On paper, Nashville is a show about "love, power, money, family and music." In actuality, it's a show about people who used to fuck almost fucking again. Last night, Rayna almost fucked Deacon, Scarlett almost fucked Gunnar, Teddy totally fucked Peggy and Avery stopped fucking Marilyn. But it wasn't all blue balls and blue walls. In between all that tension and temptation, Music City's tortured gang of sexy star-crossed singers, suits and sidemen dealt with divorce, risk-taking and threats of eviction.
For the third week in a row we meet up with Rayna, Juliette and their respective entourages out on the road, this time in Chicago for a pair of sold-out shows. Rayna's livid over Deacon joining Juliette's touring band, and she's doing a piss-poor job at masking her anger. Naturally, Juliette revels in Rayna's self-evident disgruntlement.
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"Are you pissed that I hired Deacon?" Juliette gleefully asks as the pair plaster on the fake smiles and sign autographs for clamoring fans. "That's not a big plane, and you didn't make eye contact with me once after Deacon got on."
"I am amazed you had nothing better to do on that plane ride than just look over at me and see if I was lookin' at you," Rayna retorts. "Just admit that you're pissed!" Juliette snaps back. Nothing better to do?! What could be better than stealing your nemesis's man and then watching as she squirms and stews in jealous frustration, stuck with you in an inescapable fuselage? Ahh, this is Nashville at its best. Also, we get it: the Jaymes/Barnes cavalry didn't walk to the Windy City.
Cut to later that night for two Purple Rain-style full-length Rayna and Juliette performances. Rayna's rendition of "Already Gone" is all good times and grace. By contrast, Juliette's performance of "I'm a Girl" is anything but. Amid exploding flash pods, billowing smoke, somersaulting back-up dancers and a towering video wall presumably salvaged from U2's Popmart Tour, Juliette struts her stuff like a vampy Taylor Swift doppelganger. The spectacle looks like a trailer-park take on Beyoncé's Super Bowl shenanigans and the song itself is so aggressively insipid it makes "Telescope" look like "The Sound of Silence." ("I can get a free drink for flipping my hair" is far from the most embarrassing lyrical example.)
Juliette's got beef with her brand as a Southern-fried teen-pop trollop. More so than shoplifting scandals, ditched-at-altar fiancés and a junkie mom, Juliette's suffocating variety of stadium-country Vegas schmaltz is her biggest cross to bear. In other words, it's not the leather Daisy Dukes that make Juliette feel like a whore onstage every night. "That was not a performance, that was an act," she tells manager Glenn backstage. "There's nothing artistic about wind machines and smoke!" But before she can tell that to Michael Jackson, Deacon reminds her Johnny Cash only needed three sidemen to wow massive crowds. Turned off by the "big Vegas" vibe, onstage Deacon looks more out of place than a dick joke in a eulogy and makes grouchy guitar faces akin to Clint Eastwood people-watching in Gran Torino.
Juliette's motives for tapping Deacon aren't solely rooted in wanting to knock boots and make Rayna jealous, but to build on the songwriting chemistry they captured with "Undermine." With Deacon and Juliette on the same artistic page, they are back to rattin' songs together ,and the creative sparks are flying higher than Ozzy at the Texas Alamo. Only this time, instead of fucking afterwards, they end up having a wholesome heart-to-heart.
Juliette dishes on her woes about wanting to sing songs of intrinsic value and not dancing around in billowing smoke plumes and leather cut-offs: "What if I decide to walk away from being that girl and nobody comes with me?" she asks Deacon, who, harbinger of sage pearls that he is, poses every artiste's fundamental question: "I know it must be real scary thinking about losing everybody, but wouldn't it be worse to lose yourself?"
That night Juliette takes the stage dressed in casual button-down shirt and perfectly respectably fitting blue jeans and starts the show with a disclaimer. "She's having a nervous breakdown right there on stage, in front of 10,000 people," a horrified Glenn says. Actually, she's just opening for herself with a stripped-down set, and then Deacon joins her in attempting to turn the United Center into the Bluebird. Watty and Rayna are both impressed.
A reviewer from the Chicago Tribune (Greg Kot, perhaps?) was not so impressed. Buzzing from the performance, Juliette goes backstage to have Glenn rain on her parade. He shows her the reviewer's live tweets, which crucify her for stepping out of the box – "Who does Juliette Barnes think she is? She's a manufactured pop tart . . . #iwantmymoneyback." Juliette cries.
