After testing viewers' patience with a three-week hiatus, Nashville returned to the airwaves last night. Picking up where we left off, Juliette is still hell-bent on establishing her artistic credibility, Avery is still making terrible decisions, Rayna and Teddy are still divorcing and Gunnar is still reeling from the death of his brother (and first sexual escapade with Scarlett). Oh, and Deacon still has a dog, named Sue.
We first find Scarlett and Guns in bed together, the morning after hooking up. Sometimes tragedy brings out the best in people. Gunnar is not of those people and, grieving the death of his jailbird brother Jason, acts a shit-faced fool throughout this episode. In fact, he's insufferable. "We slept together; doesn't have to mean anything," he tells Scarlett, getting out of her bed. Granted, that's what most people might say after they bump uglies with a pinwheel-eyed unicorn like Scarlett, who suggests rescheduling the pair's audition for Rayna, Marshall and Bucky later that day.
Gunnar balks at the idea, saying he's fine. He's not fine. Especially not after he heads downtown and confronts Music City's finest, who level with him, telling him his beloved brother was beaten to death in a drug deal gone bad and is, hence, a low-priority murder victim. This sends Gunnar on an all-day alcohol-fueled bender of bereavement that causes him to leave Scarlett hanging at the audition. Scarlett – who recently looked at a stage like it was a gallows – grabs her trusty banjo and goes it alone. Ray, Marshall and Bucky are spellbound by her performance of "Looking for a Place to Shine." And who wouldn't be, what with the phantom harmonies and backing instrumentation that magically comes into the mix as she's performing solo. The spell is broken and the performance pre-empted when Rayna gets a call that Maddie is in the hospital.
It's already been a rough day for mother and daughter. That morning, responding to Rayna's having forbidden an after-school mall excursion, Maddie gave her mother some seriously Juliette-worthy sass mouth: "You're such a bitch sometimes; no wonder dad left."
Kids these days.
Maddie – who in this episode blossoms into a fully formed, three-dimensional ball of teen angst – gets herself grounded when she drops the B-word. But in tried-and-true teenage fashion, Maddie usurps one parent and hits up the other, getting Teddy's permission to work on a "school project" with a friend. That's a ruse of course, and Maddie and her chums instead head to Two Old Hippies (which really is the name of an actual Nashville mom-and-pop boutique).
There, Juliette is making what was supposed to be a secret, invite-only, fan-club-exclusive appearance. Unfortunately, the intimate engagement almost ends up like a Who concert in Cincinnati when a petulant Juliette – now acting as her own manager and none too thrilled at Marshall, myopic company man that he is, and Edgehill Republic's "roll out" campaign for her next record – tests her carte blanche by tweeting the gig's location. Naturally, hordes of eager fans show up and Juliette doesn't even get through her opening number before chaos ensues and the far-beyond-capacity crowd stampedes the stage.
Hundreds, including Maddie, are injured in what local news later dubs "The Melee in the Gulch." "Just don't tell my mom," Maddie implores Deacon (presumably because being caught at a Juliette Barnes show is grounds for estrangement in the Jaymes house). Of course, Deacon does call mom, someone calls dad and the trio have an awkward emergency room rendezvous. "She's like family," Deacon tells Rayna, making a case for the guitarist not knowing the literal meaning of the word "like."
While Maddie is effectively grounded for life (though gifted with Rayna's first guitar as a consolation), RayRay saves the serious mothering for Juliette when she calls to dress her down for her lapse in judgment. "Why is everybody acting like this is completely my fault?" Juliette whines. "Because it is completely all your fault!" Rayna snaps back.
Regrettably, that exchange was infinitely more enlightening than the shoehorned-in chat Rayna had with Katie Couric who, playing herself in Nashville's new trend of star cameos, hosted the Queen of Country on Katie for a divorce chat and good ol' fashioned gut-spill.
Anyway, back to Deacon, who was full of precious moments last night. Let's start with that adorable puppy Juliette got him for his birthday in the last episode. When the Deke's idea of housebreaking the little tail-wagger (singing him songs) doesn't work, he takes him to the animal hospital, where he soon learns the power an adorable puppy has to get a guy laid by making the vet, Stacey, his latest love interest by the end of her lunch break. She's new to town, hates country music – so much so as to not catch on to the Johnny Cash reference when Deacon names his dog Sue – and will probably prove an ill-fitting substitute for Rayna, who Coleman (now officially Teddy's deputy mayor) later astutely points out is the drug the Deke's still strung out on.
Deacon's good-dude deeds continue when Scarlett enlists him to help her track down a drunken, guilt-ridden, grief-stricken Gunnar, who has half-baked plans to head to a sketchy biker bar to confront Jason's killers. Scarlett and Deacon intercept him before he can perform "Tequila," Pee Wee-style, at the biker bar. In talking Gunnar off the ledge, Deacon confesses some "dark crap": that years ago, he coaxed a friend into driving drunk (a felony in Tennessee) and got him killed.
That ain't the only cautionary tale here. After Gunnar and Scarlett get home, they get lucid, then they get horny and again they bone. They're awakened the next morning by Bucky, who calls Scarlett with great news: Rayna wants to sign her – as a solo artist. Way to pull an Avery, Gunnar! At least you have an excuse.
And that brings us to Avery. Though drug-dealing bikers murdered Gunnar's brother, power-tripper producer Dominic Wells (a.k.a. Wyclef Jean) murdered Avery's music.
"You're gonna freak out. Imma take you to another level!" Dom promises Avery, brimming with excitement over the rough mixes he's about to unleash. Avery does indeed freak out upon learning that the level Dom has in mind is a visionary sonic conflation of "East Nashville meets dubstep." "This ain't electronic, this is what I call innovation," the producer proclaims. Avery is rightfully horrified to hear his album played back to him sounding like alt-country Sade. Next-level shit, it is not.
"What he played in there doesn't sound like anything I'd listen to, let alone perform," a panic-stricken Avery tells Marilyn, unknowingly in earshot of Dom, who storms into room, ready to defend his wack wall of sound with a temper rivaling Phil Spector's.
"My music's all I got," Avery pitifully pleads. Dom shuts him the fuck down: "Correction! Your music's all I've got. You signed a contract. . . . I ain't trying to compromise." And alas, Avery's day of reckoning has come, and the knowledge that he's made a horrible mistake is written all over his scowly, frownie, soul-patch-blighted face.
Later, banking on Dom's lack of foresight to back up digital data on the cloud, Avery shows some uncharacteristic moxie by sneaking into the studio and pilfering Dom's reel-to-reel tapes. In a scene not unlike (but not that much like) something out of Inglourious Basterds, Avery smashes the reels to rubble then sets the heap of tape ablaze.
As a consolation, Avery reimburses an enraged Dom for his expenses, giving him the remaining $75,000 (minus the cost of a bus ticket back to Nashville) from his (non-recoupable) publishing advance, as well as the keys to that gifted Mustang, and in the process throws away the keys to the castle. "You're dead in this business! D.O.A.!" Dom promises Avery as he walks out the door. Avery also fires Marilyn.
The takeaway: Avery really, really hates dubsteb. Or chillwave. Or whatever that East Nashville EDM fusion was. He hates it enough to start over and, thoroughly humbled, go back to making open mic appearances at the Bluebird, where he croons a James Blunt-esque, electro-devoid ballad cut to shots of Gunnar and Scarlett getting lusty.
Last recap: O Brother, Where Art Thou?