"My husband asked me for a divorce and I have to go home and tell my children, which is really gonna ruin their lives; Deacon kissed me in an elevator; and I'm on tour with Juliette Barnes. So, cheers! My life is a hot mess right now," Rayna drunkenly lamented midway through last night's Nashville, which itself was a bit of a mess.
After a stellar pair of episodes chock-full of fistfights, affairs, divorce announcements and other shocking revelations, last night was an expository-laden disappointment. Not unlike the relationships that plague the show's characters, this episode fell into a holding pattern where nothing much happened.
We open with a distracted Rayna sitting in a makeup chair, getting prettied up to do a series of "puff piece interviews for the tour." In slow motion her face portrays a symphony of dread, confusion and regret as Teddy's divorce bombshell replays in her head like a bad record. Backstage in Atlanta, hours later, Rayna and Teddy phone-fight over his demand they tell the kids upon her return to Nashville. Rayna, not totally feeling the finality of Teddy's decision, tries to buy herself some time before taking that wrenching first step towards Splitsville. The conversation ends abruptly when the girls come into the room clamoring to talk to their mother. With her daughters' "I love you"s still ringing in her head, Rayna takes the stage and, under the glare of spotlights and thousands of adoring fans (and again in slow motion), totally freezes.
Now everyone knows something is rotten in Denmark. "Twenty years, never seen her miss a cue," Deacon notes. Ray-Ray comes close to confiding her rupturing nuptials to Deacon, but doesn't. Then, somewhat inexplicably, Liam appears backstage out of the blue and Rayna gets in a great line: "Well, well, well, look who shows up when I don't have my rifle." Liam's uncanny timing is such that he comes off as a vulture circling the soon-to-be-carcass of the Jaymes/Conrad union.
Tandy is on the scent as well. Teddy's big (but fiscally conservative) inaugural gala is around the corner, and Tandy is miffed as to why Ray-Ray has been M.I.A. since the election. Tandy has reason to suspect her sister and brother-in-law's love is on the rocks when she inadvertently sees Peggy's name pop up on Teddy's caller ID. Like a good handler, she gets parental – "Please tell me you are not still in contact with that woman!"
Teddy throws Tandy some shade and takes the call anyway – a detail Tandy opts to keep from Rayna. But leave it to Teddy to fuck it up for himself anyway when, later, he engages in another, explicitly more detailed call with his mistress. This time his eldest daughter (the one who's actually probably Deacon's) stumbles within earshot of Teddy and a hears a profession of love that's inevitably gonna come back around to fuck up his whole world.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Liam takes Rayna out for a late night of whiskey shots and flirty dancing. The Irish rocker (who is becoming progressively less Irish as the show goes on) turns the charm up to 11, and you can tell it's working because it isn't long before a loosened-lipped Rayna is wearing his fedora and spilling the deets on the hell her life has become. "My life is a hot mess right now and I pretty much just wanna feel anything but what I'm feeling – preferably good." They make out and Liam has little trouble getting the Queen of Country back to his hotel room, where he makes sure she knows he's willing to shell out 12 bucks a mini-bar mini-bottle to impair her judgment. Then, in the show's grand tradition of unconsummated lust, Rayna runs to the bathroom and breaks down in tears. Instead of fucking, the pair spend the night heart-to-hearting it out on the bathroom floor.
"We made half of an album together – we're practically married," Liam half-jokes.
"We should finish that album," Rayna replies.
The rest of the episode's conflicts are mostly musical. Last week we learned that when Rayna and Liam's career-redefining long-player comes out, it will be on an Edgehill Republic imprint label Marshall Evans is giving her. We also learned that Rayna's first order of business as label honcho was to hit up Watty White for the scoop on Scarlett and Gunnar, harkening back to a long-lost plot point from the show's pilot episode. Remember when Watty help up his cellphone to play Rayna Scarlett and Gunnar's Bluebird debut? Turns out it was an A&R moment for the ages.