Again, Glenn totally fucks up and breaks the cardinal rule of managing: Don't bring stressful bullshit back to the green room! "You just been torturing yourself with those tweets," another handler tells Juliette, noticing the tears on her iPad, before showing her a two-hour-old fan-filmed YouTube clip of the performance that's already garnered more than 100,000 views ("and almost as many likes!"). Juliette should fire Glenn and hire Lamar to manage her, immediately!
Of course, while Deacon is there for Juliette, he's really there for Rayna. Sure, he's confidante par excellence for Juliette, and he's totally giving Rayna the silent treatment, as we see in a series of brutally awkward elevator rides. Eventually Deacon deflates the elephant in the dumbwaiter and goes in for a kiss, saying, "Rayna! I'm done talkin'." They make out passionately for a matter of seconds. Deacon, ever the irresistible, rough-hewn Lothario, has only been on this tour for two days before he's got Rayna texting him her room number for a booty call.
While Rayna and Deacon seem undoubtedly destined to fuck again (in the very near future), Rayna and Teddy may never fuck again. Teddy still isn't handling the separation well when he runs into Peggy on the street (she was probably stalking him). We learn Peggy has moved into a centrally located townhouse and she's getting a divorce. That's convenient. Teddy gives Peggy a ride to her new within-walking-distance digs and she tells him he deserves a not-Rayna to nurture him and dutifully and deferentially love him while he does the whole mayor of Nashville thing. "You shouldn't have to work so hard to try and make someone love you." Then they make out, the music changes key and we later learn they fucked during the commercial break and have fucked before.
Right after texting Deacon, moments away from her own act of infidelity, Rayna opens her hotel room door to find Teddy standing there. Surprise! And that ain't the biggest shocker. Teddy drops a bomb on Rayna: He wants a divorce. Luckily for all parties (EXCEPT THE VIEWERS!), Deacon just barely avoids walking in on them.
You'd think between waiting tables at the Bluebird (which ain't a cheap joint), landing a publishing deal and not having to support Avery's dumb deadbeat ass, Scarlett would have her fiscal house in order, but alas, she's on the precipice of homelessness. Is she hiding an expensive bath salts addiction? Because that would totally make sense.
Scarlett tells Gunnar she can't ask her parents for the money. Maybe her folks died when she was a toddler, forcing her to grow up feral, like Jodie Foster in that one movie. That would explain a lot. Anyway, Scarlett pitches Gunnar on the idea of being roommates, as he currently lives with a bunch of douchebags who come to his gigs and heckle him with an air horn. "There'll be rules," she says, "Don't walk around the kitchen naked, and I won't play the banjo naked in the shower." Perhaps the worst/best line in the show's history.
Meanwhile, Avery is a rising star who's "taking the alt-country world by storm." For those who don't know, taking the alt-country world by storm looks like a tornado in a dustbowl, kickin' up a debris field of suspenders and rusty car old parts. Seriously, by now, Nashville writers are going to have to have Avery run into 10 burning buildings and save a hundred babies if they want us to care about this character.
Here's why: Just 15 seconds into his 15 minutes of semi-fame and Avery is already laying in bed, letting out labored sighs while Marilyn runs him through his light itinerary of promotional appearances. All that moping just because Scarlett's playing a gig. While shooting a TV profile called Star Towns: Avery Barkley's Nashville, Avery takes camera crews on a stroll through his old neighborhood, for the sole purpose of flaunting his D-list celebrity status for his sure-to-be-butt-hurt ex. Hilarity ensues when an infuriated Scarlett trudges down the steps in a huff and Star Towns almost turns into an episode of Cops.
The fun doesn't end there. Avery later comes by Scarlett's to make peace (and give her some back rent). That peace offering is poorly timed, however, and Avery shows up just as Gunnar is moving in. Surprise! "First you take my band, then you move in with my woman!" Actually, Avery, you ditched your band and cheated on your girlfriend. Yes, we all think you deserve to die and we hope you burn in hell! Though not quite as extreme as everlasting fire in the underworld, we get the next most visceral thing when Gunnar dresses Avery down – telling him he hates himself for leaving everything behind for Marilyn's management – and punches him in face, repeatedly. A bloodied, still-unhinged Avery returns to Marilyn and tells her he's done being her playboy.
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