It was old home week on Nashville as we checked in on lots of minor characters we haven’t heard from in a while: Emily, Glenn, Darius … Gunnar and Will. Okay, I’m just joking about Gunnar and Will being minor characters — sort of. In the fleeting moments they were both on screen, it occurred to me that they’ve largely been missing in action this season. Worse than that, with two precious episodes to go, neither has an emotional arc, a journey that needs to be completed. At the start of this half season, I thought Will would come to terms with the root causes of his steroid abuse, maybe learn to believe in himself as more than just a rakish entertainer, and (hopefully) find himself a good man not named Zach Wells. As for Gunnar, I was just hoping the writers would give him something to do other than stand around eating cereal and looking baffled.
In a way, my frustrations with this season are a microcosm of my frustrations with the entire run of the show: They gave us a core group of charming and talented actors we grew to care about but have been uniquely inept at integrating other characters into the mix. When you reflect on the minor characters who have taken center stage over the years — runaways (at least two!), sober coaches, veterinarians, pompous video directors, professional quarterbacks, magical homeless people, high-end hookers, gospel singers, bar owners, long-lost siblings, pig-blood aficionados, cult leaders, shady promoters — the mind truly reels. But this season, I’m taking it personally. How is it that Jonah and Brad and Alannah are getting more airtime then Gunnar and Will? To whom should I address my STRONGLY WORDED LETTER?
To make matters worse, a lot of the story lines in this final half season are just kind of grinding their wheels. I understand that, in the real world, it would take time (and probably lots of therapy) for Deacon to forgive his abusive pappy, but does that mean we have to sit through his process week after week? Three episodes in and it’s been exactly the same story: Deacon focusing only on the bad parts of his childhood; Gideon clinging to the good — and the two of them heartwarmingly meeting in the middle by show’s end. Rinse and repeat.
In this episode, Gideon is insisting that he gave Deacon the gift of music. But in Deacon’s memories, his father mocked and bullied him for not being good enough. “The only love I had for music was in spite of you, not because of you!” Deacon barks at his father. Meanwhile, Gideon has been disappearing for long stretches of time and Deacon begins to wonder if he’s drinking again. (This, despite the fact that a few weeks ago, he told Maddie that an old drunk like him could always spot when someone’s been tippling. Continuity is overrated.) Turns out, Gideon hasn’t been going on all-day benders, he’s been meeting up with his adorable, geriatric jug band in a garage. He invites Deacon to join them for a jam session, but Deacon gets triggered and runs off. Later, Deacon has a flash of memory and is forced to acknowledge that his pappy actually was sometimes encouraging — and even bought him his first guitar. That night, on stage, Deacon remembers the first song Gideon taught him, a cutesy number (with simulated tea kettle whistles!) called, “Little Bitty Diddy.” He looks out into the audience and there’s Gideon (who has been brought to the gig by Nashville’s premier meddler, Scarlett O’Connor). They make heartwarming eye contact. Rinse and repeat. But this time there’s a final twist: Daphne finds a bottle of hooch under Gideon’s bed. He’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.
Moving right along. Avery drops off Cadence after spending the day with her and Juliette insists the toddler is “burning up.” She demands that Emily call the doctor, but Avery touches Cadence’s forehead and proclaims her fine. “I can take her temperature,” Emily suggests. “You sure?” Juliette responds gratefully, as though Emily has just offered to donate a kidney.
Later, Juliette confronts Darius in his office and says she’s going to expose his shady cult to the press. Darius brandishes the nondisclosure agreement Juliette signed before joining the program — a totally normal thing which definitely shouldn’t have been a red flag at all. “Talk to the press and the Movement will sue you for all you are worth,” he says. Juliette leaves steaming mad. She tells Glenn of her plans to expose Darius.
“Have you ever heard the expression, don’t poke the bear?” he asks.
“Have you ever heard the expression, don’t threaten Juliette Barnes?” she responds.
I’ve missed her.
Alannah also seems to have some sort of “plan” afoot, but I can’t quite decipher it. We’ll get to that in a sec, but first an update on her and Avery. He shows up at her loft, expecting to go out for the evening, but when he sees her he whines, “You’re not ready.” A public service to all my dudes out there: Never assume your woman isn’t “ready.” As far as I could tell, Avery was wearing a leather jacket, no makeup, and jeans and Alannah was wearing a tee-shirt, no makeup, and jeans. They were EQUALLY READY. But he was right. She was bailing on him because she’s self-sabotaging, as we established last week. She feels that she can’t compete against Avery’s history with Juliette. “But I’ve already made my choice,” he says, meaning he picked her over Juliette. Grrrrr.
Now back to Alannah’s plan. Don’t quote me on this, but I think it’s to flirt with Brad, in a teasing, withholding kind of way, just enough to keep him intrigued so she can get what she wants — exposure. It seems to work. Brad loves being toyed with and offers her a gig to open up for Little Big Town. He tries to kiss her backstage, but she pulls away, in a playful way. Brad is hot and bothered. Gross. (There’s also a chance that Alannah is organizing some kind of sting operation or class-action sexual-misconduct lawsuit against Brad? That seems like a very complicated thing for Alannah to mastermind.)
Finally, there was a terrible development in the whole Maddie/Jonah/Twig situation: My beloved Twig acted like a dick. Let me rewind. So it turns out that Jonah’s ex girlfriend, Mia, really is threatening to harm herself and — at first, at least — Jonah seems to be doing right by her. He tells her that he still cares about her but that they’re not good for each other. “I can’t believe you broke up with me right after I switched therapists!” she moans. “I can’t be the reason you get better,” he replies. So far, so good. (Okay, he’s still lying to Maddie about it, but that’s kind of understandable?)
A few nights later, there’s a pajama party at Jonah’s. Maddie looks très glamorous in these floral silk pajamas with a matching sleep mask propped on her head. (I legit would’ve shown up in footie pajamas). Twig has arrived with a date, someone Jonah set him up with. Then Mia turns up, looking wild-eyed. Upon seeing her, Twig runs outside to find Jonah and Maddie. They’re dancing together, having a tender moment, because Maddie just told Jonah that she wants to go on tour in Europe with him (oh, Maddie…). Twig gesticulates wildly and theatrically says that the “neighbors” are here complaining about the noise. Jonah totally doesn’t get it until Twig finally has to mouth the words: “Mia is UPSTAIRS” before Jonah takes the hint and runs off.
So Twig starts dancing with Maddie and they’re looking in each other’s eyes and it’s clear they’re about to kiss when Maddie pulls away and says, “Where’s Jonah?” Twig, who’s a little drunk, admits that there are no neighbors and that Jonah is upstairs. Maddie storms away and walks in on Jonah and Mia getting busy in the kitchen. (FYI: his behavior is no longer commendable.) She actually seems more angry at Twig — “You knew! You son of a bitch you knew!” — then she is at Jonah, which is telling. But here’s the thing: Twig totally dumped his nice date in the middle of the party to deal with the Maddie drama. He actually told her to “mingle.” Then he danced with another girl and tried to kiss her. Dammit, Twig! This is why we can’t have nice things.