In just one hour, this week's Nashville moves from darkness to light, with a whole lot of gray area in between as everyone tries to navigate their way through unfamiliar and, in some cases, very wet territory. The episode opens on a morning that finds Deacon sitting in the dark, sipping a cup of coffee and entertaining himself with what sounds like weird duck noises. Actually, the sound is coming from his phone, which is blowing up with texts from Zach, Alyssa, Jessie and Grand Ole Opry president (and Nashville executive producer) Steve Buchanan, who asks if he's available to play the Opry. Although he has taken that venerable stage more than 200 times, this would mark Deacon's first appearance as a solo performer, and the first performance there since Rayna's passing, so he's understandably non-committal.
At a shoot for her first commercial for a mascara company, Maddie is getting dressed with the help of two assistants, trying to fit a dress over the wetsuit she's wearing underneath. The idea is that she's about to have gallons of water poured over her, since the song in the ad is "Tidal Wave." Could be worse – she could be doing a remake of "Tornado," or "Kerosene." She meets a pair of (dry) suits from the company who invite her to a party but later laments to Daphne and Deacon that she's tired and doesn't like that turning her into a character for the ad. As it turns out, it will get worse. At the party, she meets the guy who runs the company. Mr. Mascara (not his real name) is annoyed with the song because it has nothing to do with their product and suggests a rewrite that mentions their mascara in the lyrics. Alyssa glares at him like she's hoping he gets a bad case of pink eye. She then downs her drink and rescues Maddie, who is being hounded to sing. Before you know it, Alyssa herself is onstage, having been roped into belting out a tune for the ad agency weasels. "I'm only doing this because… margarita," she says. Her inability to carry a tune was all in her glasses, it seems, because after she takes them off she unleashes a gorgeous version of the Cindy Walker-Eddy Arnold weeper, "You Don't
While attempting to shoot the commercial, Maddie shudders and shivers as she's drenched in more water – and a whole lot of yelling from the director. Later, in a scene where she's being "saved by the tidal wave," as the song's lyrics suggest, he criticizes her for not conveying the "transcendent" look he's going for. Then, when she does, the shot is ruined by her hair covering her face, which sends the director into a 'roid rage. Meanwhile, Mr. Mascara's minions suggest to Alyssa a change in the song's lyrics that explicitly mentions the company by name, draining her of her last drop of giddy enthusiasm.
Deacon is rehearsing on the Opry stage when he gets a call from Zach, who tells him Maddie has had a meltdown on the set. When Deacon talks to Zach and Alyssa later, he says the suggested rewrite of her lyrics was not part of the original deal. Actually, it's in the contract, Alyssa informs him. Deacon accuses Zach of lying about the contract and Zach has his own meltdown, threatening to quit in a move that would leave Highway 65 penniless. Deacon gathers his label artists for a meeting, and explains what they're up against. Of course, it takes young Daphne to be the voice of reason. "So, this is about fear," she says. "If we're afraid, we can do what Zach tells us to do, or we can do what's right. What's the point of Highway 65 if it's not what Mom wanted it to be?" Give the kid a corner office! Juliette, meanwhile, who wasn't at the meeting, sees only how the whole debacle could potentially hurt her career, which she's just getting back on track, thanks to stealing a hit song from Maddie.
Meanwhile, Avery attempts unsuccessfully to assuage Juliette's insecurities about everything from their daughter's health to his fidelity. So, in other words, a typical conversation with his headstrong wife. It doesn't help that Avery's being flirted with, yet again, this time on the tour bus by his new road manager, Polly. As with any well-rounded road manager, Polly dispenses relationship advice like a pro, convincing Avery she's making a play for Gunnar, so we all know what that means. The one brain these two guys seem to share between them is drained of every ounce of common sense, in the same way every ounce of their blood travels south when a pretty woman enters the picture. Result: They'll listen to anything she spouts. But when Avery tries Polly's "I think we should be more independent sometimes," line on Juliette, she immediately gets suspicious. Of the many things that are up, Avery's IQ certainly isn't one of them.
Later, when he talks to Juliette, saying such insightful things as "big changes always make you feel like you're starting over," his Deepak Chopra (or is it Dr. Phil?) act actually softens Juliette, in spite of his using an unfortunate "crash and burn" analogy. She’s warming up to the idea that no matter what happens with Highway 65 their love will see them through and tells him “You always listen” and “I’m really lucky to have you” — compliments that are likely to fly out the bus window at 80 miles an hour when Ms. Doesn’t-Own-a-Bra Road Manager flashes her headlights at him and touches his hand ever-so-slightly.
In the studio, Deacon is producing a session with Jessie, who's yammering on about something. Honestly, we've stopped listening to her in hopes that she'll just go away. Later, she stalks him outside the record label office and demands he get in her car, after which she drives to
Deacon meets with Zach and Alyssa to tell them he and the label's artists are through with the whole concept of branding and tells a fuming Zach that they are just doing what's right for them and that he should do the same. History shows us that always works out beautifully.
Later, Deacon is backstage in his Opry dressing room when Maddie and Daphne visit and it isn't long before everyone's in tears. Onstage, announcer (and WSM radio legend) Bill Cody introduces Opry member Pam Tillis, who welcomes Deacon to the stage to take his turn in the solo spotlight performing several touching and inspirational songs while standing in the spot where he, countless country-music icons and his late wife have stood for more than 40 years. And if you look closely enough into the light surrounding Deacon, you might just see Rayna's spirit shining through, casting a heavenly glow.