too busy being a concerned husband and dedicated dad to have any fun — that somehow involves bringing baby Cadence to the concert venue, procuring a babysitter, and providing her with giant baby-noise-canceling headphones. (Wouldn’t hiring a babysitter to come to Avery’s house have been easier? Then again, no one said these were the two brightest cowboys in the rodeo.) Onstage, the three besties sing “Stop the World and Let Me On,” and everyone knows exactly when to harmonize and when to take lead vocals because … reasons.
The next morning, Gunnar and Will are hung-over and Will flirtatiously snatches Gunnar’s coffee mug and takes a gulp so Gunnar grabs Will’s makeshift pea-bag ice pack (another TV cliché that has literally never happened once in real life) and puts it on his forehead and Will says, “We’re a band. We share things.” They’re just messing with us at this point.
The other big story of the episode has to do with Deacon and Jessie Caine being, let’s face it, super annoying together. I’m sorry, I love me some Deacon Claybourne — and even Jessie has grown on me — but the two of them dithering around, miscommunicating like a couple of inarticulate teenagers is so not cute. It starts when Deacon sort of asks her out, but he never uses those exact words. Instead, it’s a whole lot of “I thought we shoulds” and “okays” and “maybes.” Somehow, Jessie is able to decipher this caveman speak and agrees to the “date.” Then, she makes up some lame excuse and cancels on him, but the next day she changes her mind and they end up having dinner after all. Maddie knows about the upcoming date, but she and Deacon stupidly decide to hide it from Daphne, because secrecy is always the answer to a healthy family dynamic! (Speaking of Daphne, it took me a while to realize that the boy staring creepily at the tree and idly picking at tree bark was Jessie’s son, Jake. At first I thought they were introducing some sort of teen-psycho plotline. I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive …)
Dinner between Deacon and Jessie is as awkward as the conversations leading up to dinner. The restaurant is crowded so they sit at the bar (they act like this is punishment, but everyone knows eating at the bar rules) and talk about how strained and unnatural things seem. No argument here! Then Deacon drives Jessie home and they stare at each other and … passionately kiss. Whaa? I swear to you, I did not see that coming — and I’m the kind of person who basically has a “Now kissssss!” bubble over my head every time I watch TV. So I guess they’re a thing now. Mazel.
The episode ends with two small scenes: First, Gunnar and Scarlett bump into each other at the farmers’ market. Let it never be said that the characters on Nashville aren’t getting enough roughage. His hair looks marginally better? And he’s wearing this very sexy wool sweater/beat-up denim jacket combo. (Men, never underestimate the appeal of a high-quality wool product paired with denim.) He tells her that he’s playing music with the boys and enjoying himself. She tells him that she’s thinking of giving up music and getting “dirt under my fingers,” which is bizarre, because literally a scene ago she was telling Deacon that she felt obligated to keep playing music for the fans. Gunnar sweetly says, “It’s good to see you,” and she says, “You too,” and then Gunnar runs home and softly cries in Will’s arms (off camera).
The final scene is Juliette coming home. Avery seems all eager and hopeful, but she has a look on her face that says, “I’m about to give up 30 percent of my income and move to a commune.” Something tells me Avery isn’t invited.