'Nashville' Recap: Hallie Makes Bluebird Debut, Maddie's Troubles Mount

Record deals, product endorsements and a potential character exit highlight this week's episode of the CMT musical drama

Hallie Jordan (Rhiannon Giddens) makes he Bluebird Cafe debut on this week's 'Nashville' Credit: Mark Levine/CMT

The history of Highway 65 as a record label, even with the late Rayna Jaymes at the helm, has been a tumultuous one. But this week, Deacon made a move that could be his wisest since getting sober and marrying Rayna: He offered the supremely talented Hallie Jordan (played by the supremely talented Rhiannon Giddens) a record deal. With Deacon wooing her and Avery eager to produce her project, Hallie is, understandably, excited, especially in light of the disastrous gospel album with Juliette. First, she has to take the stage at the iconic Bluebird Café, where, as Juliette reminds her, there are about 10 people in the audience who could change her life. Just the thing you want to hear before you're about to pass out cold.

Although there are competing label heads in the room, Deacon and Avery (who break the Bluebird's cardinal rule of talking while there's a performer on stage) are ready to work with her and Deacon calls her later to invite her to dinner to discuss it. We learn that Hallie is having a relationship with her guitar player and that he is actually married with children. Although she tells Juliette she's not in love with him, they created her sound together and he needs her. Plus, she feels safe when he's on stage with her. "Safety is the enemy," says Juliette. Which probably answers the question of whether she was wearing a seat belt when she plunged thousands of feet in an airplane and crash-landed, temporarily rendering her unable to walk. She really may not be the best one to go to for advice about men and safety. Just ask Jeff Fordham.

This week's episode also marked the Nashville arrival of Silicon Valley tech wizard Alyssa Greene, played by Rachel Bilson, whose previous TV credits include Hart of Dixie and The O.C. Alyssa wasted no time declaring that she has no plans to move to Nashville and that she knows nothing about country music, something that long-time, real-life Nashvillians just love hearing. Right about that time, the show missed a golden opportunity by not having Will Lexington, played by Bilson's former O.C. cast mate Chris Carmack, storm in to deliver an update of his infamous catchphrase: "Welcome to Music City, bitch!"

Alyssa's master plan as chief strategy officer for Highway 65 Records is to have the label's artists aligning themselves with brands and her first idea is to have them write a song to sell Charmin toilet paper. She's actually kidding but 50 years ago, Mr. Whipple's beloved product did inspire Opry legend Charlie Walker's Top Ten hit, "Don't Squeeze My Sharmon." When they discuss the situation with Deacon, he reminds them that even Bob Dylan has succumbed to commercial endorsements (Pepsi, IBM, Google and Victoria's Secret, to name but a few). "Are you all better than him?" he says. Thankfully, no one asked, "Who's Bob Dylan?" although, what with all this business and baby talk lately Gunnar is starting to look like he's constantly trying to solve complex algebraic equations.

Later, when Scarlet, Avery, Gunnar and Will are playing pool, Will says he's considering the idea because Zach is not a bad guy. Gunnar, however, is suspicious because they've all heard about devious billionaires, which is either foreshadowing of a future plot point or a subtle dig at our current commander-in-chief. It's Gunnar, though, so his idea of a devious billionaire could be Mr. Howell on Gilligan's Island. Zach tells Will he's being offered a deal with Budweiser and you can just see the wheels turning in his mind: beer-can shaped swimming pool, a stable of cabana boys…. Fun fact: In the Seventies, a Budweiser jingle was turned into yet another hit song, "When You Say Love," a country Top Ten for Bob Luman and a big pop hit for Sonny & Cher. The songwriters, however, were sued by the original jingle writer for copyright infringement. OK, so that's not so much a fun fact as it is a reality of the music business. It'll be interesting to see just how Will and the other Highway 65 artists sell out, uh, embrace the idea of branding.

Maddie, meanwhile, continues to deal with the fallout from last week's run-in with the police, during which she captured video of the confrontation, wondering out loud if they were hassling Clay because he's black. On TV, a bunch of talking heads debate the situation and they're pretty much as useless as Maddie feels when she tries to talk to Clay about it. He's not happy to be the center of all this unwanted attention and eventually stops taking her calls.

Zach and Deacon meet with a councilman who suggests making a group statement involving Maddie, the chief of police, a representative from the NAACP and himself. The councilman reasons that once Maddie apologizes everyone will just move on. He's obviously never watched cable news. Deacon knows the chances of her apologizing are about the same as his doing a commercial for hemorrhoid cream. Meanwhile, Liv has made an insensitive video exploiting Maddie's situation and although Daphne asks her to delete it, as everyone knows once it's on the worldwide web it's out there for good. Maddie sees the videos and Daphne, quite rightly, feels guilty. Not guilty enough to own up to it, however. When news of Clay's past run-ins with the law is uncovered, Maddie continues to try to get in touch with him and she's also approached at work by a reporter who tries to get her to open up by convincing her he's on her side of the whole issue. Ultimately, she refuses to read an apology but Alyssa tries to tell her that the business of PR is a lot like marriage. "Sometimes you have to say you're sorry and pretend you mean it," she says. This will be news to a generation of people who grew up believing, thanks to Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal, that "love means never having to say you're sorry."

Maddie goes to see Clay, who tells her, "There was never a real place for us, we just couldn't admit it." It appears their budding romance, if there ever was one, is over. After she goes to Deacon to apologize for being so stubborn, he tells Maddie, "Your mama was a fighter and she passed that down to you. You need to tell those people how you're feeling in your own words." She makes a very apologetic video but insists she's not sorry for protecting Clay, who was not her boyfriend but her friend, and a talented artist. She and Daphne sing a beautiful song together, "Love Until It Hurts," as Clay drives away. It's unclear whether he's leaving Nashville – and Maddie – behind for good, and even though she doesn't know it yet, her song's message will hit home soon enough. . . and it won't need to sell beer to do that.