'Nashville' Recap: Gunnar Goes Home, Scarlett Strikes Back - Rolling Stone
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‘Nashville’ Recap: Gunnar Goes Home, Scarlett Strikes Back

Gunnar encounters old ghosts, Scarlett takes a self-defense class, and Maddie and Juliette are up for the same award in this week’s episode

Kaley Ronayne, Sam PalladioKaley Ronayne, Sam Palladio

Gunnar (Sam Palladio) reconnects with his old classmate Kelly (Kaley Ronayne) during a trip to Texas.

Jake Giles Netter/CMT

Home. As Dorothy reminds us, there’s no place like it. It’s where the heart is. It’s wherever you lay your hat. It’s wherever you make it. It’s where the WiFi connects automatically. And while the words “home” and “safe” should conjure the same internal tranquility, for Gunnar and Scarlett in this week’s episode of Nashville that certainly isn’t the case.

As the episode begins, nearly everyone is feeling disconnected, if not from each other, then from their own emotional center, making it impossible to connect on anything other than a surface level. When Maddie finds out she’s been nominated for an American Music Award, she’s thrilled. Her joy is short-lived, however, when she discovers that one of her fellow nominees is none other than song-thieving, back-stabbing Juliette. At Juliette’s house, things are a lot more subdued. Gut-wrenching guilt will do that to you. Naturally, Juliette isn’t acknowledging her guilt as much as her annoyance that her effort to make nice with Maddie via Twitter has apparently fallen on deaf ears and that she has “conveniently forgotten all the things I’ve done for her.” But, as a wise minor character in this week’s visit to MusicCity says, “If you’re defending yourself, you’re already past nice.”

That character, by the way, is a self-defense instructor Scarlett encounters after a home invasion, an invasion of the subconscious kind as she relives the horror of the mugging that may not have directly caused her miscarriage but ultimately led to Gunnar leaving town for a bit while they both figure things out. She leaves the house to stay overnight at Deacon’s, where Maddie suggests she take a self-defense class. At the class, Scarlett is characteristically timid and unable to bring up the seething anger she needs to summon to inflict actual damage on her attacker and scare him off. While Juliette, for instance, would no doubt have the guy’s plums in a vice-like grip, Scarlett just seems like she’s about to invite him over for tea and scones. It’s a dynamic we’ve already seen once, when Damien was directing her in a music video – and we all know what happened after that.

Scarlett admits to Deacon that she feels like a failure, but Deacon, who has learned to live an entirely different way in the last few months, assures her that there’s no shame in asking for help. “The opposite of being with someone isn’t doing everything all alone,” he says. “It’s getting a lot of different kinds of help from a lot of different people.” It’s lines of real, honest wisdom such as this that continue to keep us tuned in to Nashville. They may be too few and far between but when they hit, they definitely connect. Scarlett, of course, finds her inner ninja, and rains blows down upon the instructor, who tells the rest of the class, “Don’t mess with this woman, she’s stronger than she looks.”

Deacon and Jessie, meanwhile, spend most of their time occupied with coffee, therapy and plot exposition. He wants to hear the new song she’s been working on, but their studio session together turns out to be pretty awkward. She seems like she would rather just be at home. When she goes back there, however, her brutish ex-husband, Brad, shows up uninvited. They argue about their disparate parenting styles with teenage son Jake, whom we learn has ADHD. According to Brad, she’s an enabler and she likens him to a drill sergeant. Hardly the makings of a feel-good summer rom-com. Later, back in the studio with Deacon, Jessie continues to be quite surly – it probably doesn’t help that the song she’s recording is about as lifeless as Jeff Fordham. Finally, Jessie unloads on Deacon that she didn’t want his help and that she feels he has been taking over. Her “a-ha” moment comes when she realizes she has been turning Deacon into her ex-husband, filtering everything Deacon has been doing through him. Jessie could benefit from less coffee and more therapy. Or perhaps a not-so-self-defensive class. Deacon, because he is actually a decent, thoughtful guy, says he realizes he has relied on people helping him so much for so long that he perhaps was swept up on the other side of the equation and trying to help her too much.

No character this week conveyed the sometimes conflicted feelings we have about home more than Gunnar, who gives himself and Scarlett some space as he visits his ailing grandmother, Jill Scott, in a nursing home in Aurora, Texas. Jill is a cranky old woman, hooked up to oxygen and yet lighting a cigarette. Later, he runs into an old classmate, Kelly Walker, and stays in town to catch up with her. As they hang out and analyze each other, it doesn’t take long for her to start flirting with him. She also tells him she felt bad for her when he and his older brother, Jason, lost their parents during the time they were in school together. They break into the abandoned school, which she says is full of lead, mold and other carcinogens. It’s also got a few old ghosts hanging around, and Gunnar flashes back to the time he found out about his parents dying, after which they were raised by their grandmother, who wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine back then either.

Gunnar visits his old house where a mother and her young daughter invite him in to see the room he shared with Jason. He flashes back to the two of them singing Guy Clark’s “Texas Cookin’,” interrupted by grandma, who tells young Gunnar to “stop playing the clown.” Later, Kelly shows up at his motel room and he invites her in. He wants to know if he seemed happy growing up, because he thought he was a pretty happy kid who didn’t act out or get in trouble like his brother and wasn’t subject to physical violence. “Just because nobody hit you doesn’t mean you don’t have scars,” she says. Another gold star to Nashville‘s writers for that one.

Rather predictably, Kelly and Gunnar end up kissing. He stops it, however, and she reveals that she probably shouldn’t anyway, since she’s married. Gunnar goes to his grandmother and tells her at 11 years old he was afraid that if he left she wouldn’t notice or miss him. “I raised you the best I knew how to,” she says, coldly. Knowing she was never a fan of his music, he takes out his guitar and tells her he’s going to play something he wrote last night whether she likes it or not. He sings the gorgeous “Gonna Find Home,” to scenes of his leaving Aurora, as we also see Maddie and Juliette are at a press event making eye contact with each other that says a whole lot about the guilt Juliette feels and the betrayal Maddie continues to feel. But it is Scarlett, seen joyously dancing in her kitchen, who reminds us that there is, indeed, no place like home.


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