When it comes to blowing off big professional responsibilities like cutting a hit country duet, consummating courthouse nuptials in the back of a stretch limo ranks pretty high on the List of Infallible Excuses. Apparently Juliette's aggressively-button-down, Jesus-lovin'-jock beau Sean "Tebow" Butler accepted the marriage proposal that capped the most recent episode of Nashville, which returned last night after a month-long break. Short story short: Sean's a virgin no more, and Juliette's got the ring to prove it. It was a happy beginning to an episode of unhappy endings.
Lost in lust, Juliette almost forgets she's supposed to be at the studio, where she's got to "endure Rayna Jaymes'" and record "Wrong Song." She rushes to the already-in-progress session still wearing her wedding dress. Unfortunately for the newlywed, that on-again-off-again, back-on-again co-headlining arena tour with Rayna will have to suffice for a honeymoon. The outing is only days away, and Juliette is convinced Rayna hates her. "I only hate sunburns and hangovers. This is just business," the elder diva assures the pop-country princess.
The hastily booked tour isn't just business, though. In the wake of Teddy's deceit and Peggy's suicide attempt, Rayna is living in a house of discord. "My marriage, my family – it's a mess . . . I've got to get out of Nashville," she later confides in Liam. Getting out of Nashville and away from the family is a bad look for the Conrad mayoral campaign. Coleman only got a slight bump in the polls from Peggy-gate and, as Tandy tells Teddy, "[Victory] is within reach." Catch is, Rayna intends to take daughters Maddie and Daphne on the road, away from Teddy and Lamar's "toxic environment." "You are NOT taking the girls away from me! Not without a fight," Teddy protests.
Lamar takes a more nuanced approach in dealing with the situation. "Don't be foolish enough to consider divorce," he threatens Rayna. "It'd be a shame if Maddie (and by extension, Teddy) would learn the truth about her real paternity." Once again, it's Powers Boothe for the win in this exchange. Turns out Teddy already knows the truth behind this family secret: that he's raising Deacon's illegitimate daughter. (Deacon just has to be the father, right?)
Maddie, however, does not know. Intending to keep it that way, Teddy stands up to Lamar, threatening him for the first time in the show's short history, and we see he actually does have some moral constitution and a backbone buried somewhere below that million-dollar mug of his. Teddy's not a bad guy so much as he is a weak guy. It turns Rayna on seeing her husband confront her wicked father, and she and Teddy decide to keep on keepin' up appearances — she'll leave the girls at home and they'll stay together for the kids (and the campaign), at least for now. Rayna and Teddy admit that they still love each other, but each are super unhappy, and with all these trust issues the marriage is fatally fractured, etc. Sounds like a drag.
Despite Rayna and Teddy's resolve, 50 percent of marriages do end in divorce, and Juliette and Sean's will probably be one of them. Inevitably, the couple eloping does not go over well with the Butler family. Though Sean's neo-Cleaver parents don't approve of their star quarterback son's chosen consort, they'll feign acceptance but at least demand a proper wedding. Stat!
The exchanges between Juliette and the other Mrs. Butler are great; uber-Southern, passive-aggressive one-ups between a sharp-tongued trailer-park tramp and a gentile upper-crust matriarch, it's all mean smiles, ego jabs and backhanded compliments forced through clenched teeth. "I guess you were wrong about me never becoming a part of your family," Juliette taunts. "Oh, honey. Eloping with my son is not the same thing," Mama Butler retorts. "I'm sure those rehab facilities are quite strict with patients leaving," she says when learning of Juliette's plans not to include her mother at the wedding, or even inform her of the marriage.
That all changes when Sean fucks up, takes the initiative himself and sets up a family day for Juliette to see Jolene. Looking healthy and strikingly less junkie-like, Jolene has some sage (and hilarious) words for her newly-wedded daughter – "Baby, no amount of marryin' is gonna quiet your demons." She has a point: what chemistry do Sean and Juliette have, exactly?
Not much, Juliette soon realizes. At episode's end, as the congregation gathers, Juliette (perhaps disgusted by having to walk down the aisle wearing Sean's grandmother's gaudy old necklace) gets cold cowboy boots, bails on the wedding and instead has the driver take her to the airport — she leaves for tour the next day. Also, she's still wearing her wedding dress. Dramatic. Heartbreaking. Soapy. Hilarious.
The preview for next week's episode promises a heated annulment for the Butlers, which is just great, seeing as how Sean is perhaps network television's biggest square since Hank Hill. Good riddance! In the end, Jolene was right, and Juliette should've trusted her first impression of Sean – "He's boring and he sucks at football!" But does he believe in divorce? We'll have to wait and see.
Another character deserving of Nashville's narrative Death Row is Avery "The Worst" Barkley. But it looks like he's here to stay a while. And there is no redemption in sight for the hopelessly self-centered wannabe, who we meet this week at an Atlanta bar, where producer Wyclef Jean (er, Dominic King) is pep-talking him into manning up and unceremoniously axing his loyal backing band (dudes he grew up with! Dudes who vowed to "never screw each other!"), pronto. "You call that bar band boy back home and you tell him we're moving up to the big times," Dom instructs with all the compassion of a mafia Don.
When Avery finally does the screwing, his good soldiers respond poorly, and more heartbreaking hilarity ensues. Avery just wants to play the last show with them (tonight!) and go out with a bang. "You're gonna go out with your ass kicked," "fame whore" and "good luck in Atlanta, douche" round out the highlights of bandmate JT's tongue lashing.
Later, Avery does more screwing when he stops by Scarlett's to pick up some of his shit. She's got writer's block, and common sense block. Seeing an opportunity, Avery begs her for a hug. She obliges. They make out. They have make-up sex. (Since Scarlett constantly comes off as alarmingly childlike, seeing her post-coitus was a little creepy. And since Avery has feathered, post-grunge rocker locks and a soul patch, seeing him post-coitus was a lot creepy.) Then Avery tells Scarlett about how he just crushed his best friends' dreams, and they break up again. "You! Hurt people!" she shouts in a fiery, well-deserved rage before kicking Avery out, again.
But words don't hurt as much as calculating betrayal does. Proving once again that in Nashville musical relationships are not monogamous, Scarlett comes up with the idea of replacing Avery Barkley in the Avery Barkley Band, and JT likes it. Instead of cancelling that night's club show, Scarlett pinch hits for her ex. We see the band play the Elvis Costello-penned "Twist of Barbed Wire" (previously heard in the show's second episode). She kills it, and not in the murderer-y way Avery kills things. The next day at Dominic's studio, Avery gets a dose of be-careful-what you-wish-for when, as promised, Dom dirties up his sound and he doesn't like it, and then someone sends him an iPhone video of his ex-girlfriend rocking out with his ex-bandmates. JT and Scarlett should rename the band Alliance of Vengeance, or something. Burn!
Meanwhile, Deacon is out on the road rocking arenas with the Revel Kings, but all the primping and private planes make him miserable – "Me and happy, we don't get along too good," he tells a journalist. Wait, did I say "journalist"? I meant Deacon's ex-girlfriend from 14 years ago, who is on the road with the Kings, moonlighting as a magazine scribbler penning a cover story about the band Deacon is now in. Naturally, they start boning. Can y'all say "conflict of interest"? When Deacon later sees himself as Guitar Player's latest cover boy, he tosses the issue in trash without even reading it, probably because he already knows how to play guitar.
Also, Gunnar was in this episode. He and Scarlett sang a lovelorn duet, complete with a montage of other plot developments transpiring. Tune in next week to see how the tour and the divorce (divorces?) go. (Hint: Not well.)
Previously: Stand By Your Man