While election season is over here in the real world, things are just starting to heat up on Nashville. Teddy's mayoral campaign goes from bad to worse when the dashing candidate gets full-on Romneyed by Coleman in the first debate, but let's talks about the real issues. It's high time somebody starts the Free Scarlett campaign. Can't you just see a stencil-style Shepard Fairey-designed graphic of the dumbly devoted, golden-haired, wide-eyed poet-turned-songstress meme-ing its way across social media? It's gonna take a movement of that magnitude to get the show's Reigning Queen of Awes and Shuckses to dump the dreaded Avery.
After four episodes of unmitigated jealousy and immaturity, Avery really outdid himself this week. Upon learning that Gunnar and Scarlett are auditioning songs for Lady Antebellum's producers and need a guitar player to "fill in the sound," Avery volunteers himself. He frames this, of course, as a favor to Scarlett – you know, so she won't be nervous or whatever.
Avery isn't alone in his altruism. Deacon got a chance to show his softer side this week, helping Juliette throw an impromptu intervention for her junkie mama Jolene. And that's all it takes to nearly throw Deacon back down the spiral of his own addictions, when he struggles not to take the pills he confiscated from Jolene. My money is on a relapse. Similarly, it seems Teddy's problems didn't burn up in that fireplace a few weeks back.
For starters, we learn that Juliette has finally landed Deacon as her guitar player – proof positive that Rayna made good on her promise to fire her former flame/guitarist/songwriting partner. Juliette, who used to have no qualms about fixing vocal flubs with Auto-Tune, is now in the studio working her band through the night in search of the perfect take. This is all a ruse, of course. She just doesn't want to go home to mother. And when she finally does, she finds Jolene strung out, in bed with some scuzzy suitor, surrounded by empty pill and beer bottles.
After Juliette unceremoniously boots Jolene's beau from her mansion, Deacon offers to help clean up, and starts breaking mama down – "Thinkin' is not your friend right now, Jolene," he says. He lures her into rehab, but not before Jolene has a final meltdown on the way into the treatment center and slaps Juliette. "You can't force me to do this!" Jolene shouts, before turning around and doing it. It was the kind of scene that was way more dramatic in the promo than the actual broadcast. Either way, good for Juliette, because Jolene is out of the house – for now. Which is beside the point, because Juliette buys a new crib.
Jolene ain't the only who's jonesing. Rayna needs cash so badly she's shooting a commercial for a beauty product, presumably named American Beauty, just like the song we briefly see her singing on the set in a moment of surefire comic relief. This, after we learn that Rayna is unwilling to take her label's peace offering and agree to a greatest hits record. "I'll do a greatest hits album when I'm 70," she says. Pride works in mysterious ways.
Deacon isn't quite as comfortable with the idea. As co-writer of the song, he feigns displeasure at some lyrical changes and refuses to sign a release for its use in the ad. Deacon sure has principles over selling out, but this actually isn't about that at all. It's really just a petty move to get back at Rayna for cancelling their tour. "For me, music's all I got," he tells her when she comes to his house to confront him. "Is this how you wanna do this?" she asks with pleading, welling eyes that say that more than just a musical breakup is happening here.
Over on Music Row, Avery is proving a sonic third wheel to Gunnar and Scarlett's budding creative partnership, which is now on raw display for Lady Antebellum's people. Avery fills in the sound all right – fills it with tasteless licks and undercooked noodling that clashes heavily with Scarlett and Gunnar's vocals.
It should also be noted that Gunnar has suddenly taken to singing in a scratchy drawl akin to Kings of Leon's Caleb Followill – a thing that does happen to plaid-clad young vocalists in the real Nashville all the time.
Avery's overplaying – ignited by Gunnar and Scarlett "making eyes" during the performance – ultimately costs them the gig. Not sure why, though. It's the song the suits were looking for – in this case, the brokenhearted ballad "Loving You Is the Only Way to Fly – not the actual performance.
Seems this should've been the breaking point for Scarlett, but it wasn't. She chastises Avery, of course – "This was not your big shot!" – and then stays with him, like a fool. A preview of next week's episode hints that Avery cheats on Scarlett. Of course, we only see her asking him if he cheated. He probably did, will say he didn't and she'll believe him. Ugh. Guess we'll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, Rayna can't find a new songwriter. And though I'm predicting she'll eventually cut a Gunnar/Scarlett song or two, she decides for now to try writing on her own – a development that prompts Teddy to ask her whether she boned Deacon. "Did you want to?" he asks. Rayna does cut "Buried Under" – a rare upbeat number for the show – and is encouraged, confident it's the first song for her next album.
Cuckold or not, Teddy is the "New Nashville." That's at least how he tries (and fails) to frame himself in his debate against Coleman, who calls Teddy out as a blueblood and proceeds to figuratively remove the silver spoon from his mouth and beat him mercilessly with it, tongue lashing his opponent with old-money accusations and dead-dad shame. (Apparently Teddy is the son of a politician who "failed repeatedly, in spite of his advantages.")
While the debate rattles Teddy, Lamar is unfazed. Later, in his father-in-law's darkly lit study, Teddy comes clean on the details of that "damn busted real estate deal," which he lied about on his "vulnerability study." Long story short: Teddy ran out of capital, the market crashed, and he got Peggy to defraud a credit union (which is subject to a federal audit) to the tune $2 million to help "float his funds."
So, it turns out Teddy and Peggy's secret isn't necessarily one they share between the sheets after all. She's stressing about the prison time the two of them could face. No worries, though. Lamar is gonna do some good ol' fashioned rainmaking and wash away the couple's financial sins, because he's the single creepiest, most-intimidatingly un-fuck-with-able backroom rabble-rouser south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Lamar manages to muscle the feds away from Teddy and Peggy, and a P.I. snaps some suggestive photos of the couples as they celebrate the victory, which will inevitably be short lived.
On the other hand, this episode marks the beginning of a, uh, beautiful just-friendship between Juliette and Deacon. After dumping Jolene at the treatment center (which I'm predicting she cuts and runs from by next week), the pair sit pensively on Deacon's stoop. While he consoles her with sage pearls, she goes in for the make-out kiss, which he deflects and confesses his friendship. It looks like Deacon is becoming more of a father figure to Juliette than a fuck buddy.
Later, during a performance at the Bluebird, Deacon plays the saddest, loneliest song ever, called "Sideshow." The weepy Americana requiem ends on a sour note when a heckler asks, "Where's Rayna? I like it better when she sings." "Most people do," Deacon retorts. Because Deacon is such a well-adjusted guy, he ends up starting a fistfight with this loudmouthed roustabout. When Rayna doesn't take his jailhouse collect call, Juliette bails him out.
And in a subplot that has yet to get interesting, Gunnar tries to get Hailey to commit, and things get complicated: They make out, close the door behind them, and then presumably some other stuff happens – stuff that is going to make Scarlett jealous. Really jealous.
Previously: It's Lonely at the Top