Cut to Scarlett and Gunnar's crib. Gunnar, fresh out of the same shower that Scarlett nakedly plays her banjo in, is dripping with beefcake-y sex appeal as he struts around the kitchen in a towel. Before any real sexual tension builds, Watty calls Scarlett to tell her Rayna digs her and Gunnar's shit and wants to sign them. Gunnar jumps up for joy, his Texas-sized manhood escapes the tyranny of his towel, and Scarlett acts like he's got cooties.
Finally, Gunnar is going to make it in Music City! And he owes it all to Jason, that self-destructive jailbird brother of his who raised him hand-to-mouth on music. "He's always the one that had the real talent," Gunnar tells Scarlett. Unfortunately, good judgment is not among Jason's talents. He messed with Texas when he fled the state and violated parole, just because. With nowhere to turn, Jason shows up at the Bluebird (because hanging around your next of kin's world-famous workplace is a really
smart thing for a fugitive to do) looking for a handout. With Scarlett's very reluctant blessing, Gunnar allows Levi to crash at their crib. Jailbird Jason picks up a six-string and joins in as Scarlett and Gunnar rehearse to audition for Rayna. Magic happens when Levi gives the duo a dose of authentic outlaw country flare.
Though the writers opted for exposition over entertainment for much of last night's episode, Juliette's storyline was compelling, if only because Hayden Panettiere owns her character more completely than anyone else on the series. In a post-show powwow, Juliette tells her band that the reaction to the new material is so outstanding she's revamping her show and jettisoning some of its more "juvenile" elements. Glenn makes a look like he just watched his dog get put down.
Earlier, at soundcheck, Juliette is requesting production tweaks, like the runway jutting out to a B stage for her and Deacon's new acoustic set. Juliette throws Glenn hella shade when he's all like, "Acoustic set?! Let's talk about this." Paternal and persistent, Glenn reminds Juliette that she promised to "behave" after the shoplifting fiasco. That doesn't go over well. "I'm a multi-million-dollar industry, and it's about time I take control of it."
But Glenn refuses to serve at his client's pleasure, continuing on the Colonel Tom Parker tip. "You want me to say I'm fine with all this craziness?" he asks Juliette.
"No. I want you to say yes, ma'am," Juliette replies, giving him a Michael-to-Fredo-style kiss on the cheek. Undaunted, Glenn usurps Juliette and tells the band (with the exception of Deacon) to take orders from him, not her. Glenn's overbearing sense of propriety over Juliette is somewhat understandable, though. We find out that he plucked her from Alabamian obscurity when she was just a young, scraggily-haired contest singer. "I've been like a father to her," he tells Deacon. "Fathers let their kids grow up," Deacon replies. Seriously, give Deacon a pair of shades and he's David Caruso. ABC's marketing department ought a make a Deacon pull-string doll that spits out his laconic one-liners like a highlights reel.
Anyway, during a late night rattin' session, Deacon tells Juliette about Glenn's clandestine power play. (And that's about all Deacon does in this episode.) She goes on the warpath, trudging through the hotel banging on every member of her entourage's doors to read 'em the riot act. But Glenn has the last word. Two words, actually: "I quit."
Avery could stand to take a cue or two from Juliette when it comes to handling your handler. Like Glenn – or in Teddy's case, Tandy – as a manager Marilyn is relentlessly trying to parent Avery, only in more of an Oedipus kind of way. Unfortunately (or fortunately, because Avery deserves nothing but misfortune), that means talking him into terrible decisions in an attempt to divide him from his Haileys and Dominics and conquer him in bed.
Remember Hailey? Gunnar's ex? She gets Avery drunk on his own ego and pitches him on a publishing deal. Marilyn tells him he'll give up millions if he signs it. The hotheaded, hate-worthy singer is also "not feelin'" the direction Dom – who is literally phoning in his production duties – is taking. That direction probably being the heard-by-other-people-in-the-world direction. "You know what else?" he tells Marilyn. "I haven't seen a dollar since I started." Needless to say, he takes Hailey's offer and lands a $100,000 publishing advance. It's a sight more disheartening than Rayna and Teddy telling the kids.
Last week: Courting Divorce, Pt. II